Can You Be Alone with Someone of the Opposite Sex if You’re Married? October 5, 2009

Can You Be Alone with Someone of the Opposite Sex if You’re Married?

A few months ago, I heard a story about a woman working at a Christian summer camp who needed a ride back to her cabin. Her co-worker (a male) was there and also needed a ride. Her boss (a male) had a car with one seat available.

The co-worker suggested (rightly, I believe) that he could walk back by himself and the woman should take the safer option and be driven back by the boss.

The boss refused to drive her.

His response included the phrase, “… it would be inappropriate for me to take you back since I am married and you are a female, so I am going to have to take [co-worker] Joel instead.”

I found that appalling.

But it happens more often than you think.

Jon Acuff at Stuff Christians Like faced a similar predicament:

A few weeks ago I spoke at a conference that required me to fly. In arranging rides to and from the airport with the conference staff, I realized they had me scheduled to be driven back to the airport for my flight home by a lady.

… I decided to request that a guy drive me to the airport. I just wasn’t comfortable with the idea of spending an hour in LA traffic alone with a girl. That just didn’t seem smart to me and the conference was completely cool with that request. They found a guy, everything was good.

To me, that sounds ridiculous.

Acuff makes it sound like this type of scenario is often the beginning of a slippery slope that will ultimately lead to an affair.

… But of the two camps, “Jeez you’re such a Puritan, loosen up” and “Better safe than sorry, can a dude drive me to the airport,” I know which one I want to fall into. Because no one ever wakes up and says, “Today I’m having an affair.” Affairs are slow burn decisions, with a wick a mile long made of little steps and little compromises.

His last line makes sense, but it seems very possible to me that you can have close platonic friendships with the opposite sex (or whatever sex you’re attracted to). To say otherwise sounds like you can’t control your own emotions or feelings or sex drive. Are some people that weak? Isn’t it possible to be around other people and not think about jumping them? Should we give up possible friendships because other people might think there’s something going on between you two?

There’s a difference between spending time behind closed doors during a business meeting with someone of the gender you’re attracted to and staying in a hotel room with that same person. (Hell, I’ve done the hotel room thing with female friends, too, and it’s never been an issue.)

There’s also a difference between catching a ride with someone and working on a project together in isolated areas.

Acuff’s situation is different from my own, of course, because he’s married. But I would hope there’s enough communication between the couple that, if such a situation arose, his partner would just trust him to make the right decision.

I would hope if you just explain the situation to your partner and not try to hide it, most of the hypothetical problems he discusses could be worked out before they escalate into anything bad.

Am I being completely naïve when I say all this?

Or is Acuff right and we’re better off playing it safe and keeping a distance at all times from people we could theoretically have an affair with?

Reading through many of the comments on his thread, it seems like a lot of people are overly cautious about everything. (e.g. If I get into a car with another woman, I text my wife and let her know.)

As one friend said to me, “If you can’t control yourself, maybe you shouldn’t be in a relationship.”

"The way republican politics are going these days, that means the winner is worse than ..."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."
"It would have been more convincing if he used then rather than than."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • What Would Professor Pat Pending Do?

    Would it be wrong to hope that the guy who drove him to the airport be the type that Richard Simmons would consider ‘flaming’?

  • Paul

    I’m interested how this fits with the idea that homosexuality can be cured. Surely, in that case, we’re all ‘at risk’ of turning gay, so being alone with a man in the car is still tempting fate? I mean obviously it’s not as much of a danger as being alone with a woman, but hey, “better safe than sorry”.

  • Stephen P

    Apparently a lot of American Christians (like a lot of Muslims actually) seriously need to get around to growing up. What a sad bunch.

    Yes, I have on numerous occasions given a lift to a female colleague, worked in an office with a female colleague etc. Yes, my wife has, mutatis mutandis, done the same. No, it is not remotely a problem.

  • Wow, people actually think like that? How the hell do you get to trusting yourself that little?

  • Claudia

    I totally understand these guys. I mean, it’s true that an affair happens little by little and if you start compromising by letting a completely unfamiliar female drive you to the airport, eventually you’re going to end up doing the triple-plus kamasutra on your childs bed while your wife is away.

    The same argument is valid for clothing, something Afghan men know only too well. I mean, if you really let women show their eyes in public, sure most men have the will to prevent themselves from raping them. But what happens when they go on to ankles? The road to full-on nudity starts with one little step.

    Now excuse me while I go vomit.

  • How the hell do you get to trusting yourself that little?

    I’m tempted to suggest that it’s because certain religions encourage individuals to trust themselves so little. I think this is the case, but I suspect the causality might work the other way too: perhaps people who don’t trust themselves are attracted to religion, since it provides an apparently simple and rigid framework to live by. That, of course, leaves the question of what led these people to lose faith in themselves wide open.

  • Kimpatsu

    I’m with the Buddhists on this one. The problem is that these people evidently truly do lack any self control. Remember the radio phone-in interview with Richard Dawkins when a caller said that if there were no god, he would immediately kill his neighbour? Same problem. They believe that all temptation comes from Satan, and this absolves them of responsibility for their own actions.
    Pathetic, irresponsible bunch.

  • Jeff Flowers

    So long as these people are not requiring others to do it, I don’t see a problem.

  • This really does seem quite a lack of maturity. Thinking that you really can’t control yourself in adult situations.

    I honestly can’t imagine trusting my judgment so little.

  • Carlie

    I still get emails from the church I used to go to – a month or so ago they sent out a request for people to do painting in the building, but specifically wrote in the request that of course, men and women who weren’t married to each other couldn’t be working together in the same area at the same time. Um, of course?

  • Jesus,if you’re bi its going to be a long walk all the time.

  • Thundergod

    My biggest concern is not my partner but the possibility of a sexual harassment complaint. I have been burned by crazies who accuse crazy things that never happened. I would rather not be in a car by myself with a member of the opposite sex that I don’t know just in the off chance someone made an accusation.

  • Let’s face it, religious people (Christians and Muslims in particular) are the worst people on earth. There is no goodness in them that isn’t inspired by the fear of hellfire and damnation. And one of the foundations of their faith is the notion that they are inherently corrupt, that they are weak and that they do lack self-control and that they are all damned already if the Lord Jebus doesn’t save them. It’s not surprising that they have no faith in themselves, they reserve all of that for their sky fairies.

