Josh Duggar is a pedophile. Period. Any definition of the term will bring you right back to this incontrovertible fact. He not only admits to a lengthy period of attraction to girls significantly younger than himself (as young as 4 years old) and when he was of an age to be aware of “normal” or “healthy” sexual activity and attractiveness, but he participated in and orchestrated serial sexual assaults. He repeatedly, regularly molested girls for the sake of his own sexual gratification, and without their consent. Whether or not he has since acted upon such desires is irrelevant (though unlikely, given the nature of human sexuality). This is not a case of adolescent “confusion” or “curiosity.” It is a case of predatory behavior, calculated and clandestine, hidden in the dark knowledge of its own wrongness. He knew that what he was doing was morally wrong, irreversibly damaging, illegal, and reprehensible. Furthermore, he performed all of these acts with his own sisters. His closest relatives. The girls who loved and looked up to him, who saw in him a protector and an example. He took advantage of this vulnerability, and he reports that he is ashamed of these actions now. His actions of incest and assault.

But he still got off. He put his fingers inside of his sisters, stimulating them against their wills, sometimes while they slept, while he jerked himself off. He pulled their clothes aside, put his hands on their bodies, his dick got hard, and he came.

Does that visual make you feel sick? Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Does that make you feel just wrong? It should.

That, my friends, is pedophilia. Period.

Me recognizing and naming Josh Duggar’s pedophilia is not in any way an admonishment against Christianity in general, nor should it threaten your faith. To insinuate that the Duggars’ very vocal, very evangelical, and very conservative Christianity is somehow responsible for his pedophilia is not only overly simplistic, but psychologically and socially irresponsible. And to treat his actions as strictly a result of his Christianity is a perversion of Christ’s teachings (at least as I understand them). I want to make it clear that I do not hold to the pop psychology explanation for pedophilia as a product of solely social circumstances. For years, the concept of underage sexual attraction as “taught” and “learned” behavior has dominated popular representations of pedophilia (any number of episodes of “Criminal Minds” or “CSI” discuss the “learned” nature of pedophilia, and report that the dangerous adult was often once a victim themselves who learned the “wrong” way to be a sexual person), yet recent research has suggested that the “nurture” argument for pedophilia is mostly incorrect, or at the very least incomplete. As recently as 2012, neurologist James Cantor has discovered convincing data arguing in favor of a biological precedent for pedophilia. Pedophiles frequently share certain biological/physical attributes (slightly lower IQ, smaller brain mass, slightly smaller stature, and—head-scratchingly enough—left handedness), which suggest a biological precedent for their sexual predilections.

This argument makes sense, especially if we apply the logic of biological pedophilia to a growing cultural understanding of heterosexuality and homosexuality as genetically determined (the “Born this Way” movement has done a great job educating the public on the issue of naturalized sexual desire). Of course, if we consider genetics as partly responsible for pedophilia (the “nature” argument), this does not invalidate or discount the importance of the theory of learned or taught patterns of pedophilic behavior (the “nurture” argument). After all, sexologists and psychologists have for decades observed that a significant portion of pedophiles were themselves victimized by a sexual predator at some point (35% reported being abused as children), often within their own families (something like 30% of child molestation cases—of the few which are reported—are committed by a family member, but many people suspect that only about 1-10% of all child sexual abuse cases are ever reported, so the odds of that percentage being significantly higher are very likely). If there is a genetic component to pedophilia, certainly the likelihood of a pedophile man fathering a pedophile child (or uncle, or grandfather, or third cousin, etc.) would be high, and the likelihood of said older individual (95% of the time, a man) sexually abusing the child who is already biologically predisposed to pedophilia would also be high.

What is more, the “nature” argument doesn’t really seem to take into account the environmental factors that must certainly come into play before the pedophile takes the fantasy of his desire and acts upon it, bringing it into the realm of reality. Unlike heterosexuality (and, increasingly, homosexuality), which is protected as “normal” in Western culture, the step between the sexualized fantasy of underage attraction and the reality of a pedophilic assault is for many an impassable chasm. Indeed, ask most homosexuals or bisexuals or even straight people, and they will often tell tales of the fear, the uncertainty, and the courage they felt the first time they decided to act upon their socially “unacceptable” desires, the bringing into being of their long-time secreted fantasies.* It takes a lot to move from thinking about—even masturbating to and sexually enjoying—the fantasy of what one believes is “deviant” to the physical consummation of said deviance.

