Christianity, Culture, Morality, Religion, Sexuality, Society

Sins of the Father: Is part of Josh Duggar’s sexual deviancy a result of his upbringing?

By this time, practically everyone has heard about the child molestation scandal surrounding Josh Duggar of 19 Kids & Counting fame. For those of you not as familiar with the story, the bare bones are these: Josh Duggar, who is now 27 years old, married, and the father 3 kids, molested 5 young girls (most of whom were his sisters) when he was 14 and 15. His parents found out and dealt with the matter privately. Actually, the way they handled it makes for quite a story in itself, and I recommend reading up on it. If it were fiction, it would be hard to believe.

Today, I read another article that showed where Josh’s dad, Jim Bob Duggar (yes, that’s his real name), said back in 2002 that incest and rape should be capital offenses. The irony’s pretty thick.

It goes without saying that this is a tragic story, especially for the young girls that were involved. And if you follow social media at all, you’ve probably seen some of the examples of schadenfreude that we sometimes feel toward people like Josh Duggar when they’re brought low.

At the same time, part of me feels a little sorry for this guy, because I can’t help but wonder if his upbringing didn’t have something to do with what happened. We’re not just talking about any old Christian household here. While I’m not a Christian and write against Christianity regularly, there are a number of Christian families who are able to convey a pretty healthy view of sex to their kids. The Duggar family is something else entirely. They adhere to a form of ultra-conservatism that is hard for most of us to identify with.

There’s a really great article about Duggar at that’s definitely worth reading. In it, the author uses a chart that she got from an article by Libby Anne, who blogs at Patheos. I think this chart is brilliant and explains so much:

Josh Duggar, at ages 14 and 15, grew up in a home where any kind of sexual expression that wasn’t within the bounds of marriage was considered sin. As the chart shows, consent was not a major part of what constituted “allowable” sex. TV was restricted, their internet service was filtered, and there was no physical contact or kissing with the people these kids dated (source). I imagine that they also viewed masturbation as sinful. While someone like Victoria (NeuroNotes) has likely done much more research on this kind of thing than I have, I can easily see where this kind of sexual repression could lead a kid like Josh Duggar to make these kinds of mistakes. When things like rape and murder share the same label (“sin”) as things like masturbation and lust, then for some people, the lines become blurry. If a person is already in trouble with God for one sin, what real difference does it make if they go ahead and engage in another? He would have known that certain magazines, TV channels, and websites were all reliable sources of pornography but would have had no way to access any of them. I can see where that kind of frustration and repression could turn into a dangerous obsession.

I’m certainly not defending him or what he did. And plenty of people have grown up in households that had the same restrictive view of sex without resorting to molestation. But I still wonder if things might have played out differently had he been raised with a healthier view of sexuality.

77 thoughts on “Sins of the Father: Is part of Josh Duggar’s sexual deviancy a result of his upbringing?”

  1. Nate, thank you for the shoutout, and I concur with Secretsally, great post. I tend to agree with you that things would have most likely turned our differently if Josh had been raised with a healthy view of sexuality.

    In his article “ATI’s “Sex Ed” Curriculum: Silencing Victims and Excusing Sex Crime”, Nicholas Ducote, of Homeschoolers Anonymous, writes:

    “I’m not here to say I know what was going on in Josh Duggar’s mind all those years ago, but I can tell you what I felt when I was taught these things as a teenager.

    This teaching really messed me up. I assumed I was no better than a sex criminal because I had sexual thoughts. If I wanted to be with a girl, I was no better than a violent rapist. Sexual thoughts are natural for pubescent teens, and making them feel their life and soul are in literal danger by even thinking these thoughts fucks you up. How is it productive sex education to tell young people that they might as well commit the act if they are going to think about it three times?”

    This is the same “sex education” that Josh got. It’s reprehensible. I recommend reading the full article.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for chiming in, Victoria! I knew you would have some thoughts about this. 🙂 And I can relate to what Ducote says… I’ll definitely check out his article.


