Titillate The Public With Your Sex Life — Yes, Yours!
By Joel TozerSeptember 22, 2012
Following our profile on her makelovenotporn.com start-up, entreporneur Cindy Gallop drops into The Global Mail to make a video (and, yes, there are a couple of screen shots you may not want to show the kids). She swears that your real-life sex can make you hot, hard cash.
Cindy Gallop does what many of us are too afraid to do — she talks openly about her sex life. There is almost nothing she won't talk about, even to complete strangers.
"I have sex with younger men," she declared before a giggling audience of 1,600 people at the 2009 TED ideas conference in Longbeach, California.
The Porn Identity
"And when I have sex with younger men, I encounter very directly and personally the real ramifications of the increasing ubiquity of hardcore pornography in our culture."
Gallop was launching her website, MakeLoveNotPorn.com, an interactive site that places the "myths" of porn against "real world" sexual experiences and asks others to offer their own comparisons. One is the appearance of pubic hair, or lack thereof:
Porn world: Women have no hair down there.
Real world: Some women shave, some women don't. Some men actively prefer women to keep their hair. If you do shave, it requires constant maintenance which can be a pain in the… It's entirely up to personal choice.
Gallop says she is not anti-porn, but after countless encounters with young men who mimic the sex they see in hardcore pornography, she describes herself as "pro-porn, pro-sex, pro-knowing-the-difference".
It's at this point in her speech that Gallop asks those who are offended by explicit language to cover their ears — in this medium, we suggest you skip the paragraph below.
"My concern is particularly with the young girl whose boyfriend wants to come on her face. She does not want him to come on her face. But hardcore pornography has taught her that all men love coming on women's faces. All women love having their faces come on, and therefore she must let him come on her face and she must pretend to like it," she told the audience.
Soon after the TED talk, Gallop's email inbox was flooded with messages from all over the world — "young and old, gay and straight" — about how porn has crept into their sex lives. "They tell me things about their sex lives and their porn watching habits that they've never told anybody else before," she tells The Global Mail on the telephone from her New York apartment.
After a long career in theatre and advertising, Gallop, now 52 years old, turned to online start-ups in 2009, to focus on projects that reflected her own beliefs and passions. "This isn't me as some stuffy academic going, 'Oooh, I hear that young people today…'. This is me going, 'I fuck 22-year-olds. I know how this plays out in the real world'.
The Internet has made hardcore pornography more accessible than ever before and, as a result, has undoubtedly changed the way many of us have sex. It has caused a growing number of people, Gallop says, to think that what they see in porn is how you have sex, and anything less is billed as amateur sex.
"I've got a problem with the term amateur. It implies that the only people doing it right are the professionals and the rest of us are bumbling idiots. I couldn't disagree more," she says.
"I have to say to guys: 'Those dorm rooms don't exist, you know?'"
But the other, more worrying problem with hardcore pornography, she says, is that most teenagers today will see thousands of naked bodies and sex scenes online before they even get the chance to test it out in the real world. And the age when they first start viewing this content is getting younger and younger.
An Australian study released in May this year surveyed roughly 800 people — 85 per cent of whom were male— about their porn watching habits. It found that almost half of those surveyed first started watching porn between the ages of 11 and 13.
"The reality is that porn is here to stay," Professor Raj Sitharthan from the University of Sydney, who was a researcher on the study, said in a public statement. "What we need is a balanced view of the potential dangers of porn addiction, supported by good evidence."
A balanced view of sex is exactly what Gallop intends to offer. Just last month she launched a beta version of MakeLoveNotPorn.TV — a website that invites anyone to upload and share videos of "real world" sex. "I want to explode every piece of received wisdom that exists out there about porn," she says.
"When I talk about this concept people say to me, 'I want to be your first Make Love Not Porn star!'. And that's because social media has lowered the barriers of shame and embarrassment everywhere."
Gallop's plan is not just to change the way we think about porn but also to be the future of porn. And while the main intention for the website is to improve the way we think about sexuality and pleasure, it is also to make considerable profit for the business and its users.
The business model for crowdsourcing "real world" sex is quite simple: users pay five dollars, which is non-refundable, to submit a video. Gallop says it is a simple method of quality control: "If you're going to pay five bucks, you would at least make sure that what you submit is what we are looking for."
The guidelines for "real world" sex note that the videos must show and tell a story, be free of porn tropes and that the sex shown must be consensual. Extra points are given for "condom hot" sex or comical outtakes.
If your video makes the cut, anybody can rent it out for five dollars, which gives them unlimited viewing for three weeks. But the part that makes this website different from many of the other "home" or "real" sex websites, is that users split profits from their video 50/50 with the site. It's a simple form of marketing that encourages people to share their video across as many social networks they can to boost their profits.
