The stars' of 19 Kids and Counting's hard line views on abstinence have always been something of a spectacle; the family forbids not just sex, but even kissing or hugging before marriage. The children were all homeschooled, so without the benefits of a public school health class, one wonders, do the Duggars teach their kids about sex at all? Unfortunately, the family's views on the subject appear to have left their children painfully uneducated and naive about a very normal part of life.
Once a Duggar child is married, they're expected to have sex — and plenty of it. As Michelle described on her blog, she always shares this advice from her "dear friend Gala" with newly married women: "Be available, and not just available, but be joyfully available for him. Smile and be willing to say, 'Yes, sweetie I am here for you,' no matter what, even though you may be exhausted and big pregnant and you may not feel like he feels. 'I'm still here for you and I'm going to meet that need because I know it’s a need for you.'" Being always-on-call in the boudoir may seem like a bummer, but Michelle assured readers that it's a fair trade-off; in return, Jim Bob listens to her when she talks. So sweet!
Skipping over the sex talk isn't a uniquely Duggar thing, though; it's actually part of the ultra-religious Advanced Training Institute homeschooling curriculum that they use, created by disgraced pastor Bill Gothard, who resigned in 2014 after dozens of women came forward with sexual harrasment and abuse allegations against him. At that time, Gothard released a statement on his website, which has since been deleted. The following excerpt was reported by Christianity Today:
My actions of holding of hands, hugs, and touching of feet or hair with young ladies crossed the boundaries of discretion and were wrong. They demonstrated a double-standard and violated a trust. Because of the claims about me I do want to state that I have never kissed a girl nor have I touched a girl immorally or with sexual intent.
Acccording to ATI alumni John Cornish, "Sex was not something that was really talked about in the curriculum. In fact, was kind of always this awkward taboo subject." Because of this, Cornish explained on CNN, "it kind of created this infatuation with sex by the sheer fact that it was completely ignored and left out."
Cornish is the co-founder of Recovering Grace, an online support resource for those "impacted" by ATI, and its parent organization, the Institute in Basic Life Principles. Scans of ATI curriculum shared on the site shed some light on Gothard's views. "Teaching children the details of a sexual relationship on the basis that this will satisfy their curiosity is a violation of sex and education. Sex education courses to children in public schools are actually increasing their curiosity and stirring up a desire for it," reads one passage of A Comprehensive Course in Effective Counseling. Even the most basic education is discouraged: "There is wisdom in protecting children from the details of immorality and perversion and only having them learn about the marriage relationship when they are ready for it. In the meantime it is vital to teach children personal purity and self-control and how to recognize and avoid evil influences."
ATI also teaches victim-blaming for sexual assault and abuse victims, advising families with a son who's molested a younger sister to examine "What factors in the home contributed to immodesty and temptation?" and "What teaching could have been given to each child to resist evil?" There's some blame left over for the parents in one case study referenced in the ATI literature. The mother failed to recognize her son's laziness as a risk factor for pedophilia, and, not realizing that male sexuality is "visual," had made the grave mistake of asking her son to babysit his siblings and change their diapers.
The closest ATI ever gets to any sort of clinical discussion of sex and sexuality is so disturbing, though, you'll wish they stayed quiet on the subject, after all. Here's a passage obtained by Gawker:
Doctors have discovered that the seed of the man is an alien substance to the woman. It triggered responses similar to those of an "allergic" reaction. A woman who has a husband is able to develop "immunity" to this reaction; however, a promiscuous woman's immune system becomes confused and unable to distinguish alien substances. This confusion is a key to the development of cancer.
So there you have it. The Duggars are taught little to nothing about sex, and what they are taught is dead wrong. Let's just hope that as they grow up and go out into the world, they're educating themselves, before it's too late.