I rarely use this forum to complain about Mormon culture, but today I make an exception. I will keep it short and sweet. It drives me crazy that we have created a culture which assumes that men and women cannot interact on anything more than a superficial level without great risk of fornication or adultery. This attitude is manifest in a hundred ways large and small. If I were to suggest introducing the possibility of mixed gender Primary or Sunday School presidencies, the “it is improper for men and women to work together” objection would come up almost immediately. From people I work with who are not members, I see examples of mixed-gender friendships which seem entirely appropriate. While there are easily discernible limits within US culture to what degree of friendship is acceptable among married adults of different genders, my perception is that the limits within Mormon culture are noticeably more restrictive.
I am not naive. I realize that people do have affairs and that being alone for any reason could open someone up to a false allegation. But at the same time, I don’t think I am in the minority when I say that I am not remotely interested in having sex with someone other than my wife. Putting me in a close interaction with a woman is not playing with fire. The things that keep me chaste have much deeper roots than simply removing any possibility to fornicate by separating me physically and emotionally from people of the opposite gender. Furthermore, for the people who are going to commit adultery, I don’t get the sense that all of our restrictions are a sufficient guard rail. It is sad to me that we are conditioned such that the suggestion of a mixed-gender Sunday School presidency triggers an almost immediate concern that it would be improper for men and women to work together in a presidency. Even if Harry is right (which he is, obviously), this seems to be taking things to an unhealthy extreme.