October 02, 2023

Using Sex to Sell Breast Cancer?


If my sexual history came with a transcript, you could read that I am anything but a prude.  So in my interview today with Newsweek, why am I so down on the ‘Save the Boobs’ ad campaign that consists exclusively of Canadian MTV host Aliya-Jasmine Sovani (a non-breast cancer patient) strutting her bouncy stuff in a string bikini with the message ‘you know you love them, now save them’?

Supporters of the ad say that being snarky, rebellious, and over the top is how we stake out the territory of the young adult cancer message. But what happens when there is actually no message?  This ad is about breasts.  Not about cancer.  So, are we reverting back to avoiding the C-word because we think it’s too grim to sell our own cause?  Is my cancer just too un-hip, un-revolutionary, un-cool for my peers?  I don’t think so.

What if we keep the gorgeous colors and sensual suspense of the ad, but saw a hottie in a bikini walking only in profile, and when she turns to face forward, we get the lopsided view of her as a breastless young woman with a mastectomy? It would be a racy, educational ad, with a message about why we need breast cancer research funding for young women.

Using sex to sell cancer instead of beer or cars isn’t a brilliant revolutionary branding tactic.  It’s an obvious, easy ad campaign that misrepresents the reality of cancer, and is a slap in the face to men by assuming the only way they can be empathetic to women in pain is by getting off on her breasts.

The ad has received 350,000 You Tube hits.  I suspect the majority of views are replays from guys pleasuring themselves in front of their laptops who still don’t remember what the ad is for; who would likely never flirt with a bald girl in a bar; and who still hope to crawl into bed with Aliya-Jasmine and have no clue that real, 160 pound, size A-cup, 25-year-olds are walking around with prosthetic “ta-tas.”

What do you think?  Do you like the ad?  Is it revolutionary to sell cancer with sex?  Do you know someone with breast cancer and do you feel proud of them when you watch this ad?

Read more about the real lives of young women with breast cancer in Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.

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