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Tim Baker: A touchy subject

Community Manager
Community Manager
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Pun warning. To help us all overcome the slight awkwardness in discussing this, um, hard topic, my plan is to inject as many puns as possible into this column. See if you can count them all. It’s also a, er, handy way of fulfilling the required word count as I have to get this up by the close of business today.

For those of us going through prostate cancer treatment it can be difficult to come to grips with the impacts on our masculinity and sexuality, and we might well feel like life has handed us a stiff fate. But rather than limply accepting this we can grab hold of our potential as sexual beings and celebrate a fuller, more nuanced understanding of sexual pleasure.

One of the best resources I’ve come across to handle this stuff is A Touchy Subject, a website, online program and YouTube channel for everything related to Erectile Dysfunction and its treatment. The program was started by Victoria Cullen, a sexuality educator, with a Bachelors and Masters in Cognitive Psychology from University College London. In 2015, she co-founded the world's first sex toy design course in an academic setting at RMIT University. As part of the course, she ran a series of interviews with people who had recently purchased a sex toy, and a penny dropped.

“It turns out that many people buying a ‘sex toy’ were actually looking for a ‘sex solution’ for physical changes following a life event (childbirth, menopause) or a medical intervention (medication for depression, cancer treatment),” she says.

“A common theme was the lack of conversation and education around what was happening to their bodies. Advice from healthcare was often too ‘clinical’ to translate into the fun, connecting sexual experience they wanted.

Advice from Google was overwhelming in terms of choice, and not tailored to their specific needs and circumstance. To try and find a balance between the clinical and the pleasurable, I set up a consultancy to match-make people to sexuality solutions for their individual needs.”

And so, A Touchy Subject was born. Victoria found an eager collaborator in urologist, Professor Declan Murphy, head of Urology at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne. In 2017, she partnered with Professor Murphy, to deliver complimentary consultations as part of his usual care to private Prostatectomy patients. 

You can hear his testimonial to Victoria’s services here:

Victoria offers free online resources/programs for erection health through her website You can learn about safe, effective sexuality products and therapies through her Youtube channel:

Now, I understand penile meditation might not be everyone’s cup of tea but, honestly, how often are you going to find yourself being encouraged to slip your hands down your pants as a form of therapy:

You can read more about Victoria and her work here:

The key message here is that there are many pathways to recovering sexual function after prostate cancer treatment, whether that’s a prostatectomy and/or Androgen Deprivation Therapy. And that solutions need to be tailored to an individual or couple’s specific needs and preferences.

My own contribution to this topic is to encourage men to think beyond erections and penetrative sex. If pills and pumps, needles and implants seem off-putting, or haven’t delivered the desired results, good honest conversations with a therapist and your partner can help.

But also, there is much sensual pleasure to be enjoyed through the joys of skin-to-skin contact, what is sometimes referred to as “full body sensuality”. Many men would be surprised to discover how pleasurable many women find this form of intimacy, removing the pressure of achieving erections or orgasms, the race to the finish line of penetrative sex.

We’re all different and every individual and couple will have their own preferences when it comes to expressing intimacy. Of the many messages I received after the publication of my memoir, Patting The Shark, one of my favourites was from a 70-year-old gent who shared candidly that when he experienced erectile dysfunction he took matters into his own hands. “I researched how lesbians pleasure each other and have been able to keep my wife very happy since,” he wrote, touchingly. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

If you really want to learn how to satisfy your partner, with or without an erection, may I recommend this glorious book, cleverly titled Come As You Are, which should be essential reading for, well, everyone:

Another excellent resource for tackling these issues is:

Here you’ll find everything you need to understand erectile dysfunction, just how common it is, even among blokes with healthy prostates (over 50% of men over 45, and around one million men in Australia).

You are certainly not alone and being able to speak candidly about these issues to your partner, doctor or a sexual health therapist is only going to help.

About the Author



Tim Baker is an award-winning author, journalist and storyteller specialising in surfing history and culture, working across a wide variety of media from books and magazines to film, video, and theatre. Some of his most notable books include “Occy”, a national bestseller and chosen by the Australia Council as one of “50 Books You can’t Put Down” in 2008, and “The Rip Curl Story” which documents the rise of the iconic Australian surf brand to mark its 50th anniversary in 2019. Tim is a former editor of Tracks and Surfing Life magazines. He has twice won the Surfing Australia Hall of Fame Culture Award.

Tim was diagnosed with stage 4, metastatic prostate cancer in 2015 with a Gleason score 9. He was told he had just five years of reasonable health left, but eight years on, at 58, he’s still surfing, writing, and enjoying being a dad. His latest book, Patting the Shark, also documents his cancer journey and will be published in August. Tim will be sharing weekly insights into his journey to help other men who have also been impacted by prostate cancer.

Help is Available

Prostate Cancer Specialist Telenursing Service

If your life has been impacted by prostate cancer, our Specialist Telenursing Service is available to help. If you would like to reach out to the PCFA Prostate Cancer Specialist Telenurse Service for any questions you have about your prostate cancer experience, please phone 1800 22 00 99 Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm, Wednesday 10am-8pm (AEDT).

Prostate Cancer Support Groups

PCFA is proud to have a national network of affiliated support groups in each state and territory of Australia consisting of men and women who have a passion for assisting others who encounter prostate cancer. This network is made up of over 170 affiliated groups who meet locally to provide one-to-one support, giving a vision of life and hope after treatment. Call us on 1800 22 00 99 to find your local group.

MatesCONNECT Telephone-based peer support

MatesCONNECT is a telephone-based peer support program for men affected by prostate cancer. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer, our MatesCONNECT service can connect you to a trained volunteer who understands what you’re going through. All of our volunteers have been through prostate cancer. Simply call us on 1800 22 00 99 to be connected with a volunteer.

Newly diagnosed? or need to find more information? Access the PCFA resources here.

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