Sex: the Cause of, and Solution to, All of Life’s Problems

In college, I enrolled in New York University’s Women Studies classes, where I learned all kinds of strange philosophies about sex.  Mainly, that it was a Very Big Deal, and you have to either embrace your sex (if you are female), overcome your gender bias (if you are male), and broaden your sexual parameters (if you are a conservative). They talked openly about how many different types of sexual experiences they’ve had, about terrible stories of sexual abuse (almost everyone claimed to be abuse victims or rape survivors), and – of course – whether they were hetero, homo, bi, or try-sexual (describing students who’d “try anything”).  If there was a male student who had homosexual relationships, he defined himself as “a gay man.”  He wasn’t an architect major who enjoys bicycling, and is told he resembles his grandfather in his prime.  A female student who had a girlfriend was “a lesbian,” not a girl from Connecticut who hoped to write the great American novel.  The class taught me that the Left defined themselves by their sexuality.  Their identity resided between their legs.

However, a recent Guardian interview with Michael Douglas showed me I was wrong.

In August 2010, Douglas revealed that he had stage four throat cancer. This week, he revealed he believed oral sex caused his cancer.  Reporter Xan Brooks writes in The Guardian:

The throat cancer, I assume, was first seeded during those wild middle years, when he drank like a fish and smoked like the devil. Looking back, knowing what he knows now, does he feel he overloaded his system?

“No,” he says. “No. Because, without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes about from cunnilingus.”

From what? For a moment I think that I may have misheard.

“From cunnilingus. I mean, I did worry if the stress caused by my son’s incarceration didn’t help trigger it. But yeah, it’s a sexually transmitted disease that causes cancer.”

His spokesman quickly clarified that Douglas’s cancer could’ve been caused by many factors, and that oral sex was simply one of the possible culprits.  (According to Fox News, “smoking and drinking alcohol are the main causes of oral cancer, although the human papillomavirus has been linked to one kind of throat cancer. The human papillomavirus is mostly known for causing cervical cancer.”)

When I first heard of this crass claim – from the man who plays a glittery starring role in a new movie about Liberace and his lover Scott Thorson – I chalked it up to my previous calculation: liberals define themselves by their sexuality, and they perceive all things through that lens.  However, the article indicated the situation is much worse. Douglas went on to say, “And if you have it [this particular type of cancer], cunnilingus is also the best cure for it… It giveth and it taketh.”

Of course, he was alluding to Job 1:21, which partially reads, “the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away.”

My initial calculation about the liberal tendency to elevate sex to the point of one’s identity was way off, because they go much further than that.  In Douglas’s case, he has effectively elevated oral sex all the way up to the status of “the Lord.” He claimed oral sex could somehow heal him.

Brooks takes note of this, presumably not just because it’ll make a good headline:

“I’m still thinking about what he said earlier, about HPV and oral sex and how it can be both cause and cure. Can that last bit be right? A doctor the Guardian later speaks to insists it makes no sense. I had hoped it could be true; it sounded oddly karmic. Douglas has lived not wisely and perhaps not even well – but certainly to the full. He has drunk and smoked and snorted, and had plenty of sex. His appetites brought him to the brink of disaster. It would be nice if they could now be his salvation too.”

Brooks has it all wrong, however, because oral-sex-as-salvation wouldn’t be “karmic” or even “oddly karmic.”  Douglas’s strange – and irresponsible – claim is nothing more profound than a rehashing of Homer Simpson’s famous line: “To alcohol! The cause of… and solution to… all of life’s problems!” 

In fact, karma is a very bad deal, especially for people who’ve made mistakes (people like Douglas and, well, all of us). I love how rock star Bono describes it:

Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff… I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.

Michael Douglas, of course, hasn’t faced challenges of the same scale of the original person who uttered the “giveth and taketh away” words so many years ago.  Though Douglas hasn’t suffered as much as Job, he’s undoubtedly a man on a journey – through cancer, with a wife who battles bipolar disorder, and a son imprisoned on drug-related charges.

Whether or not we acknowledge it, we all need that salvation about which Brooks writes so longingly.  May Michael Douglas and his family find it, and may he soon come to know the Great Physician who can ultimately save him from everything that afflicts him.

Including, most miraculously, from himself.

This article originally appeared here on National Review.

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About Nancy French

Nancy French is a three time New York Times Best Selling Author.

  • Dhaley

    How do you take cancer, cunnilingus, the book of Job and make an observation about a political party? That had less cohesiveness than the dreams I had last night.

    • StopObama2013

      Liberal isn’t necessarily a political party, but a worldview, and often very much a mental illness. Douglas is a prime example of the later.

