The Steven Soderbergh film delivered 2.4 million viewers in its first airing, making it the most-watched HBO Film title in almost a decade. [Inside TV]

The Steven Soderbergh film delivered 2.4 million viewers in its first airing, making it the most-watched HBO Film title in almost a decade. [Inside TV]

IN AN amazing interview with the Guardian on Sunday titled, appropriately, “Michael Douglas on Liberace, Cannes, cancer and cunnilingus,” the movie star does the biggest public service message for HPV and sexually transmitted diseases that’s been done in a generation. The Internet exploded with shock at what was taken as a revelation.

It’s like thinking giving head to a man infected with HIV won’t leave its mark, too, though that’s more commonly talked about. Little has been said about what’s wrought when you have a sex partner with HPV. Oral sex with a woman infected with HPV can cause life-threatening throat cancer.

From the Guardian interview:

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.” He shrugs. “And if you have it, cunnilingus is also the best cure for it.”

NBC provides the science and stats:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 63 percent of the estimated 11,726 cases of oropharyngeal cancers diagnosed each year in the United States are thought to be caused by HPV. About 3,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with HPV-associated anal cancer and the rate of infection appears to be increasing.

Of course, it’s impossible for doctors to ever say with complete certainty what caused any individual’s cancer. Smoking and drinking also raise the risk of head and neck cancer — independent of HPV.

But between 1988 and 2004, head, neck and throat cancers that tested positive for the human papilloma virus rose an astounding 225 percent, according to one study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Stories have been written about Michael Douglas’s so-called “addiction” to sex, going back to “Basic Instinct,” which broke wide in the press during his divorce. From Huffington Post:

According to [biographer] John Parker: “Encouraged by his counselor, Michael [reportedly] began his program of self-discovery when he stood up, head bowed, and gave a lengthy commentary about his inner demons and the problems that had turned him into something of a Jekyll and Hyde character. He confessed to the group of eight fellow sufferers: “˜Sex is just a wave that sweeps over me, an impulse that is overpowering. I’m helpless. Every time.’ He also admitted to a problem with alcohol and drugs”¦ He also said his wife had “˜kicked him out’ of the bedroom, having been repulsed by his apparently uncontrollable actions.”

There are few people who have been in the trenches of relationships and sex as I have over the years, so when I hear about someone having a “sex addiction,” you’ll pardon me if I laugh. A person can be self-destructive in many ways, including drugs, alcohol, but should also include an addiction to working, to money, to shopping, to food, and, yes, I guess sex, too. It’s about why you’re self-destructing, because labeling the specific addiction is just a detail.

But if you’re going to be addicted to anything, sex would be at the top of my list as not all that unhealthy an addiction. The problem comes if you’re cavalier while you’re in pursuit of enjoying yourself.

I’ve always been a great fan of Michael Douglas, but his brutally honest and unintentional public service message on how he contracted debilitating throat cancer makes me love him even more.

“What’s wrong with sex addiction? I’ve been addicted to sex my whole life!” – Kirk Douglas