But not everyone thinks Brashier is doing people in her situation a favor. “To say that because you can’t have penis-in-vagina or anal intercourse, and that that defines you as a sexual person, which seems to be the message she is giving, I find very sad,” says Leslie Schover, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and an expert in reproductive health after cancer. “It’s contrary to the message I try to give that your sexuality is a part of you even if they amputate your penis or take away your vagina.”
Schover’s also unconvinced of the merits of such sites as C is for Cupid, where cancer survivors who want to date each other can connect (the site is temporarily off-line while it’s being updated). “People are so nervous about going back out and dating that it may be a great way of finding someone who will be understanding and accepting, but limiting yourself to dating other cancer survivors is kind of limiting,” she says.
Lifetime risk of being diagnosed with cancer is estimated at 40%, but only a very few cancers may actually leave survivors unable to have intercourse; cervical cancer is among those. Women can work at relaxing their vaginal muscles and replacing moisture as ways to preserve intercourse, although that doesn’t work for everyone.
Others at risk for painful sex are premenopausal women who undergo chemo that destroys ovarian function and women with breast cancer who are treated with aromatase inhibitors, a class of drugs that exacerbates problems such as severe dryness that women might naturally experience at menopause.
Men who have erectile dysfunction can treat their condition with pills or invasive treatments including injections or prostheses. “It’s a matter of how much they’re willing to go through to restore firm erections,” says Schover.
Brashier, for her part, is quick to point out that no intercourse doesn’t mean no sex at all. Friends have questioned her about the business model, asking, “You can do other things, right?” To which Brashier responds: “Well, yeah!”
As for finding a mate herself, Brashier is a member of 2date4love, but has been so busy with the launch that she hasn’t been able to do any dating herself. In the meantime, interested suitors have resorted to tracking down her publicist, Annie Eddey. “My email is on the press release,” Eddey explains.