      • Dhaley

        I don’t know anything about Douglas. I saw some of his movies and his fathers movies but don’t I keep up with movie stars lives. I am sorry when anyone gets sick and I don’t care how he got his illness. The idea of Liberty has nothing to do with sex. The writer must have hung out with some odd types in New York. As far as the mental illness thing goes all I have to say is if you don’t like American Freedom then you can go somewhere else. That is the beauty of liberty.

        • StopObama2013

          Dhaley, you obviously can’t read if you claim you don’t know anything about Douglas. And, the fact is that you obviously don’t know what liberty is. Douglas wasn’t expressing liberty but bondage to sex, drugs and alcohol. Finally, liberalism has nothing to do with liberty, liberalism has everything to do stupidity which is why it’s a mental illness. The writers point is valid because only stupid people find their whole identity in sexuality.

        • TexasRangersFan

          Political slams aside: liberalism, by definition, is the support of government control and intervention and the expense of human liberty (freedom). Also, “Freedom” may mean, for some, the permission to do anything (or nearly anything); but another and much more popular historic view describes “freedom” as the encouragement and liberty to become that which you ought to be (this is teleological). Liberals, generally, dismiss the latter.

          • Dhaley

            Ok Ranger Fan does that mean you think George W Bush is a liberal because of his Patriot Act, Iraqi Freedom and the bail out?

    • Mo86

      Good grief, do people even read a story before blathering on about it?

      Liberal describes a worldview, not just a political party.

  • Danielle

    do you love sex?

  • Peter

    Whatever the extent of Michael Douglas’ foibles and ignorance, I find your article to be both mean spirited and lacking in empathy. You talk about a lack of grace and then exhibit your own. In my opinion, this piece was not one that should have been re-linked in Patheos.

    • Nancy French

      Mean spirited? In what way? I do have compassion on people fighting cancer, of course.


      • Peter

        I refer you to the judgments of Douglas contained in your article. Using the man’s illness and his talking about it in order to make a point about “liberals” is what I find crass, and the overall tone lacks empathy. It is an article that simply would not have been written if you listened to your better angels..

    • Mo86

      There’s nothing mean spirited here.

    • David French

      I find it amusing how many people say that our posts shouldn’t be on Patheos. I think people perceive Patheos as liberal.

      • Peter

        No, I think its supposed to be faith related. Might be rather nice if the nastiness of the usual political discourse didn’t take place in such a forum. I find both your and Nancy’s comments, as well as her column disappointing.

        • David French

          Did you not see the religious argument in the post?

          • Peter

            You made the rather odd comment that you think that some people think that Patheos is liberal, and I respond that I think it is supposed to be faith related, and you respond that there was religious argument in the post. Huh?

            The point that I and others made was rather simple: The column exuded a lack of empathy for Douglas; situation. The expressions of sympathy contained therein and in the posts in response to the comments to the article ring hollow because the main idea was so crass that the piece just shouldn’t have not been written in the first place. It might be something that fits in the National Review online because that partisan forum has stuff like this and worse all the time, but it is something that I, and others, think it would be better to leave out of Patheos if for some reason it just had to be written. Personally, I think the world would have been a little better place if it had not been done at all.

            But, it appears that is falling on deaf ears at the French residence.

  • Jerry Lynch

    Compare the conservative voices: what do they have in common? Insulting and condemning with a broad brush.
    Nancy, you object to your piece being “mean-spirited.” Does this read like nice-spirited to you: “My initial calculation about the liberal tendency to elevate sex to the point of one’s identity was way off, because THEY go much further than that.”
    They? You mean me and all of my ilk. (I have never considered myself a liberal, preferring to call myself an independent, but I’ve found when I post on conservative blogs, my failure of abject agreement seems to warrant that label.)

    A piece about the wrong-headedness, as you pointed out, of identifying by sex (or sexual orientation) would have been an excellent, timely, and much needed article. It is becoming ridicuous. But this is about what’s wrong with liberals, all of whom are guilty because this is the way (to quote one of your fans, I hope not “ilk,” further down) their “mental illness” works.
    Personally, I thank God first thing every morniing that life isn’t fair or just; as with Mr. Bono, I prefer the life of grace for much the same reasons. The restorative justice of Christ over the retributive justice of karma and worldly values.

    [An edit: Do you feel this piece moves towards Restorative or retributive justice?]

    • Peter

      Liberal, conservative, whatever! The constant need to belittle each other, the pomposity of our writings about the moral flaccidity of “those people”, and the lack of love in our hearts for all of God’s children is what bugs me to no end. It is just plain wrong. Thanks Jerry for also finding these tendencies, found on either side of the political spectrum, to be rather appalling.

      • Jerry Lynch

        Hi Pater. This is how bad it has become: a very short story.

