The Billy Graham Rule

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I’ve been listening in on a lot of conversations about Mike Pence’s decision not to eat alone with another woman.

They covered all sorts of territory: Can men and women have close relationships? Does being “above reproach” mean maintaining your reputation at any cost or doing the right thing no matter who’s looking or not looking? Are all male/female relationships one hop, skip, and a jump from adultery? Is it reasonable to fear a loose women might try to destroy your career?

I grew up in a culture where male/female friendships were frowned upon, where I felt uncomfortable with a dad driving me home after babysitting his kids, where this Billy Graham rule of never being alone with a person of the opposite sex made perfect sense. I’d never thought all the way through the implications of a man making this “rule” his own, and I’d never heard the stories I did during these conversations — men moving their desks outside of an office to avoid sharing it with a woman; women never getting mentorship or advancing in their field because they could never privately meet with their male supervisors; women awkwardly listening in as a husband dialed his wife: “Hey, I am in the car with another woman alone right now — just so you know.”

Many women shared how demeaned, sexualized, ignored, excluded, and distrusted they felt when men declined to meet with them one-on-one for business, mentorship, or friendship.

***

One of the big reasons men follow the Billy Graham rule is protect themselves against the end of their careers and reputations because of rumored misconduct.

My take on it is this: I get wanting to protect yourself from false accusations.

I’m a teacher, and we have rules about being alone with students, particularly in a bathroom, both to protect against child abuse and to protect teachers from false accusations that could destroy their career and reputation. We don’t have that rule because teachers feel like they couldn’t control their sexual urges around children; it’s mostly for reputation’s sake.

A safeguard designed to protect both children’s well-being and teachers’ reputations seems reasonable. Likewise, a safeguard designed to protect both the well-being and the reputation of two people of the opposite sex seems reasonable to me.

But where I would take issue with that sentiment is if it began to interfere with one’s work or to exclude women from networking, mentorships, or just plain doing their jobs.

Not all women are temptresses waiting to seduce a man. The Billy Graham rule came about not because he lunched with a trusted female co-worker but because a naked woman broke into his hotel room. A woman building a professional relationship over a lunch outing or discussing company business over a coffee break is not remotely similar to a woman lounging nakedly on a hotel bed.

It comes down to this: Not all one-on-one meals or conversation with someone of the opposite sex are sexual in nature. Honestly, I would be a little offended and shocked as a woman if a man refused to meet with me one-on-one in a public place to discuss business, or to provide private counseling as a pastor or psychologist.

It would be like a woman saying, “Sorry, but I don’t meet privately with men in case they sexually assault me.”

That shows an egregious lack of trust and respect, in my opinion.

Yes, sexual assault happens. Yes, adultery happens. And yes, they happen mostly by people you know and trust. Reasonable safeguards against those things may prevent those realities from occurring. But reducing a professional partner or client to their genitalia and sexual urges and then fearing them because of it — that is not a reasonable safeguard.

***

I can’t speak personally about this situation. I’ve never had a man tell me, “Sorry, but I don’t meet with women alone.”

But I think about all the great conversations, relationships, and mentorships I’ve developed both personally and professionally with men. My college experience — the most transformative four years of my life — would be drastically different if my guy friends refused to grab lunch with me, just the two of us, or if my male professors wouldn’t meet with me in their office unless their wife was present, or if a priest was uncomfortable discussing my spiritual questions without a chaperone, or if my counselor turned me away because he didn’t want to be alone with a female behind closed doors.

I would be more broken, less educated, less well-rounded, lonelier, and missing out on a huge part of the college experience. I owe much of my education, spirituality, and quality of life to amazing male friends and professionals. I cannot imagine having that taken away from me because of an irrational fear that I would try to seduce them over lunch.

Part of working in a co-ed professional environment means working closely with those around you, even if they’re the opposite sex — and that includes developing relationships and maybe breaking bread together.

I think there are ways to be prudent about one’s reputation and opposite sex relationships — meet in public places, keep the door open, have a window in your door, etc. — while still having meaningful professional relationships with one’s female clients, co-workers, and peers.

