You Know What's NOT Sexy?

Don’t say “breast cancer.” Because breast cancer is SUPER SEXY. If you’re not convinced, check out the  Pink Ribbon Blues photo gallery. It includes common breast cancer “awareness” images like these.

  1. A Boobfest features sleek women in black cocktail dresses to raise funds for breast cancer.
  2. KK Temptations holds a bikini contest to increase awareness.
  3. Fox News uses an alluring image of a woman cupping her pink bra in an article about lymph node removal for those with early stage breast cancer.
  4. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation‘s “Connect. Communicate. Conquer.” campaign routinely uses ads exposing women’s bodies to encourage donations.
  5. The Keep A Breast Foundation (notorious for its boobies bracelets) has a public service announcement about breast self exam that features a caricatured doctor whose instructional pointer aims at Kassia Meador’s right breast.
  6. The equation of women’s breasts to “second base” in an epic game of heterosexuality is a popular t-shirt theme sure to draw the attention of virile oglers who care about breast cancer.
  7.  Boobstagram, which compiles photos of women’s cleavage from a public photo sharing service called Instagram, uses an awareness tagline to justify its existence…”showing your breasts on the internet is good, showing them to your doctor is better.” Evidence not included.

This is nothing close to an exhaustive list of sexy breast cancer images, but it does illustrate the trend.


Just like it was last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.

All the way back to 1992, when the PINK ribbon was born in a corporate board room and became the feminine symbol for breast cancer awareness and advocacy. Pretty. Pink. Non-threatening. Evoking notions of women’s innate nurturance, emotional sensitivity, and selflessness. Encouraging women to maintain a socially acceptable feminine appearance, especially as a sign of victory in the war against breast cancer. Promoting solidarity and visibility. And with the rise of cause marketing, selling a never ending array of feminine accoutrements—jewelry, clothing, cosmetics, perfumes, shoes, and pinked accessories galore along with an awareness line or two. [See What’s In A Color? for more pink history.]

Today, breast cancer awareness campaigns trend perfectly with mainstream ads and products that sell sex and women’s bodies. The “Breastaurant” image  featured recently in a story on Slate about a booming restaurant niche inspired by Hooters could just as easily be a breast cancer awareness campaign. Skin. Cleavage. And as it states clearly on the Twin Peaks Restaurant website, it’s all about serving “the man.”

For more information on the boobies campaigns, see my previous essays:
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8 comments to You Know What’s NOT Sexy?

  • Koryn

    A better breast cancer awareness campaign would be where breast cancer is NOT a pink ribbon and certainly nothing sexy about what it does to women’s bodies. The exhibit will be coming to Washington DC in October and Los Angeles in January.
    Don’t miss it!

  • “Absolute Reality” is the byline for the scar project. We could sure use some reality in breast cancer awareness. Thanks for sharing!

  • Great !!! And what about awareness???? Does it save lifes? Who told you that early detection saves lifes? All depends on the nature of the tumor. If you have an aggressive one, early detection doesn’t help. If you have a slow grower, no need to find it early. When it is big enough to feel it, it is early enough to take action.

    Awaress is so exagerated !!

    And what about breast cancer and life style factors? Since when you cure a disease by putting all your money on prevention, although you cannot really prevent breast cancer? Why? Would they do that for diseases like MS or rheumatism? NO. Why blaming the patient? And in the meanwhile my breast cancer friends continue to DIE……

    And nobody seems to care…..

  • Gayle,

    When I see all this pink, sexually demeaning hoopla, it makes me want to barf. I just saw the stuff on the Breastaurant, and all I could think was what the heck?!? What is wrong with our culture? Sex sells, and unfortunately, many think it’s acceptable to demean women rather than focus on ending breast cancer.

    Thank you for the tireless work you do to educate the general public about this.

  • Gayle, As a culture in general, we’ve lost our way on so many things; breast and modesty included. Women with small children expose their breasts in low cut tops at their kids’ BD party at Chucky Cheese, or let their teenage daughters wear revealing clothing. I’m not a prude, but I’m saddened and discouraged that so many women have climbed aboard the boobilicious bandwagon. Even women who’s had breast cancer and have new breasts are proudly showing them off… to everyone. Is it any wonder all things breast related are seen as sexy?


  • Gayle, thanks for exposing (pun intended) this scam to change the insidiousness and tragedy of cancer into something lurid and provocative. This campaign for breast cancer awareness reminds me how Madison Avenue seems to think we need glamorous sluts to sell cars. I appreciate voices like yours that tell it like it is. xxoo

  • Pink is beautiful. women who have the big C need love like every other woman too.

  • Yes, Andrea, I agree. Definitely spread the love, and to all cancers. It’s the industry that is profiteering from breast cancer and stalling progress that many of us are concerned about.

"women urged to get screened because it might save their lives. But that’s only 1 possible outcome, and it’s the least likely one" @cragcrest

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"Seeing clearly through the pink haze" Toronto Sun

*Sad face*: Being happy does not help you live longer" New Scientist

How should we address breast cancer when norms continually change? The Guardian

Your Fun 'No Bra Day' Photos Are Overshadowing Terminal Breast Cancer Patients Broadly

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Breast Cancer to Rise 50 Percent by 2030? Hey, Not So Fast! Health News Review

Breast Cancer: The Flaws in the Cause

How to Make the Biggest Impact With Your Breast Cancer Donations Money

The Very Pink, Very Controversial Business of Breast Cancer Awareness Racked

NFL, Pink Ribbons Not Enough to Win over Women CNN

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Gayle Sulik named #7 in SharecareNow’s Top 10 Online Influencers in Breast Cancer

Breast cancer cancer causes so easily derailed Philly Inquirer

Komen Charity Under Microscope for Funding, Science Reuters

The Fight Against Cancer - And Abortion?

Susan G. Komen For the Cure defunds Planned Parenthood. In Deep with Angie Coiro

Amid Breast Cancer Month, Is there Pink Fatigue? NPR's All Things Considered

How is Breast Cancer Culture Undermining Women's Health? America’s Radio News Network

Pink Ribbon Culture and Breast Cancer The Kojo Nnamdi Show

The Big Business of Breast Cancer
Marie Claire

Does Breast Cancer Awareness Month Crowd Out Other Diseases? Slate

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