When a profile of Karen Pence revealed that US vice president Mike Pence ”never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either” the liberal world erupted in mockery and criticism.
His choice, which seemed to many outdated and needlessly conservative, was seen as penalizing women: How could a woman hold a senior job on the vice president’s staff if he refused to eat alone with her?
And, were a woman to keep the same standard, how could she get to leadership roles without interacting with men one on one?
Pence was by no means alone in avoiding being alone with female staffers: Many women working on Capitol Hill have reported having been barred from meeting alone with men—something both illegal and detrimental to their careers.
But anachronistic as it may seem, it turns out Pence and his conservative colleagues aren’t that rare in America: Quartz has asked polling platform CivicScience to ask a diverse group of 5,000 US consumers whether being alone with a person of the opposite sex was appropriate—and found that many don’t think it’s particularly OK.
Out of the 4.954 people who replied to the survey between March 30 and April 10, the majority did say that it’s appropriate to be alone with members of the opposite sex regardless of their relationship status. But nearly 40% disagree in some measure.
Of those who see it as a possible problem, 15% think people of the opposite sex should be allowed to be alone only if they are in a relationship with each other, and 16% think it’s only fine if both are single.
Those who think it is best to have conditions on spending time with the opposite sex are generally more religious, and women appear more opposed than men to the idea (39% of them don’t think it is always a good idea, compared to 31% men), though interestingly, people seem to get more relaxed as they age: 39% of the respondents between 18 and 29 have some issue with spending time alone with the opposite sex, but only 31% of those over 65 had the same reservations.