Entre Nous: Cindy Gallop, Founder of Make Love, Not Porn

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I met Cindy Gallop a few years ago, at the Lambs Club, over dinner. Fascinated, as anyone would be. Our philosophies on dating, feminism, life, career, and sex were—and still are—so aligned. Cindy’s had a storied career as a leader in advertising but right now? She’s building a movement, a global community with MakeLoveNotPorn. We talk about what social sex is, and so much more, in our interview.

 What is Make Love, Not Porn?

Bear in mind, we’re not porn, we are social sex. Make Love, Not Porn is an accident. It came out of my direct personal experience dating younger men. I was experiencing what happens when today’s total free access to hardcore porn online meets our society’s totally equal reluctance to talk openly and honestly about sex. When those two things converge, what you get is porn operating as default sex education because there’s nothing else. So being a naturally action-oriented person, I went, I want to do something about this! Created this plunky little website called Make Love Not Porn Dot Com on no money. Here’s what happens in porn, here’s what really happens in the real world. In 2009, I became the only TED speaker to have said the words “cum on my face” on the TED stage six times.

That must have generated quite a bit of traffic.

The talk went viral instantly. It drove this extraordinary global response to my tiny clunky website that I had never anticipated. Thousands of people wrote from all over the world—young and old, men and female, straight and gay—pouring their hearts out. I realized I’d uncovered a huge global social issue. I saw the opportunity for a big business solution for this huge untapped global social need.

Even with all this awareness—sharing content online, access to everything you want at your fingertips—is it still that hard for someone to say, I want this in my sexual life?

It’s an area of rampant insecurity for every single one of us, all around the world, no exceptions. We all get vulnerable when we get naked. Sexual ego is very fragile. People therefore find it bizarrely difficult to talk about sex with the people they’re actually having it with while they’re actually having it. Because in that situation, you are terrified that if you say anything toward what is going on, you potentially will put them off you. You will derail the encounter. Everybody wants to be good in bed. No one knows exactly what that means. You will seize your cues on how to do that anyway you can. If the only cues you ever seen is in porn, you’re going to take to not very good effect. So given our mission is to talk about it, I decided to take every dynamic in social media and apply it to this one area in order to socialize sex. I always emphasize to people that Make Love, Not Porn is not anti-porn; the issue is not porn, the issue is we don’t talk about sex in the real world. Our mission is to help make it easier for everyone in the world to talk openly and honestly about sex.

How do you socialize sex online?

To make real world sex and talking about it socially acceptable and therefore ultimately socially shareable, just as anything else is shareable—Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram. Make Love, Not Porn Dot TV is an entirely user generated crowdsource video sharing platform that celebrates real world sex. Anyone from anywhere in the world can submit to us videos of themselves having real world sex. We’re very clear what we are. We’re not porn, we’re not amateur, we’re building a whole new category: social sex. Our competition is not porn, it’s Facebook and YouTube (or rather, it would be if Facebook and YouTube allow sexual self-expression and sexual self education, which they don’t.) So social sex videos on Make Love, Not Porn are not about performing for the camera, they’re about doing what you do on every social platform: they’re about capturing what goes on in the real world as it happens spontaneously in all its funny, messy, glorious, silly, wonderful, beautiful, ridiculous humanness.

Photo Credit: Julian Hanford

 

Do you feel like you’re still learning about sex, being exposed to all of this shareable content?

We don’t dictate what real world sex is. You are the community. You show us. We are learning all the time. We’re a social experiment. Our members write and say, you know this gives me ideas of what to do in my sex life. We all learn from observing what everybody else is doing. I designed Make Love, Not Porn around my own philosophies, one of which is that everything in life and business starts with you and your values. I ask people, “what are your sexual values?” No one can ever answer me because we are not taught to think that way. If we are lucky, we are born into families and environments where our parents bring us up to have good manners—work ethic, a sense of responsibility and accountability. Nobody ever brings us up to behave well in bed but they should. Because there empathy, generosity, sensitivity, kindness, honesty are as important as they are in every other area of our lives.

In your vision of Make Love, Not Porn, what happens?

So when Make Love, Not Porn achieves its mission to make it easier to talk about sex, here’s what will happen: parents will bring their children up openly to have good sexual values and good sexual behavior, in the way that they have good vales and good behavior in every other area of their lives. We will cease to bring up rapists because we end rape culture when we inculcate in society a universally aspired-to gold standard of what constitutes good sexual values and good sexual behavior. When we do that, we also end sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual violence. All areas where the perpetrators rely on the fact that we do not talk about sex to ensure their victims will never speak up. When we end that, we massively empower women and girls worldwide. When we do that, we make the world a far happier place for everybody including men. And that’s the end vision for Make Love, Not Porn and social sex.