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35 thoughts on “The Billy Graham Rule

  1. villemezbrown

    I find this rule or guideline incredibly offensive, and I think part of the reason why is alluded to in this post. You compare it to guidelines about not being alone with a child and no other adult. We have those guidelines because children are vulnerable and sometimes, unfortunately, that vulnerability can attract predators. Having that rule for adult men not being alone with adult women has all sorts of horrible implications. First, the fact that the comparison is a good one implies the idea that women are basically the same as children – incapable of protecting themselves or making their own choices. Second, there is the implication that all or most men are predators and if they found themselves alone with a woman they wouldn’t be able to control themselves. Third, the guideline suggests there is something wrong with a woman who would even want to be in a situation where she is alone with a man – clearly she must be trying to either get her hands on him or ruin his reputation. This plays into a culture where women who work outside the home or go to college or travel by themselves are not good, moral women. And that in turn, perpetuates rape culture. A woman was raped? Well, she shouldn’t have been alone with a man. Sure the man shouldn’t have raped her, but . . . bleah

    Adele

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    • Bailey Steger

      Yes, I can see that. I also see the converse — I am really uncomfortable with how open men are about their uncontrollable sex drive and all the guidelines they have in place to keep it in check. It’s not very comforting to imagine all the men around me are either itching to jump in my pants, struggling not to do so, or believing they naturally would want to do so, given the right time and place. I realize this is a simplification of real concerns about infidelity, but I feel like this guideline opens up a huge can of worms about opposite sex relationships, people’s capacity to govern themselves, and whether one can truly trust anybody or have any integrity.

      Liked by 1 person

      • villemezbrown

        I think this uncomfortable feeling is part of why I reacted so strongly, though I didn’t realize it at first. I was talking about this with my husband last night and he said he thinks men who make statements like this or agree to guidelines like this are men who have gotten caught doing something they shouldn’t have in the past. I don’t know if he is right or not, but I realized that when I hear a man say something like this, *my* initial reaction is not “There is a man who is committed to his marriage”, but something closer to “There is a man who knows he is weak and faithless and without honor and fears he would cheat given the slightest excuse or opportunity.” The culture I grew up in and my life now gives me a perspective that inclines me to think very negatively of a man who would say something like this.

        Adele

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      • Bailey Steger

        You know, I think that’s my same thought process too — here’s a man whose sexual appetite is out of control. I would assume many men (and women, too) set these boundaries because they’re told the boundaries are good and effective — that is, they set these boundaries even if someone hasn’t been caught cheating.

        I am so confused on this issue. I don’t want to be naive and say infidelity could *never* happen to me or my husband, but at the same time, I feel confident in our marriage and our character. I believe (and perhaps naively) that commitment to character and investing in a marriage are better preventatives of infidelity than rules. I would like to think that if we continued along a trajectory of strengthening our marriage and developing good character, that that would have more power than a co-worker or a series of work lunches. Do you, in your longer experience with the world and marriage :), think that’s a naive opinion? Like, I have been alone with men for work and school and personal relationships and have NEVER been tempted to cheat, so all these conversations about the Billy Graham rule scare me a bit — maybe I’m naive, maybe I’m ignoring a huge character flaw in me, maybe I *will* end up cheating on my husband.

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      • villemezbrown

        I don’t think you are naive at all. Statistics look at whole populations and do not take into account individual differences. I look at it like this. Yes, an alarming number of people are unfaithful, but still, most people are not. What is the difference between those who cheat and those who don’t? I don’t think it’s random and I also don’t think rules and guidelines explain the difference. My opinion is much closer to your view focused on strengthening the relationship and character. There are lots of reasons that factor into the choices people make, but I think these are three of the most important deterrents to being unfaithful.

        1. Love – my father would travel alone and he once told me one thing that kept him from ever cheating on my mother despite opportunities to do so. He said it was the knowledge that cheating would hurt her and he wasn’t going to do something knowing it would hurt someone he loved. If a person understands that being unfaithful hurts your spouse *even if you never get caught* that can be a powerful reason not to cheat. And being unfaithful always does hurt the other person because it damages the relationship.

        2. Morality – there are some issues that I think really are black and white and this is one of them. Being unfaithful is wrong. Period. Sometimes our morality goes beyond thoughtful reasoned analysis. Some acts produce an automatic visceral negative reaction in me. I have been watching the show Big Little Lies and I really liked the character of Maddie, flawed though she is. Then it was revealed that she had had an affair sometime in the past and I didn’t like her anymore. That one act ruined the character for me and I couldn’t have any respect for her after that. I know with absolute confidence that I am never going to do something that would make me despise myself that much. Another example: there are men who are abusers because of personality flaws or problems or whatever, but there are far more men, who we probably wouldn’t label as “abusers”, who may have once or twice hit a woman. Then, I suspect you know at least one or two men who have zero patience for men who hit women. For these one or two men there is no excuse, no explanation, no justification for hitting a woman. They don’t care if the woman was acting crazy, if she hit first. These one or two men don’t care if they are accused of being anti-feminist even if they otherwise consider themselves to support feminism. They just despise men who hit women. It is not a stretch to be pretty darn confident these men who have this automatic, intense, negative reaction to men hitting women are not going to one day suddenly decide to hit a woman themselves. There are men and women who feel exactly the same way about infidelity.

