Josh Duggar, fundie sex rules and the importance of enthusiastic consent

In the wake of the Ashley Madison leak, word of Josh Duggar’s online activities has reached the wider community.

Beyond questions of the ethical and moral issues of the leak and the site itself, I wanted to take a look at Josh’s activities and  what might be behind them.

In fundamentalist Christian circles, sex is bad. Sex outside of marriage: bad. Sex inside of marriage for purposes other than procreation: bad. Not only is sex before marriage completely verboten, so too is any kind of intimate contact – kissing, holding hands, front hugs. These views are enforced with a combination of rules, shaming and threats (THE DEVIL! THE DEVIL!).

According to news reports, Josh paid almost $US1000 in his quest for “conventional sex, experimenting with sex toys, one-night stands, sharing fantasies, sex talk”.

The thing is, for the most part, these are things that all have a role in a healthy sexual relationship. You may not get a one night stand with your long time partner, but all the rest can easily be incorporated into a loving partnership.

So why did Josh feel he had to go onto a cheating site to find partners for sexual experimentation, sharing fantasies and sexy talk?

The problem arises from the fundamentalist view of sex, not just outside marriage, but within it too. In this kind of repressive environment, sex is something that men desire and women submit to and endure. It is not something to be enjoyed, particularly by the female party (and, of course, heterosexual sex is the only kind allowed).

In Diary of an Autodidact‘s blog series about modesty culture, the writer, a lawyer with a background in fundamentalism, argues that there is no such thing as rape in the fundamentalist dialogue, because there is no expectation that women will ever give true, enthusiastic consent. It’s a disturbing concept.

Within fundamentalist culture, people entering into a relationship have no opportunity to find out if they are sexually compatible prior to marrying, but even after marriage they are not encouraged to find compatibility and joy in sex with each other.

People miss out on so much about sex if they do not allow themselves to enjoy and experiment with it. Enthusiastic consent isn’t some feminist concept designed to strip the fun away for men, no, it is something of incredible beauty which opens up all parties involved to a much greater connection and more pleasure than can be experienced under any other circumstances.

When you find that depth within your relationship, it allows for greater communication, not just of things relating to sex but in all areas. The ability to explore sex together, in a safe and loving environment, is so important and so valuable in any relationship.

Looking at this incident in isolation*, if there had been more opportunity for a healthy attitude towards sex and sexuality, for both boys and girls, then Josh would have been able to find what he was looking for within his marriage, instead of believing that natural, healthy sexual expression was something to be ashamed of and hide away from his wife.

While I do not expect the Duggars to change any time soon, I hope that other families within fundamentalist circles might begin to question the efficacy of fundie sex education (or lack thereof) and its teachings in general.

* While the former revelations of Josh’s abuse of his sisters and another young girl could well be linked to this same core issue of the demonisation of sex, this is not something I feel even close to qualified to discuss, given the serious nature of the issue. I highly recommend you read through this post, also from Diary of an Autodidact, for some really interesting insights into the world of fundamentalism and sex.

He has also written on the Josh Duggar Ashley Madison scandal here, which is well worth a read.