According to her Twitter profile, Cindy Gallop is “the Michael Bay of Business”, she likes to blow shit up. A former ad exec and marketing consultant, Cindy is a bit of a legend in the feminist and sex positive space. If you Google her, you will find her all over the internet: TED Talks, YouTube, and video tours of her former New York City apartment, the “Black Apartment”. But in recent years, she has become better known for her controversial user-generated “real world sex” sharing website MakeLoveNotPorn.
In dating younger men, Cindy came to find that the accessibility of free hardcore pornography was almost equal to people’s inability to talk about it. In other words, this ubiquitous content was becoming society’s answer to sex education. It was through this realization that Cindy set out to develop a site that would demystify “real sex”. After she launched MakeLoveNotPorn at the TED Talk Conference in 2009, it went viral. Because of the enormously positive response, the MakeLoveNotPorn user-generated video sharing platform was born.
The first time I Skyped with Cindy Gallop to talk about MakeLoveNotPorn, I was extremely nervous — and starstruck — so it is of no surprise that I pushed the wrong button on my voice recorder, and lost the entire interview. Egads. Due to scheduling conflicts, I didn’t have the chance to ask Cindy for a redo for months after our initial interview. Graciously, (which I’ve come to find is her modus operandi) she agreed without rebuffing me or making fun of my rookie journalistic mistake. Fortunately for me, I went into this take two less nervous (though still starstruck) and able to push the right button on my voice recorder.
Aleks Kang: Your site MakeLoveNotPorn is a forum for couples to film their activities in the boudoir — which some critics have complained is akin to amateur porn. Is the site an answer to an issue that came out of your personal experience? In other words: have you filmed any of your escapades?
Cindy Gallop: I get asked this question a lot and I get asked often by people who are flatteringly very keen that I should do so. We discussed this very seriously as a team before we launched MakeLovenNotPorn. We basically said to ourselves, like every entrepreneurial team, we should be using our own platform, and there were differing views about that within the team – some people are more keen than others.
What we did end up agreeing as a team is that we are already starting and building a very controversial venture and because we have to interact with so many aspects of business in order to make to try and make this venture successful, it wouldn’t actually help us for our team to be on our platform currently. So it’s a purely business decision at the moment. If we can make everything work the way we want to and scale and grow this business, then we sincerely hope that one day the answer will be yes.
AK: With the unwavering popularity of Fifty Shades, do you have fetish couples sending in content?
CG: First of all, I’d really emphasize that MakeLoveNotPorn is utterly all inclusive. I particularly want to emphasize this because we sometimes get described in the media as a site for couples and yes, we are; but we are a site for everyone else as well. We want the entire spectrum: singles, couples, LGBT, everything. In our book, real world sex is anything and everything anyone and everyone wants to enjoys doing for real, anywhere.
Now, that being said obviously we are only 18 months old and in beta and one of the things I want to explain to people is the production cycle for real world sex video is slower than if you’re deliberately out to create amateur porn. By which I mean, if you’re setting out to make porn, you are setting things up, you’ve decided what you’re going to do, etc. When you are asking people to record their real world sex, first of all, with a lot of our MakeLoveNotPorn stars, a few have videoed themselves for each other before. The vast majority have never even filmed themselves having sex. They’re doing it for us, because they believe in our social mission: to create a more open, healthy, honest dialogue around sex.
What that means is, first of all there inevitably going to be technical glitches. Like say: we had this great session and at the end we found the camera wasn’t working, so that happens. We never want to reject videos but one of the occasions where we have to is when it is dark so we have to go back and give advice about how to light it better because we really couldn’t see what was happening. We like real, we’re not about production quality, when you actually can’t see what’s going on, then that’s a different issue.
It inevitably will take awhile to build up the repertoire that we want. At the moment we have solo masturbation videos – female, male. We have straight couples, we have gay couples, we have lesbian couples. We are very keen, and I think your audience may be interested in, to de-kinkify the kind of sex people would thoroughly enjoy having if society hadn’t told them “[gasp] it’s kinky!”. We have some BDSM videos, we have some role play. We want as much of that as possible and so you know, with real world sex, one of the things that real world sex is about it context. Because real world sex has context, has a relationship, has a back story. and when it comes to, for example BDSM, for us real world sex is about showing the negotiation that goes on in real life around having sex the way you want to have it, doing all the things you do to decide what your safewords are, how far you want to go, etc and so we really want to give people a window into something that people don’t really have in the real world context, which is everybody’s enjoying everything and no you’re not weird and no, you’re not kinky, so we really want all of that.
And by the way, I really want to use this interview to put the call out for example we’re very short on the gay male front – lots of promises but not as much follow through. We are very keen to feature trans as well. And again, we have had people who say they want to submit but haven’t submitted yet, and so really anything and everything, we welcome. (and you mean transmen and transwomen).
AK: I noticed that you recently retweeted something regarding the condom mandate and anti-worker safety bill in California. Could you talk about why you opposed the bill?
