The year was 2009. I got my first period and with a million questions on my mind, I went up to my mom and my class teacher - both of whom tried their best to shush my inquisitive urge.
The year was 2012. I was taught the ‘infamous’ chapter, 'Reproduction in Animals' for the first time and had no clue how a penis and vagina were supposed to meet each other. And, where?!
The year was 2016. My then best friend who made out with me told me that my breasts are ‘too saggy’ and my camel toe is showing down there.
All these years, my body and I went through a gazillion changes (okay, maybe lesser) and were at the receiving end of endless remarks, taunts, judgments, and misconceptions. For a good 17 years of my life, I had no idea that periods aren’t supposed to make me feel shameful, sex isn’t just ‘penis meets vagina’ and saggy breasts are very normal. And, this is how a lot of people I know also lived a better portion of their lives being unaware of all things they’re supposed to know about their bodies, identity, and sexuality. Makes you wonder, isn’t it?
Speaking of, Dr. Tanaya Narendra, better known as Dr. Cuterus on Instagram, was one of the first people whose content helped me normalize a lot of stuff about my body. In fact, the first time I was introduced to Dr. Cuterus was when a video landed in my explore section about why our undies often get bleached/discolored. Believe me, when I say this, I literally had zero clue as to why that happened and thought it was only me. I was too shy to ask my mother, too ashamed to ask a friend, and too scared to google it. So, when the friendliest doctor you’ve ever known tells you that it's ABSOLUTELY normal, the reaffirmation feels surreal. When I read about Dr. Tanaya releasing her new book, I was absolutely delighted. So much so, that I made it a point to pre-order the book a month prior!
I'm sure that for many people from her thriving Instagram community, this achievement of hers felt super personal because of how closely they have followed her content around body positivity, sexual health, reproductive rights, etc., over the years and how she always ensures her take on all matters is super approachable.
What REALLY worked well…
Tanaya's book 'Dr Cuterus: Everything Nobody Tells You About Your Body' sets the premise straight with how it's not yet another book talking about just sex. Rather, 'Dr Cuterus' is an honest attempt at helping people get acquainted with their bodies (inside out) and normalizing all the bits that may (or, may not) make up who we are!
The book explores a jargon-free approach to explaining scientifically established and evidence-based facts about the penis, scrotum, vagina, vulva, breasts, uterus, clitoris, and matters concerning the same. Not only that, the real icing on the cake is the endless Bollywood referencing (from songs to filmy stories, the whole shebang) that gets you cracking even while reading about something as grave and serious as STIs! Spoiler alert, but only 'Dr Cuterus' can use the DDLJ plotline to break down the mechanism of contraception (don't just take my word for it, read the book).
From using a Kathi roll euphemism to give us the lowdown on penises (genius, right?) and equating boobies to cute cupcakes, ‘Dr Cuterus’ leaves no stone unturned in making something as basic as genital anatomy, the star of the show you'd like to happily binge watch. And, isn't that the goal after all? To bring about joy and pleasure while discussing all things bodies and get rid of a generation's worth of shame and insecurity, one friendly conversation at a time.
What I truly enjoyed reading about is how cleverly Dr. Tanaya referred to the clitoris as more than just a 'matar ka daana', quipping at the misguided notion of the clitoris being just a bump protruding, when it's literally running the entire circus (read: vulvar anatomy). With frequent pop-up sections called 'Tanaya's Trivia Timeout', evenly distributed FAQs, and fun quizzes to keep you at the top of everything, 'Dr Cuterus' is a reader's delight for anyone who's interested in getting that much-needed education around our bodies that we all missed out on growing up, in the most exciting and relatable ways possible.
After all that's been said and done, in Tanaya's words, "Will the real vulva please stand up?"
What COULD have been better…
For someone who works at the intersections of gender, bodies, and sexual wellness, it's imperative to bring forth narratives inclusive of all the different types of bodies, including those who might not be content in their own bodily identity, planning to or have undergone gender reaffirming procedures or have anatomy that goes beyond the binaries of penis and vulva/vagina. 'Dr Cuterus' may feel like an overly optimistic read to some, oversimplifying ideas of body positivity and neutrality, even when it may not be required contextually.
I also hoped to read more about the psychosocial implications of period shaming, bodily dissatisfaction, etc., all of which were missing from the book.
Note for the Readers
As a concluding note, I thought it would be best to quote 'Dr Cuterus’ herself:
"This is not a book about sex.
This is a book about learning about your body and hopefully falling in love with it somewhere along the way. This is a book about unlearning the shame that’s instilled in us from the very moment we are born. This is a book about understanding how things work, how your parts fit together. This is a book about empowering you with the right facts to make informed decisions about your health."
'Dr Cuterus: Everything Nobody Tells You About Your Body' is the perfect read for a younger sibling who could really use a fun read about their bodies, backed by scientific facts. I know I would love to gift this to my mother and younger brother, both of whom could understand how much we all wished to have that one bestie figure in our lives who could tell us everything we wanted to know about our genitalia, bodies, identities, sexual and reproductive health & wellness. And, with Christmas round the corner, there’s no better time to spread the joy of reading with your loved ones, isn’t it?
Also See: Reviewing 'Sex Ed' by Ruby Rare
Juicy Reads by That Sassy Thing is an initiative where we will review books that align with our vision of making the world a safer, more pleasurable space.
We'll start with reviewing 2 books every month and as we grow, we'll have lots more coming your way!
SO THIS HAPPENED!!!
Team TST had their fangirling moment on a rather chilly Sunday evening - warmed by the presence of the effervescent Dr. Tanaya Narendra in Kunzum Books - GK 2, New Delhi! What followed was a very helpful interactive session around HPV awareness and importance of having access to and getting the HPV vaccine if you're someone with a vagina between the ages of 9 and 45 years. It was so englightening to hear from women and femme folx from diverse walks of life share their experiences of all things anatomy, bodies, sex ed and pleasure. And of course, like every book buff ever, we got our copy signed too!
About the Author
Anuja (she/her) is our Creator-in-Residence. After exploring all the different ways she could talk about who she identifies as, this is the closest she could get: “I’m your quintessential dog hoomum with a blue typewriter, living three blocks away, probably writing about you."