Josh Duggar: How Purity Culture Created His Downfall

Josh Duggar: How Purity Culture Created His Downfall August 20, 2015

Image by Suzanne Titkemeyer
Image by Suzanne Titkemeyer

by Suzanne Titkemeyer

Late yesterday afternoon the news broke that it appears that Josh Duggar has had an account with the notorious website Ashley Madison. This account was active during the last two years he was employed by the Family Research Council and was only canceled when the news came out about his sexual molestation of his sisters. This is on the heels of all the other news that has come forward in the last four months about the sexual proclivities of Josh Duggar.

Recent revelations of misbehavior by Josh Duggar include the fact that he’s molested four of his sisters and a babysitter when he was a young teen. Jim Holt, Arkansas politician, has claimed that Josh accessed pornography at the campaign headquarters. There have been rumors about Josh’s visits to strip clubs in Arkansas and Washington D.C.

Add in this latest news of two paid Ashley Madison accounts and an OkCupid account and it paints a picture of a man who is deeply troubled by sex. Troubled enough that he is intensely focused on sex, sexuality and sexual exploration. But how could he not be obsessed with sex considering he has been raised with the rape culture/purity culture model in his fundamentalist quiverfull family? That type of religion creates harmful ideas about sexuality.

For those of you not familiar with Ashley Madison let me explain it. It’s a website that people pay to join. The main purpose is to let people who have the desire to cheat on their spouses or significant others to find other like-minded individuals for secret infidelity. Until the recent hack of the website it was considered a fairly safe and discreet way to find the sex you crave that your spouse doesn’t provide. You could request certain activities with no judgment.

This morning Josh posted this mea culpa on his mother Michelle Duggar’s blog:

“I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife.
I am so ashamed of the double life that I have been living and am grieved for the hurt, pain and disgrace my sin has caused my wife and family, and most of all Jesus and all those who profess faith in Him.
I brought hurt and a reproach to my family, close friends and the fans of our show with my actions that happened when I was 14-15 years old, and now I have re-broken their trust.
The last few years, while publicly stating I was fighting against immorality in our country, I was hiding my own personal failings.
As I am learning the hard way, we have the freedom to choose to our actions, but we do not get to choose our consequences. I deeply regret all hurt I have caused so many by being such a bad example.
I humbly ask for your forgiveness. Please pray for my precious wife Anna and our family during this time.
Josh Duggar”

Since seeing a pattern emerging out of the wreckage of Josh Duggar’s life I’ve almost started to feel sorry for him. His scandals merely illustrate the troubling reality of what happens when a set of extra Biblical religious beliefs repress normal human sexuality. Modesty culture hurts men too.

In his statement Josh is blaming what happened on pornography, which is not the entire truth. It’s the lifestyle his family lives, it is the poisonous belief system that women are solely responsible to keep men from lusting, it’s the teachings that sex is only for marriage and the reproduction of children, it’s his disgraceful parents groping and kissing each other in front of all the kids like hormone-addled teenagers while pushing the idea of all sexual thoughts, expressions or actions outside of the marriage bed are sin. What has led to his downfall is the natural result of a religion that treats sex like a disease.

How many times on the Duggar television show ’19 Kids & Counting’ have we witnessed the Duggar girls spotting a female dressed in something ‘immodest’ by Duggar standards and uttering the word, “Nike” so that the boys know to look at their shoes? This is part of what the Quiverfull Fundamentalist movement does, assume that men cannot operate sexual self control in the presence of naked flesh. They reduce men to an animal nature.

In real life you’re going to see people dressed in all sorts of ways you might find immodest, but you learn to advert your eyes or look if you must, without a cultural enforcer determining for you if the person is wearing immodest clothing. You learn to deal with the clothing of others without it causing you extreme lust.

In a culture that teaches all sexual thought is a sin, not something we are biologically hard-wired to do starting at puberty, there’s not only a heavy burden of guilt, but there’s usually a lack of real knowledge that leads to a curiosity about sex. If even thinking about sex is a sin it’s not likely that you’ll be able to ask questions and receive legitimate satisfying answers, so you repress, you sneak around trying to get the information. The more it’s forbidden, the more it becomes the topic that fills your mind, crowding out other thoughts.

It’s no secret that as much as two-thirds of all Christian men look at porn at least once a month according to statistics. Some statistics show that the heaviest internet pornography usage occurs in areas with a high concentration of fundamentalist religion. Why? Because it is forbidden.

The lack of any and all healthy sexual outlets, lack of access to information and constantly being told that anything involving sex is a sin is pushed in fundamentalism as the key to keeping your children pure and virginal until their wedding day. But it also creates men who are sexually weak. It creates guys like Von Ohlman and Biblical Gender Roles who spend all their time obsessing over how women owe them sex upon demand. It drives guys to internet pornography and a self-loathing cycle of porn and masturbation. The low-hanging forbidden fruit of sexuality becomes an obsession where it is vilified and banned.

Even the sexual acts Josh Duggar requested at both Ashley Madison and on his OkCupid profiles show a man with a very normal unkinky vanilla tastes. Showing that his unmet curiosity and sexual needs were the direct result of religious sexual repression.

All this means to my mind that perhaps Josh Duggar didn’t have as much control of his mind and his actions as he thought he did. He’s a victim of his parents cult beliefs as much as anyone could be`. He needs help to develop healthy sexual boundaries and behaviors, but isn’t likely to get it in a high pressure fundamentalist Christian cult.

In typical fundamentalist good old rape culture and purity culture beliefs it is likely we’re going to see the religious cultural enforcers come down hard on poor Anna Duggar, blame her for her husband’s straying from the marriage. That’s another false belief in fundamentalism, that a man’s proclivity for pornography and infidelity is always the fault of the wife. But this is clearly not Anna’s fault at all. His obsessions go way back before their marriage, no matter how a Debi Pearl or Nancy Campbell would spin it as her failure. I am praying that Anna has the strength to survive the coming blame shifting. She did nothing to deserve any of this. My heart breaks for Anna right now, Anna and those children.


Suzanne Titkemeyer is the admin of NLQ and also the wife of a man who had sense enough to recognize their church as a cult before dragging her out. She is a crazy old cat lady keeps busy with her grown children, her rescue animals, foster care animals and her love of all things art. Contrary to Fundy-Belief she’s usually smiling, laughing or smirking while swilling diet coke and dispensing sarcasm. She blogs at Every Breaking Wave and True Love Doesn’t Rape


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