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Copyright Katja Heinemann
Business and Finance

Porn again

Debbi Evans
Maverick campaigner and ad maven Cindy Gallop comes clean about her disruptive real porn business

Four years before philosopher Alain de Botton started considering the consolations of pornography, former advertising boss Cindy Gallop was bellowing “Come on my face!” at an audience of TED members. Her notoriously frank talk on the importance of making love not porn soon went viral. And its user-generated climax – makelovenotporn.tv – launched to the public in early 2013.

Even over the phone, Cindy Gallop has presence. Her advertising background reveals itself in perfectly stage-managed flourishes: she talks in soundbites, and makes a point of enunciating the full web address (makelovenotporn.tv) in every second sentence. Although she chuckles while telling the TED story, the point – as with any well-crafted public service announcement – is serious. You can limit the damage done by porn by having an open, frank conversation about real sex. “What happens when you combine total freedom of access to hardcore porn with our society’s equally total reluctance to talk openly and honestly about sex [is that] porn becomes sex education by default, because there is nothing else.”

When exposure to hardcore porn can start as early as eight years old, avian and apian euphemisms just don’t cut it. “My father is English and massively old-fashioned, my mother is Chinese – ‘girls stay a virgin until they’re married’ type of thing – so I had an enormously repressed upbringing. The conversation you need to have today goes: ‘So darling, we know you’re online, and we know you’re looking at hardcore porn sites, and we just need to explain to you that not all women like being choked, bound, gang banged, raped and having men come all over them, and not all men like doing that either.”

Decent exposure

Although she was busy running another business at the time, the overwhelming response to makelovenotporn.tv got Gallop thinking. One comment from a 23-year-old man revealed the damage done to his sexuality by constant exposure to pornography. “It wasn’t until he fell in love at the age of 22 that he realised sex had anything to do with affection, let alone love,” she says.

Gallop describes herself as very action-oriented. “When I encountered this issue, I went, ‘Whoa, I know where this behaviour is coming from!’ And if I’m experiencing this, other people are likely to be as well. I’m going to do something about it.”

You don’t get to be the chief exec of a global ad agency without knowing a good market opportunity when you see one. It would be overly cynical to taint Gallop’s endeavour with too much smutty criticism, however. After receiving thousands of emails from around the world, Cindy was stunned by the frankness of the confessions and began to feel a “huge personal responsibility” to the senders. As someone who says she is her “own research lab” and makes no secret of her extensive experiences with younger men, she’s well placed to tackle the issue.

Although it’s still early days, the response to the beta platform – which allows people to rent real-world sex videos for $5 a pop – has been “overwhelming – more than 130,000 people signed up in four and a half months. Half of the rental revenue from makelovenotporn.tv goes to the couples involved, and all submissions are vetted for suitability by Gallop and her team – the prime criterion being that they’re “real”. Furthermore, the site has been designed to eliminate any negative or shameful associations; it’s completely safe for work unless you’re actually streaming video, and social media sharing was an early function of the site’s design.

Come on my Facebook

“I’m trying to take every dynamic that exists in social media currently, and apply them to the one area that no other social network or platform will dare to go – sex. I want to socialise sex, and to make real-world sex socially acceptable.” It wouldn’t be a proper conversation – not at the scale Gallop is intending – without the sharing element. Soon, the makelovenotporn site will be handing out Foursquare-style badges for achievements (“obviously not a newbie badge”), and you’ll be able to compile your own Spotify-inspired sexytime playlist to send to partners – or just watch on your own. And as for analytics and user comments, well, there’s a one-handed feedback mechanism built in. It’s called the ‘Yes’ button.

The site has been dismissed by critics as “just another amateur porn site”, with snarky comments asking: “Why pay $5 when I can get it for free on YouPorn?!” Gallop says these only reveal the misguided societal perceptions about the reality of amateur porn. As with any ethical quandary, there’s always someone paying, somewhere. “If you look at the submissions category and submissions pages [on some amateur sites], they tell you where to place the camera when you film yourselves, so you capture the same angles.

“Their submissions categories are the same – anal, deep throat. For anal sex submissions, homegrown porn sites want viewers to think it’s the girl’s first time, so they encourage her say to the camera: ‘It’s my first time, I’m really nervous’. And it’s very important the girl is visibly wincing during sex. “And by the way,” she says, in a ‘hang-on-a-minute-there-sister’ tone, “I have a huge issue with the term ‘amateur’. It implies the only people doing it right are the professionals and the rest of us are bumbling idiots. I couldn’t disagree more.”

Sex change

Judging by her bread-and-butter consultancy work, the professionals aren’t that confident they’re doing it right any more either. “Gen Y in porn are like Gen Y anywhere else. They’re entrepreneurial, they’re ambitious, they’re questioning and challenging the old-world order and want to be a part of the new. I found that 20-something porn stars and directors were reaching out to me of their own volition, saying: ‘We love what you’re doing, we support you and we want to help’.”

Cindy is working with the industry to fix a business model disrupted by free and open access, in the same way that the music and publishing models have been. The only difference is when porn goes underground, it gets distinctly unpleasant – so there’s an incentive on all sides to find a profitable workaround. “I want to help the porn industry by demonstrating that it is possible to invent a disruptive business model and to leverage human sexuality as entertainment in a completely different way.”

She cites outtakes as one possible category on makelovenotporn.tv; while the set-up in films is often funny, the sex is in deadly earnest. A blooper reel might be refreshing. I tell her about my, ahem, research for this interview: a disconcerting experience in which googling the phrase ‘porn for women’ yielded a site displaying gang bangs and all, made girly with a pink, flowery motif that looks like it came off a 10-year-old’s bedroom wall. I appreciate that juxtaposition of images is not a pleasant one, but that’s the point. Cindy is sympathetic, but quick to point out that MLNP is not a female porn site.

“We’ve designed MLNP to appeal equally to men and women. It’s designed to demonstrate how much more interesting and innovative – like every other industry sector – porn is when it is 50/50 equally designed and managed. The best possible future is one that men and women design equally together. That doesn’t currently exist in any sector, including the adult industry.”

And then she gets very excited (not in that way) by the possibilities. Ultimately, she says, MLNP could be a global barometer for sexuality, the host for the Competitive Copulation Cup. “National stereotypes exist in sex just as much as they do in other forms of behaviour, like cooking or eating. But we never talk about it. Put the call out to Britain – I want to instil a sense of national pride. This is our chance to explode the ‘No sex please, we’re British’ myth.”

You heard her, chaps. Your country needs you.

Good for her: female friendly porn

Toronto’s feminist porn awards celebrate diversity and inclusion, with entries being judged on criteria such as the acceptance of traditionally marginalised people and the depiction of genuine pleasure. And of course, they ‘must be hot’.

Erika Lust and Anna Span make ‘porn for women’ which subverts the stereotypes pushed by their mainstream counterparts. Lust says, “We want to see independent women exploring their sexuality, who are not afraid, but are not sex heroines either.”

The Erotic Review has ceased publication in printed form, but is still thriving online. Its aim is to appeal “to the primary sexual organ – the brain”, which it does by publishing fiction, features and commentary brimming with wit and not a little spunk.

Scarlet magazine, which has been defunct since it ceased publication in 2010, was aimed at women with a healthy, informed and empowered attitude towards sex. During its six-year run it was praised for campaigning against fatism and negative media portrayals of women’s bodies.

makelovenotporn.tv

Porn becomes sex education by default, because there is nothing else

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