ATI’s “Sex Ed” Curriculum: Silencing Victims and Excusing Sex Crime

By Nicholas Ducote, HA Community Coordinator

I recently received a set of first edition Advanced Training Institute Wisdom Booklets – thanks to the generous scrounging of an HA community member. I distinctly remembered a volume of the WBs (Wisdom Booklets) that dealt with sexuality, lust, and immoral sexual activity. At the time, it left me more confused than anything. I thought married couples literally could not catch or spread a venereal disease. My sexual education from the WBs did not include anything on consent or rape, and it placed much of the burden of lustful thoughts on the seductive powers of scantily clad women. While I cannot say with any certainty that the Duggars received the same sexual education I did, our shared curriculum in the WBs and Bill Gothard’s teachings were at least our shared base line for “sexual education.” Ironically, it was the coverage of President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky that prompted me to ask “what is rape?” and not a concept I learned from my sexual education.

A foundational point in ATI and Gothard’s sexual ethic is a lack of agency for men and women as a powerful temptation.Women were saddled with the majority of the responsibly for men’s “lustful” thoughts. Gothard’s characterization of women meant that their immodesty compelled men to sexualize, harass, or assault them.

One of Gothard’s big things was for families to have “bible time” in the mornings, which consisted of reading a Proverb each day of the month, then a handful of Psalms. Proverbs 7 (KJV was what ATI mandated) was always emphasized by my parents, and it describes a young man being tempted and literally led down a dark alley to have sex with a woman of the night. The woman is described as wearing “the attire of an harlot.” Her participation in the public sphere is key to her function as a temptation, and “her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.”  The chapter constantly emphasizes the woman “catching” the man, convincing him to “take our fill of love… with her fair speech.” Despite the highly sensual details provided by the author, the consequences of participating in such actions are clear:

He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter… Many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.

Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths.

C ox slaughter

Intro section of WB24 echoing Proverbs 7

The message of Proverbs 7 is echoed by ATI’s Wisdom Booklet #24, which focuses on lust, temptation, and provided the basics for sexual education for thousands of ATI students.

A full copy of the volume is included at the bottom of this post, and I will discuss excerpts. ATI and Gothard always encouraged families to apply their WB lessons to everyday life. My parents decided the teachings of this volume meant I shouldn’t play rec-league soccer on a team with girls (I was 16). Wisdom Booklet 24 focused on Matthew 5:27-28, which reads:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

bible verse

B lust conquer

Much like Proverbs 7, this WB wanted to emphasize theC lust three times physical dangers that can come from lusting. However, in typical Gothard fashion, the WB claimed that envisioning an act three times had the same effect on your body and soul as doing the action. Not only can imaginative lusting equal fornication, but the WB claims that lusting can actually make you a violent criminal. “As a result [of lusting], the glands and other bodily functions are activated, and the level of testosterone increases. Recent studies revealed a significant correlation between high testosterone levels and those who commit violent crimes.” I’m not here to say I know what was going on in Josh Duggar’s mind all those years ago, but I can tell you what I felt when I was taught these things as a teenager.

This teaching really messed me up. I assumed I was no better than a sex criminal because I had sexual thoughts. If I wanted to be with a girl, I was no better than a violent rapist. Sexual thoughts are natural for pubescent teens, and making them feel their life and soul are in literal danger by even thinking these thoughts fucks you up. How is it productive sex education to tell young people that they might as well commit the act if they are going to think about it three times?

Another glaring error in the text is the lack of any discussion of consent. In the chapter where we translated the original Greek and made all sorts of assumptions about God, called “How Does the Greek Confirm the Dangers of Partners’ Defiling Their Marriage By Lust?,” there are a number of terms defined, including: honorable, undefiled, fornicator, adulterer, judge, lewdness, lechery, lust, prolifigacy, abandonment, depravity, perversion, dissipation, dissolution, vice, and profanity (all terms defined in the context of marriage). But where is consent? Where is “marital rape” in this list of terms? Michelle Duggar is outspoken about her beliefs on a wife’s subservient role and need to be sexually available to her husband. ATI’s curriculum would have taught no different.

SCN_0009 SCN_0010

And just to make sure you are grasping the slippery slope put forth by the text – pg 17 hitlerthinking about immorality three times is just as bad as doing it. Immorality is entirely defined by scripture verses and does not address things like consent or marital rape. The Wisdom Booklet’s “History Resource” profiled Hilter, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Karl Marx, and Nietzsche. You guessed it, each one of these people were characterized by how their immorality led them astray or ended up with genocide. Next in history, we learned about how immorality led to the collapse of the Maya, Incas, Ancient Greece, and the Roman Empire. In the Math section, we learned how to “visualize the consequences of lust” with visual graphs.

