Monday, May 3, 2021

Josh Duggar Redux: Modesty/Purity Culture Creates Victims along with Predators


Time has flown. I wrote about Josh Duggar back in 2015, and that post went viral in a way no other post of mine ever has. (Which is fine - I’m not interested in being a celebrity, and I mostly want to write about books and hiking and things.) 


In that post, written a few months before Josh Duggar ended up caught in the Ashley Madison leak, before he got sued for assault by a porn star he admitted to sleeping with, and certainly before his recent arrest on child pornography charges, I pointed out the ways that Christian Fundamentalism created predators and guaranteed sexually dysfunctional males. 


Time has now shown that Josh Duggar is indeed a sexual predator, and apparently a true pedophile, attracted to prepubescent children. (The material he possessed allegedly depicted the sexual abuse of children under age 11, which is pedophile territory.) Presumably we can all agree that if true, he has no business being anywhere around children ever again. (Lawyer hedging here, as he has been charged, not convicted, at this point.) 


I decided to revisit this topic in light of recent events, in part because my understanding of just how incredibly damaging Modesty Culture and Purity Culture are to children has grown over the last six years. 


I also wanted to look at the issue of why Josh’s wife Anna is up to six children and one on the way with Josh, and was unwilling to leave him despite his apparently serial adultery. Anna grew up in the same subculture, and was thus fed the same pernicious ideas. 


I already wrote a pretty long series on Modesty Culture, but I wanted to address the underlying message that I believe is common to both Modesty Culture and Purity Culture. (Which share a lot, but are not identical. Not every Purity Culture advocate is obsessed with clothing, for example.) The underlying message is directed at women in general, but in Fundie groups, it is targeted specifically at young girls, and is - I believe - grooming them for a lifetime of abuse. And that is intentional. 


It is also, in my opinion, why Anna stayed for more abuse by a predator. 


Here is the message that is taught to young girls:


You do not own yourself or your body. 


Women do not own themselves. You do not own your body. You do not own your reproductive organs. You do not own your sexuality. You do not exist for your own benefit. You do not own your own dreams. Your desires are not relevant - they are from the Devil. Your safety, comfort, and happiness do not matter, because they do not belong to you. 


Rather, women were created to serve males, to pleasure males, to assist males in fulfilling their dreams. Women exist to satisfy male sexual desire, to perpetuate male genes through reproduction, to devote their lives to caring for children and males, to be of service in whatever way males believe they should. 


This is the fundamental message of Modesty and Purity Culture, and “Biblical” Manhood and Womanhood. 


Or, as Dorothy Sayers and Simone de Beauvoir might put it, women are not fully human, do not exist as an end unto themselves, but exist only as they are seen in relation to males. 


Let’s look at how the message is conveyed to young girls (and the young boys who see it happening.)



1. Modesty Culture teaches girls that their bodies do not belong to them but may be freely controlled by others. 


Girls learn early on that their bodies are different. That there is something dangerous about them, requiring that they be kept covered up. They also learn that everyone seems to feel entitled to comment on their looks and clothing, and express disapproval for anything from wearing something “too skimpy” to wearing something “like a boy.” 


This is different from the sort of stuff boys have as requirements. “No Shoes No Shirt No Service “ was probably an anti-Hippie thing, but never had a sexual component. Business suit requirements are about projecting wealth and status. (Kind of a leftover from the Sumptuary Laws, which is an interesting discussion in itself.) 


No, Modesty Culture gives males of nearly any age (and adult females) the right to pass judgment on female bodies, and insist that their opinions, feelings, or horniess gives them the right to control the bodies of other (usually younger) females. 


This is instilled from a very young age. And it is calculated to teach young girls that they are not in control of their bodies - because those bodies ultimately belong to other people. 

2. Modesty Culture teaches girls that their bodies are inherently shameful.


Modesty Culture teaches young girls that their bodies are inherently sinful, that they incide sin in males, and that therefore they must be covered in a way that prevents males from sinning. 


This particularly accelerates during puberty, when female bodies are increasingly sexualized by Modesty Culture. I went over this quite a bit in my series already, but the point of this is to instill in girls that their bodies are inherently sexual, and inherently important for their effect on males. 


