Scandalous Behavior

I once asked a Democrat about the disparity in media treatment between Democratic and Republican sex scandals. He replied that the media focused on Republican scandals more because the Republican party made a big deal of family values, so it was hypocrisy when they did it.

I replied by asking if it should be a scandal when we find out a Democrat isn't cheating on his wife. My interlocutor was not amused by this.

Well, just when I thought it would be difficult to be any more disgusted with the American left, I find out that apparently Republicans are going to get slammed whether they have sex scandals or go out of their way to avoid them.


Grim said...

I was going to write something about this yesterday, but then I realized that this is based on a quote from 2002! Nobody even knows if he still does this. I mean, good for him if he does -- honoring your vows in significant ways is a wonderful way to maintain an intimacy in your marriage, which is a great good for both you and your spouse. Still, nobody bothered to find out if this was even still a living issue before throwing a fit over it.

This love of bringing up ancient history as a permanent reason to hate on people is not a one-off thing, either. Jim Webb was slammed this week by a similar fit thrown over a forty-year-old article he wrote as a young (but highly experienced) Marine officer, and the Charles Murray protests are chiefly over a book from the 1990s.

Talk about holding a grudge.

jaed said...

There actually is a needle in this haystack, which is that a man who isolates himself from women in the workplace can disadvantage those women.

Consider, for example, a professor who refuses to meet with women in his office without the door being open: his female students can't meet with him in privacy, and won't meet with them other than in his office. His male students might come to him for help with academic problems where his female students would be less willing to, knowing that they can't have a confidential meeting. His male students might approach him for help with a knotty problem; he might go to their lab to see it; they might have an extended, intense conversation, and possibly break to go get a burger in the middle. Female students will have none of these advantageous interactions and are effectively locked out of mentoring relationships, because the professor withholds the kind of contact necessary to develop them.

My understanding is Pence's rules are simpler: no drinking without his wife present and no dining alone with a female colleague. That in itself is not going to cause any harm, because there's still more than enough room for professional contact.

But extend it some more—particularly combined with the rules around self-protection from sexual-harrassment charges—and you can indeed start getting into territory where you're putting women at a serious disadvantage.

Grim said...

There are two needles in the haystack, of which that is one. It's just as much a problem for male students, of course, given that the academy is increasingly female -- more and more, this standard locks male students out of those advantages. (Although, I wonder if this is as big a deal as it used to be anyway; one can meet 'privately' over Skype or by email, and in the latter case there's even a written record of what was said that can witness the absence of anything improper.)

The other is that the standard treatment of sexual harassment/assault accusations is to believe the woman in the absence of compelling evidence. That's a disadvantage for men, one that mirrors the disadvantage for women that you identify.

I still think the issue properly turns less on those macro "does this disadvantage women/men" questions, and more on the intimate relationship between spouses. There's no issue of fairness involved in keeping one's vow to "forsake all others." That's obviously an unfair standard, to put one other above all others to the point that all others are forsaken. Indeed, that exclusivity is the point.

jaed said...

It's just as much a problem for male students

Not in practice. Female professors in practice aren't afraid to meet with male students. (These days, the male students might be afraid to meet with the professors, come to think of it....)

Please note, I am not claiming the men don't face disadvantages in this situation, although they aren't the same ones. Professors who won't meet with female students aren't doing that because they hate women; they're doing it because they have a rational fear of what can happen to them even if their conduct is wholly innocent. But this doesn't mean their withholding of mentoring activities doesn't also have a bad effect on the women.

Protection of one's marriage is surely a legitimate reason to restrict one's own behavior. But there's also an obligation to female students, co-workers, colleagues, and others who have a reasonable expectation of certain kinds of interaction and help. There's a profound difference between "I won't sleep with other women because I made a vow to my wife" and "I won't mentor or work with women the way I mentor and work with men."

Pence's two mentioned restrictions don't seem like they would pose this problem, but if those restrictions were extended far enough, they might start to. Hence the needle in a haystack.

Grim said...

That's reasonable.

I mean, clearly I'm happy to have dinner with women besides my wife. I have a number of female friends I'm always glad to see, and catch up with, over a meal. I don't share Pence's concerns at all, in important ways.

Nevertheless, I also think that these intimate spaces -- marriage, and also religion in this case -- deserve a degree of public protection. They have to be balanced against other interests, but they are worthy of protection all the same. We just have to find the right way to protect them.

Texan99 said...

I never encountered restrictions or disadvantages of this kind in the workplace. I will say that I would have gotten an odd vibe if a male coworker had seemed interested in meeting for drinks or a candlelit dinner for two. It doesn't strike me that important business ever was restricted to that kind of venue; should we believe that the guys are bonding and giving each other promotions over drinks and intimate dinners? Not that I ever saw, anyway. Of course, I didn't think twice about meeting a man privately in his or my office. It would have seemed quaint if a guy had had a problem with it. I wouldn't have had a meeting in a hotel room.

Ymar Sakar said...

Talk about holding a grudge.

Not nearly as long as the Southern grudge against Lincoln or Sherman.

You know, that whole burning Atlanta thing, while evacuating the people. The slave lords liked their city but they couldn't keep it.

Humans had chaperones for a reason. Not only to protect female virtues, but to protect males from unjust accusations. Perhaps they believed the males more in those days of patriarchy because the chaperones made it almost impossible to do it without both parties agreeing.

Ymar Sakar said...

You just wrote that blog post before this one by TD, even, I noticed.

Does your traditions not even allow you to see the irony...

jaed said...

I'm not talking about a "candlelit dinner for two"; I'm talking about things like going two blocks and grabbing a burger during a long session of conversation in the lab. (Or having that conversation in the first place, for that matter.)

Social and professional overlap in many, many places. Possibly this is more true in less formal workplaces.

Texan99 said...

If wine or drinks are being served, my antenna would at least be up a bit. A burger in a joint, no. We did lots of working meals, but rarely in couples.