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Friday, May 22, 2015

I'm putting this here because this is where it belongs.

Let's talk about Josh Duggar. And while we're at it, let's say a little bit about pedophiles, sexual abuse, and other topical delights.

First: While I do not in any way condone what Josh Duggar did, let's be real--it's not uncommon. It happens all the time. The only time we seem to care is when there seems to be a scapegoat we dislike who is the culprit. At that point all hell breaks loose, the media has a heyday, and everyone who feels slighted by the person takes potshots on social media. I've done it myself, no doubt, even if I don't remember when.

Second: I know this will sound weird, but I don't believe all sexual crimes are the same. I think there's a big difference between being fondled inappropriately by someone and being raped. Having been a victim of both, I'm only speaking from my own experience, but given that experience, I have to say there was a vast difference between the two actions and also my reaction to and the longlasting effects of both.

I've seen Mr. Duggar called a bigot and a hypocrite. Given his beliefs and some statements he has made about the LGBT community, those could be an accurate assessment of his words and actions. I don't necessarily disagree with them. Anyone who insinuates that someone from the LGBT community is a danger to children simply because they have a different sexual orientation or are transgender loses all credibility in my opinion. That's just a stupid assumption about a lot of people. Saying those types of things publicly is damaging and inaccurate.

I've also seen Mr. Duggar called a pedophile.

Let's talk about pedophiles. Years ago, for a therapy assignment, I did a great deal of research on the topic--more, probably, than Therapist wanted me to. And it was good for me. I learned that there are many men and women in this world who are sexually attracted to children. That was news. I also learned that some of those people do not wish to harm children by acting out sexually with them, that their lives are lonely and a bit tortured, that they feel incredible shame and depression about who they are. They see no possibility for a "normal" life, nor do they believe they will ever find a spouse or have a family. Having a family means having children which could be problematic for them.

On the other hand, there are pedophiles who believe that having sex with children is healthy; that parents should entrust their children to the pedophiles who will have loving physical relationships with them because that's the way it should be. If you guess that I disagree with this, you would be correct.

Those are just two representations of the pedophile community. There are, no doubt, just as in any segment of people, many different degrees and various levels of feelings of pedophilia. Of course, some will act on the feelings while others may not. But the point I'm trying to make is this: there is not a box that will fit every person in that community.

Moving to Mr. Duggar: I don't know that he IS a pedophile. From what I've read, the feelings of attraction to children do not go away. From my research I would have to say that pedophiles who act on the feelings end up escalating-- continuing to molest children, and they don't do it one time and stop. If, in fact, this was a one-time event in Mr. Duggar's life, I would have to say he doesn't qualify as a pedophile, but instead joins that group of children who are born into large, ultra-conservative families where sex is a bad word.

When families don't normalize discussion of all body parts, including genitalia and breasts, and questions about sexuality and sexual relationships are not welcomed, a weirdness about bodies and sex begins to develop. Children who cannot comfortably discuss such things with their parents and each other are more likely to yield to the desire to experiment, and they'll use the most vulnerable, accessible subjects to satisfy their curiosity. I target large families because many times younger children are left in the care of older ones, thus providing opportunity. Will all curious children take advantage of this situation? No, of course not, but some will. Usually this experimentation takes place between the ages of 9 and 14, and involves fondling the body parts of the younger child. It rarely goes beyond that. If it escalates further, then something more than curiosity is involved.

Josh Duggar's incidents reportedly occurred when he was 14-15 years old. That's somewhat older than is usual in reference to the above paragraph, but he also lived in unusual circumstances. I'm not an avid fan of his family's reality show, and I don't know him personally, but I'm guessing that frank discussions about sex didn't really happen in the family, regardless of the parents' obvious desire for copulation. Sex talk doesn't seem to be a topic in the series. It's possible that he repressed his impulses as long as he could and then hormones kicked in and he sort of exploded in a need to touch breasts and genitalia. But unless the behavior continued and is still going on today (and I have no idea one way or another), it's probably unfair to name Josh Duggar as a pedophile. And until more is known about his current sexual activities, it's probably unfair to call him a sexual deviant.

What am I saying? I'm saying that it might be a good idea to change the way we talk to our kids about sex. It's a good idea to talk about ALL their body parts from the time that they are learning to speak. Let them be as excited about having body parts that are protected and kept covered as they are about having hands and eyes and knees. I'm not suggesting that we change the words of "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes," but rather, that we address the fact that those parts exist and teach our kids how to keep those parts healthy, clean, and protected.

When it comes to talking about sexual interaction, instead of teaching the DON'T DOs, how about we just talk about it with no moral or religious agenda prompting our words? And not just about the physical act of making a baby, but about the feelings of attraction--why they happen, how they're helpful and appropriate, and what to do if you feel that way about someone and they don't feel it back. Kids have crushes on each other as early as Kindergarten. If they're not taught how to navigate their emotions, or what to call them, or why they have them, those can develop into feelings of shame or guilt which can cause them to later yield to an impulse that will hurt another child.

The society of fear that exists in largely conservative environments-- the one that says that if we give our kids information they'll want to experiment with it, is pointless. Clearly, they wish to experiment anyway. Lack of information just assures that those experiments will be conducted on those who have no means of protection or defense against them. Providing information means we can also teach our children to protect other kids. We can talk about when it's appropriate to approach another person sexually and when it's not. And if they need to see body parts, we can choose to show them realistic representations of the human anatomy, or they can wait until we're not looking and seek out the things that online pornography will teach them. The choice is ours.

What's to be done about Mr. Duggar? That's not up to me. But I think I'll not be throwing any stones. He's part of a huge group of adults who made similar mistakes when they were adolescents and teens. I know some people with past mistakes that haunt them, and I love those people. I wish things were different for them. But I also believe that Mr. Duggar will be better now that everyone knows. No more hiding and hoping the truth won't be revealed. Maybe he'll get become wiser. Maybe he'll educate himself about sex and real life and LGBT people who are everywhere and who make his life better even if he doesn't know it. Maybe he'll stop being afraid and talk to his own kids so they won't feel a need to repeat his actions on their own siblings and friends. Maybe.

We live in a weird world.

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