CG: A lot of things are laid at the porn industry’s door that shouldn’t be, and this is absolutely one of them; so the porn industry gets blamed for a whole host of things that are society’s fault. My perspective and, I’ve been articulating very regularly is: the onus is not on the porn industry to be condom usage role models, and the entire legislative ridiculously around that is completely missing the point – which is that it is up to society to ensure that condom usage in a protective contraceptive scenario be taught and understood in the real world, and society is spectacularly failing to do that. It’s trying to put the blame on porn in the most ridiculous way, so I applaud the porn industry’s fighting that.
I see it as our role to present the other side of that argument which is that we should actually be encouraging and manifesting condom use in real world sex, in a way that makes it really effective, which is why we want to introduce the meme “condom hot”. We want people to actively think about the fact that condoms don’t have to get in the way of great sex, it can be an integral part of great sex. We have the opportunity in MakeLoveNotPorn to showcase great real world sex – that eroticizes condom usage and the reason why that is so important is that it is not porn’s role to do that at all. Porn is fantasy, porn is escapism, porn is entertainment. But what we do need out there happening is something people can watch that shows that there are hot, arousing ways to introduce condoms into real world sex and using them, and taking them off and disposing of them. And nobody but nobody is teaching that and that’s why we’re very keen to.
AK: How has being a female and one of color affected your personal or professional life, if at all? Do you get into a lot of heated debates with colleagues and friends about being a feminist and pro-sex.
CG: I encountered a lot of racism when I was a child growing up in Asia – to the English I wasn’t English and to the Chinese, I wasn’t Chinese.
But, in terms of my working life, I really just worked really hard and I wasn’t thinking of that consciously. Subsequently, to answer your question: I don’t often get into arguments per se because I think when you are very clear about who you are and what you stand for, you draw to you the people who want that and believe in that, so the fact that I work for myself and the fact that I can choose who I work with, enables me to work with like-minded people.
But at the same time, I feel very strongly about really working to change that for all of us; that’s why I am so passionate about gender equality, about diversity, about redesigning the world of business to be equal in all things accordingly. And getting the world of business to see that that is how you innovate and disrupt: by bringing together different points of views, different insight, different world views. You cannot be innovative and you cannot own the future if you’re not gender-equal and diversity equal.
So I feel very strongly about that given where I come from. But in the past, it was one of those things where you have revelations as you get older, and this being very much one of them.
[QUIZ: Famous Literature or Adult Film Plot?]
Ok, now for the brain-teaser of sorts. I’m going to read you some questions, and I’d like you to tell me which is a synopsis from famous literature and which is a porn plot.
Question #1: Marquis de Sade (120 Days of Sodom) — Five men hole up in a medieval castle with 4 beautiful prostitutes who teach them the ways of perversion. These 9 accomplices begin experimenting with a number of lascivious activities that include bondage, anal sex, and huge orgies upon unsuspecting women.
CG: That is of course literature and that is Marquis de Sade!
Question #2 (The Panda Shoot): A young, sheltered woman lays in a lush field of trees fantasizing about a tea party with cute furry pandas, when her fantasy comes true. 5 male-sized pandas appear, making her reveal her deepest, darkest desires by binding her in the open air and coerce her to join their clan of the orgie panda bears.
CG: And that’s James Deen! The pandas gave it away.
AK: Do you know which site?
CG: No, unfortunately, I do not.
AK: Well, knowing it was James Deen will suffice.
Question #3: Anais Nin (Henry & June) — A woman wants to open up her monogamous marriage to explore polyamory. Though her husband initially opposes an open marriage, the wife starts an affair with an enchanting American woman, and the woman’s debauched husband.
CG: That sounds like the plot of many many novels. That happens in literature ALL the time. For example, that is the plot to Ernest Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Oh, Henry Miller! This is a well-worn plot in literature.
Question #4: (The Wife & The Servant) A housemaid starts working for a mysterious couple in a historic house, soon to find out that the mystery includes bondage and threesomes. The Mistress of the House breaks her Husband’s rules by asking the newly hired maid to redecorate the estate. When the man of the house returns home, he punishes both the women with a wicked threesome game of predicament bondage, domination and submission.
CG: Oh that’s definitely porn.
AK: James Deen is in this one too!
OK, this is a really hard one:
Question #5: (Geoffrey Chaucer (The Wife of Bath’s Tale – Canterbury Tales) — A despicable knight who mistreats women is tasked by the Queen to find out the true desires of women, or be put to death. The knight finds a woman who tells him what women desire: to have full control over their husbands. Her answer saves his life, but at the cost of body.
CG: It’s interesting because there are elements of literature and fairy tale but I’m going with porn.
AK: It’s actually Chaucer! The Canterbury Tales – The Tale of the Wife of Bath
CG: You know it’s so funny, I was thinking also by the way that there are elements of Taming of the Shrew but the way you put it there, I was going for the porn scenario.
AK: Actually, there is an adult parody called the Taming of the Screw
CG: Oh my god, that’s hysterical!
AK: I guess all you have to do to do well in this quiz is to watch James Deen. Are you a fan?
CG: Of course, absolutely!
Literary plots can be very much like adult plots, but Cindy seemed well-versed in both, as I knew she would be. Here’s hoping she rented ‘Taming of the Screw’ right after the interview and had a good laugh. I know I did.
Photo credit – Cindy Gallop Flickr