Once again, notice that girls are not permitted to use their own judgment as to the meaning of their bodies, or their clothing Their bodies are their sex organs, and males are expected to see them as such, not as equal humans. The decision about how to dress is ultimately not one girls should make for themselves, but only in relation to what males think and feel. Males own their bodies. 

3. Purity Culture teaches girls that males have insatiable and uncontrollable sex drives.


Good god, this is one of the stupidest and most harmful lies Fundies tell. Human males, like other animals, are usually sexual after a certain age. So are human females. It’s part of being a living, mortal creature. But, because Purity Culture privileges males and assumes females do not own themselves, they create this myth that males cannot control themselves, and are always wanting sex. They just can’t help it, right? 


This again is related to teaching girls that they do not own themselves. God created males with insatiable and uncontrollable sexual desires. And then created females for the express purpose of satisfying those drives. Women do not own themselves. Males own them. Because God says so. 

4. Purity Culture teaches girls that the most important part of them is their reproductive organs.


“Your virginity is the greatest gift you can give your husband.” “The highest calling a woman has is to be a mother.”


And on and on and on. Purity Culture does NOT value women for their intelligence, for their leadership skills, for their resourcefulness. First comes….reproduction. Making babies. You can be a real dipshit in every other way, but if you are a good mother (or look like one at least), well, you are a good woman. 


Again, the point of this is to instill in women that they do not own themselves. They exist to reproduce the species. And to do it for a man who owns them. Which is why they can’t be used goods. 

5. Purity Culture teaches girls that they should not have sex drives, and if they do, it is from the devil. 


I’ve read a good number of “Christian” books on marriage and sex, mostly written by my grandparents’ and parents’ generations. (Well, because people my age who wrote those books in their teens were, say, Josh Harris, who turns out to have had no fucking clue because he had never had a relationship. Ya think?)


It was astonishing to me how little they said about female pleasure. Sure, they had what I would term “how to make sure it doesn’t hurt” stuff, like why women need foreplay before you skewer them. But not ONE came out and said that women orgasm too. And not ONE mentioned the existence of the clitoris. 


I educated myself before marriage from secular sources. And it was the best damn decision I ever made for marriage prep. (Related: my wife didn’t know women had orgasms until college, when they taught it in several classes. Gee, I wonder why it was necessary?) 


I believe it is fully intentional that female sexual pleasure is barely addressed if at all: Purity Culture does not consider female sexual pleasure to be relevant. At all. 


Women do not own their bodies, so who gives a rat’s ass whether they get pleasure from it? If they exist to please men and reproduce the species - and female orgasms aren’t necessary for that - then why bring it up? 

6. Both Modesty Culture and Purity Culture teach girls that THEY are responsible for male sexual sin, and are thus responsible to keep males from sinning. 


I hinted at this above, but let me flesh it out. Because males are said to have insatiable and uncontrollable sex drives, it falls on the woman to be the guardian of his sexuality. She is to be the one to put on the brakes, to tell him no, to make sure he can’t rape her. She is the one who is responsible to dress so that he doesn’t get an erection when he sees her, who bears the responsibility for whether he has sexual feelings or not. 


Once again, this assumes that a woman does not own her body. She cannot make decisions about her clothing, or how and when she wants to experience a particular degree of sexual intimacy. Rather, she has to always remember that her body is not hers, but exists in relation to males. All decisions go through that filter. She is to act so as to preserve male virtue at any cost to herself necessary. 

7. Purity Culture teaches girls that their bodies exist for male sexual pleasure.


See above, of course. Purity Culture teaches that males were created first, and that, because males were lonely, God created females. To be their slaves and fuck toys, of course. I’m not sorry to put it that crassly. Because it is true, even if Fundies clothe it in multiple layers of euphemisms. 


But think about it: ignore the existence of female sexual pleasure, insist that males cannot control themselves if not kept constantly satisfied, tell women that being tired, crampy, post-partum, or ill does not excuse them from at least getting the male off. That sure sounds like “your bodies exist so you can pleasure a man.” 


