Let’s talk about sex

In her debut book ‘Dr Cuterus’, Tanaya Narendra discusses the need for and importance of sex-positive conversations

Published: 11th January 2023 07:49 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th January 2023 07:49 AM   |  A+A-

Tanaya Narendra

Express News Service

No matter your age, or the city or board to which your school belonged—if you studied in India, you probably share a nugget from our collective memory. It is sometime in Class 7 or 8 in a Biology class, which began with a lot of hush-hush and continued as all the students stifled giggles and the teacher mechanically taught the syllabus. The conversation of sexual education was a taboo then and, unfortunately, it continues to be—even as we make snail-paced progress—a topic we speak of in whispers. Dr Tanaya Narendra, however, takes a complete 180 in her approach to the topic in Dr Cuterus: Everything Nobody Tells You About Your Body. Loud, proud, and to the point.

Not sex, not entirely
‘This is not a book about sex’ reads the very first line. And it is true…to some extent. While it doesn’t deal with the act of sex, it speaks of everything around it. With detailed descriptions and information on the human body, abortions, birth control, and STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections), it encourages you to explore and learn about those ‘private bits’ (in an academic manner). And she does it with flair and friendly banter.

Diving into the book is a bit jarring it is laced with abundant and, sometimes, indulgent puns and jokes—but as you read on, the style grows on you, and eases you into topics you have only read straight-faced. “There are two main ideas behind the tone. First, this is how I study. It is a complicated and overwhelming subject and when you’re just a 17-year-old entering medical school, it can be quite overwhelming. I feel like if I make things ridiculous in my head, I retain them better. And I just applied analogies (in the book) that I normally use for myself as well. Second, I find that it makes people laugh and sort of disarms them; which works very well in something as, unfortunately, sensitive as this,” shares the author.

The text is also broken up by illustrations Tanaya sketched herself—they are important to communicate ideas and she finds it difficult to communicate to someone else what she wants to be drawn, she shares. It is rudimentary work, a la Microsoft Paint, but I think it adds to the charm. And while the subject matter is not anything unheard of, one might be surprised to find what they don’t know about their bodies (I can’t claim to have paid a lot of attention in that Biology class, it seems).

Moving parts
This debut seems to be the natural next step for the doctor-cum-influencer, who has garnered a following of one million on Instagram. Her fun yet informative videos online came as a result of an observation she made during her master’s degree. “I did my master’s in fertility treatments in the UK. So this was a very different demographic than I was used to dealing with as a doctor in India. One of the primary things I saw was that for a lot of the cases of people struggling with subfertility, many causes were preventable, with better sex ed, or better fertility education. It made me cross as to why we are not working on this instead.

We need better patient dedication, and we need to demystify these topics because they’ve been common to talk about in my household (both my parents are fertility doctors). And I felt that it was weird that other people were not talking about it,” she says. The same sentiment is evident in the book that, despite all its humour, advocates for sex-positive conversation and the power of knowledge. In this attempt, Tanaya does not fail to be inclusive, speaking of trans people and feminism as well.

Beyond the basics of sex education, the book touches upon myths promoted by capitalism and marketing—the truth about vaginal perfumes and feminine washes, among the rest. “I hope the primary message that people take away from the book is that their bodies are okay. There are a lot of marketing gimmicks and sort of poor messaging in the media that we’re exposed to. I hope they don’t get influenced by it and try to make these unnecessary changes to their bodies.

The other thing is that they also recognise the amount of misogyny that is there in the world, especially in terms of women’s health care, and sexual health care. I do want to highlight that women’s health is health and sexual health is health, right? They’re not taboo issues, and we need to bring them to the forefront because historically, we haven’t done that. And the consequences of that have largely been borne by women and marginalised people for millennia,” she concludes.

Ideally, a book like this would be recommended for teenagers and young adults who need resources for sex education. But I could imagine adults pulling this off the shelf as well. Who knows? Perhaps there is something new for us all to learn.

Pages: 280
Publishers: Penguin
Price: Rs 299


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