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A still from MakeLoveNotPorn
A still from MakeLoveNotPornvia MakeLoveNotPorn

Submit your sex videos to this site – but it’s not porn

MakeLoveNotPorn is a user-generated video platform that celebrates real world sex by pioneering a new category called ‘social sex’ – we meet its founder Cindy Gallop

Sex is personal. Some of us like to be spanked, sat on and slapped; others like slow, considered love-making. We don’t, however, all love dirty talk, being gagged or ending up with cum on our eyelids – so why doesn’t hardcore porn reflect that? Cindy Gallop asked herself this question – the result was MakeLoveNotPorn, a site sharing real sex submitted by real people. Gallop quickly enlisted Sarah Beall as the site’s curator; Beall states the beauty of awkwardness – “we want to be able to see people drop lube off the bed and have to scurry around naked looking for it” – and encourages performers to steer clear of clichés. Furthermore, every effort is taken to make sure both the sex and the submission are entirely consensual, and that depictions of safe sex are provided (under the ‘Condom Hot’ tag).

The site’s reach has been astronomical, and development plans are currently underway – there are plans for a mini-documentary in collaboration with Chandelier Creative, as well as plans to expand the site to include erotica, photography and a sex education platform. Not only is it refreshing to see a shift from a focus on the (male) money shot, it’s refreshing for a site to depict this climax without women having to wipe the residue from their mascara. Beall is open about the need for diversity, calling out for queer, non-normative couples to showcase their sex lives in order to remove the element of fetishisation too often associated with trans porn stars. The future of online sexual content is in our hands – here, ahead of her talk tonight at Chandelier Creative in NYC, Gallop explains why we should all share our experiences of love, not porn.

“I always emphasise that this isn’t anti-porn, because the issue isn’t porn. The issue is that we don’t talk about sex; if we did, people would bring a real-world mindset to viewing what is essentially artificial entertainment” – Cindy Gallop

What inspired you to create MakeLoveNotPorn?

Cindy Gallop: I realised through dating younger men that I was intimately experiencing the dual nature of what happens when today’s total freedom of access to hardcore porn online meets our society’s total reluctance to talk openly and honestly about sex. I figured I couldn’t be alone, so I did something about it. Eight years ago I put up this site to balance the myths of hardcore porn with reality, and I had the chance to launch it at TED. I made a deliberate decision to be very explicit, because I knew the audience wouldn’t understand otherwise. I am, therefore, the only TED speaker to utter the words “come on my face” – six times. The talk went viral and this site went global without me lifting a finger; I’ve had response from people worldwide who tell me things about their porn habits and sex lives that they’ve never told anybody before. It was then that I realised I had to take this initiative forward in a way that would make it far-reaching, helpful and effective.

I always emphasise that this isn’t anti-porn, because the issue isn’t porn. The issue is that we don’t talk about sex; if we did, people would bring a real-world mindset to viewing what is essentially artificial entertainment. Our tagline is “Pro sex, pro porn, pro knowing the difference”, and our mission is to make it easier for people to talk about sex honestly both in the public domain and in their private relationships. So, what I decided to do was to socialise sex; to make it socially acceptable and just as shareable as anything else on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The first stage of this mission was MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, a user-generated video platform that celebrates real world sex; anybody worldwide can submit videos to us, but we’re very clear that we’re not porn, we’re not amateur. We’re building a new category, which is social sex. Our competition isn’t porn sites, it’s Facebook and YouTube – or it would be if they allowed sexual expression, which they don’t. We’re not about performing for the camera, we’re about capturing the reality of sex in all its funny, messy, glorious human-ness, and we curate to be sure of that. So people pay to rent and then (the) income goes to our makelovenotporn stars, and we hope that they’ll become as famous and celebrated as YouTube stars. We’d also like them to make just as much money!

Why do you think we’re so reluctant to talk about sex? 

Cindy Gallop: Because we’re so fucked-up about sex, it becomes an area of rampant insecurity for all of us. We get vulnerable when we get naked, and sexual egos are fragile. People find it difficult to talk about sex to their partners because they’re terrified of either being hurt or hurting the feelings of others; it can derail an entire relationship. Everyone wants to be good in bed, but no-one knows exactly what that means; if your parents, teachers, and friends aren’t honest about it, you take your cues from porn. I’ve worked in advertising for 30 years, so I know that everything great in life and business is born out of good communication – sex is no different.

How do you think we could make sex education more honest?

Cindy Gallop: I have a lot of friends who are sex educators, and they run into prudishness and small-print that says “No Adult Content”. Our approach to sex education is that you can never start talking about sex too early, and that has to start in the home. The average age a child is first exposed to hardcore porn is eight, and a global study done three years ago then indicated it had dropped to six – they don’t seek it out, they stumble across it via Google or smartphones because everything is a click away. So what I say to parents is that they have to talk about sex but it’s all how they say it; they don’t have to talk about genitals and penises, but they can’t be flustered or angry or shut their kids up when they do talk about it. Just answer honestly and open that line of communication, because it is important and they will be grateful.