  • Miko

    This is why it’s so important to have laws banning same-sex marriage: with those laws in place, they’ll know that “society” would frown on the relationship and so be able to restrain themselves when in a car with someone of the same gender.

  • Cindy

    I have been reading books about women and Islam lately (currently Reading Lolita in Tehran). I just finished The Caged Virgin by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. There really is this whole mindset that men can’t control themselves in the presence of uncovered women. But rather than put the onus on men to control themselves, it’s been put on women to cover up-blaming the victim. And the books talk about how men are not required to learn to control themselves in other areas either, like anger, and so they are like children.

  • sailor

    These people are whacko and totally immature. Now Thundergod, what are the chances of that? That is being ridiculously overcautious, you are more likely to win a lottery.
    But several people here make a good point. Why are these people so unable to trust themselves? In part it might be the concept of original sin, whereby we are all of Satan and only survive by the thin thread of belief.
    But I think more likely is most of them must have really unsatisfactory marriages. The whole things reeks of instability, a structure so weak it can only be held in place by stringent external controls.

  • If I had a wick a mile long, I might be tempted too. But seriously, this inevitably reminds me of Saudi Arabia, where women are not permitted to be around any man who is not her husband or another family member. It might sound logical, in the light of known incidents, to protect women from Saudi men, since Saudi men clearly can not control themselves. But how can men in other countries control themselves? Simple; we learn to control ourselves by being around women, and seeing how other men are able to control themselves in their presence! The same could be said of alcohol and other “western vices”.

    Islam is a religion for the stupid – not that it’s adherents are innately stupid, but because following it from a young age will lead to you growing up without independent thoughts and self-control.

  • Cherie M

    My mormon mother was absolutely appalled to find out I had met a male friend from high school for lunch. She told me I needed to “shape up and behave” now that I was married and asked what my husband thought of it all. Fact is, he didn’t mind and had been planning on joining, but had a change in his work schedule at the last minute. My husband trusts me and I trust him. He gets along well with pretty much everyone, but I tend to get along best with guys. Almost all of our friends overlap and we have open communication about things.

    It’s really about how much you trust yourself (and for some people, it may be tempting enough with certain people that it’s best to avoid being alone with them) and your partner. As long as both parties are happy and informed, being with members of the opposite sex shouldn’t be a big deal.

    On the other hand, if one partner does start feeling attraction to someone outside the relationship, it is just as important to communicate that to their spouse and discuss ways to handle it -together- Talk with your partner, love them, respect them and remember you’re both human.

  • phoenixphire24

    The idea what men can’t control themselves goes a long way back in Christianity. For along time the Catholic Church allowed brothels to run, and even ran some themselves, because it was far better for men to have sex with prostitutes than rape “young, pure, virgins.” Although it was a sin, prostitutes were performing a valuable service and therefore could be forgiven for their crimes. It wasn’t until the Reformation that they began to actively try and close them.

  • I can’t believe someone would be so insecure about this. The vast majority of my friends are male, and a couple of them are ex boyfriends, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to do them if left alone with them. If I was dating someone who had a problem with me hanging out with them, well, we wouldn’t be dating anymore.

  • DPSisler

    My wife would have cut my balls off, if she found out that I left a female stranded, alone, in the middle of the night, in a darken area. I would also divorce my wife, if she was so unsure of herself, and our marriage (which she is not) that she could not handle the thought of me being alone with someone else.

    People and thier ideas are just plain wierd…..

  • gribblethemunchkin

    This is a mindset formed by his religious background.
    When you believe that woman corrupted man and got him kicked out of paradise.
    When you believe that sex between unmarried couples is sinful.
    When you revere the idea of a monogamous relationship to mystical lengths.
    When you consider any sex aside from boy/girl to be sinful.
    This is what you get.

    The poor guy is scared. He is afraid the wicked sinful woman might give in to her base nature and try to seduce him. He is scared he won’t have the willpower to resist.

    The poor guy is immature. He sees women as sexual objects first and foremost, even a lift to the airport becomes a sexual question. He needs to learn to view the sexual aspect of women in its proper context. e.g. not involved in giving some a lift to the airport.

    The guy doesn’t trust himself. At a guess, this man never went out sowing his wild oats as a younger man. He never partied with girls and guys together. He never had the situation of interacting with girls as if they were just people.

    This is a profoundly unhealthy mindset. I’m not saying everyone should whore it up in their youth, but mixing with girls at school, at work, in social situations makes them less of a mystical sex beast to conquer or fear and more a person to interact with.

    I feel sorry for this guy. I’m sure his marriage is lovely but if his first thought on being offered a lift by a woman (one he hasn’t even seen yet) is OMFG SEX!!!! then he really needs to get some perspective on his relationships with women.

  • I’ve seen little snippets of this behavior from a few of the more devout believers here. They seem to be shocked that I’m not going around raping, killing, stealing, and generally doing whatever I feel tempted to do.

    Considering that my art classes are usually 10:2 in favor of women, I should be up to my neck in unsavory relationships, according to the “I can’t trust myself” school of thought.

    Little do they know I just make out with the paintings whilst no one is looking.

  • I just can’t quite get around the idea that this man is apparently so irresistable that this woman, while driving a car in LA, no less, will be unable to resist the temptation to f*** him right then and there.

    Uh, yeah.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I just wasn’t comfortable with the idea of spending an hour in LA traffic alone with a girl.

    The visions this line conjures up. Does he think they would be getting it on in the carpool lane?

  • Jesse

    Shaking my head. There are companies that makes a specific issue of being welcoming to a mixed homo- and heterosexual group. Does that mean that NOBODY could be trusted with ANYBODY? Have we really slipped that far?

    My two cents? If a married person does not feel that they can trust their mate, they already have a problem, whether an actual affair happens or not.

  • This guy does not see women as human beings. He sees them as sex objects only. Therefore, any situation in which he is alone with a woman = sex, because women are only sex objects, not human beings.

    Sad and also scary.

