Duggars and Courtship

Ben Seewald and Jessa Duggar. Source: http://duggarsblog.blogspot.com/
Ben Seewald and Jessa Duggar. Source: http://duggarsblog.blogspot.com/

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on April 16, 2014.

A lot of people have pointed out how many Christian groups and churches are anti-gay. Even though these Christians love to say that they love the sinner and hate the sin, it does not remove the pain that a gay person has to face. If a gay teen comes out gay, the church will still pray for him and believe he needs to change. Sure the church claims to love the teen, but he’s still told he is sinning, and there is still that voice that something is wrong with him, and that he needs to change.

This is the same reason I am against courtship so much. There is nothing wrong with a couple choosing to save their first kiss until they get married. It’s silly, but it’s not immoral. But that’s not what courtship is about. Courtship is a high standard designed to keep the couple accountable.

After the lines are drawn in the sand, people who overstep those boundaries are failures.

Take the latest Duggar girls’ courtships as an example. The girls say they need accountability, so that’s why they have siblings or parents go with them on dates. They claim they are inspiring their younger siblings and girls on TV. But you know what they are actually doing? (Besides making their parents look like control freaks.) They are drawing hard lines in the sand, and therefore, anyone who breaks them is doing wrong.

The implication is not only that they would be doing wrong to break them, but also that anyone else breaking those rules is doing wrong too.

Sure, there is room for nuances. I suspect the Duggars would say that some people pray about this, and decide it’s okay to hold hands, and in their family, they’ve prayed and decided not to hold hands. Those are nuances, and they are trival to the point.

The point is that courtship is a way of life that says that it’s a sin to “give” anything physical “away,” and that parents need to oversee this. It also says that dating without purpose (aka, a guy asks a girl on a date without intending to be serious about marriage on the first date) is wrong.

This is an extremely dangerous teaching. It’s the “us vs. them” attitude. It’s prideful. It’s judgment. It’s broken.

I know because I lived this. I lived this.

As soon as someone finds out that you’ve kissed someone before, you’re immeditely an object of investigation. You are not as high a quality. You broke the homeschool rules.

This is why I spent most of today wacked out after watching the Duggar show last night. Mr. Duggar was drilling the guy Jessa is courting. That’s wrong. That’s prideful. That’s judgmental.

He controlled them such that says they need to report to him if they decided to ever hold hands. Then Mr. Duggar tips it off by flirting with his wife in front of his daughter and the guy she is courting.

I am frustrated because what the Duggars are doing is abusive, and it’s being shown on TV as if it is comedy.

Then people on TV totally miss the point. I keep reading comments about how they have too many kids. That’s not the big problem. If they sent their kids to school and hired a helper and sent the older children to college, no one would think anything of it.

But controlling the daughter’s every move is spiritually abusive.

For years I’ve wondered how the Duggars manage to keep all their daughters at home. My sister and I decided against that one a long time ago. The internet and world were too big. Yes, it took me a long time to leave all of fundamentalism behind, but I always questioned things. The Duggar girls do not. But then, their phone calls and social life are monitored.

I am glad that Suzanne at No Longer Quivering has made note that the news media has finally connected Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, who sexually assaulted a young woman for a period of a few years, to the Duggar family. It’s not that the Duggars have sexually assaulted anyone.


But they are following the very teaching of courtship and stay at home daughters that allows women to be vulnerable to an abuser. The control they put their daughters under is quite frankly terrifying.

18 thoughts on “Duggars and Courtship

    • Meidi May 25, 2014 / 3:24 pm

      I know what you mean, treating young men as if they are sex fiends who cannot be trusted to EVER be alone with a girl shows a huge lack of trust and respect for them. And then turning around and giving the same young men COMPLETE authority over a young woman as soon as they are married seems like a very illogical progression. Going from “you may not touch or talk to a girl until you have decided to marry her” (and hope that you will have SOMETHING in common and some chemistry) and then “you may not be alone with her or have any honest getting-to-know-you experiences with her” to “well, it’s your wedding day, have at her!” Abstaining from sex before marriage is something I belive in, but not being allowed to date or kiss before marriage seems absolutely insane to me.