  3. I’m not defending him or what he did, either, but I feel much the same way as you about it. If sex wasn’t some dirty secret perhaps he wouldn’t have felt the need to take advantage of those more vulnerable than he and perhaps he wouldn’t have felt the need to hide it under the cloak of night. Allowing children, and, yes, he was still a child at 14 to understand that their sexual thoughts are not something dirty and ugly, but something natural might alleviate some of this tension they feel.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. this story really affects me.

    when I was nine years old my 14 yr old brother molested me for the first time. it lasted for a couple of years. he would tell me that if I told my parents they would never believe me and if I did tell he would beat my ass.

    when I was 11 I told him I was going to tell and he beat me up so badly that I had to be taken to the hospital emergency room.

    my family was all churchy idiots like the duggars. just stupid through and through.

    my brother became a big wig in the church and goes around preaching anti gay shit.

    the abuse did affect me throughout my life, I drank and did tons of drugs. It wasn’t until I turned 40 that I dealt with it, and when I did tell my parents, my brother denied it, they believed him and told me I needed to find jeeezzzuuusssss. it was a mess, I don’t speak to any of them anymore.

    my cousin, who was a pastor, molested his two step daughters starting at the age when they turned 12 yrs old. when the oldest turned 17 she went to the police, he was arrested, but continued to lie about it, and his family lied about it and tried the cover up.

    this is the main reason Christians make me want to puke. I think situations like the duggars and mine are the rule, not the exception.

    I don’t trust a christians far as I can spit on one.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. oh and Nate, that part of you that feels a little sorry for the guy, you need to let that go, he’s a monster and does not deserve anyones pity. he molested 5 of his sisters, ages 11 to 5. then he has the gall to go around preaching family values and anti-gay message.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well…I don’t want to blame the religion or sexual repression. He knew it was wrong – not because it was sexual, but because he wasn’t getting their consent. As your chart implies – any sex is morally acceptable as long as all participants are for it. He molested them *while they slept* (or pretended to be for fear of being involved or whatever) precisely because he knew he wouldn’t get their consent. Or maybe he didn’t want it. Maybe he wanted the taboo. Either way, it was wrong. Would it have been different if the family hadn’t been so sexually repressive? Absolutely. Exactly how different, we’ll never know.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. SPG,

    I am so sad that your brother did that to you and for so long! I am truly, truly sorry. I really have thought a lot about the four sisters and the family friend Josh Duggar abused. Are they getting help? Does anyone around them even care?

    Nate, I think much of the Duggar training through Bill Gothard (I have known homeschoolers who followed his curriculum since 1990.) And the Independent Baptist Church is what has contributed to their poor mindset. Both are known for abuses. Their denomination has also been known to have pregnant teenagers stand in front of the Church to repent and apologize to the whole congregation for their obvious “sin”… Even the ones pregnant by a grown man sitting quietly in that Church.

    The Duggar mother also believes that she is to NEVER turn down her husband when he wants sex. No matter how sick or tired she is she’s to put out and has told her daughters to do the same as they became wives.

