Alyaa Gad graduated from Ain Shams University in Cairo with a degree in medicine and a specialisation in health education. After moving to Switzerland, she started a YouTube channel in 2010 to offer advice about sex to an Arabic-speaking audience. Since then, her videos have achieved astounding success.
For example, the video where she talks about ideal penis size has more than 1.6 million views. More than 3 million people have watched another video in which she gives advice to couples about how to reduce the pressure on their wedding night.
On her channel iUnderstandTV, she now also publishes videos in English.
"Changing mindsets without disrupting traditions"
When I was a university student in Egypt, I realized that there was a serious lack of information about the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. Back then (in the mid-1990s), satellite TV stations were just starting to develop in Egypt. I contacted several different stations to see if they would be interested in launching educational programming about these issues but none of them responded to my ideas.
In 2010, I decided to start producing my own educational videos on YouTube. I bought an old camcorder for five euros and I started to make very basic videos about health and family issues. In one of my first videos, I talked about breast cancer screening. I was surprised to get such a big response to my video. I received messages from women who thanked me because my video had prompted them get screenings and they had caught breast cancer in its early stages. Hearing that really motivated me to keep making videos.
Shortly thereafter, I made another video where I talked about premature ejaculation. In no time at all, that video had a million views, then two million. And the numbers kept on climbing! I was shocked!
My role as a health educator means that I address a wide range of topics. I’ve covered everything from first aid to chronic illness to family health. But I get the most requests to talk about sex-related problems, so I decided to really invest in this domain."Many of my followers told me that their wedding nights were a disaster"
I’ve received thousands of messages from followers who ask me for advice about their wedding nights. Many tell me that their wedding night was a disaster. In many parts of the Arab world, the wedding night is a highly ritualised event where the woman is supposed to lose her virginity. I made a number of videos advising women to relax and to take the time to get to know both own bodies and the bodies of their partner.
I also think that men need to be relieved of the burden of feeling like they have to have sex on their wedding night. I explain to my viewers that a traumatic sexual experience can lead to erection problems for men or vaginismus for women.
I also made videos about the issue of female genital mutilation, which is unfortunately widespread in Egypt, even though it is illegal. But making it illegal hasn’t ended the practice – now, people just get their daughters circumcised in secret. I think that education is the only way to address this issue, so I explain in a clear, factual way how excision ruins a woman’s sex life and can even put her life at risk."In Egypt, many people consider sex to be shameful"
I get so many questions about sex and sexuality because it is taboo to talk about these topics in my country. For example, many people consider sex to be so shameful that it’s almost a crime. Many men only know about sex through porn. I explain to them that porn scenes are created with actors playing roles and that, in real life, sex is different and is practiced in a different way.
I have many viewers in Egypt, Morocco and Saudi Arabia. But that doesn’t mean that everyone is a fan of my work. Last May, I was invited by a Saudi television channel to participate in a televised debate on Women’s Day. The topic of the discussion was about women in political life – I wasn’t even talking about sexuality. However, I got thousands of insults and abusive messages on Twitter. The Saudi channel decided to delete the debate from its website after the outcry against me."I just want to share the message that sex is beautiful and that we shouldn’t feel shame in talking about it or doing it"
Even if I want to change people’s mindsets about sexuality in the Arab world, I am not trying to disrupt local traditions. For example, I never advise people to have sexual relations outside of marriage. I just want to share the message that sex is beautiful and that we shouldn’t feel shame in talking about it or doing it.