        3. Lack of temptation – honestly, I can relate to what you say about never being tempted way more than I can to these fears of someday cheating on my husband or that he will cheat on me. This is not because I don’t have natural human impulses and inclinations. Sure, I see men I find physically attractive, and even occasionally meet men that I like and might under radically different circumstances be interested in, but there is an enormous chasm between that and actually wanting to have sex with these men. I am not holding myself back with extreme will-power – I just really, REALLY, don’t want to. AT ALL. “It’s different for men!” everyone yells. Well, that’s probably true, but not in the way everyone seems to think. Men don’t actually want to have sex with every woman they see anymore than women do with men. Men can see a woman and even find her attractive and still not want to have sex with her in reality. So why do people cheat at all then? Some people are tempted, clearly, and while I know I’m not one of them, how can I be confident my husband isn’t? I think it must be the difference between what they have in the marriage and what they imagine might be available outside it. I do know this. There are always going to be tons of women who are prettier than me and flirtier than me and, yes, sexier than me. But there is no woman in the world more committed to making my husband happy than I am. I know I am the luckiest woman in the world to be married to my husband and I never hesitate to let him know that’s the way I feel. Men may well be tempted by different things and in different ways than women, but that does not mean they cannot be like women in feeling that the satisfaction found in a loving, committed relationship so surpasses anything that could possibly be found in an illicit affair that the whole idea of temptation becomes a non-issue.

        So that’s the source of my confidence in the past and continued faithfulness of myself and my husband. If that makes me naive, I can live with that. ;-)

        Adele

        Sorry to write a novel, here! I will not be offended if you think it is not appropriate to post on the comments.

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      • Bailey Steger

        I absolutely love this. This explains so many things I feel about myself and my own relationship. Thanks so much for writing a “novel” — this is one of the most helpful things I’ve read recently about infidelity and the temptation towards it — or rather, the lack thereof.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Bailey Steger

      Mrs. Q, many of the people dissenting with the Billy Graham rule are not liberal and ignorant of the evil men can do. Further, while liberals and/or non-Christians might not speak of redemption in those terms, they believe men are capable of great evil, and they are also capable of progressing. Everyone agrees that horrible things can go wrong between the two sexes. Where people disagree is how to prevent those horrible things.

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      • Mrs. Q

        “It comes down to this: Not all one-on-one meals or conversation with someone of the opposite sex are sexual in nature. Honestly, I would be a little offended and shocked as a woman if a man refused to meet with me one-on-one in a public place to discuss business, or to provide private counseling as a pastor or psychologist.
        It would be like a woman saying, “Sorry, but I don’t meet privately with men in case they sexually assault me.”
        That shows an egregious lack of trust and respect, in my opinion.”

        Today’s illiberals tout *trust* in their transcendentalist flavored theology of oneness and sameness. That we should just assume the best because if we think it…it will be so. Like if we pretend that two people, alone in a room together, could never experience temptation, then poof, by sheer positive thought and *belief* in good intentions, temptation will disappear.

        A good Biblical response might be this:
        “…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.

        While* it* may “offensive,” “shocking,” & showing “egregious lack of trust and respect” as you said, *it* is the exact thing we must examine.

        The idea that we can “evolve” ourselves by being in denial of the incredible evil that lurks around us, and just by sheer will, judgment of others, and conformity to the current worldly ethos, we can stamp evil/temptation down (by deciding someone else’s adherence to their own moral compass would somehow automatically “ruin it for the rest of us” ) is in my opinion, a prejudiced and self indulgent notion.

        Conference rooms were made for a reason. They are a great place to do business. And there will always be plenty of men who will be more than happy to meet privately with women. There’s no shortage there. Why must Pence change HIS relationship just so some random person *feels* more free to increase their career success? That’s not freedom, that’s the start of authoritarianism.

        “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

        We know evil lurks like a lion and will fool the very elect. Moral vanity works both ways. We can judge another couple without knowing who they are, why they came to create the boundaries they did, or if in fact their arrangement denigrated others or kept them from “advancing.” Or we can look into our own sometimes deceitful hearts and ask if we are actually missing a piece of the puzzle on the hype. We ask if our own house is in order. We pray for God’s help in avoiding Satan’s snares. And we affirm those who express their religious freedom while understanding no one person, couple, or even leader, will always get it right. Wickedness is best not ignored, especially in ourselves and in the moral virtue that supposed social justice attempts to force on others these days.