  1. Heidi May 8, 2014 / 5:42 pm

    I respectfully disagree. I don’t think the Druggars are abused or promoting abuse. I don’t think it is comedy. It is not what I want for my girls. I do hope my boys and girls have high standards and don’t get real physical before marriage.

    But I agree that someone is not damaged goods if they have kissed, held hands or even had sex. It is sad that in this subculture that sees and teaches that when a person steps out of line they are damaged goods. I do think sex outside of marriage is bad, but heck I think a lot of things are bad. It is so better to learn a persons journey and decide if you can or cannot walk with them.

    I am going to say every subculture has rules that put them on the inside and the outside. That is how human behavior is. I majored in this at college. So I kind of see groups and patterns.

    I don’t think is courtship is wrong. I can see how it can be twisted – but many things can be twisted. So many issues are a don’t throw the baby out with the bath water thing.


    • Lana May 8, 2014 / 11:52 pm

      There is a big difference between hoping that your kids do not get physical before marriage and never letting them be alone before marriage and reading all their text messages.


      • SS June 26, 2014 / 4:06 pm

        I agree with you. Teen-agers need privacy. My parents were very strict with me when I was growing up UNTIL I reached high school. Then they loosened up. They still had a strict curfew, but if I had a guy friend – they trusted me. I never realized what a gift that was until I started reading about parents reading their daughters’ texts. That’s awful. I think my parents’ idea was that when children are very young (until they are 3 or 4) you just love them and don’t really discipline them because they are too young. Once they are older (4 or 5) you are much more strict but the idea is that you are teaching them what is right and wrong so that by the time they are in their teens (14, 15) they should be given a lot more freedom. My parents were certainly not perfect and they did spank, which is something I will never do, but I appreciate that they also trusted me. I remember my Mom kept loose change in a jar on her bureau and she told me and my brother if we ever needed money, we could help ourselves. She knew we wouldn’t take it unless we actually needed it for some reason. My parents did teach us not to have sex until marriage, and I don’t see anything wrong with teaching that, but they also trusted us and didn’t try to read our diaries, monitor our phone calls, etc. I could have a guy friend and my parents never grilled him. I think if they had treated me like the Duggars, I would have rebelled big time.


    • Sandra June 10, 2014 / 9:53 am

      I totally agree with Heidi! There is nothing in the word of God that encourages physical intimacy before marriage. Nothing at all. The jewish customs of betrothal were very healthy and godly; designed to protect both the woman and the man. I see nothing silly about waiting until married for your first kiss, on the contrary it is a wonderful goal. But at the same time, people who fail at waiting til marriage to be physical are NOT FAILURES themselves! The Lord is so merciful and loves the one who has had pre-marital sex just as much as the one who abstained. The reason for waiting is for our protection, emotionally, and spiritually and even physically. If you fail then confess and start again pledging to be pure. Don’t let someone elses” off-kilter” thoughts discourage you from doing right before God and yourself. I have heard of a number of couples who have wed where one of them had waited and the other had not but had desired to be pure again before the Lord and they are very happy.


      • emmieboo October 20, 2014 / 8:49 am

        I wouldn’t go as far as to say nothing in the bible encourages premarital physical intimacy since it was played pretty fast and loose with when it was convenient. Take the story of Ruth with Boaz to lay at his feet was a euphemism. The entire book of the Song of Solomon was about sexual intimacy and marriage wasn’t a prior necessity.

        I didn’t go through a courtship but I did have the complete lack of privacy. My parents rifled through my things looking for anything personal and read my journal, hoovered when I talked on the phone to anyone and insisted I have the door open on the few occasions I had a female friend over so that they could listen to our conversations. It got to the point that I would just make up stories to write in my journal since I knew I would get in trouble no matter what and to this day I refuse to share my thoughts with them. I’m 40 yrs old now and I am still rabidly protective of my privacy and my personal space. I invite very few people to my home and woe be unto anyone who touches something of mine without explicit permission. My reactions are a bit extreme but that’s often what you end up with when you strip children of all autonomy. When it boomerangs it comes back hard. I wasn’t homeschooled but my experiences growing up in a fundamentalist patriarchal home are most closely aligned with the stories I read on this site.


