Interview: Cindy Gallop and The Real World Sex Revolution

November 16, 2015
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Cindy Gallop is the former advertising guru who has turned the full power of her intelligence, head for business and more-than-admirable sense of humanity and dignity towards porn, sex and SexTech.

It’s easy to simply peg somebody as ‘a force of nature’. It’s journalese for somebody who isn’t prepared to put up with the usual crap that populates our lives. For Cindy and the rest of the team behind Make Love Not Porn it’s a genuine sentiment. Talking to Cindy, even for the couple of hours we spent talking, is all you need to learn, become informed and maybe think over one or two of your life philosophies.

And besides, when you’re speaking to somebody who has stood bold as brass on the TED Talks stage and uttered the words “cum on my face” six times in succession and still finds the time to kill her detractors with kindness and a wicked smile, you know you’d better sit up and take notice.

The founder and hands-on gatekeeper of the innovative and disruptive Make Love Not Porn (MLNP) and If We Ran The World (IWRTW) has very quickly positioned herself as one of the most approachable, open and friendly heads in the adult biz. Thanks to her ground-breaking TED talk in 2009, Cindy and her team have educated and informed large swathes of people, changed lives, rescued relationships and marriages as well as simply showing the populace that there is a better way.

But don’t for one second believe that Cindy, with a very prominent “…Not Porn” in her brand’s name, is anti-porn. Rather, it’s the complete opposite. As Cindy, her team and Make Love Not Porn’s website tell us with gleeful abandon, this entire operation rests on one singularly important phrase: Pro-Sex, Pro-Porn, Pro-Knowing The Difference. The basic premise is The Real World vs The Porn World.

But the issue, as Cindy tells it, isn’t porn itself. It’s the social and educational aspects of its existence that Cindy and her team are taking on. It’s the total absence in our society of an open, healthy and honest conversation around sex in the real world. That’s at a school level, between adults in public and even in the most intimate relationships.

MLNP is not about judgement, nor is it about exacting standards. The answer’s in the name: ‘Make Love…’. In a world where porn is omnipresent online, it is creating a toxic whirlwind aided and abetted by societal mores, shame, embarrassment and at times, a total lack of knowledge and experience. It’s easy to become suckered into the porn world view and believe the men should be packing massive dicks and the women should be submissive whores and willing recipients of sexual aggression and humiliation. Bar a relatively small number of people, our own sexual realities are nothing like that.

“MLNP and everything I’m doing now is a complete and total accident” she said. “I never consciously or intentionally set out to do anything. That’s been true of my whole life and career. I’ve never planned anything; everything has been accidental.

“In the case of MLNP… I began dating younger men… accidentally. What I mean by that is, 13 years ago, when I was still running BBH New York, we were asked to pitch for an online dating brand that was coming out of the UK and wanted to take on Match at its own game.

“Obviously, in advertising, when you pitch for a company’s account, you have to experience the client’s product and the entire competitive landscape. So we had to start the online dating process! This was 13 years ago, and none of us ever had before because online dating wasn’t really a ‘thing’ then. The rest of them were married, living with, dating, and so they went and used false identities.

“I was single. I thought ‘Ok, well, I have to do this for business reasons, but why not do it for real?’ So I registered my profile and was completely honest about everything, including my age. Very gratifyingly I got an avalanche of responses – very good for the ego – but much to my surprise about 75% of those responses were from younger men… and the majority of those were from MUCH younger men!

“I suddenly realised that I was every young guy’s fantasy. I was an attractive older woman, high-flying career, never wanted to settle down, never wanted to marry, never wanted to have children. All I want to do is have some fun, which, at the time… I’d just started an advertising agency in the world’s toughest advertising marketplace… I was working 24/7… I was travelling a huge amount. Fun was severely missing from my life. So obviously a bunch of young guys out there went “whoopee!” Not the most popular dating strategy but hey it works for me!

“So that was the precursor to MLNP because, again accidentally, through dating younger men I began realising, and bear in mind this was seven or 8 years ago when nobody in the media was even talking about it, that I was encountering the result of what happens when two things converge: when today’s total freedom of access to hardcore porn online meets our society’s total reluctance to talk openly and honestly about sex. It’s the convergence of both of those factors, not merely the first one, which results in porn becoming, by default, the sex education tool of today. I thought, ‘if I’m experiencing this, then other people must be too’. Being a very action-oriented person, I thought: ‘I want to do something about this’.”

And do something about she did! MLNP has gone beyond a simple site where members of the public share their stories. Instead, it quickly became a site for learning, teaching, sharing the positive and negative stories of people’s past experiences and taking off the rose-tinted glasses that porn may have forcibly planted onto our eyes. We can thank Cindy’s headstrong attitude and her unwillingness to tow the mainstream line: No Talking About Sex, Please!

