I don’t watch TLC’s show, 19 Kids and Counting, because I have no interest in the lives of an uber-religious family with an excessive number of children. In fact, I didn’t even know the show existed until scandal erupted surrounding the oldest child in the Duggar family, Josh Duggar.
A tabloid recently leaked that Josh Duggar molested several unidentified underage girls when he was 14 and America has lost its sh*t as it is prone to do over all scandals both important and unimportant.
This scandal is unimportant and I’ll tell you why, though I’m sure there are those who won’t like what I have to say on this issue. Whether we like it or not, whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not, if we insist that men of breeding age are pedophiles for being attracted to girls (or boys) of breeding age, then all men are pedophiles. Any child who has reached puberty is of breeding age.
Anyone who thinks we are above the laws of nature because we are human is mistaken. We are nearly universally programmed to breed with those who are capable of breeding, and in the past, before modern medicine and an increased lifespan that was almost unheard of 100 years ago, those who bred earlier were more likely to produce offspring than those who waited since the threat of death was at every turn.
Romeo and Juliet were 13. Their story is fictional but most people would be hard-pressed to declare Romeo a pedophile but that’s what he was according to our modern definition of the term. And so was Juliet but we rarely think of young girls as being pedophiles.
Perhaps, because the affair was consensual people don’t view it as repugnant but what if it were consensual and Romeo were 23? People now would say it was disgusting and vile and lock Romeo in prison for eternity for his filthy desires and his manipulation of an innocent into his bed. But until very recently in human history, girls wed and bred at much younger ages to much older men than they do now, in westernized countries at least. They are still wed and bred at early ages in impoverished countries.
I am not promoting adult men sleeping with girls because it is instinctual for men to want to do so. We no longer live in times where babies must be foist upon young girls to ensure the survival of the species and we should protect all of our children from those who would take advantage of their innocence and inexperience. But to contend that a pedophile (and by that I mean someone attracted to children of breeding age) is a freak of nature is a denial of nature itself.
Now, let’s examine the Josh Duggar scandal. He was a minor at the time of his crimes. His actions were those of a child. He wasn’t 17. He was 14. I don’t know about anyone else but I was considered mature for my age but even at 14, I was an idiot. Josh Duggar, on the other hand, was raised in a very strict religious family where he was likely told all kinds of nonsense about how filthy sex was and that it was a sin to even think about it even though his parents were obviously f*cking like rabbits. He was probably forbidden to masturbate and there’s no way he could do it on the sly and not get caught in a household of that size.
So there was Josh Duggar, 14, sexually-repressed and no doubt ashamed of the thoughts and feelings that his raging hormones tormented him with. I know a lot about shame and one of the major consequences of shame is that it can compel us to do the very things that will cause us the most shame. This can lead to a shame cycle in which we feel constantly compelled to do what will cause us shame which leads to more shame and more compulsive behavior.
I was not a pedophile but I was a kleptomaniac for about 9 months when I was 7 years old. I went to a school for wealthy children and my parents couldn’t afford to buy me all the trinkets that my classmates had and I found myself wanting what they had and, due to other painful circumstances in my life for which I could find no relief, the yearning became so overwhelming that I stole something from one of my friends which started the cycle of shame and compulsion.
I would obsess about an object, even dream about it at night until I stole it, and once I stole it, I would be overcome with shame. I was so ashamed that I never played with my ill-gotten goods. I just hid them in a drawer in my desk. To overcome my shame, I sought out another object to soothe the pain of my shame but that only led to more shame. It was only after I confessed to my father after the school year was over and he forgave me that I was able to forgive myself. That was not the last time I craved one of my classmate’s belongings but in forgiving myself, I was able to see that it was a cycle I had the power to break and found the strength to end it. I never stole again.
I can easily see a sexually-repressed, shame-filled boy of 14 doing the same thing I did but the thing he coveted was sensual stimulation rather than a Hello Kitty pencil box and items of a similar ilk. The story is that he “molested some young girls”. We don’t know who they are, what their ages were at the time, or the extent of his sexual abuse. “Young girls” would have likely been close to Josh’s age. Maybe even prepubescent but given Josh’s likely state, he would have gravitated toward anything female. His sisters would be the easiest targets but there is no evidence to suggest they were the victims.
Even if they were, it doesn’t change anything in my mind. The fact that some of the things I wanted back in second grade belonged to my best friend didn’t change the fact that my compulsion to possess them overshadowed my care for her. I doubt the fact that a girl who could provide some sort of sexual gratification happened to be related to him would deter Josh if he were compelled to act on his impulses.
Whoever the victims were, they deserved better than what they got and for everyone’s sake, I hope the damage was reparable. But if Josh has a compassionate bone in his body, I can assure you, he suffered too, especially if the girls were his sisters.
That isn’t to say I don’t think Josh shouldn’t have been legally accountable for what he did. He should have been but he should also have been dealt with leniently given his age. However, he still owes a debt to society and he is now more equipped to pay it, not by being imprisoned, but by being a man who cares about preventing the kind of harm he caused to his victims and using his power and influence to do so. I hope he chooses to be that man.
I don’t like the system of values under which Josh was raised and I doubt his family would like the values I have freely chosen for myself. But I can have compassion for both Josh and his victims and forgive him. I wish more people would be quicker to ask why and seek to forgive than to assume and condemn. The world would be a better place and so would my news feeds.