The Pence Rule.

/The Pence Rule.

But we shouldn’t mistake the [Pence] rule’s efficacy for unselfishness. It is a completely self-serving maxim, designed to protect men against women, and not the other way around. It does little for the women whose careers are stymied by a lack of access to good mentors and peers. A system in which private male-female interaction is treated as an automatic “red flag” is one that penalizes women for existing. In these scenarios, women may be more protected from harassment — just as their male counterparts are more protected from the specter of spurious allegations — but they are likewise barred from interactions that might benefit them professionally. Meanwhile, their male colleagues and superiors would suffer no such professional backlash, especially since men […] already tend to have powerful positions.

 Tara Isabella Burton on exclusion.

[Content warning for some discussion of sexual harassment and known abusers at the link.]

So this is about that weird “never be alone with a woman who isn’t your wife” quote-unquote “rule”. It’s not really A Thing here, so I’d never heard of it until recently, via one of my husband’s Harvard dorm-mates, who’s an American evangelical.

Asides from the exclusionary sexism stuff quoted above, The Rule always just struck me as being, like, really creepy. Like, I’ve been alone-with-dudes-who-aren’t-my-husband since I was a kid. In fact, my parents believed non-romantic, inter-gender friendships were a core life skill,1 so I’ve always been encouraged to have close male friends. It meant, I suppose, I got a feel for what healthy inter-gender interactions look and feel like. It also means a dude who tells me he “doesn’t spend time alone with women” sets off massive alarm bells. Like, what is it about you, creepy dude, that means you think you can’t trust yourself alone with a chick? What do you think you’re going to do? Cause, like, I know heaps of dudes I’d be happy to go in a car with or grab lunch with. That’s such a fucking normal, baseline-human interaction. If a dude thinks that level of Humaning 101 is beyond him, then… yeah, okay. Maybe I don’t want to be in a situation alone with him.


  1. “Boys are half the population,” Mum would say, “so you need to know how to interact with them and they need to know how to interact with you.” See also: why my ‘rents never believed in sending me to an all-girls school, and why I find it weird if other people find mixed-gender sleepovers for teens weird. I had these all the time and they were pretty innocuous. ^
2017-10-17T10:48:53+00:00 5th April, 2018|Tags: culture|Comments Off on The Pence Rule.