        This is the last thing I’ll add. It’s a great quote from Maya Binyam:
        “When vigilance becomes a game, the dangers posed by injustice begin to feel arbitrary. The Woke Olympics, in turn, operates both as sport and false consciousness, championed by the faulty belief that eradication is the natural result of recognizing hate’s existence. If hate is affective, it’s bound to leave its imprint where we’re least likely to detect it. We’d be best served by attuning to hate’s residue: not the bodies in which it is presumed to reside, but the individuals and communities whom it continues to haunt.
        Hate circulates in unpredictable ways, often entangling those who try to name it.”

        Ms. Binyam may not be a Bible scholar, but at least she knows a thing or two about where evil truly resides. Thanks for letting me respond.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Laura Jinkins

    Yet another example of someone choosing to live their life in a way that honors the commitment they made when they got married, and the world is in an uproar because “me… me…. ME!”

    The comment above never takes into consideration that sometimes women are the aggressors (it is true) and perhaps this is the mechanism VP Pence and his wife have come up with to protect him, just as much as anyone. In scandal-ridden DC (and even the smaller towns across the country), it seems pretty danged smart to never put yourself in a situation that would give opportunity to inappropriate conduct, or even the appearance of inappropriate conduct.

    For those who are worried about discrimination — Surely there are ways to conduct business that allow the VP (and people like him) to honor their marriage vows and not put themselves in questionable circumstances.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Laura Jinkins

        First, I referred to the WORLD’S response of it being all about “me,” not specifically Adele’s comment.

        If we are going to talk about charitable characterizations, I think it would behoove us to avoid casting suspicion upon VP Pence’s own character by insinuating that the reason he and his wife have chosen to protect their marriage in this way is because one or both of them have done something wrong.

        I stand by my comment regarding the “me” crowd. This is the nature of our society at this point in history, and it’s quite the conundrum. The contradictions are mind boggling. Bear with me if you will:

        I must set aside my own personal feelings about privacy and security and share a public bathroom with ANYONE who decides at that particular moment to “identify” as the same sex as me. I have to be understanding of that person’s “truth.” It doesn’t matter that their “truth” is in direct conflict with my “truth” — they win, because of tolerance.

        The vice president (and any other person, male or female who chooses to avoid even the appearance of wrongdoing as regards male/female relationships) must set aside his own personal feelings/convictions about how male/female relationships are conducted in the workplace, not only with regard to OTHER people, but with regard to HIMSELF. His critics refuse to allow him to live his life according to his “truth,” he must adhere to their “truth,” and if he disagrees, well, it must be because he has done something wrong.

        So the acceptable rules are made by liberals, and the conservatives must conform. I’m quite certain the majority of people who take issue with the Pences’ marital decisions were anti-Pence before this ever came to light. He was wrong before they even knew what he was wrong about.

        I have personal experience in three situations where a male “superior” took advantage of their position… I don’t even know how to word it.

        In college, I became acquainted with a history professor while waiting for my own class to begin. His office was directly cross the hall from my class, and we would strike up conversations in the ten minutes prior to class starting. I thought he was so interesting because he would often come to class in historically accurate costume for whatever lecture was on the plan for the day. How cool! Someone who made history interesting for those who found it boring! I considered signing up for one of his classes. I never had any thoughts toward this man than that of a student to a professor — so I was startled when he invited me to dinner one day. You might say, “Oh, surely it was just an innocent invitation — you were 20 after all, an adult, and not his student.” Except for the fact that he made it clear his wife was out of town and he was inviting me to dinner at his home. I remember feeling angry, and even guilty, wondering how I had given the wrong impression. And this was not even in a private, one on one situation… his office door was open and I was sitting in the hallway… how much more opportunity for wrong doing if I’d been stupid enough to go in his office?

        When I worked for the big law firm, I had two attorneys approach me. One was married and I told him absolutely not. It shocked me that this man who seemed the epitome of the “family man” would ask me out to dinner, socially. Another attorney asked me out and I did go out with him a few times. I regret it immensely – the story is much longer and I will not share it here – but he definitely used his position as a senior associate to manipulate me. I learned later that he’d done similar things to a woman in a different office. He was (and probably still is) a predator.

