If you're a fan of their popular TLC reality series, then you're almost certainly aware of the controversial Duggars' courtship rules.
But while you may be familiar with the family's code of conduct, you might not know from where the infamous, bizarrely stringent regulations arose.
Or, for that matter, why they're so strictly enforced.
So join us as we explore one of the strangest, least-understood and, frankly, most disturbing aspects of life inside the Duggar compound ...
A Quiverfull of Duggars
The Duggars belong to the controversial Quiverfull movement, which holds that procreation is the primary purpose of life on earth, and it's the sacred duty of all women to birth as many children as physically possible.
The Supreme Leader
The Quiverfull movement and its affiliated Institute for Basic Life Principles have been described as "cults" by former members. The leader of these cults--and the man most responsible for the courtship guidelines followed by the Duggars--is a man named Bill Gothard.
A Fallen Minister
Gothard resigned from his post in disgrace following dozens of sexual assault and harassment allegations from former male and female employees. Though he seldom appears in public these days, it's been rumored that Gothard still exercises a tremendous amount of control over the organizations he founded.
Gothard, of course, isn't the only sexual predator with close ties to the Duggar clan. In May of 2015, the world was shocked by news that Josh Duggar had molested five young girls, four of whom were his sisters.
A Culture of Abuse
The back-to-back scandals brought a new level of scrutiny to the Duggars "courtship" rules, which had previously been viewed as more humurous than harmful.
A Systemic Problem
Some fans didn't like what they saw on closer inspection, and many realized that Josh and Gothard were symptoms of a much deeper issue...
The Stated Purpose
The Duggars believe that all premarital physical contact is inherently sinful. When asked how they came to this view, they tell outsiders that they believe passages in the Old Testament indicate that sex is to take place only between husbands and wives, and solely for the purpose of procreation.
The Actual Purpose
However, the language that members of the Quiverfull movement use with one another reveals a far more sinister intention: The Duggars and their ilk seek to neutralize the threat they feel is posed by female sexuality.
This agenda is reflected in the terminology used in IBLP teaching materials. For example, women who dress in provocative clothing are condemned for "defrauding" their male counterparts--that is, “stirring up desires that cannot be righteously fulfilled.”
A Dangerous Belief
Yes, in 2017, people like the Duggars are teaching their children that sexual assault is often the victim's fault. It's likely for this reason that parents Jim Bob and Michelle saw fit to protect Josh from prosecution after learning that he'd molested his sisters.
By now, you're probably beginning to realize that the Duggars' courtship rules are more dangerous and nefarious than they may seem at first sight. But what do the rules consist of exactly? Here's a rundown, as explained by Jim Bob and Michelle, during their 2014 (pre-sex scandal) interview with Today:
"Dating With a Purpose"
That's the way Jim Bob describes courting, and he instructs his children to think of it in those terms. “Courtship is really waiting for the one God has for you and praying through the whole process,” he tells Today. “It’s really examining the person and considering, ‘Would this be the guy I want to be the father of my kids?’”
All Dates Are Chaperoned
“Having that accountability really keeps things from going in the wrong direction,” Jim Bob says. Michelle adds: “Before you get emotionally attached, you want to know who they are deep inside. That’s easier when you have more eyes looking out for you. There are a lot of things you can learn from not pairing off alone.” There are also things you can ONLY learn from pairing off alone, but the Duggars don't trust girls and women not to seduce the men in their lives if given a moment's privacy,
Whenever Possible, Chaperones Should Be Male Duggars
“The brothers can see how they treat mom and dad, or see whether they show the sisters respect,” Michelle says. And obviously, there's nothing bizarre or creepy about a boy tagging along on his sister's dates to keep her from having sex, so this rule is perfectly normal. By the standards of the Bates family, that is.
All Text Messages Are Screened
Duggar children are allowed to text their significant others only if they agree to allow their parents to approve all incoming and outgoing messages. (Just to make sure, they're not permitted to have cell phones of their own until they're married.) “It’s neat to see their conversations,” Jim Bob says.
Kissing, Hand-Holding, and "Front-Hugs" are Forbidden
Duggar girls are not permitted to engage in any form of physical contact beyond brief "side hugs" prior to marriage. “But they have committed to waiting for the first kiss till marriage,” Jim Bob says.“We believe it’s best for them to save the physical part for marriage,” Michelle adds. “That way there’s no regrets.”
The Decree of Dad
Jim Bob thoroughly vets all potential suitors before they're permitted to spend time with his daughters. “The girls have always said they would send any guy who was interested in them to Dad. That’s a good thing – that is such good protection for them.” Jim Bob says he spends much of his week reviewing applications from interested parties.
A Collaborative Process
Once a possible mate is chosen, Jim Bob continues to play an active role in the courtship process, essentially deciding for his daughter if a man is right for her or not. “A parent that loves and cares for their children, they want the best relationship for their child. It’s fun to be involved in the whole process in choosing it," Michelle says.
One of the goals for the Duggars is to protect their media empire by avoiding the appearance of scandal. However, courtships don't always go according to plan.
The Strange Case of Marjorie Jackson
In 2015, Josiah Duggar courted Marjorie Jackson. The relationship ended abruptly and without explanation. Photos of Jackson were quickly removed from all Duggar social media pages.
A Violation of Rule Number One
Of course, the Duggars' main goal in presiding over their children's sex lives is to prevent premarital pregnancy. However, many fans believe Joy-Anna Duggar got pregnant well before her "shotgun wedding" to Austin Forsyth. If that is the case, you can bet the Duggars will do their best to sweep the truth under the rug.