The “Science Resource” chapter further emphasized the role of women as active “trappers.” The chapter is entirely on different kinds of traps used animal trappers and it begins with “How Do Trappers Illustrate the Enticements Which Satan Uses to Appeal to our Lusts?” This language is borrowed directly from Proverbs 7, which says the seductress “perfumed [her] bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.” Throughout this volume, men are the presumed focus of the lust and women are the dangerous seducing forces that can lead to the collapse of civilizations.

45 traps

As Wende discussed yesterday, many of Gothard’s teachings explain that victims of sexual abuse may be at fault for being abused. This image has been making the rounds through mainstream media. Its horribly offensive and damaging message are reiterated in other information like this that redirects responsibility for assault to “immodest” victims. Wisdom Book 24 covers this very topic on page 1130. “God’s Laws on Nakedness Begin with Modesty in the Home” begins the section:

The requirement for modesty among family members is given in Leviticus 18. Twenty-four times in this chapter, God’s people are commanded not to “uncover their nakedness” to those near of kin. Whether this refers to an incestuous relationship or nakedness alone, the fact is clear that indecency as well as immorality is forbidden.

Gothard’s insistence on a literal interpretation of Levitical law informs his sexual ethic. Deuteronomy 22:23-24 also advocates stoning raped women “because she cried not.”

If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you

Right on queue, WB24 throws in a graphic image of s56 incest stoningomeone being stoned “for incestuous relationships.” It’s no stretch to say that ATI and Gothard continually pushed the idea that victims were, at least partially, at fault for their abuse.

The closest WB24 gets to actual sex education is the medical section on venereal diseases. However, even this led to very basic confusion about how one can acquire a VD.

Venereal diseases are transmitted primarily by a corruption of God’s design for love. When man violates God’s design for marriage and follows his own lustful desires, he suffers grave consequences to his own health.

The section, and WB24, ends with an admonition to “identify the medical consequences of lust,” once again equating mental fantasies with physical consequences. The supposed impacts are VDs, and each sub-heading of the chapter is matched to the appropriate Bible verse.

The distortions of the idea of appropriate sexual relations and consent by WB24 are inexcusable. Men are characterized as dominated by fleeting lust, which are irresistibly stoked by the dress of girls or women. Even family members not excused from discussion by ATI, thus family members are subsumed into the “seductress” category. If a father molests his children, perhaps they are to blame. Such is the thinking proposed by Gothard. Looking back, it’s easy to see how this philosophy can lead to serial sexual abuse because men are relieved of much of their responsibility for their actions, while just lusting is as bad as actually doing the act. Leading many men to think they are beyond help, consumed by their desires. So instead of dealing with them, they repress them, and it only makes it more difficult to deal with what may have begun as natural sexual urges.

I can see just in my own life how this thinking impacted my sexual ethic and ideas of consent at a young age. It made me think that masturbating made me as perverse as sex criminals. I talked with a friend of mine and we would confess our “sins of lust”, and I saw us as struggling with similar burdens. His burden meant he took advantage of underage girls, mine was masturbating in my bed. ATI and Bill Gothard taught me those things were just as bad.

In my many conversations with ATI survivors, sexual abuse is too often a topic of discussion. One woman I talked with was abused as a child, and her family not only blamed her for it, but held exorcisms. They convinced her the demons inside her were “making” men abuse her. Agency and responsibility are replaced by pseudoscience and utterly incomprehensible logic about sex and sexual desire. Gothard used this system to groom his victims, to shame them into silence, to make them afraid to speak up. Why? Because they might have been responsible for the abuse.

Full copy of Wisdom Booklet #24:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


  • Sorry, just a couple of more random comments—the note about married couples being unable to catch any STI made me laugh, but I realized that was probably a common thought (and justified, given what we were taught!). Mrs. TSJ and I happily got tested separately before getting serious (and eventually married). It’s just a polite thing to do.

    I do recall a distinct lack of agency vs. temptation for girls *and* guys. I can’t speak everyone’s experience, but guys were strongly tasked with making sure girls didn’t give us “their hearts,” which usually meant individual conversation that lasted more than 3 seconds. Girls were tasked with matching wardrobes from Little House on the Prairie because all guys are massive testosterone factories pulsing with rape, pregnancy, etc.

    It’s like sex/sexuality was built up SO MUCH as this amazing/awesome thing, when in reality… eh, you know, it’s pretty darn nice but that’s about it (assuming everyone’s got protection). People are usually polite and friendly afterward. No wrath from on high.