Whereas an egalitarian relationship of equal humans would be a lot more like this: “Sex is fun and feels good. It helps you bond with your partner. The best way to have a great sexual relationship is to be sure you always make your partner feel good, whether you have sex or not. Two people who desire each other, give each other pleasure, and are loving at all times, tend to have a lot of fun having sex with each other.” See? (Actually, that’s what I aimed for in my marriage, and, well, it worked.) 

8. Purity Culture teaches girls that they do not belong to themselves, but are owned first by their fathers and then by their husbands. 


You often hear this in jokes like “transfer the burden of my daughter to her husband.” But the meaning is pretty clear. Within Purity Culture, females first belong to their fathers. Then, when they are married, they belong to their husbands. 


There is no real period where a woman belongs to herself. Unless you count widowhood - although the most Fundie of groups insist she then belongs to her eldest son, or the closest male relative. 


The bottom line: a female has no right to choose her own life. She is destined to serve her husband, birth and raise his children, service his dick whenever asked, and be his house servant. If a man won’t have her, she can serve her father in the non-reproductive ways. 

9. Purity Culture teaches girls that they have no right to say no to sex after they are married.


I find people are surprised that raping your wife was perfectly legal throughout most of history. And that the last state to finally outlaw it did so in...wait for it...1993. I was almost an adult then. Furthermore, a woman could not divorce her husband unless he either abandoned her or refused to support her. That was the case until no-fault divorce in the 1960s. 


It was taken for granted that saying “I do” was an agreement to have sex on demand with her husband for the rest of their mutual lives. And if she didn’t give it, he was entitled to take it by force and violence. 


While the law has changed, nothing has changed in Purity Culture. Women are advised to never, ever, ever say no to their husbands. Not if they are having a rough period (with the exception of creeps like Bill Gothard who are opposed to all period sex...and for a week afterward.) Not if they are exhausted. Not if they feel ill. Not if they just aren’t up for doing one more duty. And certainly not for the silly reason that they are not interested in sex that moment. 


Again, note that the woman is NOT assumed to own her own body. She sold it to her husband (more accurately, her father sold it to her husband) at the altar, and it’s now his whenever he wants to use it. 


And that leads to...

10. Purity Culture teaches girls that they are to blame when their husbands cheat on them. 


“Well, what did you expect me to do if you didn’t put out?” 


Ah yes, the old “if you had been more sexy and available, I wouldn’t have cheated” defense. As a divorce attorney, I’ve heard this. A lot. And exclusively from “christian” males. It’s been taught for a long time, it appears. And it doesn’t look any less stupid than it did a half century ago. 


Dude, if you aren’t into your wife, get out of the marriage and write a check for half the assets (and some alimony too, probably.) But don’t delude yourself that it is her fault you want an upgrade to a younger, thinner model. Just own it. (Related: guys married to truly rotten women do often cheat when presented with a better alternative. But they tend to express relief from pain, rather than blame their ex for not putting out. Just saying.) 


Again, you can notice the assumption of ownership. 


Oh, and this clearly only goes one way. Can you imagine the derisive laughter if a woman said, “the only reason I cheated was because you weren’t giving me an orgasm”? A man is not expected to satisfy woman, or be blamed for her getting it elsewhere. The woman alone is considered responsible to service the man or take the blame for his cheating. 

11. Purity Culture denies that women need sexual satisfaction. 


See above. Not only do women not have sex drives, or sexual needs, it is unreasonable for them to expect sexual satisfaction. Hey, he pays the bills, right? Take it away, B. B.


Don't you say nothing to me

As long as I'm takin' care of you

As long as I'm workin', baby

And payin' all the bills

I don't want no mouth from you

About the way I'm supposed to live

You must be crazy, woman

Just gotta be out of your mind

As long as I'm footin' the bill

I'm paying the cost to be the boss


This is one you see all over in so many iterations. “Men need sex, women need love.” 


And by “love,” women mean “commitment,” by which they mean being financially supported for life...sounds like a kind of, well, transactional relationship. And also a good bit like “women don’t exist for their own benefit, but should be taken care of rather like the car or the dishwasher.” 