  • Sounds pretty much like my grandfather, when he was sitting with me in his car and got into a temper tantrum, after seeing two men holding hands, im sure he had ideas bout them giving him his turn on the hood of the car.
    But then again dont know many deeply christian women, so they might be some kind of dangerous maneating womenfolk!

  • Although he’s a utter fool for admitting he can’t be trusted around another woman, he is correct to request a male driver if he doesn’t want to have an affair. No person would make such a request if the thought wasn’t already there.

  • ChrisZ

    None of this would be a problem if we just kept the women in the kitchen where they belong.

  • Gaga

    Isn’t it possible to be around other people and not think about jumping them?

    Well having an Y chromosome is a surefire way to commit thoughtcrimes…

  • Takma’rierah

    I’m with Cherie M and Jennifurret–pretty much all of my friends are boys, too, and they’re also mostly my boyfriend’s friends. He trusts me and I trust him on this one–although of course we have an agreement where certain celebrities are concerned. 😉

    I also wonder if, in addition to the other ideas here, it’s a way of showing how faithful they are. Not that they’re entirely acting, but that they’re making a big deal out of it mostly to get attention from other people.

  • N

    Back when I attended a church, I remember the preacher saying something about making a point to never be in a room alone with a female. If a female needed to come talk to him about a spiritual matter, there would always be another female in the room.

    Either 1) he has no self control and knew that he would jump any woman he had a moment’s privacy with, or 2) he was really into threesomes.

    It struck me as ridiculous, even when I was a believer and believed all kinds of other ridiculous things.

    And like Sean said, as a bisexual, I can never, ever be alone with anybody! Crazy.

  • ethanol

    Some commentators seem to be trying to come up with external reasons why Christians and Muslims seem to feel unable to control themselves; e.g. they have unsatisfying marriages or are just bad people. I think it is more of a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you believe yourself to be by nature (the fall and all that goodness) sinful and liable to give in to temptation, it goes without saying that you will be less likely to take responsibility for your actions; more likely to use your own imperfect nature as an excuse to misbehave.

  • Hannah

    Let’s give Acuff the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he is the sort of person who is utterly incapable of being alone with any random woman for 15 minutes without trying to get into her pants.

    Or, perhaps he was afraid of an accident. “Whoops! My face fell on your genitals!”

    All kidding aside, what a ridiculous request to make! Affairs may start slowly, but they don’t start without one’s own consent! Presumably, if he was interested in not cheating on his wife, he could try simply not cheating on her, rather than avoiding all women.

  • I’ll bet a more immediate and real problem than men’s inability to control themselves is their partners’ belief in men’s inability to control themselves.

    Even if a man knows that he’s not going to slip down that slope, our sex-obsessed culture may have convinced his wife that he cannot be alone with another woman without being overcome with desire.

    And that very real, very dangerous jealousy is something that the man might reasonably seek to avoid.

    (This is my guess, but I’m speaking as a man married to a very sensible, non-jealous woman.)

  • Omatix

    I don’t believe he’s really worried that something would happen. He just wants to show how much, much holier he is than his readers. They’ll love how piously guilty he makes them feel.

  • DGKnipfer

    Jesus,if you’re bi its going to be a long walk all the time.

    Crap. I’m going to be spending a lot on shoes.

  • zoo

    My dad is a pastor and won’t be alone with a woman in certain situations (like counseling or other things that make a person vulnerable, especially if it’s someone he doesn’t know well), out of self-defense. It’s not because he’s married or can’t control himself, but because some women will lie to get attention or other things, or sometimes they misconstrue things, and if he was alone with such a woman it’s he said-she said.

    I really don’t know what’s with the guys in this post. . . if they’re that worried about temptation, they may want to consider marriage counseling.

  • Sarah TX.

    You know, when I was going to youth group back in middle/high school, my (male) youth pastor canceled a trip to the beach because only girls signed up, and he thought it would be inappropriate to take 3 girls to the beach without either a female chaperon or other young boys there.

    But in that case, there was a definite power differential and I could see how some parents would feel uncomfortable. In the case of a man and a woman in a car together for no more than an hour? Ridiculous.

  • TC

    Even if a man knows that he’s not going to slip down that slope, our sex-obsessed culture may have convinced his wife that he cannot be alone with another woman without being overcome with desire.

    That’s what I was thinking… it’s less about his being uncontrollably screwing the chick on the way to the airport than it is about his being “seen with another woman.”

    What would the neighbors think if he were “seen with another woman”?

  • beckster

    I suspect this has less to do with the man thinking he can’t control himself and more to do with him wanting all the other fundies to know how pious he is. It’s all a show with these people.

  • Frank

    I certainly agree that a normal adult should be perfectly capable of exercising enough self control to be in a car with a person of the opposite sex for an hour without cheating on their spouse. And I do think there is something seriously wrong with a religion/culture that teaches men to behave as though they weren’t.

    What I’m not so sure of is if we should be making such negative judgments of every individual man who behaves in this way. After all, the “normal adult” of scienists (or the “reasonable person” of lawyers) doesn’t actually exist, everyone is different and has different problems. A normal adult is perfectly capable of consuming some alcohol without being irresponsible about it, does that mean we should judge negatively individuals who choose not to drink at all? Religion in general is a bad thing, but does that mean that we should judge negatively every religious person? I think not. Is there a relevant difference between the cases of alcohol and religion-in-general and the specifics of this case of wanting a male driver? I don’t know, I’m just putting the question out there.

  • It seems to me that this is exactly the kind of thinking that will lead to an affair. Everything is a temptation, every situation is sexualized. If you can lighthearted about casual, platonic interactions with the opposite sex, then they really are no big deal. But if your culture and community are hyperreactive to them, you genuinely do start to see them as the end of a mile-long wick that will ultimately burn down to a big explosion. It’s self-fulfilling.

  • Nightshadequeen

    Wait….so if one cannot be alone with a member of the opposite gender, how can one be alone with two members of the opposite gender?

    I mean, threesomes exist right? And foursomes, and fivesomes…….

    And there’s homosexuality…and bisexuality…

    QED: We must never be alone with any amount of people in an enclosed space.

    (Or animals, or objects, or…..)

