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 Jezebel.com 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.