        I had just become a member of a Christian forum shortly before the presidential election of 2012. I was truly shocked by the unabashed hatred expressed toward the president and liberals. In my first post, I wrote very similar comments as you shared. It was neutral; I made no accusations about parties or individuals or groups but basically mentioned scripture about love and dropping thse divisive labels. If I was shocked previously, the flak I got for that post was total meenie Wonderland. I was accused of being a liberal troll, one of those outside sources they were on the alert for, there just to undermine their resolve to destroy the evil in government (by this talk of love and losing the labels). “Love your enemy” had become liberal theology, an abomination equal to liberal politics. I did not last long there.

        • Peter

          I have at times in the past engaged in behavior in comments that I should not have done. So, I do not claim to be without sin. I know that it is easy to fall into the trap of saying things in text that one would not say to someone in person. The tendency is to make judgments about who the other person is based upon their comment, or to react angrily to the insults or stupidity that gets posted.

          Now, however, I am making a concerted effort to not say anything I would be ashamed of saying to someone, and not to say or feel things that in my heart I know to lack the proper love and respect we should all have for God’s creations.

      • Nancy French

        I think reviewers who use the word “flaccidity” cannot also complain about “pomposity.” :)

        • Peter

          I see Nancy. So you are going to attack the commenter because I criticized your column. Nice going.

    • Nancy French

      I never said anything about mental illness… Surely you can critique my piece above without quoting people I don’t know saying things I’ve never said…

  • Manny

    Excelllent blog. Yes in some circles sex is the religion that identifies them. I had simialr college experiences. May God help Michael Douglass see the light. Life is more than about sexual experiences. But one thing I would add to your blog. I would say that Douglass also lacks shame. Forty years ago, no one would have been so shameless as to publicaly announce his sexual procilivities. Some things are best left unsaid.

  • David R. Thom

    Nancy, love what you bring to your writing, even when slightly off from the way I’d prefer. First you refer to “this crass claim” that Douglas brings up cancer as a result of cunnilingus with an infected partner. I’m no doctor, but even Wiki can tell anyone that it’s no crass claim. Then you say, “He claimed oral sex could somehow heal him.” Just because he says, “It giveth and it taketh”? We all know what he meant, that cunnilingus gives pleasure, but in this case it also has conveyed pain. But we have to say we all know what he meant except you. It’s as if you don’t think cunnilingus conveys pleasure, otherwise you could have considered it. He certainly never suggested that cunnilingus gave him life – so why contrast it with death? Why can’t the guy reference a commonly known scriptural phrase without being accused of making an idol out of it? Sure, his behavior has idolized sex, but his comment? I mean really, try to be fair. Just because Brooks can’t get it right doesn’t mean you can’t.

    • Nancy French

      Dear David, Thanks for the nice words. The reason I went all the way to “Lord,” is that he said oral sex can cure him:

      “cunnilingus is also the best cure for it.”

      No doctor on earth would say this is a true statement… That’s why I said it was irresponsible (if it was a joke) or sad (if it wasn’t a joke).

      Does that make sense?

      • David R. Thom

        Douglas went on to say, “And if you have it [this particular type of cancer], cunnilingus is also the best cure for it… It giveth and it taketh.” – Nancy, do you really truly think Douglas is so ignorant as to believe that cunnilingus cures cancer? Either as a divine source or as a physical material force? And especially since he thinks he got it that way? You’re very bright and cannot possibly be guilty of thinking this. It’s not irresponsible to him to be melancholy in his observations – that cunnilingus conveys both pain and pleasure. That’s all he was saying. He could have added, “Isn’t that ironic?” Instead he invoked scripture because The Lord conveys opposites. If we choose not to appreciate metaphor, we choose not to understand each other.

        • David French

          I think it’s fair to take Douglas at his actual words, and it’s not necessarily accurate to presume that any public figure’s beliefs are reasonable or logical.

          • David R. Thom

            By the way, meant to type “It’s not irresponsible FOR him to be melancholy in his observations…” but whatever, you weren’t concerned about that line.

            To quote Nancy, who also quotes Brooks,

            “In Douglas’s case, he has effectively elevated oral sex all the way up to the status of “the Lord.” He claimed oral sex could somehow heal him. Brooks takes note of this, presumably not just because it’ll make a good headline: ‘I’m still thinking about what he said earlier, about HPV and oral sex and how it can be both cause and cure. Can that last bit be right? A doctor the Guardian later speaks to insists it makes no sense.’ ”

            If I were Nancy, I’d instead go with what the doctor said.

            I don’t want you to think I’m a belligerent, I too, for example, would enjoy my son’s service as a sniper, I’m pro-French. And I’ll let go of this. But I can’t help thinking I’m just doing my best to be reasonable. If you and Nancy think Douglas would own what you’re saying he’s saying, then fine.