On 7 October 2021, two artists and former cancer patients, Brian Lobel and Joon-Lynn Goh, launched the UK’s first sex shop designed for people who have cancer. How different is it from your regular sex shop and what does it have to offer?
Set up by the two friends, Sex with Cancer has been created with a community of patients, nurses, psychosexual therapists, pleasure activists and sex toy specialists. “Whether you are living with or beyond cancer, a partner, a potential lover or a medical professional—we provide practical solutions, peer-led resources, and creative ways of re/discovering our bodies and relationships,” reads the store’s website.
“Cancer, and the treatments for cancer, often have serious effects on a person’s sex life in direct and indirect ways,” the organisation further explains, noting that surgeries can result in the removal of body parts or scarring, while chemotherapy and radiotherapy have a range of side-effects, from exhaustion and weight fluctuation to erectile dysfunction, vaginal dryness, and heightened infection risks.
To help open up a dialogue surrounding the disconnect between patients and medical professionals when it comes to how cancer affects their intimate relationships, Sex with Cancer aims to “lubricate these difficult conversations by centring patients and their admirers, and drawing on sex-positive professional expertise. We believe information promotes confidence, and confidence is sexy!”
“When I got diagnosed with breast cancer at the start of 2018, I turned to my friend and ex-cancer patient, Brian [Lobel],” co-founder Goh told Dazed, discussing the origin of the sex shop. Lobel had already been working in cancer care and patient advocacy since 2003, after a diagnosis of testicular cancer when he was 20 years old.
“One day, Brian dropped a ‘what if’ idea that had a been brewing for a while—what if cancer patients set up their own sex shop? From that moment on, this question became a super appealing distraction that not only got me through a year of treatment, but has kept us talking and scheming for the last four years,” she continued.
The online shop is split into three main categories: ‘shop’, ‘learn’, and ‘ask’. Sex with Cancer’s shop offers sex toys that have been specifically selected to respond to the questions that customers and their loved ones have asked the organisation about living with and beyond cancer. Working in partnership with Sh! Womens Emporium, shop curator Toni has selected each product to provide buyers with the maximum versatility and pleasure possible.
Alongside its products, Sex with Cancer offers aids and practical advice as well as a space for newly commissioned artworks. ‘Why did no one think of this genius idea before?’ you might be wondering. This store is the first of its kind in the UK due to two major taboos that have yet to be tackled: sex and cancer. “I hope people come away with a sense of community, knowledge, and a greater confidence to reclaim their bodies and relationships on their own terms,” Goh concluded when speaking about her hopes for Sex with Cancer.