Emotional Incest, Part 2: The Botkins

In Part 1 I discussed the definition of emotional incest. Today I will look at teachings of leading Christian Patriarchy organization Vision Forum and its close affiliates, the Botkins, which for all intents and purposes mandate emotional incest.

Vision Forum teaches that adult daughters are to stay at home until they marry. More than that, it teaches that they are under their father’s authority just as they will after marriage be under their husband’s authority, and that while they remain at home it is their duty to adopt their father’s “vision” in place of their own and serve as “helpmeets in training” to their father in preparation for serving as “helpmeets” to their future husbands.

The possibilities for emotional incest become obvious. In fact, like I said, emotional incest is practically mandated. Adult daughters are to subsume their identities in loving, adoring, and serving their father, and they are to make his vision, his hopes, and his dreams their vision, their hopes, and their dreams. They are to serve their father as a “wife in training.” The father in turn is to guide, protect, and care for his adult daughter until he hands her off at the wedding altar.

These ideas are promoted especially through Geoff Botkin and his daughters, Anna Sophia and Elizabeth. Anna Sophia and Elizabeth run a website called Visionary Daughters, and at ages 17 and 19 they wrote a book called So Much More in which they urged daughters to forgo college (which they argue is hedonistic, atheistic, and against the Bible). They have also produced a documentary called The Return of the Daughters. The Botkin sisters are today in their mid-twenties, still unmarried, and still living at home under their father’s authority and sharing in his “vision.”

I’m going to pause for a moment to offer several quotes – all Botkin related – to illustrate just what is involved in the whole “serving as a helpmeet to your father” thing:

Firstly, you must love and honor and cultivate respect for your father. Second, you must seek your father’s heart and vision. Third, you must be able to come up with ways to use your gifts to make your father’s vision a reality, without him telling you what to do. (Visionary Daughters)

I realize that it is most likely God’s will for me to be married someday, and I desire and have the responsibility to be prepared, as much as possible, for this role as God sees fit. I want to be a true helpmeet to my husband, and what an excellent opportunity I have to practice this with my own father! (So Much More)

And finally, a passage from House Proud, an article in Bitch magazine:

A young New Zealander named Genevieve, profiled on the Botkin sisters’ blog, decided to live at home until marriage after trading in her dreams of becoming her country’s first female prime minister for ambitions to become a Christian homeschooling wife and mother. Now the author of the Isaacharican Daughters newsletter, Genevieve exemplifies how young women in this lifestyle are encouraged to subsume their own thoughts and identities into those of whichever male figure in their lives currently acts as the authority. In writing about the process of swapping her father’s “vision” for her new husband’s, she notes that a woman having independent thoughts is evidence of Satan gumming up the works.

“My loyalties have had to undergo a change. I was used to thinking Dad knew best. Now I needed to learn to think that Pete knows best. I used to do things and invest my time in projects according to what I knew Dad would want me to do. Now I needed to be guided by what Pete wanted me to do. When faced with a problem or option I couldn’t think ‘What would Dad have done in this situation?’ Now I had to think ‘What would Pete do in this situation?’ These were exciting times and difficult as during this state of flux—learning to replace one man’s vision with another—the devil would come around and say, ‘But what about what you want? What about what you think?’”

The more I read of the Botkins and of Vision Forum’s teachings regarding the role of adult daughters, the more it strikes me that adult daughters are expected to serve as (traditional, submissive) wives to their fathers in every way but physical. Adult daughters are expected to completely lose themselves in their father, and to literally not have a desire outside of what he wants for them. His vision is to be their vision, his thoughts their thoughts, his desires their desires, his passions their passions.

Strangely, mothers are left out of the picture almost entirely. You would think that if an adult daughter is staying home to learn to be a homemaker, she should be serving primarily as her mother’s right arm – learning to cook, to run a household, and to care for children. Yet in everything the Botkin sisters have written – in their books, their blog, and even their documentary – mothers are completely missing. Indeed, every chapter of So Much More begins with the phrase “Fathers, Daughters, and…” and in the case of three of the four adult daughters profiled in their documentary, The Return of the Daughters, the mother never even appears on screen.

When you realize how male-centered Christian Patriarchy is, this starts to make sense. After all, the father is the head of the family, the leader of the family, the center of the family. The mother serves the father and is to make his vision and his desires her vision and her desires. Within this rubric, the daughters must be oriented to serve the father, to adopt his vision and his outlook on life, rather than oriented toward learning from their mother. The patriarchal household is one where every member, from oldest to youngest, wife and children, must be oriented towards the father.

Given all this, it would appear that the teachings of Vision Forum and the Botkins essentially mandate father/daughter emotional incest. The passage where Genevieve discusses transferring her loyalties from her father to her new husband is particularly illustrative of this, and particularly damning. A daughter of Christian Patriarchy is to first serve as “wife in training” to her father, and then as wife to her husband.

