This is why half of U.S. rolled its eyes over that 'Mike Pence won't eat alone with a woman' controversy

Hey, remember the freak-out over "news" that Vice President Mike Pence won't dine alone with a woman (except his wife, of course)?

My GetReligion colleague Julia Duin covered the media storm when it erupted back in March:

Ka-boom. The mockery began.
Social media went nuts, excoriating Pence for being such a Neanderthal and worse. There were references to sharia law, for example. BBC asked: “Are Mike Pence’s Dining Habits Chivalrous or Sexist?” Clara Jeffery, editor of Mother Jonesfired off at least 15 angry tweets on the topic during a period of high dudgeon on Wednesday afternoon. Naturally, The Onion weighed in. had something so unprintable, I’m declining to link to it. Guess I get tired of media slinging the F-bomb around like it’s candy from a parade. That was pretty common during this Twitter tsunami.
The comments cascaded to a point that the Post did two pieces solely on reaction to the article. Gotta make click-bait hay while the digital sun shines.

Fast-forward three months, and a poll conducted for the New York Times confirms what roughly half of America already knew:

Surprise! Surprise! "It turns out that Mike Pence is pretty mainstream." Believe it or not, Pence "isn't crazy for his marriage morals." 

The religion-free lede from the Times:

Men and women still don’t seem to have figured out how to work or socialize together. For many, according to a new Morning Consult poll conducted for The New York Times, it is better simply to avoid each other.
Many men and women are wary of a range of one-on-one situations, the poll found. Around a quarter think private work meetings with colleagues of the opposite sex are inappropriate. Nearly two-thirds say people should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work. A majority of women, and nearly half of men, say it’s unacceptable to have dinner or drinks alone with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse.
The results show the extent to which sex is an implicit part of our interactions. They also explain in part why women still don’t have the same opportunities as men. They are treated differently not just on the golf course or in the boardroom, but in daily episodes large and small, at work and in their social lives.
Further, the poll results provide societal context for Vice President Mike Pence’s comment — made in 2002 and resurfaced in a recent profile — that he doesn’t eat alone with any woman other than his wife.

Am I the only one who finds that "provide societal context" phrasing pretty humorous? I guess it's less wordy than "help explain how out of touch the progressive elite are on certain moral and religious issues."

Speaking of religious issues, I started to wonder if the Times story would ever get around to that crucial angle. 

Eventually, it does:

In general, women were slightly more likely to say one-on-one interactions were inappropriate. So were Republicans, people who lived in rural areas, people who lived in the South or Midwest, people with less than a college education and people who were very religious, particularly evangelical Christians.

Later, there's this:

If they were above 65, Republican or very religious, respondents were slightly more likely to say people should take extra precaution around members of the opposite sex at work. They were less likely if they were young, students, not religious or registered as an independent.

And this:

People who follow the practice in their social lives described separate spheres after couplehood. They said they wanted to safeguard against impropriety — or the appearance of it — and to respect marriage and, in some cases, Christian values. That often meant limiting opposite-sex adult friendships to their friends’ spouses.
Cindy McCafferty, 60 and Catholic, is single, but said she would do so in a future relationship. “The Sixth Commandment is you don’t commit adultery, and you don’t want to do anything that would jeopardize that,” said Ms. McCafferty, a mental health caregiver in Appleton, Wis.
Dennis Hollinger, president of the Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and an expert on sex and Christian ethics, said the practice goes beyond what the Bible requires.
“All of us know our ethical and spiritual vulnerabilities, and the idea of establishing protocols to live out those commitments can be a good thing,” he said. “The negative side is this particular practice really can appear to treat women in really dehumanizing ways, almost as if they were a temptress.”

All in all, the Times does a nice job — if you keep reading — of reflecting the influence of religious beliefs on how men and women responded to the poll questions.

So often, these kind of social media kerfuffles flare for a few days and then disappear into the bowels of cyberspace forever. Give the Old Gray Lady credit (1) for asking the poll questions and (2) producing a smart piece on the findings.

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