Changing the way we think about sex through social media

Dan LeRoy and Ali Schwabe | Fulcrum Staff

CINDY GALLOP, AN advertising consultant and founder of the US branch of advertising firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Makelovenotporn.com, is currently working on growing a porn site at Makelovenotporn.tv of real people doing real things in the bedroom. Gallop’s TEDTalk “Make Love Not Porn” went viral after the 2009 TED conference. She gave the Fulcrum the lowdown on her experiences as an entrepreneur, her thoughts on porn, and how you can make 2.5 million bucks doing what (or who) you love.

The Fulcrum: How did your site Makelovenotporn.com start?
Cindy Gallop: I date younger men; they tend to be men in their 20s, and about five years ago—which I would mention was before the media ever started talking about any of this—I was coming across an issue that would have never even crossed my mind if I had not encountered it very personally and very directly. What happens when you combine today’s totally ubiquitous freedom of access to hardcore porn online with today’s equally total reluctance in our society to talk openly and honestly about sex in the real world is porn becoming by default the sex education of today—in not a good way.
I put up—with no money, which is why it’s very basic and very clunky—a website at makelovenotporn that puts the myths of hardcore porn out there and balances them with the reality. So the construct that you see is porn world versus real world.
I had the opportunity to launch it at TED, and I decided to be very explicit in my TED talk because I knew that the audience wouldn’t get it if I wasn’t direct about it. As a result, it’s safe to say that everybody who was at TED in 2009 remembers that talk. As one Twitter-er said, it was the first time the words “come on my face” had been heard on the TED stage six times in one session, and the talk went viral. That really spread Makelovenotporn.com around the world.

What do you hope to accomplish with this site?
The response to the site was so extraordinary. Separate to very high traffic, every single day I get emails, and I get them from everybody. I get them from young and old, males and females, gays and straights, from every country in the world. I talked about and I’m doing something that everybody knows, but nobody ever speaks about. And as a result, people will tell me anything. They’ll pour out their hearts to me, tell me things about their sex lives and their porn-watching habits that they’ve never told anyone before, and they ask advice. It was the cumulative impact of those emails day after day after day that began making me feel I had a personal responsibility to take Makelovenotporn.com forward in a way that would make it much more far-reaching, helpful, and effective.

What I always emphasize to people is that makelovenotporn is not anti-porn. The issue I’m tackling is not porn. I’m tackling the complete absence in our society of an honest, truthful, authentic conversation about how sex happens in the real world. Which, among many other benefits, would mean that people would bring a real-world mindset to the viewing of what is essentially artificial entertainment.

My entire message boils down to one thing, which is “talk about it.” Talk about sex generally and talk about sex personally and privately. We all get very vulnerable when we get naked. Sexual ego is very fragile. People find it bizarrely difficult to talk about sex with the people they’re actually having it with while they’re actually having it. You’re terrified you’ll hurt the other person’s feelings, you’ll put them off of you, you’ll derail the encounter or potentially the entire relationship; but at the same time, you want to make them happy, you want to please your partner. So you’ll seize your cues on how to do that from anywhere you can, and if the only cues you’ve ever been given are from porn, then those are the ones you’re going to take, to not very good effect. Which is why our motto is: “Pro-sex, pro-porn, and pro-knowing the difference.”

Because our message is “talk about it,” what I decided to do is take all the dynamics of social media and apply it to sex. I want to socialize sex. I want to make real-world sex socially accessible and just as socially shareable as anything else we currently share on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc.

Five months ago, I and my team launched Makelovenotporn.tv. It’s a user-generated crowd source platform, where anybody from anywhere in the world can submit videos of themselves having real-world sex. At its heart, it’s not performing for the camera; it’s simply recording what happens in the real world in all its funny, messy, glorious, ridiculous humanness. My team and I curate everything, then we have a revenue-sharing business model. People pay five bucks and they can view each video for three weeks and can show it to anyone else in their physical vicinity. If you live in a house full of students, you can show everyone. And then we revenue-share. We give our makelovenotporn stars 50 per cent of the rental revenue. Which is, first of all, incentive for you to actually promote it and help us do our marketing. Your video could hit the YouTube holy grail of a million rentals, and then we give you half that. We call it the “Etsy of sexy”—this is a great way to pay off your student loans.

What is your favourite “myth versus reality check” on the website?
I just want to mention that Makelovenotporn.com looks very hetero normative, but this is not on purpose. My intent is that when more money comes in, I will include more diverse material. The myth that I feel should be most known is that when someone sticks fingers into a vagina, the girl gets turned on. This is not how it works. When fingers go into a dry vulva, it hurts! Don’t do it, gentlemen! New advice: for the first 30 minutes in bed, do not go anywhere near her vulva. Do not go there until the girl is begging you to go down there.

Why does your website matter for students?
I am aiming for the student audience to join this site. Sign up and rent just one video, it is just five dollars! If you need to pay back your student loans, 50 per cent of the revenue from submitted videos goes back to you! My two cents is that this is a model that we should openly embrace and talk about on campus. Role models are always important in our lives, and the domain of sex is just as important as other areas, if not more so. It is high time that we have a site like Makelovenotporn.com that we can frequent to find out what is normal and what is not.