The former Love Island star is a scientist, but she had no idea women could climax until she was 20. She discusses God, masturbation, and the orgasm gap in her new documentary.
Yewande Biala was a biotechnologist who studied and worked with orgasms before becoming a reality TV star, writer, and now documentary maker. “No, not orgasms!” “Oh my god,” she exclaims. “Organisms. When I first started this documentary, I would say ‘organisms’ instead of ‘orgasms’ – and now I’m doing it backwards.”
Initially, Biala, 28, didn’t want to make the Channel 4 film Secrets of the Female Orgasm. She had become a fan favourite of the 2019 series of the ITV reality show Love Island, and was on a podcast a few years ago when the subject of sex came up; Biala revealed she’d never had an orgasm.
A TV production company asked if she’d be interested in making a film about female pleasure. It took some convincing, but she did it to change attitudes. “I hope other women who have never experienced orgasm will understand that there is no shame in it. I hope if anyone [in education] watches, they will understand that maybe we need to improve the curriculum about sex.”
According to the documentary, during heterosexual sex, 95% of men achieve orgasm, but this only applies to 65% of women, which has become known as the orgasm gap (86% of women come during sex with other women). An estimated one in eight women have never climaxed at all. It’s a topic that has long been neglected by scientists, with evolutionary biologists claiming that the lack of link to an effect on female fertility has meant that “for a long time it wasn’t interesting to the medical community”. Generations of stigma have surrounded female orgasms since Freud claimed that women who experience pleasure from the clitoris rather than the vagina are “infantile” or frigid. He described female sexuality as “the dark continent”.
It’s clear that Biala is riven with embarrassment by the subject. She’s a “nervous laugher”, which makes her a fun and warm presenter, even if you can feel her nerves and awkwardness in some of the most excruciating scenes. In a university lab with machines that can test levels of arousal, she is asked to watch porn. She laughs and can’t keep her eyes on the screen. It helped having a small female crew – they got to know each other over three months of filming – but it was far from easy. “Even going to the gynaecologist for the first time and having someone film you, with your legs wide open…” she says.