I’m really not surprised the Botkin sisters aren’t married, given that their ideology almost seems to place more importance on men’s adult daughters than it does on men’s wives. As soon as the Botkin sisters marry and produce daughters, the usurpation of their roles will have begun.

In Part 3 I will turn to additional forms emotional incest takes, and in Part 4 I will discuss the pain emotional incest brings with it.

Red Town, Blue Town
When Marriage Looks Like the Only Escape
The Cold, Unforgiving World of Geoffrey Botkin
Why I Take My Kids to the UU Church
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Chris

    the devil would come around and say, ‘But what about what you want? What about what you think?’”


  • http://collegeatthirty.blogspot.com Heidi

    I’m not surprised they’re not married either…mostly because they’re probably a huge “witness” for daughters now, and if they get married, that witness will be lost. It’s a niche, but you can still hear the ‘ka-ching’ sound from it. And probably any money the girls make goes directly to their father so he can wisely oversee it all. For their own good.

    Also, I’ve read their website, and I think that they’re crazy even through the lense of Christian Patriarchy. Probably most men are like, “Danger! Danger!” when they look at the girls. Talk about giving away pieces of their heart. How would a guy ever fit into their lives?

    • Steve

      And who could possibly live up their father’s extremely high standards? And how would possibly want to marry them and be some kind of poster boy for the movement?

  • yulaffin

    You can also include the Duggar daughters, also known as the J-Slaves. Can’t see any of them being married off.

    • Judy L

      Well, with all those young boy children around to raise, the J-Slaves have a lot on their plate. I’m sure when the right son of a wealthy and powerful man in the CP community comes along, we’ll be seeing a J-Slave sold into marriage.

  • Bentley Owen

    That quote from the Bitch article is a such a perfect betrayal of what these “family” groups really mean when they talk about “selflessness”- it’s always been about women submitting to male authorities, rather than “selfishly” pursuing individualistic goals. The patriarchy culture is blunt about this belief, but watered down versions of it are apparent in more mainstream evangelical culture.

  • redwood

    This is disturbing, and emotional incest is a good description of it. I’m an American married to a Japanese woman and living in Japan. Our daughter just left home to attend university and we spent the past 18 years helping her become an independent person able to stand on her own two feet and who knows how to say “no” when appropriate, even to her parents (“no, I won’t come home every weekend!”). When I tell my wife about the kinds of things fundamental Christians do (I grew up as one myself, but not as bad as the Patriarchy), she can’t believe it. I left that all behind a long time ago and it’s quite pleasant (other than earthquakes here and there) to live in a country where about 1% of the population is Christian and the vast majority of people don’t follow any particular religion at all.

  • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

    The patriarchal household is one where every member, from oldest to youngest, wife and children, must be oriented towards the father. Given all this, it would appear that the teachings of Vision Forum and the Botkins essentially mandate father/daughter emotional incest.

    It also provides excellent cover for any guy who’s a bit of an abusive narcissist.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    Lest you think the boys escape unscathed … Botkin has a DVD set for fathers, explaining their manly conversational duties.

    Fathers need to begin speaking to their sons. But the conversation can’t be aimless or trivial. Fathers need to talk in manly and specific ways about the duties of Christian manhood.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    You’ve gotta love all the testimonials that basically go “I used to want to be prime minister/president/Supreme Leader of all Feminists but then I saw the light and decided to pursue the Godly path for women.” This seems to be a popular plot line and, really, it’s very ham-fisted story-telling. If people are going to cook their stories, couldn’t they at least be a little less obvious about it?

    I still definitely feel that this kind of emotional incest can easily provide cover for literal incest and, considering you tend to see sexual abuse anywhere you see people with absolute power over others (look at the Catholic Church pedophilia scandal), it probably does in some cases. At any rate, it makes it harder to tell when something really sinister IS actually going on, because it normalizes unhealthy interactions between fathers and daughters that would set the spidey senses of people outside the CP bubble tingling in a big way. So who can tell WHAT’S going on behind closed doors. It’s dangerous.

    How did your parents feel about the Botkins, Libby? From your past posts, it seems like you WERE your mother’s right arm and you were, after all, allowed to go to college. Did they ever talk about them?

  • seditiosus

    My question is: how can a woman who won’t stand on her own two feet be an effective helpmeet for her husband? Surely “clingy, ego stroking dependant” is a pretty weird definition of “helpmeet”?

    It seems like CP men simply want automata that bear children, cook meals and have no personality. But such an automaton would not be able to assist her husband in pursuing his various agendas and would actually be counterproductive, because she would not help him fix his mistakes. Not only is the concept screwed up, even the rationale behind it is screwed up.

    • http://thaliasmusingsnovels.com/ Amethyst

      It’s Echo and Narcissus.

