Like Ned Flanders before them, the Duggars family of Tontitown, Ark., loves nothing more than worshipping God.
Of course, second on the list of things that float the Duggars' boat, so to speak, is feverish, non-stop procreation.
To the outside observer, evangelical fundamentalism and a level of enthusiasm for sexy-time that borders on obsession might seem like they would be mutually exclusive.
But the Duggars have managed to bring their two passions together by reining in their sexual urges with a set of arbitrary rules.
Rules that might appeal to a guy who lived 2,000 years ago, never had any kids, and ran with a social circle made up of single dudes and prostitutes, but rules just the same.
Anyway, if you're a Counting On fan, then you're probably (definitely) familiar with the Duggar courtship rules.
Obviously, there's no sex before marriage. Goes without saying.
On top of that, any sort of kissing, caressing, groping, and fondling is strictly prohibited by the famous family.
And from there, things really get weird, and weirdly specific:
Hand-holding, for example, is limited to 15-second sessions.
Would a 17-second hand-clutching duration lead to temptation from which there is no return? We may never know.
Meanwhile, "front-hugging" is forbidden, for fear to two sets of repressed genitals might make contact with nothing more than a couple thick layers of denim to separate them. (Sorry.)
But even after a set of baby-makers is brought together in holy matrimony, they're commanded to keep their public displays of affection to a minimum.
Of course, the Duggars also encourage life-long pair-bonding.
In their ideal scenario, two young people marry before they're out of their teens and remain together for a solid sixty years, popping out baby Duggars at 18-month intervals throughout.
Not only that, it's important for the Duggars to broadcast their affection to the world, so that everyone knows they don't feel limited by their bizarre, self-imposed rules.
So how, can young Duggar couples find their mate and convey their happiness without angering their God by giving in to their biological urges?
Well, that's where the Duggar Gaze comes in.
We've told you before about the Duggar Gaze, although, if you're a regular Counting On viewer, you've probably noticed it on your own.
Basically, any time the women of the family are on camera with their mate, they cast their eyes upward at him in adoring fashion.
Once you notice it, you cannot unsee it.
Think of a monk gazing upon the crucifix of a cathedral while deep in prayer, or Jennifer Aniston watching Brad Pitt deliver a Golden Globes acceptance speech.
The Duggar gaze is such a frequent occurrence that it's prompted at least a half-dozen conversations in the dark, disturbing Duggar-obsessed corners of Reddit.
And what do Redditors have to say about it?
Well, most are in agreement that
- It's kind of totally creepy;
- Duggar women are specifically instructed to participate in this unusual behavior for the sake of the camera.
“Oh, Jinger does her fair share of reverence-staring,” user wrote, as noticed by In Touch Weekly.
“She does this thing where she looks at Jeremy [Vuolo], and then she looks at the camera like, ‘Isn’t what he’s saying just the most brilliant thing?’ and then back at Jeremy.”
“When I see [Joy-Anna] respond to [Austin Forsyth] with the same adoring gaze her sisters and mom use for their men, I just feel … disillusioned,” another fan remarked.
A growing number of us are.
Just this week, one fan of the TLC Arkansasans offered the groundbreaking observation that the Duggar gaze is real ...
... but not always gender-specific:
"The wives and John David ahahaha he is totally the woman in their relationship," this fan wrote in a chat about the Gaze.
"Not at all saying the Duggar wives behaviour is more indicative of being female," this observer added in the chat.
"It just so happens it is them who form the cult of the adoring gaze but JD is wild for it too and way more so than Abbie."
Well maybe when it comes to their infamous Gaze, the Duggars are more progressive than we thought.