        Finally, I recently saw a video that an Uber driver recorded for his own protection — this man was hired by a woman to drive her somewhere. She got angry, irrationally so, because he didn’t have a phone charger that matched her phone. She began yelling at him, beating the inside of his car with her hands (at one point it looked like she was going to hit him) — he pulled over and told her he was not going to drive her any further because she was out of control. She threatened to call the cops and told him she was going to claim he raped her. Thank goodness he had the video, because in this day and age of automatic guilt when a women screams “rape,” the driver would be screwed. :(

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      • Bailey Steger

        I agree with you — we should avoid burning Pence at the stake or judging his character. This article is not an attack on Pence. It’s not even about him. I mentioned him only because his comments brought about a larger conversation about the Billy Graham principle. For what it’s worth, I think Pence has these rules for all the right reasons — honoring his wife and his marriage. That’s a wonderful thing. I merely wanted to talk about the implications of those decisions on others and whether one could come up with a better guideline that didn’t have negative implications against people of the opposite sex.

        I like how Elizabeth said above (or below) that this rule is only as reasonable as the person using it. I think it is unreasonable in a lot of cases, but in all the cases you described, where men tried to manipulate and use you through dinner, and you got a sense of that beforehand, I don’t at all think you were unreasonable to decline! They were not work related, and there was clearly an ulterior motive on their part. You weren’t declining based on a broad principle that all men might try to seduce you but on the certain instance that these men *were.*

        And like I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not against reasonable guidelines and precautions. I’d think it stupid for an Uber driver NOT to have a video camera in their car to protect themselves should something go wrong. If you’re driving hundreds of strangers a day, a camera is a rational protection. And it doesn’t harm anybody.

        Lastly, I think you’re misunderstanding liberals’ intentions. I could easily say that conservatives are all about “me, me, me” because they want to live their truth at the expense of other people’s truth, even when their truth harms more vulnerable people. But no conservative would appreciate such a characterization of their beliefs.

        Take the bathroom issue, for instance. Conservatives just want the freedom to live their truth. Transgenders want the freedom to live their truth. And that creates a problem, because when two truths collide, who budges? That’s a good question for a pluralistic society with deep divides. You are entitled to your own opinion on who should budge, but for many liberals, the people who should budge are those who are more privileged (and by that I mean “least harmed”). A cisgender person has the choice to live their truth by walking out of a bathroom if a transgender person occupies it; a transgender person does not even have the choice to be in the bathroom of their preference. That is how the liberal mindset works. I’m not saying you have to agree with it or that I agree with it; I’m just saying it’s a gross misunderstanding to label somebody’s attempt to protect another’s equal rights and safety as a selfish “me, me, me” mentality.

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    • villemezbrown

      Laura: You are absolutely correct that I was anti-Pence before this statement was brought up. Pence is sexist and a science denier and, because he presents himself as moral when he is Trump’s VP, a complete hypocrite. But none of this matters in the slightest unless you think if someone I liked and supported made this ridiculous statement I would be fine with it. That is simply not the case.
      As far as insinuations about Pence’s marriage: my husband was the one who said a man who needs these guidelines has probably gotten caught cheating before. I have no idea whether Pence has actually been unfaithful. I do know a man who would follow these guidelines whether because his wife makes him (or just wants him to), or he doesn’t trust himself to be faithful without them, or he is afraid of having his reputation ruined, or just because he still believes in a culture that thinks this is the way reasonable men act, is not a man I have any respect for. That is just my opinion. However, it is not a matter of opinion that attitudes like those expressed in this statement hurt women’s careers. It is also undeniably true that it is possible to be faithful without following this rule. Given those two facts, following this “guideline” is unacceptable.

      Adele

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      • Laura Jinkins

        Unacceptable to you. And that is fine. There are a lot of people out there that find couples who choose to go above and beyond to honor their marriage vows a very acceptable and respectful thing. Truthfully, I find this whole conversation tiresome in that so many are determined to wallow in their anger and hate, rather than trying to find common ground. Good day.

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  3. heather

    I don’t have a problem with this rule. I don’t think it is an issue of the morality of the interaction between the man and woman. The problem is the toxic mindset of people around them. People assume that others meeting alone must be up to something. I understand people wanting to protect themselves from any insinuations. I’ve seen it happen several times in purely secular situations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bailey Steger

      I definitely agree that we’ve got a really toxic culture regarding relationships between men and women if every time two people of the opposite sex have a work lunch or work in the same office, people speculate about an affair.

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  4. Elizabeth

    Ok, here’s my take, and I think its a little different from what I’ve heard others say. I believe how any one of us feels about this is based on our perspective and how we interpret his actions.

    Most people seem to look at this as a sex thing and what it says about how the male or female who abides by the rule views the opposite sex. I don’t view it this way. I see it as personal boundaries determined mostly by the dynamic between the husband and wife.