  • Tom in Iowa

    I had a co-worker several years ago who had the same policy. He was an ordained minister, but not working in that field. He always quoted Billy Graham saying he’d never been alone with another woman but his wife in his entire adult life. He supervised both men and women, and insisted on having another man present even in a 5 minute meeting with a female employee, no female employee meetings in his office, etc…

    He eventually lost his job. For? You guessed it – sexual harassment. While never alone with a woman – he managed to harass them via e-mail.

    Which adds to what others have said – just because you’re attracted to a person doesn’t mean they’re attracted to you.

  • Lilith

    When you continuously repress sexuality, sex becomes an obsession.

    And as was alluded to earlier in the thread, when you are told from the day you are born that you are a sinful creature, then it isn’t surprising that you never develop faith in your own ability to behave. Such people are profoundly damaged personalities, in desperate need of a therapist.

  • Kurt

    (Or animals, or objects, or…..)

    Good point! I’m going to give away my dog this afternoon. She is female, and we already take long walks in the moonlight together. Now I’ve realized it’s nothing but a slippery slope towards rampant bestiality! What was I thinking?

  • Actually, I’ll give this guy some credit for actually TRYING to practice what he preaches. Although it seems ridiculous to us, he’s making an effort to avoid temptation which is somewhat admirable, right? Everyone knows that Christian men are the horniest, most repressed jackasses in the world so, yeah, avoiding the “appearance of evil” (as they like to say) is probably the best thing for everyone involved in this situation.

  • Andy

    Wow. I don’t think I could ever be part of a religion, true or not, that didn’t treat me like a responsible adult.

  • JonnyFlash

    Of course people can’t be trusted, they will sin. In fact, the only way they’re not going to sin is to lock themselves in a room, and a room without internet access because there’s pornography. Don’t forget to give them lots of mind numbing drugs, because, it would be a shame if their imagination were to start up and started imagining…wait for it…sex!

    Also, don’t leave any sharp objects or guns around, they MIGHT kill. So that also means they shouldn’t be around people at all, because to kill you have to be around other people. It’s probably best that they should just be locked up in a room with no human contact.

    It would probably be best to keep them out of stores, they may envy things. This envy could cause them to steal. We know stealing is bad, so they should be preemptively locked up so they can’t.

    (I could keep going, but…religion honestly does make people stupid)

  • Polly

    but it seems very possible to me that you can have close platonic friendships with the opposite sex

    Getting a ride is one thing. Friendship is very different. While I know I wouldn’t do anything, I have serious doubts that everyone can handle friendships.

    Eventually there’s going to be a lull in your marital relationship due to problems or whatever life throws at you. If you’re friends with someone even moderately attractive who’s already established as a good conversation partner, it could lead to regrets.
    It’s the low points when sex will be on the wane with your spouse/partner and you’ll be looking for emotional solace in the form of interaction and talking. Sounds like a dangerous time to go to a friend of the opposite/attractive gender.

    Evaluate yourself honestly not just at your best but at your worst, too.

  • Siamang

    Is he part of one of those sects that thinks that if you think a woman is attractive that that’s the same thing as committing adultery in your mind?

    But yeah, this says far more about this dude than anything else. And it’s not what he projects as what we think… that he’s a puritan.

    I don’t think he’s a prude. I think he’s a sex-obsessed maniac. What a freak.

    Acuff’s situation is different from my own, of course, because he’s married. But I would hope there’s enough communication between the couple that, if such a situation arose, his partner would just trust him to make the right decision.

    I would hope if you just explain the situation to your partner and not try to hide it, most of the hypothetical problems he discusses could be worked out before they escalate into anything bad.

    Am I being completely naïve when I say all this?

    No. You are being reasonable. It’s the people who don’t think you should discuss things like this who are naive and who wind up having affairs.

    Take it from the child of two twice-divorced and thrice-married parents… I saw pretty close-up what causes people to have affairs.

    Meanwhile my wife and I don’t have that problem. We’ve been married or dating for almost 20 years now. We will not ever have that problem… And I can say that with the utmost confidence in both myself and my wife.

  • Lee Shaver

    Thundergod made a good point above, and something that I think Acuff left out: For a minority of people, the situation may be dangerous because either they truly wouldn’t be able to control themselves, or they are afraid the person with them wouldn’t be able to control themselves. As Thundergod said, there are a lot of crazies out there who might try to make some money by suing.

    But, I think Acuff left out this important consideration: people in positions of authority need to be thinking about these kind of situations because there are a lot of people watching them and waiting to make accusations.

    For instance, since the scandals in the Catholic Church, I’m sure that no priest is ever allowed to ride in a car with a minor or a member of the opposite sex if there isn’t a third person in the car with them.

  • Siamang

    I have serious doubts that everyone can handle friendships.

    Well, of course they can’t. That has proven to be the case throughout history. Not everyone stays faithful… that’s a fact of life.

    But it’s not impossible.

    If you’re friends with someone even moderately attractive who’s already established as a good conversation partner, it could lead to regrets.

    All of my friendships, including same-sex ones, include my wife. I don’t really have friends that aren’t my wife’s friends as well. We’re very intermingled.

    Also, I’m not a fool about human emotions, nor am I a puppet to them. I know that when I’m finding someone attractive that it isn’t “love in the air” or some soulmate bond. Or ‘oops, I’m falling in love’. I know it’s just a physiological response and I don’t need to suddenly re-evaluate my relationships. In other words, I can think “wow, she’s really pretty” without acting on it.

    Also, the love I have for my wife is a mature relationship built on years of hard work. I understand love from that perspective, and unless the other person can suddenly give me 20 years of emotional devotion, I don’t think my wife has anything to worry about. My wife is so much a part of who I am, that there wouldn’t be any reason to go to someone else.

  • Polly


    My wife is so much a part of who I am, that there wouldn’t be any reason to go to someone else.

    Sounds like you’ve done your evaluation and know yourself. I feel the same. For me, being with someone else has no appeal whatsoever, even during the worst times.

  • Siamang

    Well, the only “worst time” would be if my wife and I were pulling away from each other. I don’t see that happening, and it wouldn’t be CAUSED by infidelity.

