19 Kids and Counting is one of The Learning Channel’s top rated shows. It follows the Duggars, a Christian family who believe that children are a gift from God. Parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, have 19 children who abide strict religious rules that would inhibit them from being the average American teenager. Unlike most kids in America their age, the Duggar’s lifestyle does not allow them to casually date but rather, court.
Courting, or dating with a purpose as the Duggars call it, is defined as a relationship between a man and a woman in which they seek to determine if it is God’s will for them to marry each other. No, this does not mean that the marriage is arranged but instead it requires parental involvement. In this case, a young man who is interested in a young woman must acquire permission to court from her father. It is then that the couple can commence on a well-controlled courtship. All dates are chaperoned, which helps for the two young people to stay pure until marriage. This means the relationship consists of side-hugs only until engagement; then, the couple may hold hands. Each of the Duggar children has also decided to save their first kiss for their wedding day.
Though there are 19 Duggar kids, only 3 of them have begun courting. (Their oldest son, Josh, is even married!) Recently, the first two daughters have started their courtships. A woman’s responsibility in a courtship seem to be much more extensive then a man’s. The Duggars each make a list of the qualities they are looking for in a person. The women must then make themselves appealing to a godly man. She must adapt to exacting standards imbedded in constructions of instinctive male brutishness and feminine virtue. In order for a man to be considered godly, he must honor the women in his life by containing himself. This means no addictions and controlled anger. However, for a woman to be considered godly the list is much longer. Seemingly, in a courtship, women are inferior. A courtship is often seen as a connection with male headship and female submission.
Uncontrolled anger on the man’s part is a large concern for the Duggars. They feel they are lucky to have a father who is able to manage his temper; therefore, there is no reason why any other man should not be able to do the same. Without a courtship, they say that women are subject to uncontrolled male sexual appetite and violence. So again, the supervision of the parents will not allow for the couple to be in physical or moral danger.
When talking to young people around my campus about this lifestyle, I received wide eyes and responses like “that’s crazy”. In my opinion, people in today’s world tend to respond in this way because we live according to much different standards. While few families like the Duggars seem to think that sex outside of “marriage can only spread disease, death and destruction but sex within marriage is pure, wholesome, and beautiful”, many other people have different views. True, most parents do not want their children sleeping around with many different people. But, even in terms of kissing or any other form of intimacy for that matter, how could two people truly know if they are meant to be by loving from such physical distance.
However, something must be working because over 20 years later, the Duggar parents are still happily married and raising their 19 children to follow in their footsteps!
If you’re interested! Jana, Jill, Jessa, and Jinger, the oldest daughters, have written a book entitled Growing Up Duggar. Get it here!