Toxic purity culture infests many strata of our society, from education policies to how films are rated and more.
Nowhere is there a stronger concentration of this way of thinking than in the cult to which the Duggars belong.
On every level, sex is stigmatized, female bodies are shamed, and concepts like “consent” are ignored.
In the wake of Josh Duggar’s arrest, fans can no longer ignore that the family created a breeding ground for sexual violence.
Dr. Camden Morgante is a licensed psychologist and expert in human sexuality, practicing in Knoxville, Tennessee.
She has observed that everything about Josh Duggar’s series of scandals show purity culture myths for what they are: myths.
In contrast, the realities of the ways in which this kind of mindset endangers women and children are illustrated by Josh’s scandals.
On April 29, Josh Duggar was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service after a lengthy investigation.
He was charged with downloading and possessing images and video of the sexual abuse of young girls.
The girls were estimated to be as young as the ages of 5 or 10, according to testimony heard at an early hearing.
Six years before Josh’s arrest, the world learned what sort of man he really is.
It was then that 19 Kids And Counting fans learned, to their horror, that Josh had molested five young girls as a teenager.
Four of his victims were his own sisters.
There was more to the scandal than the absolute horror that comes with sexual predation.
It was also revealed that Jim Bob and Michelle had actively concealed Josh’s crimes.
Instead he was sent to “religious counseling,” or so they claimed. It turned out to not even be that.
The backlash against the Duggars was swift and vocal, spurring TLC to do its least favorite thing: make a moral decision.
19 Kids and Counting was canceled, and TLC promised that Counting On would not feature Jim Bob and Michelle.
Naturally, after a few years, TLC decided that the coast was clear and started sneaking them back onto people’s screens.
It wasn’t long before another Josh Duggar scandal blew wide open that same year.
Josh was accused of cheating on his wife, Anna.
He was also accused of watching porn, though this is only an issue in extremist cults.
Again, he was sent to “counseling.”
Jim Bob and his family towed the party line, chalking up Josh’s crimes as adolescent curiosity.
Their issue, it seemed, was the “sin” involved, not the sexual violence committed against five children.
“’Oh he’s just a boy. He’s just experimenting,’ or ‘He’s just curious’ — that kind of mentality excuses abuse,” Dr. Morgante noted.
“This is a crime,” the human sexuality expert emphasized.
“Maybe some Christians are comfortable calling it a sin or calling it abuse, but it’s also a crime,” Dr. Morgante reiterated.
“It’s also illegal,” Dr. Morgante stressed.
“It’s wrong on legal grounds, moral grounds, many grounds,” she emphasized.
Of the Duggars, Dr. Morgante observed: “And nobody wanted to treat it that way and call it what it is.”
Purity culture holds that women are fundamentally responsible for the sexual desires and behaviors are men.
This is why pressure is applied to women to dress and behave “modestly.”
And among the Duggars, as with everything else, this was taken to new extremes.
The Duggar daughters were tasked with being lookouts for their brothers.
If they saw a woman dressed like a normal human being, they were to say “Nike.”
Rather than invoking the Greek Goddess of Victory, the intention was to direct their brothers to stare at their shoes.
So it comes as no real surprise to hear that this “logic” was applied to Anna and Josh’s marriage.
This time, instead of telling Josh to stare at the ground to avoid seeing a woman in a tank top or yoga pants, it was more sophisticated.
Anna had software on Josh’s devices that was supposed to alert her if he viewed any sexual material. Clearly, it didn’t work.
But, as Dr. Morgante noted: “Anna Duggar has been made the gatekeeper of Joshua’s sexuality and she has to monitor him with the software.”
“This is a homeschooling mother of almost seven,” she observed.
“And,” Dr. Morgante expressed, “she doesn’t have time for that nor should that be her responsibility.”
Dr. Morgante suggests that Christians could use the stories of Josh Duggar as an opportunity.
This is a fine time to distinguish between “sinful” and actively abusive behavior.
Any religion might proscribe certain activities, from food eaten to actions taken. Abusive behavior harms others.
Dr. Morgante cites an example: consensual sex between two unmarried people should not be conflated with the sexual abuse of children.
It is clear that, in the Duggar world, Josh’s wrongdoings are viewed as iterations of the same thing: “sin.”
Cheating, his viewing porn, his molestation of his sisters, and allegedly downloading photos of sexually abused minors should not be painted with the same brush.
“If you have a more traditional belief that the premarital consensual sex is a sin, that’s fine,” Dr. Morgante explained.
“But don’t treat it in the same way as child sexual abuse,” she emphasized.
“The unspoken message is that premarital sex is the unforgivable sin,” Dr. Morgante acknowledged.
“But it seems like with offenses like this with Josh Duggar, there’s such a quick rush to forgiveness and reconciliation,” Dr. Morgante noted.
She suggested that parents actually learn about child sexual development.
They should answer honestly and factually when children ask questions about sex.
Meanwhile, there are resources for parents to understand this topic.
Additionally, there are guidelines for how to respond if their child reports being sexually abused.
Both can be found with The National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Until purity culture is dismantled, sexual predators will use this deliberately crafted ignorance about sexuality and consent to prey upon children.
The predators will exist either way, but children should have the language and awareness to understand what someone is trying to do.
In the Duggar cult, when women exist to serve their husbands and “consent’ does not really exist, victims are blamed instead of taught about their rights.