Life among the quiverfull

Amanda Marcotte looks at some of the laughably typical scandals plaguing the reactionary-Christian movement.

There’s the resignation of Doug Phillips, and even better, there’s what is revealed in the lawsuit filed by the woman he’d been “inappropriately” “romantic and affectionate” with.

While the complaint never mentions sexual intercourse, it does claim that he repeatedly groped and masturbated on her while she protested. The plaintiff alleges she was basically moved into Phillips’ house with his wife and children, taken on many family vacations, and given work as a caretaker for the family, all while secretly being bullied into sexual encounters without consent. She even claims that Phillips told her that they would marry soon, as he believed that his wife was about to die.

Torres-Manteufel’s lawyer provided me with a copy of the complaint. It is searing in its criticisms of Doug Phillips. “Phillips’s patriarchal movement teaches that men are, and should be, in the absolute control of women,” reads the complaint, claiming that Torres-Manteufel was therefore bullied into believing she had no choice but to submit to Phillips’ alleged sexual abuse, even though she feared it made her “damaged goods.”

“In other words, women within this movement are perceived to exist only for the end-goals communicated by the male leaders that perceive themselves as the ‘patriarchs’ of this world,” the lawsuit reads. The conclusion is that a woman who truly believed this—whose boss, mentor, and father figure taught her that total submission was her duty in life—was not able to effectively plot an escape from a sexually coercive relationship.

And that is the case with all patriarchal religions; that’s how they work. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

The scandal around Phillips is just the latest in a long line of ugly shocks to the far Christian right that threaten to destabilize and possibly capsize the community. As The Wire reported in early March, Bill Gothard, the leader of the Institute in Basic Life Principles, resigned his position in the wake of a series of accusations of alleged sexual abuse from dozens of women in the organization. IBLP, like Vision Forum Ministries, is a major clearinghouse for adherents to Biblical patriarchy, teaching members to shun contraception, embrace extreme forms of female submission, and, of course, use homeschooling to shelter young people from the outside world.

The better to exploit them in secret.

Similarly, both Bob Jones University and Patrick Henry College—schools that were established in no small part to give these homeschooled and sheltered kids from far Christian right backgrounds a place to go to college—have been at the center of accusations of indifference and even of allegedly covering up reported sexual abuse on campus. BJU received a lot of heat when they fired an outside firm that had been brought on to investigate accusations of sexual abuse, only to rehire them when it looked like they were punishing the firm for being too thorough in exposing the problem. Patrick Henry College was the recent target of an exposé in The New Republic that explored how young women who brought sexual abuse complaints to the school were frequently drummed out of the college or made to felt that they had somehow brought the abuse on themselves.

Sound familiar? Stone the woman who reports a rape?

The “pitch” of Biblical patriarchy, as epitomized by Michelle Duggar, is that women will be coddled and worshipped in exchange for giving up their ambitions and the autonomy to practice an extreme form of female submission. The unpleasant truth is that a culture that teaches that women are put on Earth for no other purpose but to serve men is not going to breed respect for women.

Not that atheism is doing a brilliant job either, so far…


  1. wannabe says

    There was a similar spate of sex scandals in 1986-87 regarding TV preachers Jim Bakker (husband of Tammy Faye Bakker; they also had a huge financial scandal) and Jimmy Swaggart. Both lost their ministries, Bakker went to prison. Both quickly returned to TV evangelism. We should expect that today’s disgraced and defrocked leaders will also return.

  2. MFHeadcase says

    Hell, when they do come back, the “Reformed Sinner” angle will be used in their marketing pitches, and likely work.

  3. Blanche Quizno says

    The depraved Duggars whitewash the quiverfull movement. Since they all know that seeing the children in the typical matching, homemade uniforms of the movement would be off-putting to the viewers and make them think the movement is even more freakish than they already do, they allow everyone to wear more “normal” clothes, though females are never allowed to wear anything but dresses (the better to allow the patriarch access to their crotches, no doubt). Their reality TV show is absolutely about advertising their sicko movement by making it look as attractive as possible. You don’t see them “blanket-training” the infants, though they do – that’s where you put a small blanket on the floor and you put the baby on the blanket. As soon as the baby reaches or steps off the blanket, you whip whatever body part is off the blanket. The baby soon learns that having any curiosity at all is painful and that s/he has no right to bodily autonomy or any right to expect to be protected and loved by people stronger than himself/herself. It’s poisonous.

