Mike Pence recently made headlines with his assertion that he will not dine (or be) alone with a woman other than his wife; this caused an obvious reaction in most of us that fell somewhere along the lines of how bizarre/archaic/hilarious that is.
Now, to be clear: Pence’s marriage, if it works for both he and his wife, is literally zero percent of our business.
As is the Trump marriage.
And the Clinton marriage, in case you were actually wondering.
But the idea that a man and woman cannot be “trusted” to be alone should be of great concern to all of us, I believe. Especially coming from the guy who is one heartbeat away from being the one in charge (or who is the one in charge, depending on who you believe).
The concept of temptation is as old as our oldest fairy tale: the Garden of Eden. This allegory can even be interpreted as a warning NOT to identify things or behavior as “forbidden,” because this only increases the likelihood of the “undesirable” act. Of all the trees (or gin joints) in the garden, what are the chances our anti-heroes would have found their way to that particular one if it hadn’t been pointed out to them?
I smell a setup!
Or maybe we can look at the larger lesson—free will. Our behavior is really only a measure of our character if it is our choice. This kind of unnecessary (and unhealthy) restriction is simply an external solution to an internal problem: an assumed lack of judgment and self-control.
How do you feel about having a man in charge that does not have enough judgment and self-control to not sexually engage with a woman simply because he is alone with her? (I’m talking about Pence, not Trump; Trump has already bragged that he sexually engages with married women every chance he gets. But I think these guys are flip sides of the same coin).
So let’s go back to the Garden of Eden for a moment (not literally). If we accept the premise that identifying a behavior as “forbidden” makes it more alluring, more titillating—does this rule that men and women cannot be alone together not then automatically sexualize any male-female interaction and in fact turn the opposite sex in general into the mythological forbidden fruit? And, not for nothing, doesn’t this also simply deny the existence of people who prefer their own gender?
Let’s play along with Mike Pence here for a moment and pretend (it’s fun to make believe!) that every single interaction between a man and a woman (or his gender preferred sex) is sexual in nature. Or, to paraphrase former President Jimmy Carter, that he’s looked on a lot of women with lust and committed adultery in his heart many times. Now, Carter used the word “heart”; I am going to go with “head.” Because he thought about women sexually; the key here is he did not act upon those thoughts (unlike our current President).
Choice and choice
That Mike Pence is anti-choice is a fact we are all too well aware of; but this debate takes his anti-choice stance to a whole new level. Carter admitted to sexual thoughts that he had made the choice not to act on; Pence thinks that choice should be removed. In other words, he thinks it is intrinsic to man’s nature to be unable to curb our sexual impulses. Working with Trump, I can see why he might have come to that conclusion.
But ultimately, this mandate is simply an abdication of personal responsibility.
If you can’t be trusted to be alone with a member of the opposite sex, you can’t be trusted, period. How ‘bout them apples, Adam and Eve? You can’t be trusted to exercise judgment and restraint, period.
But now let’s leave the land of make-believe and address how ludicrous and demeaning it is to assume all interactions between people and their gender preferred sex are lustful in nature. On the bright side, it’s nonpartisan degradation, as it demeans all people of all sexes equally, assuming a base, animalistic nature.
And now let’s address the element of nurture; the proven truth is that whatever we are exposed to in our upbringing—good or bad—becomes normalized for us. Children who are exposed to drug use from an early age are likely to become users themselves because it is “normal” behavior to them. Children who are exposed to healthy, respectful interactions between men and women are very likely to mirror those relationships in their own lives as they grow.
So what happens when children are taught that men and women cannot be trusted to be alone together? Does this not engender an attachment of suspicion and fear to opposite sex interactions?
Explain to me how this is a good thing, please.
Even in the make-believe world of Mike Pence where we are all driven by uncontrollable desire, doesn’t it make sense to try to raise our children not only to take responsibility for the choices they make but to also cultivate a respectful appreciation of the nonsexual attributes of their gender preferred sex? No matter what angle you look at it from, this mandate is destructive when generally applied (although again, the rules of any individual marriage agreement are none of our business).
And a final thought: the thing about rules? They were famously made to be broken. Humans are going to do what we are going to do based on our nature, nurture and life circumstances (who among us would not steal bread for starving relatives, as per Jean Valjean?)
As the proverb goes, “Even children are known by the way they act, whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right.”
If a man or woman is willing to act in a way they believe to be “wrong,” a rule will not change that. And wouldn’t you rather know someone’s true character?
Wouldn’t you rather engage in relationships of organic respect rather than mandated “good” behavior?
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