    See folks, this is kinda why Bill Gothard happened. People need sex. Really, they do. Trying to shut it all down, maybe thinking you have a special mission from 1960s Jesus to keep people acting they way you IMAGINED they acted in the 1950s… well, that’s doomed to fail. Won’t help anyone. Girls and guys just end up feeling needlessly dirty and ashamed. Bill Gothard, without even an ancient Playboy to take the edge off, …he did the stuff he did. Not cool.

    • One more random thought—I could have sworn I read someplace that Dr. Dobson admitted that sometimes masturbating is just a good thing to do. I believe he analogized it with great aplomb as: “Releasing steam from the emergency valve.” Sigh.

    • Timber, thanks for that added perspective. Dobson may have been for it, but Gothard definitely was not. As Old Testament literalists, they took the story of Onan very seriously. There’s a section on it in either the Men’s Manual or the Advanced Seminar book.

      • Yep, that’s my recollection. I remember the first time (Basic Seminar…?) I heard Gothard hyjacking jacking off. I was 12, recently had become accustomed to such things.

        I then spent several years in terror/shame until finally “confessing” and (SOMEHOW) not partaking for 5 long years. Now my wife and I are practically sales directors for Babeland.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Girls were tasked with matching wardrobes from Little House on the Prairie because all guys are massive testosterone factories pulsing with rape, pregnancy, etc.

      Isn’t that the same rationale Extreme Islam (Wahabi, Talibani, ISIS) uses to justify the burqa?

      And the “Little House on the Prairie” wardrobes are NOT authentic. Back when those FLDS polygs got busted, a friend with background in historical costuming was watching the coverage with me and commented on the LHotP dresses the plural wives defending their common husband were wearing. Those were NOT actual 19th Century Prairie Dresses (also called “Sack Dresses” because they were loose and about as shapely as a sack of potatoes). Those “Prairie Dresses” were the 1950s HOLLYWOOD movie version of a Prairie Dress, shaped to bring out the figure underneath.

      • Pretty sure it’s the same rationale. And I’ll be damned if dresses from 100+ years ago aren’t sexy as hell! Although I’m also irrationally pleased by the modern strappy sun dress, too. Time to wrap up this comment; wife is rolling her eyes.

      • “Sack dresses” in my understanding were termed that, not because of their shape, but because they were actually made from seed sack material after the seed was used up. The pioneers very much believed in “waste not, want not.” The womanly figure was celebrated back then (which is why there were corsets, stays and hoops). Just read Little House on the Prairie & Laura Ingalls Wilder describes in detail what the dresses were like. I’ve no idea how accurate the TV series costuming is, but the books certainly are accurate.

      • Sack dresses were also known as dresses that hid the shape of an afab person’s body. regardless of how they were intended originally, the definition was changed.

  • That does sound like Dobson.

  • Pingback: HEAV’s Rick Boyer Defends Josh Duggar and Bill Gothard, Claims “Abuse is the New Racism” | Homeschoolers Anonymous

  • Nicholas! This may be one of the most important posts you’ll ever do. Thanks, Brother! Damn. I didn’t realize how much just this one WB may have f—ed me up.
    I just read a book called Redeeming Sex by Debra Hirsch that’s way more in line with what I’ve come to believe about sexuality. I recommend it.
    10 years of marriage and 3 kids later I still have a bad habit of suppressing my sexual desires and pretending like they’re not there. Suppressing desires can only bring frustration.
    I’ve heard it preached that sin is “missing the mark.” If that’s true, I would say thinking of sexual desires as bad and suppressing them is sin. Theses desires should be released in a controlled way like a locomotive blowing off steam. They can propel me to romance my wife and make her feel loved and desired. No one is served by ignoring them.
    In other words, if I’m not channeling them to enhance and perpetuate my relationship with my wife, I am missing the mark.
    Keep up the great work, Nicholas! Much love and respect,

    • As a young single person, I wish I wouldn’t have been taught to “worship sex” so much. It was placed on a pedestal. I wish I would have dated more and learned to let my sexual energy leak out more.

      • Exactly. I’m fond of saying sex is truly pretty nice. I like it a lot; it’s especially lovely with someone you deeply love.

        And that’s it. Not really anything more magical or pedestal-worthy than that.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Kristofer. I have been talking to a lot of alumni and connecting them with these old volumes. Some of my very earliest confusions, shame, and guilt are rooted in ATI’s teaching about sexuality. It takes a lifetime to deconstruct it all and being able to see all the crazy like this helps me process it.

      Wish you the best in your journey,

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Kristofer, I have long maintained that Christians are just as screwed-up sexually as everyone else these days, just in a different (and usually opposite) direction.

  • Pingback: A Few Thoughts on the Duggar Debacle | Yankee Gospel Girl

  • Pingback: Trump Picks Longtime Disciple of Gothard Cult, Sonny Perdue, for Cabinet Position | Homeschoolers Anonymous

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s