  2. Patricia May 8, 2014 / 7:09 pm

    I have mixed responses rising up within me after reading your post. I appreciate your feelings in posting about this. I value your past painful experiences and understand the damages from extreme patriarchalism and fundamentalism.
    I do not watch the Duggar’s, though fascinated at this tribal family that looms so large, I find I feel it very unhealthy.

    I was in a very extreme fundamentalist mind control cult when i was a teenager. This dark cult world, believed and practiced spanking of their wives, not to mention the beatings of minors. The women were depicted or treated as second class citizens who were baby makers, sex objects or jezebels. These frames were the only ways men related to women in this world. I find it damaging to families and society that men in this world, never related to women in the truth of who the woman was actually as a unique person. The boundaries to these women were projections from men onto them, not boundaries grown from within the woman and internally established.

    I grew up with a parent who was patriarchal in attitude and worldview, however, I grew up in a family system which never established healthy or correct boundaries on nearly every level.
    I wish I had been given more structure and boundaries alongside of real bonafide relationship. This would have been the best help to me in my life.
    In my opinion, It is about relationship and boundaries built up from within a person.
    Kids need boundaries and age appropriate responsibilities and they deeply need to know that their inner feelings and sense of things has validity and they make sense in a normal human way. I believe they also need to be able to make choices, feel normal consequences and learn by that.

    I believe fundamentalism and extreme cults do not practice helping their children come to know that their thoughts, feelings or sense about things going on around them, makes normal human sense. This failure in providing validation to children is a very damaging practice.

    When parents allow the child to know their internal experience of life around them has validity, the child learns to know that *they* ‘exist’, This establishes a forming of this child’s personal boundaries. The child can then thrive into safe relationships with parents and friends in the larger social context. Learning to experience that *you* (your own thoughts, feelings and internal sense of things) ‘exist’ when you are little, establishes boundaries for life in building safe relationships, which helps guide safe autonomous choices in life.

    In my opinion, safe courtship begins with internal boundaries that were grown in the child. Though I am not against accountability or standards at all, I just feel strongly about focused growing of, nurturing and establishing of internal boundaries in children long before they begin the courtship years.

    Soon the Duggar daughters will likely be mothers. They will need to know how to take responsibility over serious issues. if their parents are not helping them to become internally boundaried and autonomous, then, in my opinion they likely are not going to know how to fend for themselves in the real world, much less to know when their internal boundaries are being stepped on or bulldozed over. Instead, they likely will need to keep living in a world wherein authoritarian rule tells them what to choose.

    Again, I do not watch the Duggars and though fascinated at this tribal family that looms so large, I find I feel it is very unhealthy.

    Patricia Hunt


    • sunnyside May 10, 2014 / 7:36 am

      Thank you for sharing.


  3. Nancy Brown May 8, 2014 / 7:44 pm

    There is nothing wrong with Mr Duggar asking questions of the young man. Fathers are the same in other families also. They don’t want their daughters to get hurt . And we all know that physical contact does get out of hand if you let it. We have become so accustom to being physical that when one steps out of the now normal accepted way,they are considered strange. Why are you making waves about their way of life? I’m sure you are living your life the way you choose to live it and do the things you choose to do. They are a fine family, I didn’t say perfect, but they are living with Christina values and I admire them for it…….


  4. Sarah May 8, 2014 / 8:46 pm

    Having seen some Eastern traditions of courtship and arranged marriage practiced in other countries, I can respect that such controlled interactions between young men and women may not be abusive within the context of a certain culture or worldview. However, the American “Christian Courtship” movement seems very contrived and stifling to the development of genuine relationships.
    I happened to watch the recent episode of (However Many) ‘… Kids and Counting’ showcasing their daughter’s courtship and it was very awkward, Jim Bob saying “you can go ahead and give him a side armed hug” and Mrs. Duggar riding in the middle seat between the young couple in a “compact cab” pick-up. It was very theatre-of-the-absurd. It wasn’t the lack of physical contact, rather the lack of authentic interaction between all parties involved. Maybe it was the presence of television cameras, “scripting” or editing but it felt … icky, to me, even as a thirty something homeschooling mother (albeit non-fundamentalist) who has only ever had intercourse with her husband.
    What struck me the most was Jim-Bob chuckling, saying “I expect the phone will start ringing with young men asking my permission to court my daughters”. Their options, assuming they adhere to their family hierarchy, seem very confining. I don’t find them funny, but sometimes concerning, often thought provoking, simultaneously boring & fascinating.


