Michael Douglas was being interviewed for the new movie Behind the Candleabra, when somehow the topic of his throat cancer came up. Though what he actually said is somewhat up for debate, essentially the take away was that his cancer was caused by performing oral sex and contracting HPV.
Cue the late night joke circuit.
Except it wasn't just the late night guys standing there poking fun at the situation, it was everyone. News anchors struggling to keep a straight face. People squirming in their chairs over mere mention of dental dams. Health "experts" arguing with one another over whether this information was true, whether it was possible, whether it was probable, whether Douglas' cancer had been proven to be caused by HPV or if this was just a sensationalized attention grab for his new movie.
Twitter blew up with comments about his wife, Catherine Zeta Jones, about his most recent co-star, Matt Damon, about all the women he's ever been linked to in the history of time. People started joking about his sexuality, about whether he wasn't just acting in the movie with Damon, about who had HPV and where he got it from.
Here's the thing.
Grow the fuck up, everyone.
This is not a fucking joke.
People get HPV every single day in this country, and it is known to cause cancer. This isn't just a STD...this can and does kill people.
|Isn't it pretty???|
Sex is soooo funny.
How about we actually try to learn more about this virus, about the cancers it can cause, about what we can do to protect people from it instead of acting like giggling schoolkids sneaking a peek at an anatomy book???
I guess I'm just overly sensitive about this because I know women with cervical cancer. I know far more who have had to endure colposcopies and long waits for test results. I know women who've had pieces of their bodies removed. I know women who've feared that they would never be able to have children because of this, or that their pregnancies would be complicated because of problems in the past. I know women left without their reproductive organs because of this.
There are many different strains of HPV, and they all come with different risks, different symptoms. Most primarily affect the genitals, but some show up as oral cancer. Some strains cause warts, but most strains do not have symptoms at all.
Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by HPV and the number of oral cancers caused by it are rising exponentially. The strains that cause warts - the most obvious symptom - are not the same ones that cause cancer.
Most women have no idea they have it until a pap smear comes back irregular. By the point many cervical cancers are discovered, they have advanced. The cancers caused by HPV do not show up for years after exposure. The carrier having no idea what is going on in their body, no idea if they are spreading it.
There is a vaccine, though there has been controversy surrounding it for as long as it has existed. Conservative groups insist that giving it to children will encourage sexual activity. (which is an entirely ridiculous conversation all of it's own) It was originally marketed only towards girls, which is only addressing half the population. Girls get this virus from somewhere...do the math. There is some skepticism about whether the immunity given by the shots lasts long enough, and the science isn't totally sound on that. It also only covers certain strains of the virus.
Most people will eventually contract HPV. Most of those people will clear the virus from their system on their own without further complications. But not everyone. Some of them will have warts off and on forever. Some of them will get cancer. Some of them will die.
Last time I checked, that wasn't funny.
Read more about this lovely STD here, if you care to. It's just your life, the lives of your children. No big deal.