Cindy & the MLNP team (Picture c/o Julie Gottesman)
Cindy & the MLNP team (Picture c/o Julie Gottesman)

MLNP is a manifestation of Cindy herself. It’s open, honest, truthful, down to Earth, utterly non-judgmental and it has a sense of humor.

Every single day for the past six years, Cindy has received thousands of emails to her MLNP inbox and they come from everybody. They come from young people and old people, male and female, straight & gay and from every country in the world.

“What amazes people is simply the fact that I stood on a stage in public and talked about what I am doing; what everybody knows about but that which is never spoken about. As a result, people feel able to tell me anything. They pour their hearts out in an email, they tell me things about their sex lives and their porn watching habits they have never told anybody else before, they write to me for advice – that eventually made me feel that I have a personal responsibility.”

As a consequence of the flood of emails, and Cindy’s determination to make not just waves, but to enrich people’s lives, we were soon introduced to Make Love Not Porn TV (MNLPtv) and the true beginnings of the MNLP team’s Real World Sex Revolution.

Two years ago, Cindy and the MLNP team launched – in public beta – an entirely user-generated, crowd-sourced, video-sharing platform that celebrates real world sex. Cindy tells us that her start-ups are manifestations of her own life and business philosophies. So, anybody from anywhere in the world can submit videos of themselves having Real World Sex.

“We’re not porn. We’re not amateur. Our competition isn’t porn, it’s Facebook and YouTube, or it would be IF those two allowed sexual self-expression and if they did we wouldn’t need to exist! This is not about performing for the camera, this is simply about capturing what goes on in the real world in all its funny, messy, glorious, silly, wonderful, beautiful, humanness.

“We curate and we watch every single video submitted – we don’t publish it unless it is real world sex – and we have a revenue sharing business model. You pay to rent and stream real world sex videos and then 50% of that income goes to you, our contributor – or as we like to say: our Make Love Not Porn Star!”

Here’s the thing: We ALL know that porn is galaxies away from our real sex lives. Anyone who has actually had sex will of course know this by now. Porn to Real World Sex is like comparing an Olympic 1,500 meter race with the sprint you perform just to catch the bus. That is to say, there’s the vaguest of similarities.

Opening the dialogue is also about changing the semantics of porn. In a male dominated industry the language will centre on the female objectified. Particular terms call to mind the idea of a woman as nothing more than some kind of fuckpiece.

“The person who coined the term finger-blasting never had a vagina. The person who, in a straight porn context, coined the term “getting her ass railed” has obviously never had their ass railed. Pounding, banging, slamming… I fucking wince at all of those words.

“On MLNP we are constructing a new vocabulary for Real World Sex. We tag our videos completely differently from the usual porn dropdown menu of anal, Asian, hairy, creampie, whatever. We tag our videos with things like ‘juicy’ and ‘succulent’. Our term for oral is ‘downtown’ and our term for anal is derived from the recipient’s experience of it: we tag our anal videos as “Ow! Ow! Ow! Hey now…!” We want our members to take this language and use it beyond our platform in the real world. Language matters.”

But surely, you may ask, *I* know the difference… so what’s everybody else’s problem? Ah well, you see, it ain’t as simple as that, brothers and sisters. Allow Cindy to explain it for you:

“Thinking you learn about sex from porn is just like learning to drive from the Fast and the Furious. From the moment we’re born, and the moment we’re conscious as children we learn about traffic and driving. We learn from a very early age that we have to look both ways when crossing the road, we have to hold our parent’s hand, we drive in cars, we are strapped into our child seat, we sit in cars and observe our parent’s driving, we know there are rules of the road, we understand you cannot drive until you’ve taken a test, you have to qualify for that test and you have to prove all sorts of things and you have to be a certain age, and eventually we take and pass that test…we talk about driving Every Single Day in the real world. We don’t talk about sex.

“Another thing we have to understand is that overly porn influenced sexual behaviour is driven by the best of all possible motives and not the worst. And the reason why our mission of ‘Talk About It’ is so important is because we all get vulnerable when we get naked and sexual egos are very fragile. People therefore find it bizarrely difficult to talk about sex with the people they’re having it with while they’re actually having it. Because people are terrified that if they say anything about what’s going on, if you comment on the action at all, you will potentially hurt the other person’s feelings, derail the encounter, put them off you.

“As a result, you will seize your cues on how to be good in bed from anywhere you can and if the only cues you have ever seen are from porn, because your parents never talked to you about sex in the real world, you were never taught about it at school, then those are the cues you will take to not very good effect.”

Cindy and her crew at MLNPtv are taking the humanistic approach to things. Learn from and share with one another. It’s about embracing the weirdness, humor and all manner of crazy things that can happen during copulation. In Real World Sex, anything is possible. People fart, queef, sneeze, take a misplaced knee to the ribs, stop for a few moments to re-adjust, or even just to cool down before going again. We laugh, talk, confide… sex isn’t just blowjob-doggy-cowgirl-cumshot, you know. Cindy knows that, and so do the team at MLNP.