    • Lana May 8, 2014 / 11:54 pm

      Same here. I can respect cultures doing marriage in different ways – I’m not convinced there is a “right” way to do marriage. It’s largely cultural. But in the case of homeschool families, 1) we live in the USA, not another country, 2) this is not ultural so much as a spiritual command – and that if we don’t court and do this and that, then we are displeasing to God. And that’s why I think it’s spiritually abusive. If it was just a cultural reason ofr saving a kiss, I do not think it would bother me.


  5. MyOwnPerson May 8, 2014 / 8:58 pm

    Maybe the Duggar girls do disagree but they have all that much more pressure to perform, being on a TV show. I also know, growing up and going through a lot of the things they’re going through, that I was in deep pain inside, but it felt like keeping the peace was the right thing to do at the time. I regret keeping the peace, but I was afraid that things would get violent if I didn’t. I also had to pretend to like the rules, otherwise suspicions would be aroused and I’d be scrutinized even more.


    • Laurel May 9, 2014 / 6:47 am

      I am truly sorry that is how you had to operate. We did that to our children as well- made them perform expected “standards” for the approval of our community (and with out mocking but with a bit of sarcasm, for the approval of ‘god’ as well- not really God but our construct of a rule approving, standard loving god). Thankfully they did rock the boat and challenge us. God gave us grace to listen. There are too many non-biblical, unwritten, smothering rules. If you follow those rules-dresses only, don’t hold hands until married, daughters stay away from college…. plus chosen aspects of OT law- no tattoos, but go ahead and trim your side burns and wear polyester)…you are in the “serious” Christian crowd. The sad trickery of this mindset is that it sets up a righteousness that is found no where in old testament or new testament. This righteousness is a hybrid grace plus the Law plus these other little standards that we think will really please God,( and maybe He didn’t think of them, but they are such good little insights he should have included them in the Law- again not mocking but a tad bit of sarcasm) So according to my compliance with this hybrid of righteousness, I get to sit in the throne of judgement over you. So complex, so stiffling-the traditions of men, heaved upon the shoulders of our children and our communities. I am so sorry to all of you young adults who endured this. I am sorry I was a Pharisee to you. I am sorry that I conveyed that your worth was directly linked to your performance of the “rules” It is a lie. You are much more precious than that.


  6. uddeshya May 15, 2014 / 7:54 am

    Icome from the arranged marriage world and this is still very strange to me. I thing the strange thing is the boasting that they were pure until marriage day, which is very different from the arranged marriage world. Today even when our parents look for a guy for us, they ask us first, they do not make decisions and do not make rules. In fact, they let the boy and girl meet along once things are finalized and encourage to talk and talk about everything so that the girls know what they are getting into. I do not think my parents were worried about me kissing my finace or holding hands, the most they worried about was how he might treat me in future and if he has respect for women and would he let me persue my dream. And we are christians. Christians in third world like my country have a lot of respect for women, in fact our communities are examples of men respecting their wives which is so not there in the non- christians world but here it looks so opposite. The most mind boggling thing for me is all these young women just existing only to get marriend and have babies, what about college, having an ambition? How can one show their christ like behavior if you do not even step outside your home. Where is the trust in God when you monitor every effort. I remember my father giving me advice before getting married that he wishes that I would really persue my dream and do not get bound by marriage and household work only. I love them so much for that.


  7. Stephen G September 16, 2014 / 3:36 pm

    I just wanna know what is gonna happen when they figure out Ben Seewald is gay?!?!


  8. kittysperson November 7, 2014 / 1:55 pm

    How have the Duggar kids not realized how insulting their parent’s rules are? I would be so offended if I was trusted so little. How weak and depraved would you have to be for these rules to actually help? Total nonsense.


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