  • JulietEcho

    Everything that came to mind when I read this seems to have already been said.

    Self-fulfilling prophecies is a big one. When you avoid all “temptation” and situations involving the opposite sex so thoroughly, you unintentionally give every slip-up or necessary situation where you’re alone with someone you’re attracted to a heaping helping of sexual tension.

    Also: yes, being bi would mean lots and lots of long walks. But the Christians I know who are like Acuff are also the kind of Christian who think that being bi or gay is a sinful choice, not a natural state.

  • J. Allen

    But what he should really be afraid of is a gay affair!

  • Rhi

    I am a female in a male-dominated industry and sometimes I make up excuses to avoid a male customer taking me out to lunch. Not because I don’t trust myself. Not because I don’t trust him. But because car dealerships are freaking gossip and drama factories where extramarital affairs actually do happen, and in fact account for a lot of employee turnover.

    It doesn’t matter if anything _actually_ happened when we were alone. People will assume it did. And I don’t need that kind of professional reputation even if it’s imaginary.

    But specifically stating that you don’t want to be alone with women because of the possibility of an affair? That’s a sign that you shouldn’t be in a relationship at all.

  • Doreen

    Just to bring an interesting twist to this. I’m female and I’m attracted to both genders. Wouldn’t this mean if I were in a relationship, I can’t have any friends since I’m attracted to both genders? It’s ridiculous to think one can’t control themselves, seeing as people like myself can have absolutely fine monogamous relationships and still have friendships despite no matter the gender of the friend they will always be in the category of gender we’re attracted to.

    Relationships have rules and different extents to which those rules are clear. If someone feels they cannot abide by the rules of a relationship they either 1) need to reconsider the rules; or 2) reconsider the relationship.

    For example, if one cannot trust themselves to be exclusive (I prefer this term since “faithful” has a different meaning outside monogamy), then they need to reconsider the exclusivity of the relationship and if thats not feasible, then the relationship itself.

  • This is what you get from a religion that teaches that the human body is filthy and that lustful thoughts are crimes: men who are terrified of being “defiled” by women (a la Revelation 14:4) and will irrationally avoid women out of fear that they won’t be able to control themselves. Physical adults who are mental children because they’re afraid to face adult situations.

  • Siamang

    men who are terrified of being “defiled” by women

    That made me laugh.

    “Defiled by women?” SIGN ME UP!

  • mai

    I wouldn’t want to be alone with that guy, either, if he’s afraid he’d instantly jump me. ..because that would be rape.

  • Wendy

    “As one friend said to me, “If you can’t control yourself, maybe you shouldn’t be in a relationship.””


  • Shyatheist

    To me, the way these men are reacting to helping or employing a woman’s help seems like thinly-veiled sexism.

  • Old Beezle

    I’m with Lilith:

    When you continuously repress sexuality, sex becomes an obsession.

    And as was alluded to earlier in the thread, when you are told from the day you are born that you are a sinful creature, then it isn’t surprising that you never develop faith in your own ability to behave.

    My very-Mormon brother was shocked to find out that my wife was ever left alone in the house with one of my good friends of many years. We all three laughed at him when he said something to us, but I could really see the wheels turning behind his eyes. I don’t think he had an epiphany on how to trust partners though–I think he just concluded we’re all sinning swingers. Cog Dis dismissed!

    Black and white thinking coupled with zero self-faith equals frightened little people who trust no one but the voices in their own head. I feel less safe being alone with someone like that than with someone of the opposite gender.

  • absent sway

    Jon sounds like a pretty normal guy for someone in that cultural context, speaking as someone who comes from that context. My take on this is that the no-being-alone-with-the-opposite-sex thing is a popular idea in evangelical Christianity which isn’t thought through so much as enthusiastically adopted by people who are taught to constantly be on guard against sexual threats (many normal scenarios qualifying as sexual threats, unfortunately). I see it as a Christian trend, like not dating, the prayer of Jabez, etc. As someone who was very lonely while navigating the non-engagement of males and females encouraged by evangelicals and truly struggling to relate when there weren’t any practical guidelines, this approach really isn’t helpful. All the same, I’m glad that Jon values his marriage enough to go to ridiculous lengths to protect it; I guess I prefer that to people taking the marriage commitment casually.

  • If you can’t be trusted alone with someone you have issues. Religious groups love to instill the notion that we’re all walking sinbots incapable of controlling ourselves unless we stay away from temptation. I’m married and have been alone with other women many times at work. They’re just other people, period.

  • Sarah Salazar

    This is a very interesting issue. I work at a Christian organization and it is “frowned upon” (read: you’ll get an off-the-record talking to about it) for a man and a woman to ride in a car without a third party, ever. (No matter if one or both are married or not).

    I am a Bible-believing Christian and I find this a little extreme. I disagree that friends of the opposite sex can’t EVER ride in a car together alone. I think occasionally is fine (i.e., a ride to the airport, an infrequent ride home or to an event, etc), even if one or both are married. I don’t think the occasional ride in a car is going to lead to an affair.

    HOWEVER: It depends on the couple! Everyone is different and if you or your spouse have issues with trust (and many people do, for many different reasons) then it is VERY important to respect those issues and act accordingly. That’s part of the “cherishing each other until death do you part” vow. My husband and I had trust issues for several years and we did not go anywhere with members of the opposite sex and it really really helped us. We have a strong foundation of trust now and so we have relaxed that rule a bit. But we don’t make a habit of it.

    We won’t carpool daily with a coworker if they are of the opposite sex and we have no third party riding with us. Spending time daily alone with someone of the opposite sex can DEFINITELY lead to emotional and/or physical affairs.

    So. That’s my opinion. And I’m thankful for the opportunity to participate in this discussion! Take care all, and of course, may God bless you and keep you!

  • Julie

    I think it depends on the person. I also think the two extremes are equally unrealistic. Both the, “You can’t catch a ride with someone of the opposite sex”, and the, “Only weak-willed people with no self control have affairs” camps.

