Sharing Rooms

Many moons ago I went on a road trip through southern Utah with an Anglican priest friend of mine. We drove into St George in the early evening and looked for a cheap motel to stay at. It was when we found one that my friend turned to me in the car and said, “Do you mind if we have separate rooms? I know it’ll cost more, but for a long time I’ve made it a habit never to share a room with anyone so as to avoid any hint of anything that might make someone else uncomfortable”. Now, I had been quite prepared to share a room (all the motel rooms had two large queen size beds) but I understood straight away what he was getting at. Plus, having a room of my own meant that I could watch the TV I wanted until whatever time at night I wanted.

As an aside, a few years later I took the same road trip with my wife and we stayed at the Best Western motel in St George on the night before the trial verdict in the Warren Jeffs case. We ended up getting the honeymoon suite because there were no other rooms available (but paid the normal room rate – the manager liked us). That was possibly the best motel room I’ve ever stayed in AND the most number of TV satellite vans I’ve ever seen parked outside my bedroom window.

I digress. Anyway, you all know what I’m going to talk about now don’t you? Sharing rooms has been a topic of news interest here in the UK with a leading political blogger, Guido Fawkes, asking all kinds of questions (and insinuating other things at the same time) about whether it was appropriate for the now Foreign Secretary and de facto number two in the Conservative Party to share a room with a young graduate working for his election campaign. The response was the resignation of the young man (until yesterday he was one of the special advisers to the Foreign Secretary) and a clear and frank denial from Hague that he is gay or that anything sexual happened between the two men.

Now, put aside the more important political issue as to why several leading talented Conservative party activists and advisers got overlooked and instead Hague went for a relatively inexperienced young man to advise him on foreign policy. This blog is far more interested in how Christians would approach the whole issue of room sharing and the principle of “not even a hint” (coming from Ephesians 5:3). Josh Harris, he of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” fame, wrote a great book with that very same phrase as its title a few years ago. Not Even a Hint is a fantastic read and covers areas around sexual temptation and has lots to say to Christians about how to handle issues of sexual desire and the sexualisation of the modern western world. You might also want to get hold of his follow up book, Sex is Not the Problem (Lust is).

What do you think about unmarried Christians sharing bedrooms? Is it appropriate? Can two people of the same sex share a room but not two people of the opposite sex, or vice-versa? Do the rules change if there are more than two people (i.e. there is a greater accountability)? What are the general principles which we should look to follow? Should we even be assuming that anything sexual might take place in the first place?

Over to you.

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  • http://thevicarswife.wordpress.com/ The Vicar's Wif

    At the clergy wives conference I go to I always share a room with (female, obvs) friends, and sometimes with clergy wives I don't even know that well. It keeps the costs down. And my husband has shared with other men at some conferences he attends. No-one has ever implied that this might be inappropriate. I wonder if the implication of sexual inappropriateness might be a money earner put about by the hotel industry!

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      I know of another Christian residential conference that I've been to where guests are regularly asked it they'll share twin rooms (to keep down the cost). Indeed, room sharing goes on even at conferences to do with same-sex issues and no-one bats an eyelid. At the same time, I know of a very large conference held outside this country where guests were practically forbidden to share rooms with someone of the same sex, lest there be any doubt in anybody's mind…

      • Jill

        This is such a sad indictment of our culture, that two people cannot even share a room with someone of the same sex without unwarranted rumours. My husband used to share all the time on cricket and hockey tours – all the players did – and it would not have occurred to anyone to raise an eyebrow. I too frequently share with other women.

        I know the conference to which you refer, Peter – the large conference outside this country. Well, I went to it, and I admit I was a bit peeved about not being able to share – especially as I have shared a room before with my would-be sharer. However, bearing in mind the nature of this particular conference, breaking away as it was from the homosexualist movement, one can hardly blame the organisers. You can bet there were some people who would have been on the lookout for the flimsiest opportunity to spin something perfectly innocent into something which could help their cause. You can just picture the headline in Pink News!

  • http://paulhuxley.blogspot.com Paul Huxley

    I was going to say the same re: conferences. I once had to share a double bed with a male friend and after a sleepless night due to his rolling and snoring, I decided to sleep on the floor of the living room for the rest of the week.

    People have a similar issue with men hugging men. Anyone would think that there's no situation in which a man can hug another man and it not be about sex. Everything has to be about sex. What about greeting one another with a holy kiss?

  • David

    Quite honestly, liberal society is obsessed with sex!
    They really can't believe that we don't think it's central to happiness!
    If everyone had seperate hotel rooms someone would be probably be wheeled out to claim that people were watching pay-per-view pornography all night long instead!