12. Purity Culture expects women to be stay-at-home mothers, and devote themselves to caring for children and husband.


This wasn’t always the case for Evangelicalism, but it has become increasingly demanded within the subculture. At least for white women. Whether it is a demand or not, it has always been expected that a woman’s first priorities should always be her husband and children. And men? Not so much. For a man to stay late at the office has always been acceptable. As a friend (and judge) put it, it has always been socially acceptable for MEN to neglect their children. But if a woman called (well, texted these days) and said “Honey, I’ll be home late. Please cook dinner, feed the kids, do the homework with them, and be sure to have the dishes washed when I get home.” can you imagine the backlash? That horrid woman, neglecting her most important calling


Likewise - and I know this from painful personal experience - a man will not be punished for having a career. But a woman will be, particularly if she has small kids. Within Purity Culture, however, being a full-time stay-at-home mother is mandatory. There are no other acceptable options for a woman, and any woman who chooses to have a career and kids is listening to the devil. A man can have both. But not a woman. 


Because she does not belong to herself. She belongs to her husband and her duty is to him and to the fruit of his loins. 

13. Purity Culture teaches women that they have only one calling, and that any calling they feel on their lives contrary to that is sinful. 


See above. For the subculture in which Josh and Anna Duggar were raised, there were no options for women beyond marriage. No college. No career. No work experience. Nothing. Get married, use that uterus to make more [white conservative] babies, serve and service your husband. 


My wife’s parents (and mine) didn’t follow that path, even when in the Patriarchal cults. So we were at least spared that. (I think Amanda would have moved out and gone to school anyway, but many don’t have that fortitude.)


So thinking of Anna, she has no job, no education, no skills, no work experience. And she will now have seven small children with a sexual predator. He will probably do some significant federal time over this. And she will have no means of support. Small wonder she didn’t leave before. And now, alas, my prediction is that she will be essentially forced to accept support from her in-laws. Which will come with requirements that she unequivocally support her husband, and resume serving (and servicing) him when he gets out of the clink. Yeah. That’s pretty disgusting. But the Duggar parents are beyond disgusting already. From the moment they decided to pimp their kids out to reality TV. 


This is the number one reason I consider parents who let (or more likely encourage) their daughters to aspire to be stay-at-home moms on the foolish side. It puts a woman in a position where her options are severely limited if she is abused. (Or if he gets injured or ill for that matter.) Better to have other options available. 


Once again (see the pattern yet?) this goes back to the idea that women do not belong to themselves. There is no need for chattel to be self-supporting. Women belong to men, so the best thing a woman can do is to be attractive and desirable enough to get a [sufficiently wealthy] man to be her owner. And remember, nothing else she could do or be will ever be as great and grand as being a wife and mother, right?

14. Purity Culture teaches women that they have no right to control their reproductive system. 


I mention this one because of the fact that the Duggars are the most visible members of the “quiverfull” movement. They believe that ANY form of birth control is evil, and that a woman should have “as many children as God gives her.” Which, I guess is nice if you have a giant house, a multi-million-dollar business, a TV contract, and a lot of servants. (Which is what the Duggars have. You just don’t see that part on TV.) Not quite as scintillating when you have a working-class income and no health insurance…


Gothard teaches this shit, by the way. And celebrates all the babies born after vasectomy reversals. (It’s kind of like “secondary virginity.” Not as good as having a dozen kids, but at least having that last one in your 40s is a badge of honor…) 


I shouldn’t need to mention that “quiverfull” has strong connections to the longstanding white supremacist fear that the [fill in the blank: Catholics, Muslims, Italians, Slavs, Jews, Mexicans, Negroes] are reproducing faster than we are. The term “militant fecundity” is apropos. It is a means of waging war against other tribes by population attrition. Which is why, in my opinion, fears of neglected children or over-stressed parents (particularly mothers) are brushed aside. Having cannon-fodder is more important than the well-being of the foot soldiers during a war. 


And….once again, note that females are considered to be resources, not people. A fertile womb is a powerful weapon against the tide of infidels. And as a woman does not own herself or her own body, she has no right to determine her own reproduction. She is to serve in the war as a baby-factory. Hell, even Martin Luther believed that: “If they (women) become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth. That is what they are there for.” (Luther was a particularly nasty misogynist, and seems to have taken out his frustration at having a strong and opinionated wife out in his writings on women.) 




