UK's first sex shop for people with cancer launched by Hackney friends
- Credit: Virgiliu Andone
Hackney artists, friends and former cancer patients have launched the UK’s first online sex shop designed by and for people living with and beyond cancer.
The online shop is called Sex with Cancer and was formed by pioneering artists Brian Lobel and Joon-Lynn Goh, in partnership with Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium.
Though co-creator Brian says Sex with Cancer is so much more than a shop, it is also an online resource which aims to answer peoples’ difficult questions and break down barriers and taboos around talking about sex and cancer.
He told the Gazette just before the site launched on October 7: “In the world of sex and cancer there's a lot of people saying how do I connect with my body that’s been so medicalised.
"How can I start to feel beautiful again and how can I start to feel handsome and strong again.
“And some of those are confidence things and some might be them trying something out with a partner differently.
“So we are trying to holistically help on the question of sex and cancer.”
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Brian explains that the support his site offers is important, especially because psychosexual support is “really rare” with long waiting lists and doctors and nurses who are “still not great at talking about these questions”.
He added: “So often people look to the internet where of course there is a lot of information, some of it is trusted and some of which is not trusted.
“And this business, which is really an art project, which is really public advocacy campaign, which is really a business, which is really an artwork. All these things kind of go in a cycle of what we are trying to do together.”
The online shop offers a range of products and sexual aids specifically curated to be an answer to specific sexual challenges relating to cancer.
The site also features an ask section where common questions are answered by several different professionals ranging from doctors, psychosexual therapists, cancer nurses and patient advocates.
The project has also commissioned art works which they hope will spark debate and ignite conversations about sex and cancer.
Brian said: “We are asking people to think about these two things that they don’t put together together.
“And then ask them why you wouldn’t put sex and cancer together.”
Brian was diagnosed with testicular cancer when he was 20. He is 40 now and has spent the past 20 years working in cancer care and patient advocacy.
It was through this work that he noticed “big gaps” in services talking to people about issues of sex, intimacy, and their bodies.
He said: “We are not just talking about just sexual function but the ability for people to engage their health care professionals in questions about their bodies, what has changed, what’s worked, what’s not working anymore and how they feel about it.”
He says feelings of propriety can often make it difficult for patients to open up: “Everyone has lied to their doctor about how much they smoke, or drink, etcetera.
“So, people won’t often ask questions about things that we as a society are not talking about.
“We are bad at talking about cancer, we're also really bad at talking about sex and we're definitely really bad about talking about those two things together.”
Brian continued: “So we have created the project to try to allow people to understand that maybe some of their questions have an answer that you don’t have to pay for.
“Some of these questions might be something that you have to pay for.
“We’re not trying to make a bajillion pounds on this thing, were trying to answer questions and make people’s lives better and in part, trying to destroy some of the taboos around sex and cancer.”
Brian's own online performance features on the site called The Sex with Cancer Competency Certification Course. Inspired by health and training videos his work aims to help people get better at having difficult conversations.
Co-creator of the project Joon-Lynn offers up an essay and other commissioned pieces include visual art work exploring the experiences of men with prostate cancer, a Zine by the Candid Cancer Collective which includes entries from young people living with cancer and a film about women living with cancer.
To shop or learn more about Sex With Cancer, visit www.sexwithcancer.com/about