    I can’t remember where, but I once read something that I thought was the most insightful and useful piece of advice for married couples: “Don’t put yourself in a situation where you know you’ll be tempted.” Pretending that once you’re married you will never experience sexual attraction for another person is ridiculous and actually dangerous. If someone thinks that way, then when they’re inevitably attracted to someone other than their spouse, they’ll begin to question their love for their husband/wife, and think that it reflects on their commitment to their marriage. If they instead realized that these things happen and the REAL reflection on how devoted one is to their spouse is the ability to recognize and avoid situations that would place them in a position where they’d be tempted to cheat, I think there would be a lot more happy, healthy marriages out there.

  • MF

    I didn’t see it in the comments so I thought I would mention: Judaism is probably the actual progenitor of this ideal/practice. It’s known as ‘yichud’ (alone [with]), there are numerous cases in which a man and woman are not allowed to be alone together, presuming they are not husband and wife, mother and son, brother and sister, etc. It’s all quite enumerated (like most aspects of Jewish law) and the vast majority of circumstances do not allow for such one on one co-mingling. This is basically only observed by the Orthodox (who make up less than 10% of Jews as a whole) and most non-Orthodox Jews are probably not even aware of such prohibitions. The Talmud dates this law back to the times of King David.

    There are certain cases where knowing that a man and woman were alone together causes a presumption of intercourse (keep in mind, they aren’t saying that intercourse did take place, rather that since it could have, it might as well have from a legal perspective).

    It does get complex and even amongst the Orthodox there are ways around certain problems (as you would expect, there is a pretty wide spectrum in Orthodoxy between the observant and the zealous). But the far right wing of Orthodoxy takes these laws to the utmost extremes (notably the demand for separate public bus lines in Israel).

  • AxeGrrl

    Julie wrote:

    “Don’t put yourself in a situation where you know you’ll be tempted.” Pretending that once you’re married you will never experience sexual attraction for another person is ridiculous and actually dangerous. If someone thinks that way, then when they’re inevitably attracted to someone other than their spouse, they’ll begin to question their love for their husband/wife, and think that it reflects on their commitment to their marriage.

    That’s only true for some people.

    Some people could sleep side to side with a member of the opposite sex and not be ‘tempted’…..why? because their relationship is satisfying and more important/precious than anything anyone else can offer.

    Not all people are vulnerable to ‘temptation’, believe it or not! To suggest otherwise is unfair to those who don’t have the ‘issue’ you’re describing above, imo.

  • Personally, if you are that on the fence and fearful that you *may* have an affair based on a ride to the airport, you are not that secure in both your marriage or your own sexuality.

    Seriously, this Acuff guy needs to check his head.

    Hemant is more spot on with his thoughts here, and obviously very sure of his own place in society.

  • To say otherwise sounds like you can’t control your own emotions or feelings or sex drive.

    Taken out of context, it seems like you support abstinence only sex education…

  • Grimalkin

    My husband and I both have many friends of the opposite gender. It doesn’t bother me and he says he doesn’t both him.

    We do have issues from time to time. I’ve had problems with male “friends” who assumed that because I was cool with spending time with them, it automatically meant that I was looking for an affair. Both my husband and I have frequently been accused of cheating and both of us have been approached by numerous same-gender friends with “can’t you see it’s obvious s/he’s cheating on you?”

    It’s boggles the mind. I can count on one hand the number of friends we’ve had between the two of us who’ve been totally cool with platonic relationships and not assumed that something else must be going on.

    I totally agree with “If you can’t control yourself, maybe you shouldn’t be in a relationship.”

  • I regularly read Stuff Christians Like, so I’m more familiar with the larger story than most people just looking at one post. In Acuff’s defense, he acknowledges in previous posts a history of porn addiction. I’m not sure whether this sex addiction was “I watched porn every day or every once in a while” level (which I don’t understand as addiction, but if it makes someone miserable…) or “I watched porn every hour and couldn’t look at a woman without thinking of ungodly sex acts” level but he was a preacher’s kid who went a little wild… so there’s history there.

    Regarding the question, it’s honestly something I rarely think about. I think part of that is an ugly woman’s privilege – I just don’t think people would be attracted enough to me to fear for their self-control. I also tend to compartmentalize extremely well (a little pathologically, I think). I could sleep in the same bed with a male friend or a female friend and not feel tempted, nor feel fear that they would jump me.

    I’m mostly aghast at a culture that seems to have sexualized opposite sex interaction to the point where any interaction with someone other than your partner is suspect and fodder for gossip in their eyes. I refuse to play along. I’m a lesbian who got along quite well with her roommates. They were pretty and sometimes weren’t wearing much clothes, and in spite of the fact that I’m one of those women who can be easily visually stimulated… GASP! I didn’t even have to control myself! It just wasn’t an issue.

    It does seem to be a matter of self-fulfilling prophecy. If you tell someone long enough that they can’t control themselves, that their physiological responses always demand action, then they’re going to have control problems. Especially if you reside in a culture where skin and shape is automatically associated with sex, rather than just something everyone has, that can sometimes be sexy and attractive, but you don’t have to lose control when it is.

    I have very strong feelings about this, can you tell?

  • @ zoo

    Not to be too terribly offensive, but fuck you. Saying that sometimes women lie is not the answer to this. I have a huge problem with people who assume that women will lie to try to convince people that this guy tried to assault her or tried to get into her pants in some way. Women do not lie about these things that vast majority of the time. That’s why you hear very little about it–women are scared to speak up lest we be called liars or gold diggers attempting to get a lot of money out of a fake rape case. Saying what you said undermines every women who has experienced some sort of harassment and has the courage to come forward and tell the truth about it.

    Not to derail, but I don’t appreciate that comment.

  • Scott Carlson

    I think I know what was really going on. 1. Driver knew that he was actually the type of person the woman should be worried about. 2. Having her walk alone meant that he still had time to drop off the other guy and then still make it back to assault her! Win. Win. And the devil made him do it of course…

  • Jen

    Here’s my problem with this crazy bullshit. I remember in my Christian days reading a book by Billy Graham, who said it was his policy to never be alone with a woman in a work situation. Now, sure, he was never accused of an affair, but how far in the company could a woman go if she is always being viewed as a possible sexy temptation? By making her FEMALE COWORKER instead of just coworker, she can never be taken seriously.

    By the way, if I were left stranded by some idiot, I would be on the phone with his boss in a heartbeat.