So, back to the main premise of this post:


Modesty Culture and Purity Culture groom women to be victims of abuse.


This doesn’t just happen in the obvious cases like Josh Duggar. And it is crucial that we not brush him aside as an anomaly, a bad actor. 


Because even the “best case scenario” is a lifetime of treatment as an object, not a person. I call that abuse. 


From the beginning, women are trained that they do not own their own lives, their own bodies, their own destinies. 


And expecting that a woman give all of that up is inherently abusive. It also makes women more likely to be vulnerable to abusers of all sorts. After all, it’s hard to both protect one’s body AND believe males own it. And it’s hard to stand up for one’s own rights if you don’t believe you have them.


But let’s look deeper. What would an “ideal woman” look like to Purity Culture?


She spends her childhood learning to match her every movement to the needs and desires of males. She keeps herself “pure” and untouched for her future husband. Despite doing everything she can to never make a man desire her, one does, and marries her. She then spends the next 25 years having a couple dozen babies, and the next 20 raising them. She puts out for sex every day, even though she is increasingly exhausted. Now, she is at retirement age, assuming she has manage to survive such a grueling regimen. Now she can care for her elderly husband for the next 20. And she has never had the chance to do anything just because she wants to. She has never had an orgasm, because she has no idea how to have one or show her husband how to help. She has had no time (or reason) to learn or to have a purpose outside the home. But, she has done her duty to her species (and race, of course), and served and serviced a male well her whole life. 


That’s. The. Fucking. Ideal.


And maybe she marries a saint who never takes advantage of all that. But….probably not. And any abuse he does, whether it is marital rape, or just working her half to death because that is her gender role, she has no recourse. And indeed, she has been groomed to endure it. I see these people in my office from time to time. So many who sacrificed so much, and for what? Hey, she didn’t put out, so I found a woman half her age who likes me and my money. And I’m self-employed and I hide my money don’t expect alimony. 


Now, the flip side of this is that not too many marriages are like this in practice. Most marriages (and ALL good marriages) cheat on this quite a bit. And the ones that cheat the most are viewed with suspicion within Purity and Modesty Culture. (Those of us who choose to eschew that ideal altogether do so at significant personal cost. I know from experience.)


So, absolutely no surprise Anna is stuck. She has been trained her entire life to endure this. 


And I have seen this scenario quite a number of times in my legal practice. Rarely to this extent, although there was that one pastor’s wife I helped get out – probably the case I feel the most joy about having been part of, because her life changed dramatically for the better, and she looked like a completely different person a decade afterward. But the divorces involving people raised in purity/modesty culture are generally very ugly and difficult and traumatic. 


And far more are unable to get out. Anna is the norm, not the exception.  



This seems like a good post to mention some painful history. 


Modesty/Purity Culture was used as a weapon by my mother against my wife.


My wife knew she was going to be a nurse since age two. Literally. That was her life’s calling and she knew it. Just like some men know what they want to do. (Me, not so much, but whatever.) So she pursued her calling. 


Along the way, she met me. And we fell in love. And we talked about the future. And we agreed that her calling was important. We would not have gotten married had we not agreed on this. I never have believed that women did not own themselves. I never believed in “male headship” in any real way. I believed in - and greatly desired - a partnership of equals. A relationship where both our dreams, visions, callings mattered. One where we both encouraged each other and assisted each other in following our callings. One where we made a life together that had something in it for each of us. Sure, five kids in seven years meant we both compromised some idealism - babies are helpless, so their needs win every time - but kids were particularly important to me, and a blessing and joy to both of us (most of the time…) and they were part of our life together too. But never did I think that Amanda existed to serve me. And she never believed that was her purpose either. We didn’t believe in “women’s work” or “the man must be the breadwinner.” We are best friends, lovers, and co-conspirators. Not man and chattel. Ever.


