Josh Duggar and Jared Fogle: Are They Porn Addicts?

In the past few months we’ve seen weight-loss icon and Subway sandwich pitchman Jared Fogle plead guilty to a variety of charges related to illegal pornography and also to crossing state lines to pay for sex with underage girls. Meanwhile, reality TV star and conservative Christian political advocate Josh Duggar has admitted to molesting at least five girls during his mid-teens, to cheating on his wife and to being a porn addict. Fogle is looking at prison; Duggar is in a Christian rehab center.

Frankly, there is quite a lot to discuss about these two men and their sexual behaviors. I want to focus, though, on the relatively simple question of whether one or both appears to be a porn addict and, if so, what the implications of that might be. First off, let’s remember that there are three main criteria for a porn addiction diagnosis:

  1. Preoccupation to the point of obsession with pornography (online or off)
  2. Loss of control over the use of pornography, generally evidenced by failed attempts to limit or eliminate the behavior
  3. Negative consequences related to porn usage, including relationship issues, sexual issues beyond just porn use, depression, anxiety, isolation, financial woes and legal trouble

At this point, we have only the surface facts reported by various media outlets upon which to base our analysis. That said, the evidence that’s out there does suggest that both Fogle and Duggar could be porn addicts. (In both cases, the use of pornography seems to be part of a larger pattern of compulsive sexual behaviors, as is often the case with porn addiction.)

Before proceeding here, I think it is important to state that under no circumstances does porn addiction (or addiction of any kind) provide an excuse for bad behavior. Addicts of all types, including porn addicts, are responsible for the pain they have caused. Addiction does not mitigate their responsibility. In fact, part of recovering from addiction is admitting what you’ve done and accepting the consequences that come with that.

Jared Fogle

Fogle has been relatively quiet about his predicament, avoiding public statements about his motivations, his past behaviors and his future. As such, it’s difficult to analyze the situation. His former employer, Subway, has roundly criticized him, and his wife says she has filed for divorce. But Fogle himself has been silent. Basically, all we really have to go on here is a statement from his attorney, given on his behalf, which reads in part:

Jared is accepting responsibility for what he has done. … He has already begun [psychiatric treatment with] a world-renowned expert in sexual conditions in order to chart a course to recovery. It is Jared’s intent and goal to become healthy again. Most importantly, Jared understands that he has hurt innocent people, vulnerable people, and his family. He has expressed remorse to me and to his loved ones, and will, when given the opportunity, express that remorse to this court and to the people he has harmed. His intent is to spend the rest of his life making amends.

OK, that statement sounds like it was lifted almost verbatim from a primer on recovery from sex and porn addiction, which would indicate that Fogle and/or his attorney and/or the world-renowned expert thinks that some form of porn or sexual addiction might be an issue for him. Either way, Fogle is headed to prison for at least the next several years. If it turns out that he is indeed a porn addict, then he will, it’s hoped, receive appropriate treatment while serving his time – though in today’s primarily punitive prison system, that’s hardly a guarantee.

Josh Duggar

Unlike Fogle, Duggar (and his family) have been relatively forthcoming about his situation. Given their reality TV history (seven years of “19 Kids and Counting”) this is hardly a surprise. Frankly, asking the Duggars to not give their opinions in a public forum is like asking the Kardashians to stop posting selfies. One statement posted by Josh Duggar reads, in part:

“I have been the biggest hypocrite ever. While espousing faith and family values, I have secretly over the last several years been viewing pornography on the Internet and this became a secret addiction and I became unfaithful to my wife. … I brought hurt and a reproach to my family, close friends and the fans of our show with my actions that happened when I was 14-15 years old, and now I have re-broken their trust. … As I am learning the hard way, we have the freedom to choose our actions, but we do not get to choose our consequences. … I humbly ask for your forgiveness.”

OK, this statement is less “textbook” than the one crafted and delivered on Fogle’s behalf, but it’s also much more in line with how sex/porn addicts tend to think and react in the immediate aftermath of discovery. They’re trying to say the right things, but deep down they’re angry about being caught. Plus, they’re still in denial so they kind of feel like they haven’t really done anything wrong and shouldn’t have to face consequences. Basically, they want everyone to immediately forgive and forget based on an insincere admission of wrongdoing and regret. That’s certainly where my head was when my own world came apart, and that’s also what I hear from most newcomers in the sex/porn addiction recovery groups I attend. So, to my ears, Josh Duggar has taken the typical route of saying: “I’m a porn addict and that’s the root of my problems, so maybe you should all just lighten up and cut me some slack. And, oh yeah, I’m really sorry for hurting some people.”

So What’s the Verdict?

Right now, the unofficial verdict on Jared Fogle and Josh Duggar is that we don’t really know enough to say for sure whether one or both is addicted to pornography, but probably they are. Furthermore, there appears to be a lengthy history of sexual issues with both men, including not just porn usage but hands-on sexual behaviors, which might indicate that porn addiction is simply one element of a larger sexual addiction. Of course, treatment is the same either way – sex/porn addiction-focused individual and group therapy coupled with 12-step sexual recovery (and/or similar support groups). Unfortunately, with Fogle heading to prison and Duggar enrolled in a nonspecific boot camp-style rehab, it is possible that neither will receive the specific help that he needs, and that’s unfortunate.

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