By Alex Rees, Cosmopolitan — The four eldest Duggar daughters of "19 Kids and Counting" fame — that's Jana, Jessa, Jill and Jinger — have a new book out this week, called "Growing Up Duggar." Inside, they're writing about their "darkest secrets," which do run deeper than the one time one sister glared at another because she'd broken the curling iron. There are passages covering jealousy, anger issues and even a discussion of Duggar mom Michelle's past eating disorder. The girls write that, "you may think that kids like the Duggars, who are homeschooled and don’t watch TV or read secular magazines, are immune from feelings like that, but we’re not! We’ve experienced some of those same negative feelings about the girl in the mirror that you may be feeling right now or have felt in the past."
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Numerous portions of the book are also dedicated to modesty, that tricky, tricky subject. Say the girls:
"We do not dress modestly because we are ashamed of the body God has given us; quite the contrary. We realize that our body is a special gift from God and that He intends for it to be shared only with our future husband... We avoid low-cut, cleavage-showing, gaping, or bare-shouldered tops; and when needed, we wear an undershirt. We try to make it a habit to always cover the top of our shirt with our hand when we bend over. We don’t want to play the peekaboo game with our neckline."
But it doesn't stop there. Like Arkansas' very own morality police, they're also on the look out for ladies (perhaps words like "jezebel" and "harlot" were edited out in early drafts) who aren't subscribing to a similar dress code. Sure, they don't arrest people, but the family have a special code word for these provocative women, which is "Nike." Really, there's a code word:
"That’s a signal to the boys, and even to Dad, that they should nonchalantly drop their eyes and look down at their shoes as we walk past her... It’s meant to help keep the guys’ eyes from seeing things they shouldn’t be seeing. By using the single-word signal, the warning can be given quietly and discreetly."
This feels wrong for all sorts of reasons. It's disconcertingly judgemental, and the narrative that men, even good Quiverfull men, are perennial victims of their crazed sex drives is far too common in contemporary religious-based lifestyle literature. (The Duggars mention it again when remembering Michelle's past as a cheerleader before finding God and Jim Bob: "She had no idea that dancing around in a short skirt in front of a bunch of boys was causing many of them to think sensual thoughts about her," the book reads.) Just keep it in your pants, people, if that's what you believe the Lord wants. It's not that hard; if a hint of calf muscle or cleavage can excite a man past the point of self-control then, sure it's sort of flattering, but mostly the man is lacking in self-control. It's almost as if the girls don't think too highly of their menfolk.
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Furthermore, the book is refreshingly candid — by Duggar standards — about the girls' sexuality. They discuss their "natural physical desire toward men," which they also thank God for because, well, let's not even delve into the family's views on homosexuality. Unfortunately, they write that those desires "can also be one of the biggest sources of temptation and struggles," if they're not appropriately managed. So the girls avoid alone time with guys before entering a courtship, because acting on "sensual thoughts" before he puts a ring on it would put them in grave "moral danger."
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And this will probably not come as a surprise, but there's no mention of a code word the Duggar men use so the girls can drop their eyes when a shirtless hottie or guy in tight pants walks past. (Unless that's coming when eldest sons Josh, John-David, and Joseph write their own book.) A man's hormones are a cross for the whole family to bear, but a woman's appear to a solitary burden. And that's one thing about "Growing Up Duggar" that seems a little sad.
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