Let’s shift back to what started all of this: dating younger men.

I talk very publicly about all this as well, Marcelle, because I want to challenge people’s preconceived notions of the word “cougar.”

I hate that term.

I’m not a fan of it but I’ve spent years trying to come up with a better one and in the meantime, it really took on. I’ve started to own cougar. I meet the younger men I date on cougar dating sites.

Which ones?

Oh there are fifty million: Cougar dot com,  Cougarlife etc.

Photo Credit: Constance & Eric

Are you on Tinder or Bumble?

No, because a) I’m not looking for a relationship and b) I don’t want anybody to know who I am before they meet me. It can be become very intimidating for a young man to know that he’s meeting the founder of Make Love, Not Porn. I freely admit that I date younger men for casual recreation. Fundamental criteria: they have to be a very nice person. As a result, I only date utterly lovely younger men.

I remember you saying that the night I met you at The Lambs Club.

I date in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect and affection. Therefore, ironically my so-called casual relationships go on a lot longer than most people’s so-called committed ones. I date younger men off and on sporadically for periods of two, three, four, five, ten, fifteen years. They may go on to date girls their own age. They may get married. They may move elsewhere. We stay friends because we like each other. We’ll meet platonically for lunch dinner whatever and every so often those relationships end and then they come back.

You’re happy on your own.

Can’t wait to die alone. I’m very public about the fact that I’ve never been married. I don’t want children. We need many more role models in our society for both women and for men that demonstrate that you can live your life very differently to the way society expects you to and still be quite extraordinarily happy. I want every one to feel able to design the relationship model that works for them which may, by the way, be different at different stages in your life. There are people stuck in marriages or relationships they don’t want to be in because of fear of what other people will think. I want to eradicate that consideration. “What is that really makes me happy?” It’s really understanding that you don’t have to follow the societal norm you can actually identify what it is you respond to and what makes you happy and then design the way you live around that.

How supportive are you parents?

Well my mother is Chinese, tiger mother par excellence. Old-fashioned. Growing up, it was always stay a virgin until you get married. My mother still says to me at the age of 57 (my age), “You know, Cindy, I want you to meet a really nice man.” I think over the years, she and my father have seen that I’m extremely happy living a life. I’ve got three sisters all married, younger than me, two of them have kids. That took a huge pressure off. My parents know that while I’ve chosen a path that they would not have dreamt nor endorsed, I’m extraordinarily happy. So they see that and that’s all that matters.

It really is all that matters. And you’ve found the answer in casual relationships with younger men.

Even I’m gobsmacked by the vast amount of young men who want to date older woman on these cougar dating sites. When I say date I mean date not just have sex with. When I ask the young men I date why they enjoy older women, the answer I hear most often is because girls my age are so insecure. By the way. I remember myself in my 20s; I was very insecure. You need constant reassurance. And obviously they appreciate the confidence, the experience. And also what that means, Marcelle, too is that I’m not bothered what they think about my body. And by the way, they all think I’m fucking amazing. I’ve not been told I’m beautiful as much as when I date younger men.

I’m with you. I think it’s hot to tell someone they’re beautiful.

Me too. And I use that word deliberately because society does not encourage us to call men beautiful. I remember this one young man who was 20, gorgeous, okay? On the wrestling team at his university, so body like a Greek god. I remember him sitting on the side of the bed on the morning after, very shy, saying to me, “You make me feel really sexy.” Isn’t that adorable?

That is really sweet.

That’s the difficulty with popular culture that reinforces the idea that a woman’s entire life is a search for The One. What that means is every single social engagement you have—will he be there, you spend hours glamming yourself up, you go to an event, you compete with other women at the end of the night you, go sigh.  In my early 30s, I went fuck I’m not playing this game anymore. After my revelation I could just go to social events and enjoy them. If only that wasn’t so inbred in women. It’s like everything else: if only you were encouraged to choose your own path more. We cannot be what we cannot see.

photo credit: Kevin Abosch

How to find Cindy:

Help Crowdfund Cindy’s startup on iFundWomen: https://ifundwomen.com/projects/makelovenotporn

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