    I’ll be honest — if a couple integrates this rule, there’s probably a reason. I would suppose it has little to do with “others” and everything to do with the couple. Somewhere between 30%-60% of married people engage in infidelity, and statistics show that about 36% of cheaters admit to doing so with a co-worker or on a business trip. One statistic I read claimed a whopping 85% of affairs begin in the workplace. Why? Because, for most full-time workers, you may be spending more time with co-workers and business partners than with your spouse.

    I don’t think its a bad rule. Conservative? Yes. But its a marital decision that effects his career. If I make marital decisions that put my career at risk — I’m ok with that. My husband and I have both made similar decisions that have probably lowered our chances of climbing the ladder. And that’s ok, because honestly, I don’t really care what Corporate Shill #1 thinks about my networking taboos. If it inconveniences him, that’s too bad — but it is like, sub-zero on my concerns list compared to my marriage and my husband’s comfort.

    Now, THIS is what I WILL say is shitty about this “Rule”. It sucks that a MAN can enact and follow this rule and rise to the level of VP, while a woman who held herself to the same standard would probably just miss out. But that’s a much bigger issue that expands way beyond this rule.

    And I just seriously PRAY that no one has to experience infidelity, but at the same time — I can almost hear in so many of these articles the echoing thoughts of “It hasn’t happened to me…it won’t happen to me”. But those stats of 30-60% I gave? Most experts agree its probably higher because not everyone who cheats will admit it – they also say many affairs will go undetected. Most likely, over half of all couples including friends, family, including you — will or have already experienced infidelity. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” People act like safeguards are paranoia or unreasonable, but to be honest, I think a lot of people just have their heads stuck in the sand on this issue.

    In the end, it sucks that women may be negatively effected by this rule. But, in the end, its a marital decision and one which is intensely personal and probably attached to trauma for one spouse or the other. If a woman had PTSD from sexual assault and could no longer stand to be alone in a room with men, should we simply shunt her out of corporate culture? No way, someone’s mental health is at risk, and we should help her heal. Now, if the spouse of a cheater has panic attacks and anxiety knowing her husband is at a business lunch, should we force the man to still eat with the woman even if he hopes to help his wife heal?

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    • Bailey Steger

      Elizabeth, I have a lot of sympathy and respect for this line of thinking, and you take a very nuanced approach. I am all for understanding environments (even at work) that help others heal and be their best selves.

      You mentioned healing. Would you agree that as a society and/or as a couple we should be able to have co-ed work relationships without the fear of infidelity? That is to say, I see a lot of couples following the Billy Graham rule even when they have healthy marriages. They’re not using it to heal, they’re using it as a preventative. Would you agree that the Billy Graham rule is (or can be) an unreasonable preventative, even while it may be a reasonable way forward for a broken marriage? I’m curious to hear your thoughts!

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      • Elizabeth

        I think, as in all things, moderation and nuance are key. Lunch, for example, by its very nature is typically supposed to function as a break from the work day which we should use to relax and recoup before returning for work. Meetings, and jobs which entail meeting one-on-one with a co-worker or client can reasonably be expected to occur, but those should be a working relationship in a professional environment not at a “business lunch” over drinks. One is professional, the other casual. Our society has allowed these lines to blur, which is a shame.

        Unfortunately, our society has given work such a pedestal that now we’ve allowed it to infest our leisure time.

        So I guess I’m saying yes, it can be used as preventative and considering the stats, its reasonable to do so. But I always think these sorts of things should be applied with nuance. It can be as unreasonable as the person applying it!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. villemezbrown

    One thing that was called to my attention on another blog I read – it is very likely that this is not “a marital decision”. To actually follow this rule in most businesses is illegal. Sexual discrimination in the workplace is illegal and if you will not do a reasonable activity such as have lunch with a female co-worker, and you would do that same activity with a male co-worker, if it can be shown that negatively impacts the careers of female employees (which it definitely does), then the company is required by law to put a stop to this. Also, there are many many positions that this rule would prevent hiring a woman. Pence’s assistant for one. He is going to hire someone and then they are never going to be alone in an office together? I don’t think so. So that’s gender discrimination in hiring practices and that’s illegal for a company. I’m not sure about politics. The more I think about this the more situations I come up with where the idea of an adult man and an adult woman never being alone together in private is just ludicrous. If Bailey’s principal is a man, how would he give a performance evaluation to his female teachers?
    This kind of attitude is only feasible in societies where women are kept hidden away behind locked doors.

