‘Cancer won’t be the last thing that f*cks me’: how GirlVsCancer and BBH are busting taboos
Sex and cancer aren’t two words typically said in the same sentence. BBH and GirlVsCancer are ready to change that.
BBH and GirlVsCancer have teamed up to bust the taboos around sex and cancer with a provocative out-of-home campaign and a series of three short films.
Billboards with the powerful line ‘Cancer won’t be the last thing that f*cks me’ have been erected throughout London with the aim of helping cancer survivors feel like they are worthy of pleasure.
The project originated two years ago when one of BBH's staffers heard about sex toys designed for women with cancer and rallied the agency behind the cause.
Kickstarting the project with a piece of research, BBH learned that 60% of women with cancer say they experience sexual dysfunction, and a further one-third don’t get any pre-treatment information about the sexual side effects of cancer.
Armed with these stats, the agency sought out a charity to partner with and eventually came across GirlVsCancer, launched by Lauren Mahon, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016. The organization started as a blog but has since morphed into a major campaign force and cancer community group. In 2022, GirlVsCancer even partnered with Pretty Little Thing to launch a range of post-surgery swimwear.
The boldness of the strapline ‘Cancer won’t be the last thing that f*cks me’ got Mahon onboard, and together, they worked to produce a series of three provocative films and an accompanying out-of-home campaign.
“These are conversations that aren’t happening but should be because no one should not be having sex, because they have cancer, or they had cancer, that’s wild,” Mahon says.
The short films tell the stories of three women in different stages of their cancer journey. Each film sees the women talking directly to the camera, revealing how cancer has changed their bodies but also how they indulge in sexual pleasure – one ends with the storyteller in orgasm.
Initially, all three films were conceived to have the storyteller masturbating to orgasm, but Mahon felt the need to make a couple of “more digestible” variations. “As much as this is going to speak to some people in the community, I don’t want to alienate others that that might be too much for it is a lot to watch,” explains Mahon.
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Along with breaking down taboos, the campaign will share resources and tools through a hub on the GirlVsCancer website. There are also plans to signpost the resources with medical professionals to equip them better to help women suffering. Mahon says doctors have tried to help with practical tools to have better sex during cancer but admits “there hasn’t been a conversation around my well-being around sex at all.”
“This is a campaign to launch Sex and Cancer and get eyes on it, but actually, it’s a living, breathing resource that we’re going to work on, ongoing to grow and develop,” Mahon says.
The strategy post-campaign is to look for consumer products to partner with, similar to the Pretty Little Things tie-up. For the Sex and Cancer campaign, Mahon offered examples of empowering underwear brands like Skims, sex toy companies like Lovehoney, or even bedding companies.
“The sex and cancer conversation does have some way of getting on the radar,” Mahon says. Her ambition for next year is to get dating apps like Bumble and Tinder to list ‘chronic illness’ as an option to help people suffering cut out the awkwardness of early dating.
“I just want people to know that they are and should be worthy of pleasure and intimacy, especially if you’ve been through something like cancer,” she says. “You deserve all your flowers; you deserve more than all the orgasms, you’ve been through enough.”