Picture c/o Julian Hanford
Picture c/o Julian Hanford

She will be the first to tell you that Real World Sex is funny. If you can’t laugh at yourselves when you’re having sex, when can you? Cindy and MLNP maintain that Porn World Sex is NOT funny. They have parodies but the sex in them isn’t earnest or true. Consider MLNP as the template of reassurance for individuals and couples who remain influenced by porn. They want you to know that, hey… so what if we make a funny noise or lose our breath or just burst into giggles for no reason? The same shit happens to all of us, people! But guess why a lot of us aren’t really aware of the natural order of things? Well, I hope you’ve been paying attention because here it is again: It’s Because We Never Talk About It! Instead we go ‘Oh my God, what happened last night was so excruciatingly embarrassing I’m not going to speak about this to anybody ever!’

“For example,” continues Cindy, “… the total nightmare of putting the condom on. You guys are meant to know how to do that like magic. As we all know, it does not happen like that. When it doesn’t go like that, things go soft, juices dry up and counters get derailed. Queefing! We all do that and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. We want a category on MLNP that is essentially America’s Funniest Home Videos. Because when people film themselves fucking we don’t see the outtakes but there’s a market for that. Imagine the sex equivalent of Charlie Bit My Finger, which as now had over 500m views. Imagine the appeal of something as funny, spontaneous, human, everyday, empathetic, but in a sex context. Funny Or Die isn’t doing that. YouTube won’t allow that. We want to do that.”

It’s not solely about embracing the humor behind Real World Sex. Cindy wants to push boundaries. As her Twitter bio proudly states: “I like to blow shit up. I am the Michael Bay of business.” It’s not strictly about facing your fears, it’s simply about opening up.

“It always amuses me when people talk about porn as being dirty. Porn actually sanitises sex. Porn’s very clean. In porn, nobody has hair. You never see anyone using lube, you never see the nice, messy things that happen in Real World Sex. We want categories like Period Sex, which you never see in porn, and because of that, this belief has sprung up in young people that they go ‘Woah! Can’t have sex during my period!’ when at that point you’re at your horniest! So we go ‘blood everywhere, this is the real world, bring it on!’

“We’re not ‘amateur’ because one of the things that people don’t realise is that 99% of all porn on the internet billed as ‘amateur’ isn’t. It’s made by professional production companies masquerading as amateur precisely because people WANT to see real. Everybody wants to know what everybody else is really doing in bed. But they’re not seeing that, and what they think is real… you know, I have to say to guys… those dorm rooms don’t *really* exist! Even with ‘real amateur’ they replicate what the professionals do because they think that’s what people want to see. We are about the exact opposite. We are about Real World Sex in all its ridiculous, messy glory.

“Real World Sex is responsible. In porn there are either no condoms or all of a sudden the condom’s on! Where the fuck did that come from?! With MLNP we want to eroticise condom usage; the hottest, most arousing way you can introduce a condom into the action. I have sex with condoms all the time and I want to see creative ideas for those moments we all go through.

“If more of us had more creative ideas on how to make those awkward condom moments hot and arousing there would be a lot more safe sex happening, a lot less STDs and a lot less pregnancies. So we see a huge gap in the market between porn with no condoms at one end, sex ed in the classroom, roll a condom on a banana and it’s all about preventing death, disease and destruction. We want to introduce a new socio-cultural meme to the market: Condom Hot. Make Condom Hot Love Not Porn. Not only do condoms not get in the way of great sex, they can actually be a part of great sex.”

We do, of course, live in a world where Revenge Porn has quickly and sadly become a part of our everyday lives. Despite attempts from authorities and independent organizations like Reddit to crack down on such material, it still abounds online. For those of you curious about MNLPtv (and if you aren’t, why not?!) needn’t worry about such things.

Cindy and the team care first and foremost for your safety, happiness and peace of mind. They have no reason to turn on those who are ensuring the MLNP community is thriving. It will never be MLNP who allows exclusive content to wind up on one of the billion tube sites.

MLNP operates a rent-and-stream model, with 50% of each rental going towards the uploader. Does that sound too good to be true? Well, sharpen up, because it’s very true. The content is safely secured and the moment you change your mind and decide you don’t want your Real World Sex available anymore, one simple request to the team and it will disappear. Where porn and other facets of the sex biz can be accused of lacking a little humanity, it’s the total opposite for MLNP. It’s the most hands-on experience you can have in sharing and uploading.

