The Five Minute Rule

You may not (except in the presence of your spouse or a close friend of your gender known to and trusted by your spouse)

1.  Talk to any man/woman for longer than five minutes who is not:

  • Your father/mother
  • Your elderly uncle/aunt
  • Your brother/sister
  • Your son/daughter
  • Your first cousin
  • Your doctor
  • Your dentist

Save that if you are employed, you may in the course of the employment, speak to men/women for the purposes and furtherance of your employment which exemption shall be generously construed

Save further that casual and accidental encounters in a public place during daylight shall not be deemed to contravene the above rule if they do not last longer than five minutes in any seven day period.

2.  Further exemptions may be arranged for group meetings such as:

  • Church
  • Study groups
  • Sporting groups

Provided always that encounters are not one-to-one

3.  Telephone conversations shall be treated as if they were face-to-face conversations and may not be initiated by you. 

4.  Email correspondence is allowed occasionally.

5.  Special rules may be negotiated separately for other blood relatives and for friends who either pre-date the marriage or are of more than fifteen years standing provided always that the contact must be initiated by the friend and should not exceed the five minute rule.


It should be clear from the rules that any contact at work will generally fall within the rules.   Lunches, coffee breaks, over night stays, team building sessions, evening meals and social events including “rain making” events will all usually fall within the rules.

It is not generally possible to argue that the absence of a father/mother or son/daughter should permit the substitution of another person in their place.  For the purposes of the rules a person with parents, several opposite gender siblings, offspring and cousinswill be in the same position as a person who has none of these.  Whilst this may appear to penalise those from small families, there appears to be no precedent in such cases for substititon of persons from outside the permitted categories.

It may be argued that this rule is indirectly discriminatory since in practice woman with children are much less likely to be working and able to make use of the work exemption.   Whilst many women are content to socialise only amongst women, it it likely that the professional woman at home with children finds that her environment is sharply different from that she enjoyed when she was working.  The contrast will be heightened where she has neither father, brother nor sons.  She may find a paucity of intellectual stimulation available to her and her conversations restricted, with few exceptions, to only one gender.   The internet might provide some alleviation of her situation, but as yet the rules in relation to blogging, for example, have not been agreed.  It is likely that blogging may be permitted within the rules where comments are public and where a variety of commenters of both genders contribute to the discussion so that the environment resembles a virtual group situation.  It would apperar that men who have recently retired are likely experience similar frustrations.

There is widespread ignorance of the rule.  Many women happily lead their lives within extended families without rubbing up against the perimeters of what is permitted.  For others, the work exception camouflages the true extent of the rule until children come along.  Even then, nature intervenes for several years to provide hormones to the female brain which blind her to the effect of the rule.  It may, therefore, come as somewhat of a shock to her in mid-life to discover that the rule has always existed and is entrenched.

It is a rare example of an absolute rule which applies worldwide and is not culturally relative.  Its existence in Muslim countries is often signified by a covering of the woman’s face, sometimes called a burka.  Other societies have idiosyncratic methods of signfying the existence of the rule, and exemptions are somewhat less generous in societies where women are less economically active.

Comments in relation to the rules are welcomed as part of a process of widespread consultation.