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    • Bailey Steger

      This line of thought didn’t even occur to me. I think you’re absolutely right — this practice could potentially or already does cross into gender discrimination in the workplace.

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    • Elizabeth

      It is a marital decision in that, most likely it was made by the couple through the lens of their marital relationship being top priority rather than career, gender equality, etc is what I intend to say. I do not mean that it has no professional, political or legal implications. I only mean that those consequences were of less importance to deciding to implement the rule than the marriage and that to understand it or properly criticize it or to dialogue with those who support it, that it must be looked at through that lens. Otherwise people just talk past each other.

      In my opinion, this problem has occurred because we’ve allowed the blending of work and leisure time. Is the business lunch considered a lunch or business? Is it a company thing or a personal thing? This blurring is what makes it dangerous as a potential place to foster workplace romances as well as insidious to our work-leisure balance.

      If it has been demonstrated that the “lunch” is necessary to the career or to do the job, then I hope somebody will push it in a court of law, because I absolutely hate being expected to spend my leisure time on workplace hobnobbing. Business should be kept to a professional environment and I always do so.

      As I said in the previous comment, this rule is only as reasonable to the person applying it. And, as far as I know, Pence did not say he would never be alone with a woman, but rather he would not DINE alone with a woman, nor attend events where alcohol is served. Major difference. I’m not a big Pence fan, but its important to get the details correct.

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      • Bailey Steger

        This is such a helpful comment. Thank you. You explained something I observed but couldn’t put my finger on — people choosing their marriage first, no matter what career or social problems stemmed from that.

        And yes, I think you’re right about more clarification on the role of lunch meetings. When I worked in marketing, we met over lunch, or we shared pizza in the office. I think part camaraderie is an important part of a good corporate environment, so I can understand the blurring of personal and career in the way — but again, I can also see potential problems.

        And you’re indeed right that Pence, as far as we know, has never said he would not dine alone with a woman.

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  6. Laura Jinkins

    I keep thinking about this issue and the varying circumstances in which people of either sex may find themselves.

    As I’ve mentioned in comments before, my husband teaches at a male prison unit. The department of corrections employs both men and women in a variety of positions: clerical staff, teachers, correctional officers, etc. No sexual discrimination there! However, in the 17 years that my husband has been teaching at this male prison unit, there have been a handful of women who have chosen to pursue intimate relationships with prisoners. This is strictly against the rules, of course, but that doesn’t stop it from happening.

    Somehow, I really doubt when any of these women applied for and were hired by the prison unit, they started their first day of work with the thought, “Hmmm… wonder if I can find me a man inside this razor-wire fencing?”

    The employees are trained to avoid personal contact with the inmates. Personal contact includes conversation involving details of one’s personal life, physical touch, even to the point that if my husband needs to give something to an inmate, he lays it on the desk and the inmate picks it up. There is no “hand to hand” delivery of anything.

    So it’s pretty certain that when a woman employee ends up pregnant and defending her “baby daddy,” it is by her own choice — she broke the rules of personal contact. If she had maintained the rules of personal contact, never discussing personal life details, engaging in physical touch, etc., there never would have been an opportunity for this to happen. The rules protect the employees from manipulative cons.

    The Pences have established rules to protect their marriage, similarly to the rules that are supposed to protect the employees of the prison where my husband works. There’s nothing wrong with that.

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    • Bailey Steger

      I think your example actually speaks more to how character is more important than rules. All the rules in the world — whether reasonable or unreasonable — aren’t going to stop someone who wants to make a bad choice.

      In case I didn’t make it clear, I’m not opposed to rules. I opened my article by stating that as a teacher, I follow certain rules to protect myself from false allegations and to protect children from predators.

      Like

  7. Laura Jinkins

    “False allegations” — BINGO! By establishing careful guidelines for doing business, one can avoid being the victim of false allegations or putting forth the appearance of inappropriate behavior. I do not think that choosing to avoid being in a room alone with someone of the opposite sex or refusing to meet in a more casual setting with someone of the opposite sex prohibits working together. I think it may require more creative ways of conducting business, and I don’t really see anything wrong with that. Why is it the conservative Christian must ALWAYS bow to the more liberal, progressive? Why is a person’s ambition more important than another’s character? These are sincere questions I have.

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    • Bailey Steger

      In today’s co-ed environment, many times refusing to be alone with a person of the opposite sex DOES prohibit working together. A male counselor or pastor could never meet privately with his client, for instance. Even I, a teacher, would not be able to do my job if I followed this rule. Just a couple days ago, I met privately with a dad for parent/teacher conferences behind the closed doors of my classroom. There was nowhere else to go to discuss confidential matters. And obviously, nothing happened, because there were windows on the doors, there was a security camera trained right at us, and most importantly, we were there to have a parent/teacher conference, not a love fest.

