Social Distancing = Podcast Listening, It’s Complicated with Cindy Gallop
Cindy’s start-up resulted from her conviction that online porn has become sex education by default because of our inability to talk openly and honestly about sex.
In 2009 Cindy founded MakeLoveNotPorn, a crowd-sourced social media website where people can upload videos of themselves, and watch videos of others, having real-world sex. Gallop explicitly stresses that it’s not a porn site – any videos featuring porn clichés are rejected. Thus, it’s about educating on the difference between ‘real-world sex’ and sex depicted by pornography.
MakeLoveNot Porn’s mission is to remind us of the value of healthy real world sex, and perhaps the education the platform gives viewers will invite them to be more critical when they view pornography online.
The site is entirely shaped by human curation. Every single video uploaded is watched first by Cindy’s team, who then contact all adults in it and build up a personal relationship over the telephone or email. The site operates on a rental model, meaning that if at any point any of subjects of the video change their mind, the video can be removed immediately and permanently. So, Cindy argues one of the overarching goals of MakeLoveNotPorn is actually to educate on the issue of consent.
As she discusses in the 4 minute TED talk released in conjunction with the site (and which has since amassed over 1.5 million views), and in greater detail with Tanya, the idea for the platform organically grew from Cindy’s own sexual experiences. She noticed that younger men’s concept and expectation of sexual experience was wildly unrealistic and echoed largely what they had seen in porn.
Cindy isn’t dismissive of the existence of porn, and MakeLoveNotPorn is far from a protest against the viewing of that content. Instead, it’s a means of understanding that porn is not representative of real world sex, hence her mantra: ‘Pro-sex. Pro-porn. Pro-knowing the difference’.
In a society that refuses to talk openly about sex, and yet where online pornography is so instantly, easily and often accidentally accessible, it is inevitable that the two will converge so that sex education is mostly provided by pornography. And our reluctance to discuss watching porn itself only exacerbates the issue. In this podcast episode, Cindy argues that the fact so many people watch and yet refuse to discuss porn places it in a parallel, separate universe. How can we dismantle our unreal view of sex if we don’t discuss it?
But this isn’t something that can just be solved by incorporating more sex education into school syllabuses. Sex is a taboo subject even privately. Discussing it makes us feel insecure; we don’t want to make our partner feel uncomfortable or derail the relationship. But no one can deny that, for a healthily functioning relationship, it’s a necessary thing to do, and to do it without fear or dread.
This is where MakeLoveNotPorn comes in. Watching the videos hosted by the platform encourages and normalises talking about sex, and, as Cindy tells Tanya, the company even hosts communal screenings. With her inspiration for using her knowledge and success to create better sex education for children – ‘The Khan Academy of sex education’ she declares – Cindy is assured that she has created something ‘the world has been crying out for’.