Robert Foster, a gubernatorial candidate in Mississippi, has faced some backlash in recent days after he refused a one-on-one meeting with a female reporter. Foster says he and his wife have long agreed to a system — sometimes known as the "Billy Graham rule," or more recently as the "Mike Pence rule" — whereby neither of them will be alone with a member of the opposite sex. This sensible precaution has, of course, been met with outrage — first and foremost from the female reporter who claims that Foster's respect for his wife makes her, the reporter, feel like a "sexual object."
There is a lot of upside — and, as far as I can tell, no discernible downside — to a policy like the one the Fosters have adopted. It does, in part, guard the integrity of their marriage by guarding the hearts of both spouses. Most adults understand that extramarital trysts usually begin with seemingly innocent interactions. An emotional threshold is crossed at some point, often unnoticed by one or both people, and things can go rapidly downhill from there. The point behind avoiding one-on-one meetings with members of the opposite sex is to avoid getting anywhere near that threshold. Better safe than sorry, after all.
The "better safe than sorry" principle applies in more than one way. There is another risk inherent in a closed-door rendezvous between a man and woman who aren't married, especially when one of them is a political figure. Feminists tell us that false accusations don't happen, but they do, and it will be harder to defend oneself against those false accusations if there are no witnesses. The latest accusation against President Trump proves this point.
A former staffer for the Trump campaign, Alva Johnson, filed a lawsuit a few months ago alleging that she was the victim of "battery" when Trump "forcibly kissed" her without consent. In a teary-eyed interview with MSNBC in February, Johnson recounted being grabbed by the hands and kissed on the corner of the mouth. She says she turned away desperately, which is the only thing that saved her from a full mouth-to-mouth kiss. Using words like "terrified," "scared," and "distraught," she claimed that even months after the alleged assault, she was still "crying her eyes out" and traumatized from the experience. If this kiss had taken place privately, all we'd have is her word on the subject — a word that, we are told, must be automatically believed. Fortunately, though, it was not private.
This week, Trump's lawyers released footage of what Johnson describes as "battery." It does not show anything like the dramatic scene that she recounted. Instead, we see Trump lean in to give Johnson a brief peck on the cheek. His lips do not make contact with her mouth — nor does she lean away or in any way express any discomfort with the interaction at all. She smiles and appears to give him an air kiss on the side of the face, in return. It is just a very normal and friendly greeting between two people. No reasonable human being could possibly watch the video and describe what he sees as assault. If it is assault, then we have all been assaulted hundreds of times in our lives. A mother who gives her young son a goodnight kiss on the cheek is a child sex abuser. Late-night talk show hosts who kiss their female guests on the cheek are committing sexual assault in front of a live audience every night. Europeans who kiss everyone on the cheek are all a bunch of sex criminals. If Alva Johnson was sexually assaulted, then sexual assault is about as common and casual as a handshake.
Johnson says she called her parents immediately after the innocuous cheek kiss and had to pull over to the side of the road due to emotional distress. Is it plausible that she really reacted that way to something so utterly harmless and ordinary? Is it plausible that she was in her house "crying her eyes out" months after the fact? It's possible, I suppose. Maybe she is one of the most fragile people ever to walk the Earth. Or maybe she's lying. Maybe a combination of the two. Whatever the case, she took an innocent greeting and tried to use it to destroy Trump's political career. Trump survived because there's video, and because he's Trump. Those of us who lack both advantages may not have been so lucky.
Robert Foster has decided to protect himself from the Alva Johnsons of the world. He is smart to do so. Feminists complain, but they are also the ones who tell us (absurdly) that 25% of women are raped in college. If that's true (it's not), then there are millions of rapists walking around out there. And even the non-rapists are still probably infected with toxic masculinity, so who knows what they might do. It seems it's best for all involved if men and women are careful around each other. It would be better if we didn't all have to be so cautious, but this is what the #MeToo movement has wrought.