      I’m fine with creative ways of conducting business so that people can uphold their private beliefs that men and women shouldn’t be alone together *and* nobody gets left out or discriminated against.

      And to your questions, I ask the reverse: why should the liberal, progressive people bow down to the conservative Christians? Why is somebody’s fear that they’ll get slapped with false allegations more important than another person’s goals and dignity? Personally, I don’t think either/or questions are going to be helpful here where so many different factors and beliefs are at play. I think your suggestion of being creative and adapting to as many concerns as possible is a better way forward.

      Like

      • Laura Jinkins

        Liberal, progressives shouldn’t have to bow down to conservative Christians. But they shouldn’t go out of their way to force said conservatives to accept or abide by liberal, progressive policies, either. And they do. They force family businesses to provide services to individuals who are purposefully seeking to destroy said businesses by filing suit when the small business chooses to decline.

        Christian photographers, bakers, and venue owners have been closed down because they declined to serve gays. Now I don’t know how much t.v. you watch, but I’m pretty sure based on all the HGTV and Lifetime shows I’ve caught glimpses of here and there, there are PLENTY of photographers, bakers, and venue owners that would be happy to provide services to a gay couple. A lot of these people are not out there trying to go along and get along, to seek out businesses of like mind to take care of their special events. They are consciously seeking out businesses to destroy. And don’t even try to say that’s not true. There are too many businesses that have had to close up shop because someone with an agenda said, “You will make my cake, take my photos, host my event and you will NOT refuse me or there will be hell to pay.”

        I wish we could all accept that we’re just NOT going to be friends with every single person we meet. And we’re not going to agree on every single issue. And maybe we shouldn’t waste all this energy on trying to force everyone to play nicely together. Why can’t these people conduct business the way they choose, and those people conduct business the way they choose, and everyone be happy?

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      • Bailey Steger

        Well, the problem is — agree with it or not — that these things are seen as civil rights issues. It would be racist discrimination to say, “I refuse to bake a cake for you because you’re black” or something of that sort. That is an injustice, and the government steps in to prevent injustice. That’s why these people “can’t conduct business in the way they choose, and those people conduct business the way they choose, and everyone be happy.”

        I really don’t think it’s fair to say the LGBT movement or something of that sort has an “agenda” when conservatives have their own agendas, as well. They have an agenda to seek out and put out of business abortion clinics and laws that support abortion. Many had an agenda to prevent gays from marrying. Everybody, in this sense, has an “agenda” in wanting their idea of injustice eliminated and their idea of morality promoted. I totally see your frustration that your ideas of injustice aren’t eliminated and your ideas of morality aren’t promoted, but please don’t demonize liberals. They’re doing the exact same thing for the exact same reasons you are — only with different ideas of what’s just and unjust.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Laura Jinkins

        And there’s the racist justification that always comes out regarding these cases, even though it has nothing to do with race – we aren’t talking about people refusing to serve someone because of their skin color — we are talking about people who do not believe homosexuality is an inherent trait, they believe it is a chosen behavior. (To my knowledge, the “gay gene” has yet to be discovered. I find it hard to believe a loving God would create a person to be something He then calls an “abomination”) And they believe to provide the cake, the photos, the venue — whatever, they believe that to do so would be “selling out” – taking money from and condoning a lifestyle that their understanding of scripture prohibits.

        I have to say I’m a bit shocked at your comparison of gays putting Christian bakers out of business on the same level as Christians working towards the elimination of abortion.

        I’m not demonizing liberals — I have a dear friend (40 years now) who is socially liberal, barring abortion. She is pro-life all the way. We discuss, we debate, but neither of us has ever accused the other of demonizing anyone. Ultimately, we both lean toward the Bible as our foundation. She thinks government has a role to play in charity (thus taxation to fund welfare programs, etc., but not abortion). I think people are much more inclined to do good works for their fellow man (or woman, lest I be marked as a sexist) when they are left to their own devices. The name of the organization fails me at the moment, but recently a group saw a huge increase in donations when their federal funds were cut. I think that’s great! And the way it should be anyway.

        It’s just really hard to feel any kind of desire to view one’s “opponents” with positive thoughts when those people find it “funny” to donate money to PP in VP Pence’s name. I mean, really? How incredibly mature. I’m not really seeing the good in that kind of behavior.

        Like

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