Girl vs Cancer, the inclusive, community-led charity, has worked with Bartle Bogle Hegarty to address sex, pleasure and intimacy for people living with or beyond cancer, via a provocative taboo-busting campaign.
An issue that’s rarely discussed, according to City University London, 60% of women with cancer admit they suffer from sexual dysfunction. Meanwhile, less than a third are given any information about how a diagnosis or the side effects of treatments – both physical and mental – will affect their sex life, despite it being the law for doctors to talk to women about it.
“Male sexuality is often prioritised over women,” Helen Rhodes, executive creative director at BBH, told Campaign. “Just look at the amount of research into erectile dysfunction versus FSD [female sexual dysfunction]. Women going through cancer are often made to feel glad to be alive and not given the help they need to live their lives to the best of their ability.”
Rhodes adds that the campaign has been two years in the making. BBH’s managing director Holly Ripper had a conversation with a neighbour who had done workshops with women who were going through cancer or had gone through it, which made the agency aware of the issue.
“They were trying to feel sexy again. Learning how to get intimate with their partners and reacquainted with their bodies. When you go through cancer, your body doesn’t feel like your own,” Rhodes says.
Determined to confront the stigma, BBH teamed up with Girl vs Cancer on an awareness campaign. “Sexual wellness should be a part of ongoing routine cancer care, but providing learning resources for healthcare professionals only helps if their patients are empowered to have a conversation about this topic,” Lauren Mahon, founder of Girl vs Cancer, says.
“Girl vs Cancer heroes the human being attached to the diagnosis and shines a light on the variety of ways that a cancer diagnosis affects lives. BBH’s ‘straight to it’ approach to this topic is certainly going to put it on the agenda and help to make it a less taboo part of cancer treatment and recovery.”
It is led by three films, directed by Sophia Ray through Academy Films, which feature real women who talk about their cancer journey while rediscovering their sexuality through the themes of mind, body and soul.
In one film, Ava, a woman currently undergoing cancer treatment, defiantly talks to the camera about her cancer journey and her rediscovery of her sexuality. It suddenly becomes clear she is masturbating, which descends into a sensual orgasm.
Each film ends with the defiant line: “Cancer won’t be the last thing that fucks me”.
The film scripts were written in close collaboration with the women to ensure they felt real, raw and faithful to their experience. The films launch today (19 October) across social and digital.
“We had a really good team behind it. We were aware of doing it the right way,” Rhodes explains. “We didn’t want to do anything to take advantage of anyone. Sofia was amazing. She spent a lot of time with the women. And we had an intimacy coordinator.”
The campaign uses the line: “Cancer won’t be the last thing that f*cks me” on a provocative out-of-home campaign, shot by Katie Burdon, also through through Academy Films.
The poster execution involves sensuously shot close-up nudes of women who have experienced cancer. The OOH will run in Finsbury Park, Hackney and Tower Gateway from 23 October.
The campaign also includes a social campaign to run alongside the work. Illustrators Antony Burril, Marylou Faure, Kris Andrew Small, Kelly Anna, Telegramme, Rude, Adam Hayes and Biff have created their own interpretations of the campaign concept.
Build Holywood handled the media.
The campaign drives people to a dedicated section on Girl vs Cancer’s website housing advice and information and a survey to gather more insights on the issue, which will feed into a secondary wave of research and better, more bespoke support.