Sex With Cancer – An Art Project Encouraging Dialogue On Illness, Intimacy and Pleasure

Sex With Cancer - An Art Project Encouraging Dialogue On Illness, Intimacy and Pleasure
Joon Lynn Goh, Brian Lobel- Sex With Cancer -Photo by Christa Holka

An art project and community enterprise that looks at innovative solutions to the often-ignored problem of illness, intimacy, sexual function and pleasure, has been launched. Sex with Cancer, conceived by friends, artists and former cancer patients Brian Lobel and Joon Lynn Goh, aims to be the world’s first sex shop led, run and owned by people living with and beyond cancer.

Drawing on personal experience, and working with a steering group of advocates and experts in the worlds of sex, sexual health and cancer care, Sex with Cancer aims to develop into a permanent resource where people living with and beyond cancer can access information, practical solutions and products about sex without shame, and with an eye to pleasure, fun and connection.

Since launching in autumn 2020, the project has been inviting people to submit their most frequently asked questions about sex and cancer through its website

The next stage of the project invites the public to take part in a playful online performance-cum-training course that aims to help people be better at talking about sex and cancer.

This online performance takes participants through the steps of becoming best equipped at having difficult discussions in a positive and affirming way. The experience which takes around 30 minutes to complete incorporates interactive ‘games’ such as matching body parts to possible side effects, before moving onto a gentler conversation about sex, intimacy and the stories cancer patients may be afraid to tell. On completion, participants will be awarded a “Certificate in Sex and Cancer Conversation Competency”.

The online performance will be launched with a series of events from 2 – 6 March 2021 hosted by Brian Lobel. Participants will be taken through the steps needed to gain their Certificate, before rejoining Brian for a facilitated discussion. These hosted events are presented in partnership with Battersea Arts Centre in London, Contact in Greater Manchester, Wunderbar in Newcastle/Gateshead, and Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts in Brighton. Each event will feature a different panel of local experts in sex, sexual health and cancer care.

Brian Lobel has been working in cancer care and patient advocacy since 2003 after a diagnosis of testicular cancer when he was 20 years old. Now he performs and writes both creatively and academically on the subject of cancer. Joon Lynn Goh is a cultural organiser who works with migrant movements, popular education and solidarity economies. She was treated for breast cancer in 2018.

Brian Lobel, co-founder of Sex with Cancer says: “I met Joon Lynn when she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer at St Barts Hospital in London in 2018. We would often meet up, and developed a friendship, rooted in care and our shared experiences of cancer. Conversations we had often grew into exploring the provocation and we’d ask ourselves ‘What would a resource and sex shop run by cancer patients and their admirers look like?’ 

“We knew first-hand that people with a cancer diagnosis are often shy or embarrassed to talk about sex with their medical teams, but also that many doctors and nurses lack confidence talking about sex and sexuality with their patients. Another thing we really noticed was that the information that was out there was largely medical jargon and warnings, none of which is sexy. So we knew we had to do something, this is where Sex with Cancer was born.”

Joon Lynn Goh, co-founder of Sex with Cancer continues: “With such huge gaps in services and knowledge surrounding cancer and sexual health, available currently, Brian, I and our Steering Group, in partnership with Sh!, art venues, and with support from Arts Council England, have launched Sex with Cancer. Inspired by histories of marginalised communities who have fought for agency over their own bodies and wellbeing, we are building towards a community enterprise that is a safe space to find creative solutions to the problems caused by cancer. And in the context of Covid-19, we think this exploration of intimacy and illness is part of a much bigger shift in our collective understanding of wellbeing. 

The Steering Group that has helped Brian and Joon Lynn bring Sex with Cancer to life is made up of patient advocates, creative thinkers and experts from the worlds of sex and cancer care. The project also partners with Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium the London-based sex shop, will supply recomended products.

People interested in learning more about the project, events and artist commissions from Christoper Samuel and Drawn Poorly x Still Ill OK can visit the Sex with Cancer website:

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