It’s always interesting to me when I have a connection (even if tenuous) to something that’s going on in the news. This week, I’m traveling to Ohio to a homeschooling convention for work. I just found out that Josh Duggar was supposed to give a speech there but has just canceled his appearance due to the revelations about his past and his admission of sexual impropriety with several underage females. So I feel compelled to share my thoughts on the issue.
I don’t much care about the Duggars. I’ll confess to having watched a few episodes of their show back when it was known as 14 Children and Pregnant Again, mostly because my kids were 5 and 4 at the time and sucked all the oxygen out of every second of my day. I was curious how one keeps a house running when one has 14 kids (the answer: slave labor from the older kids and an apparent lobotomy for the mother).
I quickly soured on the show when I realized they were Christian fundamentalists with some pretty extreme beliefs. They adhere to something called Quiverfull or Christian patriarchy (men are to rule over women, women are to be obedient, contraception is evil and all that related nonsense). They believe that boys and girls should have no chance to intermingle as teens and that courtships should involve no physical contact whatsoever. The first kiss should be on the wedding altar.
So my problem is not just with the Duggars (although their efforts to cover up and shield their son from responsibility are abhorrent to me) or with TLC, who has profited from what they know is a virulent ideology of hate and intolerance which has included lobbying against civil rights legislation (click here to read more on that).
The real problem is that they are just one high-profile example of a spreading ideology that is a breeding ground for secrecy and aberrant behavior. There is zero excuse for child molesting, and yet I can’t help but think that the fact that this 14-year-old boy (at the time) did not get the proper education about the very real urges his pubescent body was feeling contributed to his actions. There he was, homeschooled, with highly restricted access to girls, information and the outside world, and being told that the first time he could do anything about his sexual wants would be on his wedding night.
When sexual education is withheld, how is a young teen supposed to understand the difference between natural sexual exploration, like consentual kissing, (which his family says is wrong) and criminal sexual behavior (like fondling sleeping girls’ genitals, which his family also says is wrong)? If it’s all wrong and he has no access to differing opinions or sexual education, how does he know? Again, his actions were inexcusable, but the ideology he was brought up under is a recipe for disaster. Yes, it’s true, sexual misconduct happens across the political and ideological spectrum. But when you try to suppress all sexuality with a lack of access to information and outlet, you wind up not preventing sexual expression but having it develop in secrecy, sometimes to disastrous consequences. In this case, the philosophy under which he was raised not only created a breeding ground for his inappropriate behavior, it also led to a lack of consequences for the perpetrator and a lack of resources to the victims, due to the insular nature of their circle.
The Christian patriarchy movement has been rocked by a series of sex scandals lately. Click here for a great piece on that. Is it a surprise that the most restrictive, “family values” conservatives seem to be the most rotten at the core? The more obsessed an ideology is with female chastity and restriction of reproductive rights, the more open it is to abusive behavior by those in power. They lecture the rest of us on abstinence and morality while they try (and often fail) to suppress normal human desires in ways that then lead to more questionable behaviors. It is so often repression that causes the worst problems, not expression.
So what if a family wants to have 19 kids, if they can afford to care for them properly? They’re entitled. But they’re part of a broader political movement which is growing and wants to impose some pretty scary things on the rest of us. They are against higher education for women, fight actively against gay rights and are opposed to contraception. The next time someone wants to tell you they have the moral high ground over you because they breed like bunnies and keep their kids from experiencing the vast, wonderful world, change the channel. Whenever we watch their show, we’re giving oxygen and money to this terrifying movement. Kudos to TLC for pulling the reruns. Let’s hope they make it permanent.