So, our life has looked different. We both “mommy tracked” things about our careers. She worked part time and put off the next step in her education. (She went back last year now that the kids are older.) I worked part time in my own practice and gave a certain amount of priority to being heavily involved in raising and educating the kids. (And I love it, is the thing. I enjoy it more than she does, just like she thrives in her work in a way I will never understand.) We made it work. And, during the last year, Covid decimated my practice. (Old people prefer not to die, so they stay home and put stuff off.) My income was halved. On the other hand, she worked long hours trying to keep people alive in the ICU during the successive waves of infections. She literally put her life on the line, despite denialists and Trump voters and general assholes calling her a liar and making her job harder. We made our lives work, but boy am I glad both of us can operate outside “traditional” gender roles. She could become the primary breadwinner, and I could be the “soccer mom” and keep school and meals and shopping going. 


All this to say that we utterly and intentionally rejected Modesty Culture, Purity Culture, “Biblical” Manhood and Womanhood, and Gender Essentialism. Aka, the Godhead of conservative white “christian” culture. And also the crux of the horseshit that Bill Gothard and James Dobson were selling people like my parents. 


Well, when it became clear that Amanda was going to return to work three months after the birth of each of our children (and I would have an infant by myself overnight…), my mom took it very poorly, and started a cold - then much hotter - war against Amanda within our family. Most of it is beyond the scope of this post, but the heart of it was very much about the point of this post: Did Amanda - a vagina person - have the same ownership of her life, body, and time as a penis person did? Could she choose to dress as she wished (well within social norms - actually she looks stunning)? Could she have both a career and children? Could she make decisions for herself and family as a fully human adult without being browbeaten? The answer was, apparently, no. 


One of the major salvos in the war was when my mom gave Amanda Nancy DeMoss’s book, Lies Women Believe, with the usual pious “this really helped me, maybe it can help you” crap. Without getting too far into the hypocrisy and arrogance of a never-married, educated, childless older woman writing a book about (among other things) marriage and parenting, let me say that I consider DeMoss to be in the same category of asshole as the late Phyllis Schlafly. Placing burdens on others that they would NEVER have to bear indeed. 


But about the book. Oh. My. God. It was beyond horrible. 


And, you might be surprised to learn, it was centered around that key “lie that women believe,” namely:


Women own their own lives.


Yes indeed. That’s the big lie from Satan himself that the book had to address. All these uppity women thinking they own their own lives and have rights and all that. Bad, bad women! 


Leaving aside the purely religious “lies” it addresses, as those are, for this post at least, mostly irrelevant. (Although I will say that neither Amanda nor I particularly believes Evangelical doctrine these days, so…) 


What does interest me is some of the specifics when it comes to family - spouse and children. 


First, the book makes it clear that DeMoss believes women are NOT to work outside the home. No careers. No jobs. Husband is to provide 100%. Because women who work emasculate their men, and are preparing to leave anyway, or something. This even goes for cases when a man becomes unemployed. DeMoss literally says that if he gets hungry enough, he’ll find work. Good lord, that’s so condescending to men, who already are told they aren’t men if they aren’t making bank. Heaven forbid a man get laid off and struggle to be rehired during a recession, or get injured or ill. The woman should never chip in to work under any circumstances. Period. That’s literally in the book.


Which, since the unmarried DeMoss clearly had her own fucking empire – and a cushy inheritance – she had her own career, let alone a job, this is the very definition of hypocrisy. (Exactly like Schlafly, come to think of it. THEY got to pursue their dreams. But not other women.) Oh, and every ill in our world and society is due to women working outside of the home, from drug abuse to crime. So, presumably (and there is strong evidence of this from what she has said over the years), my mom blamed every struggle my children ever had on Amanda’s job. And now that they know one kid is LGBTQ+, well...fill in the blank. That’s obviously going to be blamed on Amanda as well. 


Next, the book was clear that women had no business pursuing their own dreams. They were created to serve their husbands and assist them in fulfilling their callings. Again, can’t bruise that fragile male ego.


Next, and this is one that just makes me burn with rage: the book tells women that they are OBLIGATED to stay in abusive marriages. Full. Stop. That is beyond evil, and was enough for me to understand that it was written by an evil woman. Sorry, not pulling punches on this one. If you tell women they have no right to safety and kind treatment, then you are just a fucking nasty evil person. (On a related note, this is a big reason I have no tolerance for patriarchists. They are a serious danger to women.) Because, see, women don’t own themselves – they are owned by men.


