Josh Duggar, Porn Addict?

Reality TV star blames porn addiction for his infidelity

Posted Aug 20, 2015

According to countless media reports, embattled Christian reality star Josh Duggar has been exposed as having accounts in the Ashley Madison data dump. Further, the star, previously exposed as having sexually abused siblings, has now claimed that it was an addiction to pornography, and letting “Satan build a fortress in his heart,” which caused his actions.

//creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Source: By Jim Bob Duggar (Email from Jim Bob Duggar) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Across the country, people shake their head and scoff. “Porn didn’t make you cheat, dude.” But, in a lot of ways, it makes sense that Duggar would cop this excuse. Let’s look at six facts about the pseudo-scientific concept of porn addiction:

  • In 2014, Case Western researcher Joshua Grubbs demonstrated that people who call themselves porn addicts tend to be people with religious and moral values against sex. Further, the strength of these anti-sex values predicted the identity of porn addict, regardless of how little porn a person actually watched.
  • The idea of porn addiction is widely promoted by religious and conservative types, from Kansas governor Sam Brownback  to the President of the Mormon institution, Brigham Young University. Pastors, ministers and priests are commonly invoking fights against porn addiction from the pulpit, even as they themselves are engaging in sexually inappropriate behaviors.
  • When religious leaders attack porn addiction, they commonly invoke terms such as “battle,” “war,” and invariably bring Satan into the dialogue. I wrote about this in my book on the topic, and pointed out that religious missions against cancer don’t talk about Satan or war. It’s only the ‘battle against immoral sex’ that brings out the big guns, as it were.
  • Most self-identified sex and porn addicts have little education and understanding of their sexuality, and have had no role models teaching them how to act in responsible, self-aware and self-accepting ways when it comes to their sexuality.
  • Most self-identified porn and sex addicts are wealthy white men. Indeed, the concept of sex addiction was introduced in the early ‘80’s, at the same time that society started holding powerful men accountable for infidelity, and stopped letting them exert male sexual privilege.
  • Powerful men who get in trouble for infidelity commonly blame their behaviors on an addiction to sex or porn. This includes physicians, lawyers and politicians. The hope is two-fold, first, by blaming porn/sex, they can divert a little responsibility from themselves. Secondly, they then create an easy way to fix the problem, by going to porn/sex addiction treatment – many of which are conveniently religious in nature.

The last sad chapter of this case revealed that Josh Duggar had been sent to an unlicensed, unmonitored, religious treatment program, after he was discovered abusing his sisters. The events today may be a tragic after-effect of that choice by his parents. Evidence-based treatment programs for adolescents with sexual behavior problems include sexual education as critical parts of therapy. Perhaps, if Josh had had the opportunity to benefit from the effective treatments that are available, he might have learned to understand his sexual desires, his sexual needs, to manage or negotiate around the temptations of infidelity and the importance of assuming responsibility for one’s sexual behaviors. Interestingly, after posting his initial confession, Duggar allegedly then edited it later, removing the porn addiction and Satan references. Perhaps he realized (or was coached) that this was an unlikely to be successful excuse…

It is all too easy to blame this latest chapter on the Duggar family’s religious values. But, Josh’s actions here, blaming porn addiction for his behaviors, reveal that he has been influenced by the larger society’s uncritical belief that porn addiction is a valid concept. Josh’s family got their values towards sex and their fear of nonreligious treatment, from us. They didn’t make them up themselves. Those values and attitudes were adopted from their larger conservative religious and political community and media. It’s time that we start holding those groups responsible for continually promoting the pseudoscientific concept of porn addiction. Josh Duggar’s actions today are their fault, as much as his.

Follow David on Twitter. Thanks to the delightful Charlie Glickman for the inspiration for this piece.