  4. Blanche Quizno says

    @2 MFHeadcase: Why not? The whole “I used to be an atheist before JAAAYZUUUSSSS” angle certainly makes the churchies reflexively empty out their wallets!

  5. smrnda says

    On the Duggars, they get $$$$$ from their TV show, so they don’t show the plight of some ordinary saps who buy into the ‘quiverfull’ scam and have double-digit kids and not enough money. It’s a pyramid scheme; the only people able to make a living are those compensated for promoting the lifestyle.

  6. Katherine Woo says

    Amanada Marcotte should be a pariah around here if held to the same standards of Dawkins, Harris, and other wrongly-behaved male atheists.

    1. Amanda Marcotte was fine with relaxed rules on FGM.

    2. Amanda Marcotte’s zealotry and desire to appear ‘racially conscious’ led to her grandstanding in the Duke Case, which has set off the last decade of MRA/conservative rape-denialism.

    3. She can write entire columns on sexual assault in the Muslim world without mentioning “Islam,” but is sure to berate others for being “anti-Muslim.”

    4. I have never seen Amanda Marcotte speak critically of Islam, in fact I have only seen her attack critics of Islam. Google “Amanda Marcotte Islam” and see if you can find an article by her critical of Islam.

    5. Her callous statements on abortion do pro-choice people no favors.

    6. Her legal stance on rape, affirmative consent, is another harm-feminism spectacle. Beyond being comically unrealistic to actual sexual encounters, it is an illiberal assault on our criminal justice standards.

    It is fine if you want to link to her, but she deserves the same arm-lengths treatment as people like Dawkins. In fact unlike Dawkins, who never has claimed to be a feminist paragon, Marcotte has caused direct, reparable damage to feminism with her unhinged polemics.

    She exemplifies the hypocrisy and moral cowardice that the general public associates with the word “feminism.”

  7. MyaR says

    Wow, there’s a lot of dishonest bullshit, there, Katherine Woo. And NewsBusters? Really?

    1. Sure, you can disagree with her position on that particular topic, but her point in the quoted passage that you linked to is that the ‘ritual nick’ is NOT mutilation, so not FGM. Quite different from being just fine with FGM.

    2. People are allowed to be wrong and not have to preface everything they say subsequently with a mea culpa.

    3. Because no one associates ‘Tahrir Square’, ‘Egypt’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Cairo’, or ‘Mubarak’ with Islam. If one doesn’t say ‘I am against Islam’ every 30 seconds, one is clearly uncritical of Islam, and, in fact, in cahoots with it.

    4. See 3. Also, I have literally seen her speak against Islam.

    5. I guess you should shoot me, too.

    6. I hope your name’s implication is true, and you identify as a woman. Because anything other than affirmative consent is fucking deranged.

  8. Katherine Woo says


    1. A “ritual nick” is illegal and defined by law as FGM. It is also defined as FGM by the United Nations. But you apologetic for FGM is noted. Ophelia opposed the ritual nick too if I recall correctly.

    2. Thank you for proving my point. Marcotte is allowed to be wrong, but Harris, Dawkins, Hirsi Ali, etc. are demonised for their alleged mistakes vis-à-vis Islam.

    3. Hyperbole to cover up her conspicuous lack of writing on Islam.

    4. Telling how you fail to cite it or even describe it in vague terms.

    5. A childish non-response.

    6. No I do not think affirmative consent is necessary to better prosecute rape. It is utopian, self-righteous posturing as perfectly revealed by your broad-brush denunciation of any opposition as “deranged” with the even more duplicitous/childish implication that anyone who disagrees with you cannot be a woman. I would think people like you would get a clue based on the fact that most women reject the label “feminist”…but no, you clearly never learn.

  9. says

    Katherine what are you talking about? When have I ever “demonised” Harris, Dawkins, Hirsi Ali, etc. for their alleged mistakes vis-à-vis Islam?

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