The website, although only in its early stages and currently invite-only (more than 29,000 people have signed up for beta-invites), has 13 videos published, which gives users an idea of the type of content Gallop and her team consider "real world" sex. There are videos of couples "talking, kissing, making love, having fun, being silly" as well as a video "reclaiming sexy handjobs".
There's also a solo video of a guy with an unusual talent — he can give himself an orgasm just by stroking his nipples. "Separate to whether or not you find that really hot, it is really riveting," Gallop says.
It's not just that the production values of the videos are completely different to much of the hardcore porn that's available online — it's free of tacky jazz music and the bodies, lighting and locations are visibly real — but it's also starkly clear when you look through the videos on MLNP.tv that everyone being filmed is actually enjoying the sex. Gallop described the first time she watched a submission from a young straight couple in Madison, Wisconsin: "It was really hot, but it didn't matter what they were doing, I couldn't stop looking at her face… because she was loving it!"
And unlike the professionally edited porn that ends as soon as the man ejaculates, Gallop encourages people to include all of the fun, messy outtakes that occur when people have sex. "One of the reasons I want to do this is that I want to reassure people that the same shit happens to all of us, because we never talk about it," she says.
"For example, the bloody nightmare of putting the condom on. Guys are always meant to know how to do it like magic, WHOOSH! As we all know, it doesn't happen like that. When it doesn't happen like that, things go soft, juices dry up, encounters get derailed."
The website has been designed to look nothing like a porn site. The video thumbnails are suggestive, but not explicit. There are no raunchy advertisements flashing down the side of the page. "This is a website where, unless you are actually streaming video, when somebody sits down next to you, you never have to slam your laptop shut," Gallop says.
So far the website doesn't feature any advertising, but there are plans to showcase products in an unexpected way. The advertising isn't just for companies selling condoms and sex toys, either. The requirement is that as long as you integrate it entertainingly into the sex scenario, you can sell anything.
"They say sex sells — let's find out. The chair they're sitting on, the necklace she's wearing, the staircase in the background. For brands brave enough to do this, and we have a couple in the pipeline, the vast engagement possibilities are tremendous," she says.
Gallop's ambitious plan has a simple message: the more we talk about the sex we are having in the real world, the less people will rely on pornography as their primary form of sex education. But, as we all know, changing people's perceptions about sex has never been easy.
"You have no fucking idea how difficult it has been to do this," she says.
It took two years to find an investor willing to fork out $500,000 needed to get the website up and running. But even after Gallop found her "angel investor" — who would like to remain anonymous — she had difficulty finding software companies and banking institutions that would support a company with the world 'porn' in it ("… even though our name is Make Love NOT Porn!").
US banks won't let the company open a business account, and payment processors like PayPal won't work with "adult content". As a result, MLNP is registered as a business in Europe and its funds processed by Dwolla, an online payment network.
"This has been the most utterly demoralising and demotivating process," Gallop says of her battles with "old-world" institutions. Her fast-paced, British accent slows for a moment to reflect: "There have been many points along the way where I have felt, 'I can't go on. I can't do this'. But then I get another heart-rending email to my MakeLoveNotPorn inbox, and that's why I am doing this."
Gallop is not alone in her quest to change the way people think about porn, but her approach is very different. Author Martin Amis has been extremely vocal about the impacts of pornography, most recently in his interview with online magazine Slate, in which he described its "profound" affect on human sexuality.
"It's a great attack on innocence and spontaneity. I know from conversations with my children that pornography determines the style of the whole operation now," Amis said. "The distance between sex and love has widened and pornography must set itself against significance in sex. Significant sex is not in the pornography cosmos."
In order to bridge the divide between love and sex, Gallop wants to exploit all the successful aspects of social media to make the type of sex Amis talks about "socially acceptable and socially shareable".
"So, I'm taking everything that makes Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter and Tumblr so addictive for people and applying it to the one area those guys will never go," she says.
"For example, you'll be able to curate and put together your own MLNP.tv playlist, just like you do on Spotify and iTunes. And those playlists might be for solitary usage … but they could also be the sex equivalent of a mixtape."
Even down to the finer details of enjoying a sex video, Gallop has come up with the MLNP.tv equivalent of the Facebook 'like' — 'YES'. All you have to do to show your appreciation for a video is hit the spacebar, which makes it very easy to manoeuvre one-handed.
With social media websites like Tumblr and Instagram attempting to restrict people from posting adult content on their sites, Gallop hopes these people will find an appreciative audience on MLNP.tv. "When you bring together a community of people, that is a natural part of how you self-identify and self-express," she says.
In the past three years Gallop has built a global audience who, as one 24-year-old Dutch man told her on Twitter, found her website while searching for "porn that is not porn". The fact that people can make a profit from their videos will be a big part of the attraction in getting people to submit their videos to the site. But Gallop's bigger objective — countering the impact of porn as the main form of sex education — means MLNP.tv will have to become as mainstream and influential as the billion-dollar porn industry.