      • Schaden Freud

        Probably. I find that very sad.

  • http://lijaka.com/blog lijakaca

    This is so dehumanizing – valuing one person’s thoughts and desires so completely over another’s just because of their gender. Like seditiousus, it makes me think all they want are robots – except they want all the human touches of family-raising (and of course baby-making) as well. Because I seriously doubt that the fathers of these families help out much with raising children before they’re at least of middle-school age.

  • Emma

    So basically, CP doesn’t want actual women. They just want programable fembots.

    It reminds me a bit of the blog manboobz (for those unfamiliar, it’s basically a blog that mocks internet misogyny). The blogger has quoted a lot of people on the internet yearning for the day when realistic female sexbots become available, so they can have all the joys of sleeping with hot women, without having to put up with annoying character traits like free will and independent needs/wants of their own. Search his blog for the term “robot” and you’ll find a bajillion posts referring to this.

    CP proponents are only different in that they want wifebots and mombots instead of just sexbots (and daughterbots I suppose, but those are just wifebots and mombots in training).

  • Red

    “I’m really not surprised the Botkin sisters aren’t married, given that their ideology almost seems to place more importance on men’s adult daughters than it does on men’s wives. As soon as the Botkin sisters marry and produce daughters, the usurpation of their roles will have begun.”

    Ah! You stole the words right out of my mouth!

    Also consider this angle. When they marry, they’ll have to trade their father’s vision for their husband’s vision. What if they marry a husband who ISN”T famous and influential, who doesn’t rely on them to be glamorous spokeswoman for a nation-wide organization? Their role in society will greatly decrease unless they marry someone exactly like their dad—but as you pointed out, even then, they would be done with all that stuff anyway because it would be time to have kids, and then those kids would eventually assume that role.

    Sick. Just sick.

    I do have a question. Can emotional incest be between fathers and sons as well? I have heard that Christian patriarchy also expects sons to work towards their father’s vision as well, until they get their own household.

    Also, can emotional incest exist even when the parents are getting adequate companionship from each other? Your definition said that emotional incest happens when a kid becomes a “replacement” for a true spouse…does that mean emotional incest can only happen in cases where the mom is tired, overworked, or otherwise a boring companion for the dad? Or can it happen even in households where the mom and dad are good companions? In that case, would it still be incest? Just trying to get my head around the definitions.

    Considering that moms aren’t mentioned much in Christian patriarchy, maybe dads simply lose interest in their spouses once their kids reach a certain age. In fact, I bet their daughters start to remind them of what their spouse was like 20 years ago….

    I’m going to cut that line of thinking off before I accidentally vomit in my mouth.

  • http://coachdonnafreeman.com Donna

    Gosh, this article and some of your other ones really disturb me and break my heart. Libby, you are a great writer. I am so sorry that you were raised by unhealthy religious fanatics, even though they must have done the best they could at the time. I raised myself Southern Baptist and never experienced anything but a healthy, happy, positive life from it. In fact, my faith saved me from my own childhood abuse. I had never heard of the CP or the other groups you mentioned. Their practices are so very sick. IMHO, anything approaching real Christianity is absolutely nothing like how you were raised. You are an amazing, courageous person to reveal your pain. I am sure that many people’s eyes have been opened to this type abuse as a result of your writing.
    Continued Success!

  • craig

    This article has caused me to rethink supporting Vision Forum. I haven’t been supporting them lately, but I plan to renew my support. Thank you to the author for showing me the error of my ways.

    I couldn’t stomach reading the entire article once I realized that the purpose was not to offer constructive criticism but to attack one way of life. I guess I should have been aware of this as they used the loaded word “incest” in their title, but hey, it was early, and I hadn’t been caffeinated up yet.

    The author kindly points out how difficult it must be for young women to simply go from serving their father to serving their husband upon marriage. I find it odd that the author does not address the similar emotional hangup a working woman must have when she changes jobs – I mean how can she possibly change alliances so quickly? (sarcasm) Now who’s being sexist?

    Furthermore she harpoons the idea of women skipping college as allegedly supported by member of the Botkin family. Having received the benefits (cough) of a secular university I think there is much to argue regarding the down side of a college education these days. Including: staggering tuition costs, ridiculous required curriculum, and the fact that many are reporting now that graduates can’t find work. Further, many “follow their dreams” to a major that is a financial road to nowhere. In the end, an argument could easily made the college isn’t so much a way for you to advance, but for college presidents to rob you blind. Still, some employers like the degree, so, if you can choose a degree that can pay your tuition loan interest, and go to a school that you can respect, it may be a wise investment for some. Unfortunately, virtually no one approaches schooling as an investment, but rather something we must do until we enter the real world.

    Having read enough for me to render the rest of the article not only unprofitable but unfair and juvenile I have nothing further to comment on.