And it doesn’t get better. If memory serves, the book was given to Amanda right after we had our youngest kid. Five children in seven years. Hell yes, we were exhausted. And yes, we were better at making babies than preventing them, for a variety of reasons I am not going to get into. However, if we had simply had “as many as God gave us,” we could EASILY have had (calculates one kid every 15 months for 19 years….) about 17 and counting by now. 


And this book fucking said that straight up - that it was a LIE FROM THE PIT OF HELL for women to think that using birth control - or even ANY form of “family planning” to control their fertility was okay. And by that, she actually says that it is wrong to “decide” when to have children - so I guess “Natural Family Planning” by periods of abstinence is out too...just fuck regularly and pop them out and to hell with the effect on mom….




And, I guess, as the final straw, DeMoss is opposed to ANY form of secular therapy. Everything should go through the church. So, I guess if mom is physically destroyed by endless fertility, sleepless because of never-ending infants, hating being expected to have sex on demand, and with no life outside the home, and finds herself a little depressed, well, can’t let THAT get outside the Purity Culture system. Women might realize they are being abused and get out. The horror!


Cover to cover, a nasty, horrible, DANGEROUS book. One that I made sure was not donated, but sent to a landfill. 


And a book that sure antagonized Amanda. Gee, I wonder why? Nothing like telling a woman that she is living in sin for working, selfish for not trying to have more babies, evil for having dreams and goals of her own. When she has five children ages seven and under, of course. 


This wasn’t the only thing that destroyed the relationship - there were egregious boundary violations, and literally a decade and a half of antagonism too - but it was definitely a factor. The war never ended, but active hostilities became a lot harder once Amanda removed herself from the field completely a number of years ago. (And I finally blocked my mom on social media after yet another passive aggressive comment.) 


The book was an obviously hostile and passive aggressive act, although my mom will surely deny it, because that’s what she does. It was obviously aimed at “fixing” Amanda, who was clearly “broken” and “believing the lies of the devil” for having the audacity to pursue her own calling despite the proclamations of the Dirty Old Men (and a hypocritical old woman) of patriarchy. 


And it was just the same old shit: 


“You are a vagina person, for god’s sake! What on earth makes you think you own your own life like a penis person?” 


UPDATE: Jude Ellison S. Doyle, whose books are on my eventual reading list, completely nailed it in a twitter thread recently. I encourage reading the comments too. 

"There's a very specific way some white women express aggression that you're only going to recognize if you've been in environments where normative white femininity is very strictly enforced -- conservative Christian communities, in my experience...It basically consists of working really hard at perfecting that normative feminine performance, and then leveraging that status to be a Gender Enforcer and be absolutely sadistic to "unladylike" women, or queers, or anyone who steps outside of the proscribed gender roles. Women can't be openly angry without being unfeminine, so it relies on a LOT of passive-aggression and weaponizing your social networks. Men, in particular, are often blind to it, because they're dupes; the toxic person uses them to go after her enemies so she can stay "sweet.""


"Lifelong southerner here. This is 1000% the way it is. It's also why I never, ever trust "nice" or "sweet" presenting women, especially the churchy ones. The more vocally, performatively feminine and pious they are, the more you need to be careful of them."

"I am a southern female in a heteronormative marriage with kids and I have to fight off these women because I am a breadwinner and do not make the same choices they do for my family. As a liberal, I push back on this behavior and its use to dehumanize all persons. Full stop."

"I can't remember where this quote is from, but it goes : "Abusers groom their character witnesses just as carefully as their victims." I've never found better phrasing than that."  




And that’s what Modesty/Purity Culture teaches women – and men.


No, not every man is a predator like Josh Duggar. Not every man is an abuser. Not every man is entitled. 


But a man who believes this shit is at least well on his way. 


It is time to stop sugarcoating it. Modesty Culture and Purity Culture have as their central belief that women do not own their bodies, their lives, their very selves. These are, rather, owned by males, and by the demands of the Tribe. 


This belief is designed to groom women for a lifetime of ownership and abuse, not for full human thriving. 


And, as a side effect, the boys watching this play out are taught that they have the right to own women. To assume they exist to serve and service them. To assume they can abuse with impunity. And, when we see that the system creates Josh Duggar sorts, we should not be surprised. We should be surprised that some men do NOT turn into predators given the system. That some choose to be better than their theology. 


