Everybody has something to say about Michael Douglas's celebrity-sex-health disclosure on Sunday, from yuck to yahoo, and I presume he wanted it that way. It's hard to imagine the actor didn't know that telling The Guardian's Xan Brooks his throat cancer was caused by HPV wouldn't become the biggest part of that interview. Once you drop the term cunnilingus, there's no going back. In the interview, Brooks asked Douglas about his disease and whether the actor attributed it to his drinking and smoking. Douglas corrected him: "No. Because, without wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes about from cunnilingus." 

Well, the wording is weird, yes. Cunnilingus can spread a virus called HPV, which can lead to throat cancer (it's considered the cause in about half of the cases), but going down on someone is not in itself a cancer-causing pursuit — not like, say, smoking cigarettes.

Here are a few truths. 1. Many people who are currently alive today will deal with cancer in some way, shape, or form in the course of their lives. 2. When those cancers are related to "private parts" (take the reaction to Angelina Jolie's preventative mastectomy after she found out she has a gene mutation that makes breast cancer significantly more likely), or related to sex (cervical cancer, oral cancer, anal cancer as connected to the HPV virus), people tend to get a little squeamish about talking about said cancers. 3. Because of said squeamishness, as well as the fact that there aren't a lot of celebrities making a cause of HPV, often people don't actually know what's the truth and what's not about these types of cancers and how they spread. 4. If we don't talk about disease, we're probably not going to get very far in combatting it, or in trying to be healthier in our lives in general.

On the plus side, Douglas's confession has wrought a whole lot of talking about HPV, oral sex, and cancer. There's been plenty to say, from Tess Lynch's Grantland piece, "Giggle All You Want, Michael Douglas Just Advanced the HPV Conversation" (True!) to Katie J.M. Baker's Jezebel offering, "Cunnilingus, Cancer, Michael Douglas and You," which compiles an array of helpful information about how likely a person is to get cancer via oral sex (don't freak out), and so on. Elsewhere, Salon's Mary Elizabeth Williams speculates that there may be "more than a touch of braggadocio in Douglas' frankness. He didn’t get cancer from his well-documented years of smoking and drinking, oh no! He got it from servicing the ladies." She adds, "Douglas' admission certainly suggests we need to be far more forthright in how we talk about oral cancers and their cause," and makes the point that the grossest thing about the interview was not his admission, but the question — how did you get cancer? — as if somehow the patient is to blame for the disease he's battled. These are all interesting, valuable conversations for us to have. 

Another truth: I don't care in the slightest bit about what Michael Douglas does or does not do in the bedroom (and I really don't much want to think about it, either). Nor do I care about whether Douglas's confession was a brag, a way to promote his recent work, a way to boost his spirits after his battle with cancer, or even a truly generous reveal that he hoped would help others. I'm not even bothered much that his rep Allen Burry has tried to back away from the story, saying Douglas "did not say cunnilingus was the cause of his cancer. He didn't specifically name a cause." The conversation is here, Burry. Deal. 

I do care about not getting cancer, and about my loved ones not getting cancer, and about the prevention of cancer in as many people as possible. I am worried that people don't know enough about HPV: That men don't know they can get it, and that "there is no HPV test recommended for men." That men and women don't understand it's often symptomless. That nearly everyone who is sexually active, according to the CDC, will at some point have it: "Approximately 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. About 14 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives." The majority of cases of HPV "go away by themselves within two years," per the CDC; most sexually active people will have the virus, and most of them will be fine. Women are screened regularly via Pap tests. But there's no screening test recommended for men, and that seems a problem (doctors can and do urge tests for male patients they consider high-risk).

Then there's the vaccine issue. Vaccines exist, and have been approved for men and women up to age 26. With widespread vaccine adoption, presumably, HPV could be largely stopped in its tracks, along with the health problems it can begetYet people have been slow to vaccinate, because of squeamishness about sex, maybe, and because of people like Michele Bachmann who've claimed (falsely) the vaccine can lead to promiscuity or mental retardation. The mystery and shame and stigma related to HPV may in fact be a bigger problem than the reality of HPV itself, and the stigma is not simply going to evaporate. We have to actually talk about this stuff. 

So, thank you, Michael Douglas. As much as I don't need or want to think about your sex life, I appreciate your making all of us think just a little bit more about HPV.