For those of you who clicked on this article out of pure shock that someone would defend an unfaithful husband and child molester, let’s get something straight here: I’m in no way saying that Josh Duggar’s actions were correct or justifiable. Cheating on your wife is wrong. Molesting and sexually abusing your sisters is wrong.
What I am saying is that the odds of Josh Duggar ever having a normal relationship with sex and his sexuality were tremendously stacked against him.
And I’m willing to bet that the other 18 kids and counting have some similar skeletons in their closet as a direct result from being raised in an environment where healthy sexual impulses are shamed, buried and forbidden.
Caveat: I’m no doctor here, just a writer with an opinion that I feel strongly about. So I enlisted a few psychologists and experts in this field to speak to what really happens to a person’s psyche when they grow up in this type of environment.
Dr. John Mayer, a psychologist and leading youth care expert, verifies that controlling an individual’s psychosexual development is a recipe for disaster.
“Sexual repression is a form of control,” Dr. Mayer says, “and controlling an individual’s psychosexual development inevitably leads to dysfunction. Conservative groups think that control and restriction leads to prevention, but in fact it leads to sublimation and displacement — two critically important psychological actions that lead to dysfunction.”
Psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish agrees. “Growing up in a sexually suppressed or repressed environment often facilitates no outlet for healthy sexual impulses. These impulses do not get talked about openly, nor do they have anywhere healthy to go, so they go underground. Perversions may develop and secretive behaviors begin pathological patterns.”
According to psychologist Dr. Chris Donaghue, Josh never had a chance thanks to his family’s “collective denial of sexuality” and their “lack of allowance for an understanding of how to meet emergent sexuality.”
Donaghue says, “Children are sexual, and even masturbate in-utero and from birth. The role of parenthood is about teaching children all life skills, not just those that don’t scare them.”
Not only were these healthy sexual urges repressed, but as Carole Lieberman, M.D. points out, the Duggars also sent their children confusing, hypocritical messages about their sexuality.
“On the one hand, sexuality was repressed in terms of being taught sex was forbidden, but all the while [Josh’s] parents were having sex like bunnies and flaunting their procreation. This was extremely confusing for Josh, especially as his teen hormones began to rage. There is no excuse for his having molested his sisters and at least one other girl, but the origin of his disturbed behavior lies with his parents.”
So, what happens once an individual who’s only known sexual repression under his parent’s roof finally gets out of dodge?
As Dr. Mayer puts it, “When a person is unable to accomplish the necessary developmental task of sexual exploration, they have to find a way to do so away from the people who are controlling it.”
Which, in Josh’s case, meant a lot of porn and an account on Ashley Madison.
Not the right way to go about it, of course, but when the period of your life that’s supposed to be spent exploring your sexuality is suppressed by escorted dates and side hugs only — and the only way out of that harmful environment is to marry someone — it becomes a pretty tricky situation to navigate.
Sure, there were plenty of cheaters found out in the Ashley Madison leak that didn’t grow up the way Josh did, but Dr. Mayer confirms that Josh’s family situation most definitely contributed to this behavior.
“Josh’s upbringing and blocked psychosexual development made him less able to control his urges,” Dr. Mayer says. “Once people like Josh cross these boundaries, they have an impossible task of establishing normal boundaries again. The pull is so strong.”
Had 14-year-old Josh Duggar been brought to Dr. Fran Walfish after molesting his sisters, she says the best course of action would’ve been to shore up the boundaries between Josh and his siblings, as well as a compassionate exploration of the possible traumas that Josh may have been a victim of.
“Most perpetrators were originally victims first. Often, they don’t tell anyone about the crimes committed against them and repeat the pattern by finding innocent prey to repeat the acts upon,” Walfish says.
But the biggest question: Is there any hope for Josh now?
“It’s possible to help an individual like Josh with the right treatment but sadly, the statistics show that treatment efforts with individuals who molest and have sexual perversions is low — less than 10 percent,” according to Dr. Mayer.
The fact that sexual repression during childhood and adolescence causes harm to an individual later on in life is nothing new. Freud made these claims back in the 20th century, and modern day psychologists have found this to be true time and time again.
What’s more alarming to me than Josh’s infidelity and molestation is the fact that the Duggars are continuing to raise their children in this dangerous and unhealthy way, which breeds sexual perversion and inevitably ends up hurting not only their children, but their children’s victims.
Like Anna Duggar, who incorrectly blames herself for her husband’s affairs, or Jessa and Jill, who have surely sustained lasting psychological effects of Josh’s molestation, they’re the real victims.
Of course, those issues will never be dealt with correctly because the Duggar way of dealing with things like molestation is to bring their kids to religious counseling.
But to cast blame on Josh Duggar without looking to his parents as the source of this problem would be irresponsible.
The fact that the Duggars are being allowed to continue to harm their children in this way should be more of a concern than the effort that’s gone into publicly shaming Josh on the internet. How many more of these Duggar family stories will have to come to light before something is done to help the remaining 18 kids and counting?