    I don’t agree with you about Christian families approaching sex in a healthy fashion at all! I really don’t agree with you. Most Christian parents don’t talk shit about sex and IF they do, it’s simply “don’t do it!” I think abstinence is more damaging than good. “Sex bad outside of marriage, sex good in marriage, but baby born in marriage is still born into sin.” (Yes, picture this in caveman talk.) Christianity, God, Church and religion have all taken something beautiful, fun, pleasurable and healthy into something full of rules, laws and restrictions. There’s nothing commendable about that. I can’t begin to tell you how distorted it was for me to want it just a couple of weeks before I got married at 31, but didn’t because it was sin. However, it was godly on my wedding day and I couldn’t make it work right because I was always told it was a sin until I married. Sorry, just haven’t known too many Christians who have been open and loving in teaching their children about sex.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I found it interesting that “Jim Bob” brought the boy to State Trooper Jim Hutchens, who, “gave Josh a ‘stern talk’” Hutchens was later arrested and convicted on unrelated charges of child pornography and is serving a 56-year prison sentence.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I also found it interesting that Dugger only touched and fondled the children, all but one of which while sleeping. Until now, I had read nothing of the story, and has just assumed the issue was rape or at least intercourse, whether consensual or not. Interesting also, I did not see the ages of the girls mentioned, but as the one fondled while awake claimed he had fondled her breasts, that would hardly indicate that she was prepubescent. Since Dugger was only 14 himself, there may not have been much of an age difference – I had envisioned a much older boy taking advantage of much younger girls.

    Frankly, I see a young boy, just getting his sexual organs and raging hormones, trapped in an environment where information regarding sex is not only absent, but discouraged and likely punished. He was trying to satisfy his curiosity, which is a perfectly normal desire for a boy his age, and the reason that many children “play doctor.” That he chose to do so in ways that we, in this society, believe inappropriate, is more the fault of the Duggers than of the boy – imo.

    Before anyone takes offense at my phrase, “in this society,” different societies subscribe to different mores. In the 19th century, for example, fathers among the Trobriand Islanders had sex with their own daughters. The relationship between sex and childbirth was unknown to them, they believed that their god planted babies in the stomachs of women, therefore, there WERE no actual fathers, meaning that the only direct lineage was between mother and child. In our society, sex with one’s offspring is wrong – in theirs, it was unknown.


  10. Hi Nate, I read your post before I went to the gym this morning, and pondered it while I battered my body into submission. I have barely heard of Josh Duggar (there are some advantages in living in the antipodes!) but for maybe a year now we have been hearing from a Royal Commission (a high level public judicial enquiry) into institutionalised child sexual abuse, and the revelations have been horrific.

    Undoubtedly the organisation most in the spotlight has been the Catholic Church, but school teachers, scout leaders, sporting coaches and social welfare organisations both governmental and charity have all been people & places where abuse happened. And this is only institutional sexual abuse – domestic violence and familiar abuse is another thing again. So I feel that there must be many causes.

    Some say compulsory celibacy in the Catholic Church is a significant cause – I haven’t seen any expert opinion on that but I can’t imagine it has helped.

    I think a major factor has been the sexualisation of our culture. Porn is way more readily available than when I was young, movies, magazines and advertising use sex to sell. And children are physically maturing earlier because of better diets (I think) and they are being sexualised younger. In Australia we have an organisation named Collective Shout which aims at reducing the objectification of women and the sexualisation of children by drawing attention to sex-based advertising, images and messages that are aimed at kids – who are not mature enough for it.

    The point you raised about consent is another critical issue. Sex without consent is a form of violence, only the results can sometimes be better hidden. And we live in a culture where violence is also accepted and sometimes even glorified, whether it be in overseas military campaigns which both our countries are prone to, gun ownership and the culture behind it, violent movies and video games, and playground bullying.

    Put all that together and you get immature teens not well equipped to deal with sexualisation in a culture where personal satisfaction is the aim and force is more acceptable that it should be, and we have a problem. And it is in that context that the issue you raise – old-fashioned and conservative upbringing that leaves kids totally unprepared and ill-equipped to face all this – becomes worse.

    LIke you and other commenters, I don’t think any of this can condone evil predatory behaviour, and I don’t know anything about the situation you have discussed to comment on it. But I do think we are making it harder for normal people and easier for those who have a mind to perpetrate this kind of evil.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Christianity assures Duggar that when he repents, all sins are forgiven.

    That means he can do anything up to the point of repentance, and there is no culpable sin; because he is among the graced of god.

    The sickness is in the religion.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Paul,

    I am so, so sorry that happened to you and it was NOT your fault. I don’t blame you one bit for distancing yourself from the family who was supposed to protect and love you.

