Mike Pence Won’t Eat Alone With Women, and Here’s Why That’s Controversial

Sabrina Rojas Weiss
Karen Pence Mike Pence
Mike Pence once said he does not dine alone with women other than his wife. (Photo: Getty Images)

A profile of Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, has sparked a debate over the line between being a faithful husband and perpetuating the old boys’ club. It all goes back to a 2002 interview with The Hill, in which then-Rep. Pence said that he “never eats alone with a woman other than his wife,” and won’t attend events where alcohol is served unless she’s there too. The Washington Post brought up those statements Tuesday — and, well, lots of people have feelings about them.

In a followup opinion piece, also in the Post, writer Laura Turner explains that Pence was following the so-called “Billy Graham Rule,” guidelines the evangelical preacher established for himself during an era when the extramarital affairs of TV evangelists were hot topics. “The impulse that led to the Billy Graham Rule … is a good and honorable one: to remain faithful to one’s spouse and to avoid the kind of behavior (or rumors of behavior) that have destroyed the careers of church leaders,” Turner wrote. Unfortunately, when the rule is followed by a person in power, Turner and others argue, it excludes women from important conversations.

Another problem many have with this rule is that it reduces women to nothing more than objects of sexual lust while also positing that men are completely helpless to resist them.

At the same time, if heterosexual women or LGBTQ people applied this rule to their professional lives, they’d have a difficult time meeting one on one with anyone.

Conservatives say those making these complaints are missing the point, and that Pence should be lauded and admired for wanting to protect his marriage — especially when no one else in Washington seems able to.

However you view Pence’s stance, you can’t deny this debate is fodder for a few good jokes.

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