  • Tom

    I was invited to a Moonie conference where they tried to impose room- sharing (note: it was imposed not chosen) with a stranger if you did not come as a pair of colleagues. It took quite a bit of wriggling to get to be allowed to inhabit the room singly. Cost was obviously the main consideration. Presumably Hague was saving the Tory party rather than the tax-payer.

  • sue

    If two people are the same sex and heterosexual then sharing a room won't lead to anything sexual.As to people's "suspicions", those are their problem – unless you are someone in the public eye, then it can become your problem, as we have seen.

  • http://www.twitter.com/cerebusboy cerebusboy

    Never mind sharing a mere *room* – those inclined to proof-texting could cite the KJV version of Luke 17:34 as evidence of suspicious looking but theologically ok sleeping arrangements! ;) Surely there are grey areas? Would conservative/evangelicals say that (e.g.) Newman sharing his life with a man run afoul of the 'not even a hint' rule? Are the assumptions of an increasingly sexualised culture something that Christians ought to capitulate to? Evangelical churches , however 'anti-gay',are often full of very camp males who hug each other and discuss their feelings, in between singing songs about intimacy and Jesus touching their secret place. This certainly seems pretty 'gay' to butch moi, but I would never accuse such fellows of the appearance of scandal. A parishioner who had it in for a male pastor could cite the 'no hint of scandal' rule as a reason to condemn him for (say) merely spending time alone with a woman. It would be pretty sad if (for example) a priest had to avoid public parks, in case gossipers assumed that he was there to cruise. 'No smoke without fire' is a very stupid phrase.

    • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

      I nanti had you as a "butch" homy from a vada of those lallies…

  • Blair

    Hi Peter and all,

    understand a bit of where you're coming from on this – though must say that my main thoughts on seeing the stories about William Hague were around how little 'real news' there must be if so many acres of print are covered by something so trivial. And also, what a remarkably intimate press release he issued about his and Ffion's marriage.

    On topic – this is a bit bland but maybe room-sharing depends on the 2 people involved… I could share a room with a woman and not be tempted :)

    in friendship, Blair

  • http://www.peter-ould.net Peter Ould

    Thanks for all the comments so far.

    I'm interested how you might respond to my friend in Utah. Most of the views so far have indicated they wouldn't have a problem sharing a room with a friend. How would you respond to the my friend's idea that that is just best avoided?

  • Wicked conservative

    It's a tricky one for me. I absolutely see the wisdom of avoiding what we Papists call "occasions of sin", and of course "scandal" (so e.g. if it was known that you were both priests then separate rooms might be wise in a very onservative place like Utah). But I think there is an opposite danger of letting worries about sin and other people's perceptions distort your choices in a completely disproportionate way. As David notes above, why concede ground to society's bizarre sexual obsessions?

    I think if I were in the same situation I would have asked – gently and without prying – whether there was any further reason behind the request, but ultimately reacted just as you did, Peter. You never know what deep struggles another person might be having, and on the principle of not eating meat in front of weaker brethren you did the right thing. However, SSA is not something I struggle with at all, so it's possible I am not especially well-placed to comment.

    On a completely unrelated note, I do think that many within the church (inc. myself) could do with rereading and reflecting upon the "meat sacrificed to idols" teachings. It could provide valuable insight into many of the problems we face.

  • sue

    Presumably, if one is bisexual, one should never share a room with anyone of either gender( unless married or civilly partnered to them.) Personally I think it is a bit daft, if you want to share a room to keep down costs, do so. If you know you have ulterior motives, or suspect they do, or you are in the public eye – steer clear. But it IS a sad reflection on society to automatically assume this means a gay relationship!

    The issue at stake here is not "room sharing" but whether Haig appointed this man when he wasn't suitable for the job because they were in a relationship. I think there would need to be a lot more evidence than them just sharing a room on one occasion! Whether more will emerge remains to be seen. Personally I hope not, for his sake and that of his wife.

  • Neo

    This is an interesting question for me, as a guy attracted to both sexes. As Sue said, in theory maybe I shouldn't be sharing a room with anyone. However, in practice I don't have any opposition to sharing a room with another guy – in fact I'm living in an apartment with another guy as a semi-permanent living situation. In practice I know most guys are straight and wouldn't want to do anything inappropriate with me even if I did, so I'm not too worried. If I had a significant reason to suspect another guy did have SSA I'd be a lot more careful. In my current life situation as a graduate student I often travel on the department's dime and am required to share a room (always with another guy), and I don't have a problem with it. In regards to other people being suspicious, currently the only people who know about my SSA side are those I've talked to personally and who generally trust me. If I were in Peter's shoes where this was a public ministry, I might have reason to be more careful to avoid any appearance of sin.

    But in general, I don't think there's much of a problem if there's not any mutual potential for temptation. But what I can easily handle might be different than what someone else can handle.

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