My Ex Was Raised Like Josh Duggar —​ And They Turned Out The Same

Todd's parents made sure he never saw or heard anything that might provoke a sexual thought.

Josh Duggar

Enough time has passed since we found out that Josh Duggar isn't only a child molester but also an inveterate cheater that our titillation and horror should've faded. 

But it isn't time to stop talking about Josh Duggar yet. We can't stop talking about him until we've made it perfectly clear that this isn't really about him.

It's about an entire system  a way of thinking about the world and of raising children  that's doing incalculable harm, not only to people like Anna Duggar and the Duggar sisters, but also to guys like Josh.


My first husband, Todd, was raised in the same religious group: Independent Baptists. Like the Duggars, Todd's parents were early followers of the teachings of Bill Gothard when it came to child rearing. The only real difference is that Todd's family didn't embrace the Quiverfull movement.

The most worrying way in which Todd's parents were just like the Duggars was how they tried to control their children's sexuality from a very early age. They made much of "modesty" and made sure Todd never saw or heard anything that might provoke a sexual thought.

When Todd was about 10 or 11, his father started having devotions with him in his room every night. During that time of father-son bonding, his father would read to him about sexual purity from Christian books.


His father made it very clear to Todd that every thought about sex or a naked woman was a grave sin.

Of course, people can't stop themselves from having random thoughts about sex but any sexual thought held for more than three seconds was considered an act of rebellion against God.

Todd's father taught him the basics of male anatomy and warned him to expect erections as he aged. In the books he read with his father and the incredibly awkward nightly talks that they had, Todd learned that erections were an early warning sign he was losing a battle to his "flesh," the part of him that was at war against God.

To make it easier for Todd to keep pure thoughts, his parents purged their home of every "worldly magazine" and every form of media that had even the most inoffensive references to women's bodies.


When Todd's natural curiosity drove him to the Sears and JCPenney catalogs, his mother cut out the sections related to bras and underwear, nightwear and exercise or dance clothes.

As Todd aged, his parent's intrusions into his sexuality escalated. His mother began searching his room and his laundry for washcloths or pieces of Todd's clothing that "had a funny smell."

In other words, she ransacked her son's room on a regular basis looking for any jerk-socks. Each time she found one, she'd send Todd's father in to "call him into account," and to pray with him for God's mercy and forgiveness.

This led to regular "accountability" sessions, much like what the Duggars talk about in heavily-coded language. These were times when Todd was expected to confess to his father every sexual thought and deed.


I can't begin to describe how much it can screw a guy up when every sexual thought is a great sin, every erection is transgression, and every orgasm is a defeat in the battle for your soul.

By the time Todd was 13, he was at a breaking point. He couldn't fight against all his physical and psychological urges every day.

Late one night, in a fit of sexual frustration, he made a decision  he expected would change his eternal destiny. He offered his soul to the Devil in exchange for a naked woman showing up in his room right then.

Todd's childish Faustian bargain should be laughable but I've come to believe that something inside of Todd's psyche or soul really did change that night.


Without the knowledge of any other form of sexual integrity, he abandoned himself to any and all sexual deviance he fancied. It began his life of sexual sneakiness and criminal behavior.

Todd went on to molest his sister, just as Josh molested his. The age difference between Todd and his sister was such that there's no way it could be consensual.

In addition, there were overt elements of non-consent in the individual instances that Todd told me about. From what Todd told me  and from what I've heard of Josh's offenses  their behavior and motivations were very similar.

Like Josh, Todd became enamored with pornography as soon as he was away from his parents. Since there was no online cache of porn readily available then, my ex stored his ever-growing stash of pornography at a storage locker near the Bible College we both attended.


He spent hours in that dark, dank storage shed masturbating and then he spent a nearly equal amount of time at the altar trying to pray away his guilt.

Todd wasn't any better at staying faithful in marriage than Josh has been. Todd and I were married for less than three months when he had his first of many affairs.

There's even a creepy resemblance between the kinds of things that Josh advertised for on Ashley Madison and the things I later discovered Todd had wanted from his extramarital partners.

We hadn't been married long when I discovered that Todd was also a panty thief. Any time he was in the house of a woman, even if she was my friend, he would find a reason to separate himself from the group, sneak into the woman's laundry or dresser, and steal her panties.


Todd would tearfully confess when I showed him evidence of his thievery or infidelity. And then he would beg my forgiveness. But that left me feeling like the cop in our marriage, constantly watching him and following him when excused himself at a friend's house.

Right after our first child was born, his sister came to stay with us for a week. One night when I woke to feed our daughter, I found that Todd wasn't in our bed.

With a mounting sense of dread, I went in search of him. I found him in the garage, masturbating while sniffing his sister's panties. That night, in the long conversation that followed, I learned about his sexual abuse of his sister for the first time.

I decided that since Todd's sister was still just 17, I was obligated to tell her mother. I was completely unprepared for my mother-in-law's response.


She denied it outright at first, minimized when that wouldn't fly, and then talked about casting such things into a "sea of forgetfulness."

Somehow, Todd's mother got me to believe that what Todd had done to his sister was "no big deal." And then, with manipulative skills worthy of Machiavelli himself, she convinced me the real problem was that I wasn't being a good enough wife.

She went so far as to suggest that the reason I'd found my husband in the garage jerking off with his sister's panties was because I'd opened his heart to evil by allowing him to shower with our infant daughter.

She speculated that the sight of our two-month-old daughter's naked body was what had caused Todd to "backslide."


Despite the similarities between my ex-husband and Josh Duggar, I can't pretend to understand fully what's going on with Josh. But I can tell you that I've seen this pattern before.

It starts with parents who control their children to the point where they won't allow them even the most private thoughts and feelings. They make their child's sexuality their business and they set about exterminating it like a plague of rats.

And it ends with a mother of small children feeling deeply ashamed of her husband's sexual behavior and desperate to keep him from re-offending.

It seems almost as if these boys who have their sexuality controlled so tightly grow up to be men who are both terrified and mesmerized by their own sexuality. They behave so egregiously sexually that they force their wives to leave them or to try to control their sexuality, just as their parents did.


And I know this: Something fundamental to healthy, consensual sexual relationships breaks when children are raised like Todd, Josh, and the other Duggar children. If they cannot succeed in making themselves completely sexually dormant, they feel they've sold their soul for a few minutes of sexual gratification.

And their self-perception as a person who no longer has any sexual integrity causes them to act without regard for consent, let alone another's heart.

The worst thing that could happen is if we stopped talking about Josh Duggar before we learned something, before we took a long hard look at the system that created him and other guys like my ex-husband.

And then, we need to take a long and hard look at how much influence we want that system to have in our society and in our politics.