The team behind MLNP operate human curation. They engage with every potential MNLP Star and watch every single video to make sure it’s real and also if anything not exactly kosher is occurring. MLNP stand with you like no other site would be able to. Ultimately they are so thrilled that their thriving community of MLNP stars are submitting real sex to us!

People always jump to conclusions when it comes to sex. Cindy tells us that a lot of people end up cornering her and saying ‘For God’s sake, Cindy… who’s ever going to submit a video to your site? Only exhibitionists/swingers.’ Well, even the most cursory of glances at MLNPtv will you that is not true at all! The vast majority of the MLNP stars have never had sex on camera before. They’re doing it because they believe in themselves and what Cindy and her team are doing.

“We have a wonderful MLNP star duo, Brad & Dorothy. They’re a 20-something married couple with a 1-year-old kid, live in Cali and they both come from deeply religious backgrounds. They saw MLNP in the media somewhere and said to themselves ‘we have to do this to overcome the shame about sex our religious upbringing has imposed on us.’ They videoed themselves having sex for the first time ever and shared it on our platform. That’s how wonderful our MLNP stars are.”

… and in the interests of total clarity me make this clear: when you share your video it will only ever be available on MLNP. It will be only ever be visible to their community and the people who have paid to rent it. You can be anon if you want to. So, if you’re worried at all about your job, or college, your face does not have to be shown. Go in shadow, wear a mask, put your face out of frame. Cindy estimates around half of their submissions are anonymous.

“We engage with people in real life, and so we hold events for our MLNP stars to come and meet us and each other. I’ve held two drinks parties in my apartment. I want to hold one in London the next time I’m there for long enough.”

Cindy Gallop is a helluva lot more than the owner of MLNP though. Not only is she changing the face of internet porn and how we perceive it, she is rabidly fighting for her fellow woman by championing the cause of Change The Ratio.

Put simply, Cindy is a rampant feminist. She believe in championing women’s rights and issues in all areas and tells us she is a keen subscriber to Madeleine Albright’s famous quote: “There is a special place reserved in hell for women who do not help other women.”

“One of the reasons I champion gender equality is because I have to say to men all the time, ‘we live in a world where the default setting is always male.’ Men, you have no idea how much happier you would be if you lived in a world that was 50/50 informed, influenced, driven, designed and managed by women just as much as men. None of us have ever lived in that world because it doesn’t exist but I can guarantee you that that world will benefit all of us in so many ways.”

Cindy’s principles are no mix-and-match nonsense. She has a strong will and a willingness to fight for what she believes in. One of Cindy’s main pillars of conversation in this realm is 50/50 equality in porn. The day that we can all bear witness to an industry made 50/50 and thus catering to its audience 50/50 is the day porn becomes an altogether more palatable prospect for the world at large; more innovative, more creative, more disruptive and a better, healthier, thriving industry overall.

“One of the reasons I’m involved with CTR is because I say to men ‘It’s very comfortable hiring people like you, it’s very comfortable hanging out with people like you but if you want to own the future, if you want to make a shit-ton of money, then get prepared to embrace feeling uncomfortable, because the future is gender equal and working with women is uncomfortable.

“Because we’re ‘Other’! We have different perspectives, different insights and different worldviews. Women ask the tough questions in life and business. Questions like: ‘What’re you thinking?’, ‘Where is this relationship going?’ or in a business context: ‘Why are we spending money on that?’, ‘Why does everybody in the meeting fall silent when this person starts talking?’ and so on. Women challenge the status quo because we are never it. Out of that discomfort comes greatness, because diversity, and this applies to race, sexuality, gender and also drives innovation.”

With fire in both heart and head, Cindy has applied her principles to the letter and achieved incredible success. Why should we allow barriers to prevent us from reaching our pinnacle and goals? As Cindy says: “Open up the dialogue, open up to the innovators and disruptors, and open up to allow us to do business on the same terms and conditions as everybody else.”

Ever heard that old myth about sharks never sleeping, or at least never stopping moving? Well, it’s all baloney of course, but with Cindy… you wonder how and where she finds the time and energy. To wit, on the future…

“I want to create an acceleration incubator for radical new ideas… fucking great ideas even… but there is nobody in the adult industry to mentor, coach, advise and finance. New and young SexTech entrepreneurs are facing the same problems. They can’t get funding, can’t put payments in place and so on. I want to be the Y Combinator of sex and porn. Even a tiny injection of cash into new and radical sex and porn start-ups will produce returns way beyond what Silicon Valley can even dream of.”

Sure, it’s a long war, and we’re all tired and dirty, but Cindy and MLNP are tired and dirty for you. For somebody who has battled the whole of her life to get to where she is today, even as further ambition drives her forward, she is mobilizing once more for another campaign.

Death to the Old World Order. It’s time for novus ordo seclorum. Make sure you’re on the right side of the dividing line.

Interview: Cindy Gallop and The Real World Sex Revolution 7 votes

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