And this is where we can start examining Josh Duggar’s pedophilia. What, if anything, was present in his upbringing (that was visible to viewers, at least) that empowered him to act upon his desires? Can we glean anything unusual from his formative experiences that made him feel courageous enough, powerful enough, and unthinking enough to injure his young sisters as much as he did?

The Duggars are openly proud members of the evangelical “Quiverfull Movement,” their reality-TV-worthy large family the result of a loosely Biblical belief that they must create an “army” for Christ (based on Psalm 127, which declares that children are analogous to arrows in the quiver of a “mighty man”). This movement is not in and of itself inherently “bad” or immoral. Nor are large families. Just as sexual desire is itself not inherently wrong, but finds wrongness in its potential to violate others, the Quiverfull Movement contains within it the potential for victimization and abuse through its reduction of women to a collection of reproductive parts. Josh Duggar’s ability to separate his sisters from their biological relation (by treating them as sexual objects instead of sisters) and their psychological personhood (by assuming that his pleasure was more important than their victimization) demonstrates the potential to abuse that is within extreme movements such as Quiverfull. The Quiverfull Movement does not see women as fully capable and realized human beings. They are not an arrow used to fight the enemies of Christ. They do not wield the bow or carefully aim towards the target of unchristian injustice. They are not even the quiver. Instead, women are seen as the womb, the vessel, the potted earth into which the man puts his seed with the hopes of creating a child who is merely a reflection of the man (We can see the evidence for this preference of the male in the Duggar’s own home. All of the children are named “J” names, after their father, Jim Bob. Mother, Michelle, has no “M’s” in her sea of progeny.). They are, figuratively speaking, war machines, responsible for churning out “arrows” that men can use to fight Christ’s enemies. They are machinery. Nothing else.

When women are reduced to symbols of (male) reproduction, it becomes natural for children, male and female, to grow up believing not only that women are themselves not full, thinking human beings, but that the female reproductive organs—the uterus, ovaries, and vagina—are the single most important part of the woman.

But only as they exist in relation to a man.

Without the man to place his “seed,” the garden of a woman’s biological reproductive function remains fallow, the quiver empty (thus removing the “mighty man’s” defenses against the powers of . . . What? Satan? Non Christians? I haven’t actually figured that one out). The Quiverfull Movement suggests through its rhetoric of militaristic Christianity that without men, women have no purpose. We are but the empty vessels. How could Josh Duggar consider his sisters, his own sisters, sexual objects? How could he then proudly strut in front of the camera, narrating his large family’s various projects, and standing in as the on-camera, national representative to their loving, large brood? How could he live with that horrible hypocrisy?

How could he not? He had the power of a belief in his personhood, of his religious movement, of being the first born son (a Christic figure in his own way), of his biological maleness, and a likely genetic propensity all to insulate him from his actions. The chasm between his fantasy of touching and the reality of his assault wasn’t impossible to cross, as it is for so many. He was given plenty of pushes along the way. And that’s the hard truth. Period.

* I would never, ever, in a million years insinuate that homosexuality and pedophilia are in any way related or connected. I’m merely using homosexual “coming out” stories as more readily and easily understandable metaphors for pedophilic desire. Many people, before they “come out” as homosexual (or any “non-normate” sexuality, as it is narrowly determined by society) spend a long time, sometimes decades, fantasizing about their preferred objects of sexual desire before working up the courage to act upon such fantasies and desires. Really, straight people do this too. So do people interested in BDSM, feet, fat, butts, moles, anything! If we understand pedophilia as a sexual preference that is as natural as (though unrelated to) homosexuality or heterosexuality, then we have to understand that pedophiles spend just as long, very likely longer, fantasizing about their sexual object choices before acting upon those desires. Usually, something triggers these actions. But what? That’s the question. That’s what we need to start understanding, in order to avoid the initial sexual attack, not just the second.

This also leaves the question of legal action very open and troubling. If pedophilia is a genetic condition, then can we truly prosecute pedophiles? Is there such a thing as treatment for biological desire? Would we want there to be? Should we be litigating people’s sexual desire? If so, which ones? Can we even make that decision as a society? These are all questions that I personally cannot answer. I just don’t know.