    You have said many of the things I’ve been reading on Homeschoolers Anonymous blogs for the last few years – many of those now-grown children (brought up in patriarchal, legalistic ‘christian’ homes) are speaking out about their experiences. The hypocrisy is staggering, and especially so in the Duggar case.

    I have read many reaction to this case and there’s one (rather lengthy, but worth the read) that seems to clarify the situation comprehensively. Some of you may be familiar with it already.

    He’s had to write a follow-up post to this one, as he got so many hits on his piece. It’s worth noting that there’s a difference between explanations and excuses. Fundamentalist christian upbringing is an explanation, never an excuse.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I haven’t read all the comments and dont know all the details of the story either, but i agree with Arch. I mean, I think there’s a problem of course, and I have no doubt that their strict religion was a factor (I would not say cause).

    But if he did this around 14 and 15 and never since, and if it was just touching, then this isnt as bad as it could have been. I’m not minimizing it, but i am not foaming at the mouth crying for blood either.

    i feel bad for every one of them. The girls especially, but the boy and the parents as well. the parents, while i believe they are wrong, are doing what they think is right. they love their son, and who can blame them, and trust in their god to help all people through tough times and temptation. I think they’re ignorant and naive, but I also think they’re sincere.

    I hope their kids are finally getting, if they havent already, some professional guidance or help, and I hope everyone will be okay.

    Now, I happen to agree with our society’s views on such things, but also remember that long ago certain societies, like the greeks, viewed this sort of thing much differently. Sex with children was as frowned upon. christians will point to this as evidence for their bible, saying we need divine guidance. It could be argued that consenting adults should be able to do what they want, but beyond that, no way… but we arbitrarily assign ages to define “adult” and consent can be sticky if alcohol or drugs are involved.

    is there an objective way to absolutely and definitively define this stuff? again, let me reiterate, In no way do i believe Josh Duggar didnt do anything wrong – he did, but i do wonder if some are coming down too hard on an adult for something he did when he was a boy – buT i dont know all the circumstances.

    this, so far, seems different that adult priests wanking little boys.


  14. That means he can do anything up to the point of repentance, and there is no culpable sin; because he is among the graced of god.” – Though more responsible for the establishment of Christianity perhaps, than even Jesus, Emperor Constantine waited until near the end of his life to become Christian – he knew he had a lot of murdering to do if he wanted to stay in power, and wanted to wait until he had most of that out of the way.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. victoria, I’ll get to it… though this is a subject I don’t really care for. i probably shouldn’t have commented at all – it’s really pretty depressing.

    if it highlights anything worse, i dont think i want to know.

    “tragic” is the word that keeps coming to mind regarding this.


  16. From Carmen’s linked article

    “So is Josh Duggar a predator and a danger to children? Maybe. But maybe not. Did he engage in sexual assault? Absolutely. Would he be a risk to do it again? Not necessarily.

    Did the poisonous doctrines believed and promoted by his family contribute to the problem? I believe that they absolutely did.”

    I agree with this. I do believe the strict religious teachings were a factor, but i wont go as far to say cause, because if it were a cause, it seems like the majority of those raised this way would do these types of things – hopefully that’s not the case. But i do think it’s a factor – there is no doubt in my mind.

    victoria, what specifically were you wanting me to see?


  17. I’m making rhubarb crisp right now but I’ll check it out when I get a minute. . . and yes, I’m always cooking. . because people are always eating! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Hi Charity,

    Thanks for the comment. I want to quickly clarify my comment about Christianity. In fundamentalist circles, I agree that dangerous teachings about sexuality seem to be the norm. But in more progressive (or at least what you and I would call “more progressive”) circles, I don’t think it’s quite as bad. I personally know some families who teach a healthier view of sexuality to their kids. Some of them are even in favor of gay rights.


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