“We’re very clear that we’re not porn, we’re not amateur. We’re building a new category, which is social sex” – Cindy Gallop

We’re actually tying to raise funding, because we want to build an area of MakeLoveNotPorn which teaches education outside of school systems, because they’re failing children worldwide. We want to build the Khan Academy of Sex Education; Khan Academy is the online learning platform that tutors about every single topic except this one. What we want to do is then open this up to sex educators worldwide in the broadest possible sense – education on love, intimacy, relationships, sexual health, and you can submit via videos, papers, writing, whatever it is. We will curate, because we don’t want things like abstinence-only sex education, which is depressingly popular in America. We don’t endorse the approach that says “don’t do it”. We’ll create material for parents, teachers and adults, and we’ll charge to download and subscribe and split that money; nobody makes money from sex-ed and I want to change that, because it’s valuable work.

Can you talk a little more about social media censorship – should it be contextual or general?

Cindy Gallop: We want to expand to a second area of MakeLoveNotPorn which is designed to address this ludicrous, knee-jerk ‘no adult content’ approach. We want to broaden our definition of real world sex and broaden the media within which it’s articulated. What I mean by that is that, currently, we are real world sex video sharing, but we want to include celebrations of body-positivity and relationships in terms of photography, art, and writing. We want to enable you to share socially anything that would currently get you kicked off Instagram, blocked from Facebook or deleted from Tumblr – which is any form of healthy, normal, natural sexual self-expression.

What’s the third area?

Cindy Gallop: The third area is crafted content. We sometimes receive wonderful videos but they’ve been created specifically to depict a certain fantasy or scenario; that doesn’t fit with our current focus on pure real world sex. Still, these videos are brilliant self-expression so we want to build out the platform to accept crafted videos, art, erotica; trust me, this is where you’ll find the next 50 Shades of Grey! Writers aren’t currently permitted to write creatively, innovatively and explicitly about sex – if you do, you can’t get published. We want to have these artists profit from honest, crafted sexual content. We want to present a real world counterpoint, not just to porn, but other areas of popular culture – Hollywood, for example. TV shows encourage the idea that great sex is wordless, that nobody ever says “Oh, do you like that? What are you into? Is it OK if I do that?” Everyone just melts into each other wordlessly and wakes up grinning – fuck that! Great sex stems from great communication, and the more open, authentic and honest we are in portrayals of sex – in every aspect of popular culture – the better off we are as a society.

There’s also the implication that asking those kinds of questions could be seen as offensive. 

Cindy Gallop: Well, Hollywood and porn combine to make people think that sex is a performance, that there’s an exact formula, but MakeLoveNotPorn celebrates everything – real bodies, real body hair, real penis size. We celebrate accidents, messiness and ridiculousness; we ultimately celebrate humour, because if you can’t laugh at yourself when having sex, when can you? It shouldn’t be a self-conscious thing. The interesting thing about what we’re doing is we’re creating a social experiment. You’re the community – show us what your real sex experiences are.

Are people finding empowerment through MakeLoveNotPorn?

Cindy Gallop: We do have people filming solo masturbation videos that tell us that filming that made them love themselves more. It’s enhanced their sexual self-esteem, their sexual sense of self. Couples tell us it transforms their relationship because, when you decide to film yourselves having sex for the first time, you have to talk about it. Regardless of how long you’ve been together, the conversations go to places they would never normally go, and people write to us and tell us that. Socially sharing your real world sex is just as transformative and beneficial for people as socially sharing everything has been.

“Everyone wants to be good in bed, but no-one knows exactly what that means; if your parents, teachers, and friends aren’t honest about it, you take your cues from porn” – Cindy Gallop

So it’s something that people have actually personally profited from?

Cindy Gallop: Absolutely. We love that they make financial profit too, but that’s not the primary motivation – people have submitted videos without realising they could make money from them. I built MakeLoveNotPorn around what I believe is the business model of the future, which is ‘shared values + shared action = shared profit’, and I mean financial and social profit. We're building a community around shared sexual values and that is extraordinarily powerful because my start up is a manifestation of my own personal beliefs and philosophies. I believe that everything in life and business starts with you and your values.

I regularly ask people “What are your sexual values?” Nobody can answer, because we’re not taught to think that way. If we’re fortunate, we’re raised to have good manners, a work ethic, a sense of accountability. Nobody ever brings us up to behave well in bed, but they should, because generosity, kindness, sensitivity and honesty are as important there as they are in every other area of our lives and our work where we’re taught to actively exercise those values. When you build a community around shared sexual values you build an extraordinary community of people who get what we’re doing, believe in it and want to see a more open, healthy dialogue around attitudes towards sex in the real world.

Do you think the distinction between art and porn is damaging?

Cindy Gallop: Absolutely. John Evans wrote about us for TechCrunch, and he says that the tech world has divided itself rigidly into the categories of porn and non-sexual content. He identified that MakeLoveNotPorn is sexual content that isn’t porn, and the same can be said of so many other ventures. I’m trying to open eyes to that because I realised early on that I would have to break down business barriers to scale and grow MakeLoveNotPorn into the billion-dollar venture I know it can be. When you have a world-changing idea, you have to change the world to fit it, not the other way round. I’m pioneering and championing sex tech as a sector and trying to make people see there’s a world of sexual content out there that isn’t porn but, instead, a wonderful aspect of ourselves. We’re so strung out about it that we reduce sex to an act, but it’s not that. Sex is personality; it’s a part of how we feel about other people, our lives, our happiness. Ultimately, sex is a fundamental part of who we are.

Gallop will be conducting a talk at Chandelier Creative tonight in NYC, to RSVP email events@chandeliercreative.com or find out more here

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