  • That reminds me of the web comic Jesus and Mo. There’s a quote “Thank you for not provoking my uncontrollable lust.”

    Seriously, I can’t believe people actually trust themselves so little. And what? In their mind is the world one big porno wherein the opposite sex driver would fake running out of gas like a bad 60’s sitcom?

    It’s ridiculous.

  • I would bet it has more to do with “CYA” than the slippery slope.

    I have a female coworker (I’m a dude) that my wife calls my “work wife.” We go to lunch together, she makes sure I take my medication, we go to antique shops. If she has to run an errand, often driving out to her mom or her husband’s workplace, I tag along. Bottom line, she’s not my type, and even if she was, she’s married. Even if she was my type, and wasn’t married, it would require a long talk with my wife and a prior agreement before I’d act on anything. Even though I don’t have a man in the sky checking up on me, I respect my wife too much to cheat on her.

  • Cat

    Of course you can be alone with someone of the opposite sex. You don’t have to sexualize everyone you see. Of course, a little secret oral sex never harmed anyone either…

  • I work out of my home office and my wife works part-time away from the house and we have had young female babysitters watching our kids while my wife is away. Never once did I even think about sexually harassing them. My wife doesn’t like housework so we also employ housekeepers to come over once every two weeks for general cleaning. Again, females in the house with me while my wife is away working. I treat everybody with professional courtesy. It seems to me that people that have absolute taboos about being with people of the opposite sex tend to objectify the opposite sex and ever learn self-control. As an atheist, I simply follow the golden rule. If I were a female, I wouldn’t want to be raped, so I don’t rape others. Seems logical to me.

  • Good grief… learning some self control and trusting yourself and your partner to do the best and right thing for your relationship is an essential growing up thing.

    I’m poly, so my field is potentially open far and wide, that said I’m not interested in people who aren’t my type (most of the world actually) and I don’t have time for more relationships than I’m already in. If I did, neither of my partners would mind… because we have trust, respect and self control not to be self destructive or destructive to other people.

    I find the whole, “being in the path of temptation” thing weird. It generally seems to only apply to sex and not other things like food, money or alcohol (all of which can be equally destructive) and returns to the whole “what would the neighbours think” and that sex is sinful and should be hidden.

    People who are this strung up on propriety need to get a life.

  • G to da L

    Even though I spend most of my days in position of autority with teenage girls it really never crossed my mind that the relation I have with them (based on trust and respect) could be sexual. The very thought of it saddens me.

    I guess my reflex to sexualize everything vanished with my faith in Jesus, a couple years ago.

  • Sarah Salazar said:

    We won’t carpool daily with a coworker if they are of the opposite sex and we have no third party riding with us. Spending time daily alone with someone of the opposite sex can DEFINITELY lead to emotional and/or physical affairs.

    Sarah, it’s important to realize that this is absolutely not true for everyone. Also, if you allow yourself to get into an affair with a member of the opposite sex, you have control over that. You can’t have a non-consensual affair.

  • K

    I can agree with what Rhi had to say. I too have used the excuse that, as a married woman, it would be inappropriate to have a one-on-one lunch/dinner meeting with a client/co-work/etc. It’s certainly not a religious thing for me since I’m an atheist (as is my husband), it’s a way to avoid certain situations with which I’m uncomfortable. Now this is a card I don’t play very often, but it’s a handy one to have in the deck.

  • Indigo

    He’s nuts.
    I occasionally work as a production assistant in film. I frequently need to get in a shuttle with a male driver and about half the time I’ll be the only passenger. Before reading this, the thought had never crossed my mind that anybody could read anything untoward into this situation. My coworkers and I are professionals, and we would all be fairly insulted by the insinuation that any of us couldn’t be trusted.

  • first off, folks watch too much television. I have given and received many rides to and from work from female colleagues and students.

    i have taught Capoeira to many female students over the years. My wife knows about all of these incidents.

    I also want to point out that some churchs like the Church Of God in Christ (COGIC) actually have rules that say that a married man cannot be with a single woman, and vice versa, by themselves. SOmeone has to accompany them.

    I think this is just as stupid as muslim women wearing the burqa. They say it’s all to prevent temptation etc.

    Folks need to grow up and respect one another as men and women.

  • Flah

    I read Jon’s website regularly and that post was the first one where I realized I was dealing with a “whole ‘nother animal”. I’m shocked that a trivial situation like a ride to the airport could become sexualized. I wondered if his wife was so jealous a person that she wouldn’t understand? Or was he worried about “what people would think”? Or is any contact with women a slippery slope for him? I responded to that blog piece that had that been a workplace issue, then what he was doing was blatant discrimination.

    Then my husband tells me pretty much what Thundergod says at the top of these comments — that he got burned by someone outright lying about him and would never get in that situation again.

    Funny old world, isn’t it?

  • Clearly, Jon Acuff (and anyone else who wouldn’t accept a ride to the airport from a person of the opposite sex) has no confidence in his ability to resist temptation. I find these actions ridiculous in the extreme unless the guy has some kind of impulse control disorder. What the heck was he expecting, an offer to miss his plane and stop off in a no-tell motel? Is he narcissistic enough to think the thought would even cross the mind of the driver?

    Coincidentally, I just posted The Neuroscience of Temptation today.


  • Sounds to me like christianity isn’t all that far removed from Islam as they’d like you to think. Islam has just gone further down that slippery slope by requiring women to drape themselves head to toe with, well, drapes, in order to protect them from the raging sex drive that every man is just barely in control of, apparently.

  • muggle

    How silly! That said, I’m with the group that say they wouldn’t want to be alone in the car with this dude. Mainly because he’s so scared of his own sexuality and half convinced he’s a perv deep down. Dude like that might pull anything.

    Thank God I’m Atheist! I work in building maintenance with mostly dudes: male building manager, all male maintenance staff, mostly male security, and mostly male custodial. I’d be shaking in my boots if I were that convinced the male of the species were that unable to control themself.

  • Bennett

    I read Jon Acuff’s entire post, and I took it as a guy who promised his wife he wouldn’t be alone in a car with a girl, and decided to honor that promise.