So, when we see a Josh Duggar arrested, or we discover that Bill Gothard groomed and abused dozens of young women, or see yet another and another and another and another prominent religious leader go down for adultery or child abuse or covering up abuse by another or see a Josh Harris leave the faith or - fill in the blank, because it is one after another after another after another after another - we must not view these as just a few “bad actors” or as an anomaly.


This. Is. The. Fruit. Of. The. Doctrine.


Full. Stop. 


This is what it is. And that includes the broken and destroyed family relationships too. This stuff is pure poison, pure evil. And yet it presents itself as light and goodness. It isn’t. And we need to keep saying it. 




Just to be clear, these are not new issues with my parents, but date back over a decade. They have quietly cut me out of their lives over the last two years (and recently admitted it), which is why I feel I have nothing further to lose by talking publicly about what we have already failed to resolve privately. I think people need to know about the destruction that Fundamentalist religion causes - and the real goals they have for society – and particularly for women.




One final thought, from Alice Greczyn:

Purity culture is in a very serious way, a form of sexual abuse of women. That it creates victims and perpetrators should come as no surprise.




  1. "Sorry, not pulling punches on this one. If you tell women they have no right to safety and kind treatment, then you are just a fucking nasty evil person."

    That is a punch that should be leaned into with gusto, and I will take it even further. If you tell a woman such things -- nay, more, if you *make money for telling her these things* -- you are an abuser even worse than the one in her life.

    It's like the bully on the playground who holds the skinny kid (painfully, of course) while the other bully beats the snot out of him. I remember which kid I hated more for it, and I remember why.

    And to think, this reality is a hell of a lot bigger than a playground.

    1. I do believe DeMoss - like Elizabeth Eliot and Phyllis Schlafly before her - is a special kind of evil. The kind that enjoys all the benefits of financial independence and a job outside the home, while making a fortune telling my parents' generation that God's priority is keeping women in their place. They place heavy burdens on others that they have NO intention of carrying themselves.

  2. Thank you, Tim, for this.

    I would only add that, in my experience, complementarianism is only a little bit older than the Happy Meal (as Fred Clark calls the “biblical doctrine” on abortion). And, again in my experience, it is a very American way of thinking. Though it is also part of British thinking, as you point out (Dorothy Sayers, etc.)

    Nearly all the women I grew up among – Baptist Eastern European refugees mostly of peasant stock – worked. Grandmas or unrelated older women watched the kids, couples worked different shifts. If you had spent 8+ years first in a war zone, then in a refugee camp, and came to the US with no money, no language, and no skills, every able-bodied human had to pitch in in order to meet basic needs, let alone have a bit of frugal comfort. Every girl of average intelligence and school grades went to college. Their mothers wanted them to have an easier life than working an assembly line or cleaning offices. Only a very few people who had fallen under the spell of American Protestant fundamentalism felt that women belonged solely at home and resented having to work (This, unfortunately, was the case with my family and we kids suffered for it.)

    It wasn’t until I went to a Christian college that I encountered Bill Gothard. I will never, ever, ever forgive Wheaton for giving him unfettered, uncritical access to the student body. Same for Elisabeth Elliot. Same for Edith Schaeffer and the hidden art of homemaking.

    To limit women’s control over their own bodies and minds and activities requires either a huge safety net that most people in the world – and many in the US – don’t have, or a willingness to sacrifice children’s present and future to an unbiblical god. A woman without resources and a lot of help cannot possibly meet the needs of many children by herself. To say nothing of her own most basic needs.

    When people say that a woman who works somehow diminishes her husband, I feel like telling them that the only reason my husband was able to train for the career of his dreams in his late 30’s was because I worked three jobs to put him through graduate school. And the only reason my boy child was able to pursue the career of his dreams was because my work paid for out-of-state and out-of-country tuition. And those are just the big things.

    Limiting women limits all of humanity, including men.

    1. Nice to hear from you again, Otming. I love your last line, which I wholeheartedly agree with.

      Also, yes, it was us who paid for our parents' religion. In a whole spectrum of ways.