The Real Reason Mike Pence Doesn't Dine Alone With Women

While men still mostly dominate the political landscape in America, women are making massive moves in politics. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, thanks to the ratification of the 19th Amendment in August 1920, we also just witnessed Senator Kamala Harris become the first South Asian and Black woman to accept the Democratic vice presidential bid. In 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman elected to congress. Despite these gains in female representation, there's a lingering issue that women in politics apparently still face — some of them can't be alone with their male colleagues.

Dubbed the "Mike Pence rule," this idea made headlines in 2017 when the Washington Post ran a profile of Vice President Mike Pence's wife, Karen. The piece discussed the inseparability of Mike and Karen Pence, and noted something that would lead to heavy debate in the media: Mike claimed he will not be alone with another woman or attend an event where alcohol is being served unless his wife is there. So, why does Mike follow such a seemingly old-fashioned rule as a contemporary public figure?

Mike Pence identifies as a Christian, conservative Republican

At the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference, Vice President Mike Pence introduced himself as "a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order." These labels explain his rule against extramarital one-on-ones with women, even for business reasons. This is a common marital rule followed by many evangelical Christians, a label with which a quarter of Americans identify, according to Pew Research Center.

As New Yorker writer Jia Tolentino, who grew up in a Southern Baptist community with a similar mindset, explained in 2017, "A married man simply shouldn't have female friends. It's not necessary or proper. That's what plenty of people I grew up around might say. Men and women are meant to serve God in a contained, organized partnership. Intimacy of any sort leads to sexual temptation."

Mike first confirmed his devotion to this rule in a 2002 Hill interview (via The Washington Post). "If there's alcohol being served and people are being loose, I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me," he said. The "best-looking brunette" he was referring to is his wife, Karen Pence. To explain this idea further, he said it's like "building a zone around your marriage." While Kamala Harris claimed this to be "outrageous" in 2019, there has been support and understanding from those on the right.

With his reasoning, Pence aims to be a devoted husband who wants a strong family, and he's not the first to abide by this rule.

Mike Pence isn't the first public figure to avoid alone time with the opposite sex

The former Indiana governor is not the first public figure to avoid dining alone with women, although modern times allowed the Pence family to take scrutiny for it. Billy Graham was an evangelist who set these rules for pastors working under him. In his autobiography, Graham also pointed to the concern about sexual temptation when working men are away from their families for long periods of time. He concluded it was best he "did not travel, meet, or eat alone with a woman other than my wife," and encouraged his fellow believers to follow suit. Before this was dubbed the "Mike Pence Rule," it was called the "Billy Graham Rule."

Either way, this polarizing rule does not allow Vice President Mike Pence to dine alone with other women, and his wife Karen Pence doesn't seem to have any issue with it. In fact, the two have been married for 35 years and stay connected through faith and exercise, according to the Washington Post. Could this be the secret to their strong bond?