Good gracious, I just came upon a Babble article titled Jessa Duggar Will Have a Chaste Courtship—And My Kids Will, Too. With all due respect, author Kacy Faulconer has no idea whether or not her children will have “chaste courtships.” My parents said their children would have chaste courtships too, and guess what? I didn’t! Kacy can give her children whatever advice she chooses, but ultimately, once they’re adults, she cannot control their choices.
I talk a lot here on the blog about the advice I give my children, or will give them as I grow, but I would never assert that I know what they will choose themselves when they grow up. I would never write a post titled “I’m an Atheist and Someday My Children Will Be Too.” I wouldn’t do that both because I have no way of knowing what my children’s religious beliefs will be when they grow up (my daughter Sally is actually currently a theist by her own declaration) and also because I want their choices to be theirs. This isn’t something I can—or would—decide for them.
Oh I know! Click bait! But seriously, that shouldn’t be an excuse. And besides, the title isn’t the only problem with Kacy’s post. I’m also bothered by the extreme gender essentialism.
In a culture where the experimental rowdiness of Girls seems like the norm, this chaste courtship business sounds like something from the dark ages. But it’s not.
I had a chaste courtship. Well, maybe there was a bit more hugging and kissing than Jessa and Ben have decided to pursue, but it was chaste. And I expect this of my kids. I’m not repressing them. I’m freeing them. I have sons who need to learn restraint and respect. I have daughters who will be empowered by abstinence because they can simply sidestep the issues, pressures, problems, and pitfalls of promiscuity.
Does abstinence teach restraint and respect to sons, but not to daughters? Does promiscuity create issues, pressures, problems, and pitfalls for daughters but not for sons? This dichotomy is a serious problem.
Look, individuals of each gender can pressure a partner into having sex. The best way to avoid that is not to tell both parties not to have sex but rather to teach both parties to value consent and to leave a relationship that is not healthy. It is true that the negative consequences of unsafe sex affect women more strongly than they do men—women more easily contract STDs and it is women who can become pregnant—but that does not mean they do not also affect men. Further, the best way to avoid these consequences is to teach both genders about the importance of safe sex. Telling them to be abstinent, in contrast, makes them less likely to practice safe sex when they do eventually have sex.
It strikes me, though, that conservatives in general are very talented at turning words’ meanings upside down. My dad once said that freedom meant doing whatever God said, as laid down in the Bible. Last I checked, the dictionary definition of freedom was “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.” So no, sorry, expecting your kids not to have sex until marriage is not “freeing” them. It’s rather the opposite.
I guess I’m just tired of parents trying to make their children’s sexual choices for them. I’ve been there, and it is incredibly unpleasant. For the last few months of my engagement, before I married Sean, I very pointedly avoided my mother because I was afraid she was going to ask, again, if we were having sex. I was a full blown adult at this time, and had been for several years. I was tired of having to mentally parse what did and did not count as “sex” to my mother, tired of trying to keep a straight face, tired of worrying that she would start asking detailed questions. I was also tired of her assertion that she could tell by looking at a couple whether they were having premarital sex. So I just stayed away, completely. Is this really what Kacy wants for her children?
For another response to Kacy’s piece, see Eve Vawter’s I Would Rather My Kids F Like (Responsible) Bunnies Than Have A ‘Chaste Courtship’ Like The Duggars. For more on Jessa Duggar, see I Once Courted Too and Jessa Duggar’s Happily Ever After.