Discussion of the Pence Rule

For those of you who don’t know, Mike Pence, the VPOTUS, supposedly has a rule where he doesn’t eat alone with a woman who is not his wife. To discuss this topic in this thread, I’m going to respond to tweets about this subject. To start off, I’m going to respond to a tweet expressing vindication of the Pence Rule:

My problem with this tweet, linking the Pence Rule with the recent revelations of sexual harassment and assault by prominent public figures is that it creates the unfortunate and, in my opinion, inappropriate associations and links. For example, Hume’s tweet creates the impression that men should choose the Pence Rule to avoid sexually harassing or assaulting women. I really don’t think that’s the case or the implication for following this rule. My sense is that Pence adopted the policy to avoid temptation of being unfaithful to his wife, not to avoid sexually harassing or assaulting a woman.

I don’t think the rule should be followed because a man can’t stop himself from making unwanted sexual advances. I would say most men can interact alone with a woman without doing this. On the other hand, if an attractive woman welcomed sexual advances, not responding to this may pose a challenge to many men–or at least not be easily overcome all the time. If you’re a married man, and you want to be faithful to your wife, why put yourself in this situation? Even if the man is confident that he could behave properly in 95% of the time, why take that 5% risk? And with someone like Pence, it’s not unreasonable to believe that he could be put in a tempting situation quite a bit.

But then there’s this:

I never thought of this angle–that the rule would hurt career opportunities for women. If that’s the case, then I would seriously considering making exceptions to the policy. By the way, personally, if I were to adopt the rule, I wouldn’t do so in a hard and fast way. I the principle or concept is more important than applying it in every and all situations.

Edit

This is what I mean by not making this a hard and fast rule. The point isn’t to always apply the policy in every situation. But you’re trying to avoid or reduce situations where one might be tempted.

2 Responses to “Discussion of the Pence Rule”


  1. Mitchell

    Burbach is unwise, then, because an accusation of impropriety is a career-ender. With students of any sex. You can meet alone with a student but somewhere visible, like in a cafeteria or a courtyard.

    As a teacher, I made it a point never to be alone with one student of either sex. And as with the Pence rule, it wasn’t because I couldn’t control myself, but because it’s important as a professional to keep your behavior above reproach or suspicion whenever possible.

    That’s in a professional setting. In a social one, I’m less rigid, but I am still careful. I recently made plans with some of our HS classmates, and everyone canceled except for me and one married woman. I asked her if continuing with our plans was appropriate and we had a discussion about it before we went any further. And again, it’s not because I would have been tempted to do anything (I’m unmarried, so some of Pence’s considerations are not mine), but because I don’t want to put my friend in a position that could cause problems.

    We live in a world where the wrong seems right and the right seems wrong. For all my issues with Pence, I still agree with him on this one, but the climate doesn’t make it very safe for me to say so in public. I mostly keep my mouth shut.

  2. Reid

    As a teacher, I made it a point never to be alone with one student of either sex. And as with the Pence rule, it wasn’t because I couldn’t control myself, but because it’s important as a professional to keep your behavior above reproach or suspicion whenever possible.

    Someone made a similar point about politicians–that the Pence rule would eliminate rumors and the use of scandal to weaken or ruin one’s career. I think there’s some validity to that–and your position; although I was mainly thinking about this from the point of view that I describe above.

    And again, it’s not because I would have been tempted to do anything (I’m unmarried, so some of Pence’s considerations are not mine), but because I don’t want to put my friend in a position that could cause problems.

    I agree with your instincts here, and a part of me suspects that even those who think derisively of Pence’s policy would agree. Then again, I was a little surprised by some of the reaction from the left.

    For all my issues with Pence, I still agree with him on this one, but the climate doesn’t make it very safe for me to say so in public. I mostly keep my mouth shut.

    I think there is some misunderstanding here, or at least people are drawing different implications about the meaning and thought behind the policy. Also, some like Kayem view this as an underhanded way to keep women from advancing in the workforce. Are there some men how think that way? I wouldn’t be surprised.

    One other thing that I probably is at play. People have different conceptions about human nature. If you think that people are generally good, this kind of policy can seem like an offensive and even silly. “Why do would a decent person need a policy like this,” they might wonder? If you have a more pessimistic view of human nature, I suspect the rule would be more understandable.

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