    I doubt he meant it as if he was alone in the car with a woman, they would not be able to control themselves–and I’ve seen pictures of him, he’s short and has a unibrow, so I don’t think he believes that women could not control themselves in his presence.

    So I think it was more of a “I’m going to keep a promise I made to my wife” kind of thing (however extreme the measure seems to some people) rather than a “I would jump her bones” kind of thing.

    With that said, I don’t visit this site too often, but judging by the snarkiness of the comments, I think “friendly atheist” is a misnomer. I thought Christians were judgmental.

  • capt’n john

    I was, for a period of some 20 odd years, principal of elementary schools. Particularly in the early years I was the only male on staff. It was not at all unusual for me to meet with my staff on an individual basis. In fact I tried to spend time with each of my teachers each day to ensure that I was on top of the things happening in the school. In my opinion it was the simplest, easiest way for trust to be built and bring about a team driven school where the teachers were free to work with their colleagues and the school administration for the betterment of the children in our care. If Jon Acuff is so unsure of his control over his emotions or sex drive as to be threatened by the possibility of being tempted into “wrong-doing” by the mere presence of a person of the opposite sex alone in the same area with him I am pleased that his field is not education. Incidentally I have been married to the same person for the past 45 years and the thought of being on a “slippery slope” because of my administration methods is repugnant both to me and to the teachers I worked with.

  • Jodie

    If I had a nickel for every time I had sex on that hour drive to LAX I would be….A really awful prostitute since I live in Chicago.
    Would not the common courtesy of avoiding sex during bumper to bumper traffic be a deterrent? If he’s as religious as he claims then he would not have the where-with-all to have sex with anyone in such a public setting. Are atheists the only ones who think of the children?

  • No wonder some christians think atheists might murder them on the spot. Even with God looking over their shoulder, they can’t trust themselves with someone for an hour? Sheesh.

    I would NOT phone/text my partner to tell her I was getting in a car with another woman and I wouldn’t expect her to do the same with positions reversed. She’s an adult, and so am I.

    We are capable of holding our libidos in check for crying out loud, without propositioning some semi-stranger just because they’re alone with us for a little while.

    Anyway, he’s on the way to the airport, for goodness sake – what’s he going to do in the car?

    Every way I look at it, the whole thing is just creepy. Does being a fundie really make you that obsessed about sex??

    Anyway, someone with that little self-control must be a hell of a lousy lay – who’d want to screw them?

  • muggle

    Bennett, even if that’s true, he childishly kept a promise to his rather childishly selfish wife before this other woman’s welfare and before his job.

    How happy would the wife have been with her man/breadwinner/wallet (something I refuse to view men as) if he had lost this job because the woman complained about this bit of sexual discrimination? If this woman had physical problems walking, the company could be in even bigger trouble legally.

    Also, he doesn’t say a promise to his wife, just that it would be inappropriate. So this woman (hopefully she wasn’t wearing heels, I don’t but we women are under so much pressure to wear heels it’s finding flats that is the problem) had to walk. Asshat! And, no, I don’t apologize for any perceived snarkiness on your part.

    It was sexual discrimination (if she had been male, he’d have given her the ride) and I hope she has put a complaint in.

  • Robin

    I must comment on this topic. I work in a warehouse atmosphere. I am 1 of two females in my section. I believe myself to be a friendly person, although,not one looking for a man at work. My point is, that because I work with so many men and of course we talk, laugh and work well with each other, I over the last 15 years have been accused of sleeping with many of them. Totally false assumptions, but totally real in being made. Now I can/could have made the choice to clam up and keep to myself for the most part and did for awhile when the rumours first started, until I realized that that made for a more uncomfortable work atmosphere for all of us. Its really a difficult situation and one that after 15 years, I no longer let bother me. All in the same there are some of the men that will stay away from me, only to discuss work related topics. I suppose they do not want to be thrown in the mix of being one I *slept* with. Such a shame. But I understand.

  • Robin

    I ran out of time and space earlier, but my whole point was…that is not just that a person cannot control themselves its how others perceive situations, albeit unfairly, but nonetheless distructive and at the least hurtful.

  • this is not in the least unusual in the christian communities i grew up in. when i was a teenager teaching sunday school, the sunday school group leader (a married man) once gave me a lift home after a meeting. the next sunday at church there were whispers everywhere about this and how inappropriate this had been.

    if their fears are true and none of us have self control… what about the bisexuals among us? must we never spend time alone with anyone??
    how ridiculous!

    and no, not being married doesn’t make a difference to them in most cases, because one must keep oneself pure for a future husband/wife.

  • Andrew

    I am a Christian and saw this website and decided to look at it. It says that it is foolish and childish to worry about starting an affair but have you considered how foolish it is when someone has an affair butis married? I believe that it is the smart thing to do. The only way to prevent it and be 100% sure about it you have to not put yourself in that situation.

  • AngieK

    Its a year later, but I’ll respond anyways. Its not just about having an affair. A man is protecting himself from a woman making an accusation against him that might not be true.

    Also you would be amazed as to what can happen.  When I was 12 and recieved a ride home from the manager of my paper route, he came onto me. I baby sat for someone and her finance drove me home and came on to me, I was about 14. What if I didn’t have strong boudaries or easily manipulated? Also the woman down the road asked for a ride home from my husband at work as she locked her keys in the car and he did. BUT then it didn’t end there, she started phoning all the time and didn’t ask but just simply stated she needed a ride. He just ignored her calls, and so she shunned him at work. I didn’t like it either as she was making the assumption he would just do it.

    My friend’s neighour car pulled with a neighbour of the opposite sex and a year later they divorced their spouses and married each other.  It happens.

    People don’t go into with the idea that they are going to have an affair but they place themselves in a situation where they become friends and that can lead to other things, especially if they are challenges at home.

  • AngieK

    AND I forgot to mention. When my husband drove his bosses wife home from some fucntion or training program somewhere (this is when he was married to his first wife) the bosses wife asked him if he ever fooled around on his wife and then proceeded to make advances towards him. They had worked together for years. It is interesting how she took the oppotunity to do this while in a car.

    Just something to think about. Common sense from my perspective. Nothing to do with religion.

error: Content is protected !!