It was the summer of 2020, right in the middle of June when the pandemic got us all locked up in our homes. Yet another day of doomscrolling, and I happened to stumble upon this Instagram post; it was a carousel with pictures of someone’s curves and rolls in a bikini, just existing in their raw, sexy, and unabashed glow. That someone was Ruby Rare. The caption read, “My glorious bikini body”, with a heart emoji and I can vividly recall how I felt this dissonance—I never associated my body with the word ‘glorious’. Especially when I too, had similar rolls, curves, stretch marks, and pubic hair, waiting to be represented in the mainstream media I consumed. That’s how I was introduced to Ruby Rare and since then whenever my body image comes crashing down, I open her feed, and there it is: real bodies and endless conversations around pleasure, intimacy, and love that have affirmed my perceptions over the years.
Via Instagram (@rubyrare)
So, when I decided to review their book, ‘Sex Ed: A Guide for Adults’, it felt personal. The book opens with a simple yet meaningful quote by Ruby Rare: “To genitals everywhere, may you get the love and attention you deserve.” The pages are all shades of pink and red, with stunning illustrations by Sofie Birkin that breathe life into every chapter, reflecting the diverse spectrum of genitals, body parts, and people. ‘Sex Ed’ by Ruby Rare is a celebration of sex, pleasure, lust, intimacy, identity and so much more and they ensured that the party never falls flat. The book is filled with interactive memos, lists, and takeaways that help the readers make it their own.
What REALLY worked well...
What I truly admire about the book is its compassionate introduction. It begins with the ‘Sex Ed Manifesto’ that lays the foundation of how and why this book was conceived in the first place. Next up, Ruby ensured that everybody who picks up ‘Sex Ed’ knows what this book is about, and more importantly, what topics haven’t been touched upon but deserve the utmost attention. That’s an important step for a book that discusses the vast and neverending world of sex, providing a roadmap to everything that has been covered and that needs to be talked about further. Rooted in intersectionality and pleasure-centric values, Ruby Rare’s ‘Sex Ed’ is a must-read for anyone willing to learn more about all things S-E-X, the pleasure dynamics, and how intimacy unfolds in relationships (online or IRL).
From the spicy bits around having threesomes, using sex toys, and even hosting sex parties, to the more serious discourse around sexual trauma and healing, reading ‘Sex Ed’ felt like a journey of getting to explore different parts of yourself in a new light. It’s noteworthy that Ruby helps you redefine your sexual experiences (and, beyond) by amalgamating her own experiences alongside those who’ve interacted with her. This adds to the realism; when you read perspectives differing from that of the author’s voice, it helps you feel more connected to your own voice, and that it matters. This reminds me of a chapter around orgasms and how there were a few quotes that defined their experiences:
“Like a really fun, heightened, elongated sneeze”
“It feels like my genitals are melting and turning into warm butter”
So, orgasm isn’t just a climax, it can be the beginning of how you experience pleasure and how you can elevate or enrich that experience! Or, as Ruby Rare puts it, “Louder for the people at the back: Orgasms aren’t the ultimate goal of sex.” Another remarkable thing about Sex Ed is the use of language to offer agency to its readers. To give you an example, while exploring what first-time partnered sex can be like for different folx, Ruby offers a set of questions such as “Do you want to be sexually intimate with them?”, “Do you communicate well?”, and “Do you get the feeling that this person is interested in your pleasure as well as their own?”, to emphasize the fact that while your first time can give you the jitters, it’s only YOU who gets to decide how you’d like to go about it (and, with whom). A lot of times when we are trying to unpack the shame and guilt associated with sex and pleasure, it’s imperative to provide the vocabulary so that people can acknowledge their experiences and continue to grow their understanding.
What COULD have been better…
For any idea/concept that directly relates to people of all ages, genders, sexualities, and diverse backgrounds, representation matters a lot. And, while Ruby Rare’s Sex Ed managed to do so visually, the book isn’t able to capture disabled bodies and narratives as well as it could have. Due to the complex nature of the book, however, Ruby does acknowledge that the topics are definitely not exhaustive. For a queer woman of color such as myself, my cultural understanding of sex differs from what the book talks about, and that’s valid given how this book isn’t very aligned with the Indian/South Asian context.
Note for the Readers
In conclusion, or as Ruby would put it, ‘cumcusion’, sex ed doesn’t have to be limited to a roundtable conference or a mundane curriculum. Comprehensive sex ed can be so vast yet relatable, messy yet fulfilling, awkward yet enjoyable, and intimidating yet hilarious, and that’s the beauty of it. Kink is not just Fifty Shades of something, and gender isn’t just a spectrum, it can be a blob, say!
Feel free to pick up this book if you’re in the mood to shake off the rigid ways with which we approach matters of sexual exploration and intimacy, and relearn what pleasure might mean for you. Gift this to a partner, your sibling or even a friend who you think could make use of this super fun and friendly read. In fact, I personally use this book as an inspiration to incite conversations around the stuff that matters.
To quote Ruby Rare, “Welcome to Sex Ed, where everyone is invited to the party.”
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!
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."