Cindy Gallop Is Pro-Sex, Pro-Porn, And Pro-Knowing The Difference

Cindy Gallop is a 54 year old wildly successful businesswoman who talks freely and openly about her penchant for casual sexual relationships with much, much younger men. She’s also the only TED talk participant to say the words “come on my face” on stage – six times each session, to be exact.

All this talk about sex and sex acts is not just for shock value, however. Cindy is the founder of MakeLoveNotPorn, which she started in 2009 after she noticed a distinct change in the lovemaking styles of some of her lovers. She quickly made the connection between what was happening in her bedroom and what was happening on computer screens worldwide – porn was fucking up her sex life.

Despite the fact that she was already running a startup called IfWeRanTheWorld, Cindy decided that if she was experiencing warped views on sex that were a direct result of the increased popularity of porn, than other people must be as well. She quickly threw up a very, very basic site, named it MakeLoveNotPorn, and officially launched it in her now famous “come on my face” TED talk.

That talk drove traffic to the little pink website and MakeLoveNotPorn took off without any marketing. Suddenly, Cindy was the face and voice behind a movement and, fearless as ever, she dived in feet first.

I had the honor of speaking with Cindy recently about her struggles with launching MakeLoveNotPorn, the hypocrisy of the venture capitalists that run the startup world, and where her honesty and outspokenness about sex comes from. A true warrior whose force of will is powerful enough to change the world all by itself, Cindy is someone we should all be listening to.

So I’ve been following MakeLoveNotPorn since you were just that pink website.

Oh, wow! I’m delighted to hear.

You guys have evolved a lot since that time!

This is the venture the world asked for. I felt I had this responsibility to take this forward but I always have to emphasize to people that Make Love Not Porn is not anti-porn.

Yeah, I think the name can give people the wrong impression.

I mean, I registered the name six years ago; I was looking for a short, memorable sound bite that would sum up the spirit of what I was about. I didn’t expect it to come under the examination and dismissal it has since.

So, MakeLoveNotPorn is not anti-porn. The issue we’re attacking is not porn. We’re attacking the complete absence in our society of an open, healthy, honest, truthful conversation about around sex in the real world which, if we had it, would – amongst many other benefits – mean that people would bring a real world mindset to the viewing of what is essentially entertainment.

Our tagline is “Pro-sex, pro-porn, pro-knowing the difference,” and our message is just one thing: talk about it. Talk about sex openly and honestly in the public domain, and talk about it openly and honestly privately, with your intimate partners.

What I decided to do was essentially take every dynamic that exists out there in social media currently and apply them to the one area that no other social media network platform is ever going to go: sex.

In order to make real world sex and the discussion around it socially acceptable and therefore just as socially shareable as anything else we currently share on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

And that brings us to MakeLoveNotPorn.tv.

Well, one year ago, my team and I launched MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, which is a user-generated crowdsourced video platform that celebrates real-world sex. It’s effectively the dot com site brought to life. Anyone from anywhere in the world can submit videos of themselves having real world sex.

Now, what we mean by that is it’s not performative. This is not performing for the camera; it’s just about capturing what goes on in the real world in all it’s funny, silly, wonderful human-ness. We curate it – we watch every video to make sure it’s real – and we have a revenue sharing business model where you pay to rent real world sex videos. Fifty percent of that income goes to our contributor or, as we like to call them, our Make Love Not Porn Stars.

I know you’ve had a lot of issues with PayPal and other services in general. Can you talk a little about that?

Essentially, we had no idea when we embarked on this venture how extraordinarily difficult it was going to be to build it. My team and I fight a battle every single day. That’s because every piece of business infrastructure that any other startup takes for granted, we can’t because the small print always says “No Adult Content.”

In the first instance, it took me two years to get MakeLoveNotPorn funded, which is very ironic because we should have been the Silicon Valley triple-whammy. We have an idea enabled by technology that was designed to disrupt a sector worth billions of dollars in a way that is both socially beneficial and responsible and potentially very financially lucrative.

But because that sector is porn and the social benefit is sexuality, no VC would come near me. It took two years of pitching my heart out to finally find one angel investor who got it and put out a small amount of seed funding to build a platform.

Then I could not get my hands on that money for two months because I could not find a single bank here in America that would allow me to open a business bank account for a business that had the word “porn” in its name, even though our name is MakeLoveNotPorn, by the way.

I can’t find anywhere in the world that wants our business. Our single biggest operational challenge has been figuring out how to put a payment structure in place. Because we’re adult content, PayPal won’t work with us, Amazon won’t let us do the credit card process as well. Even something ostensibly simple as finding an email platform to send our membership emails out with took five or six tries before we found someone who would take us with our content.

Everything is a nightmare. Every obstacle that a normal tech startup encounters, triple it.

That’s ridiculous and really ironic because pornography is really the reason the internet is still alive today, isn’t it?

Silicon Valley welcomes innovation and disruption in every other area of our lives except this one, the one area that needs it most.

What’s really ironic too, Emma, is that for a tech world that prides itself on being open to everything, our biggest obstacle with MakeLoveNotPorn is the social dynamic I characterize as “fear of what everyone else will think.”

It’s never about what the person I’m talking to thinks. It’s always about their fear of what everyone else would think.

A young VC reached out to me from San Francisco last year. He saw me speak at Big Omaha and he was “blown away.” We met up, he totally got Make Love Not Porn but he says to me, “It’s not about what I think. It’s about what ever other partner in my firm will think and what every investor in our fund will think.

I tell my team that we just have to find a way to keep going, to find that tipping point. The first person who stands up and puts a hand up and says, “I believe in this,” everyone else will fall behind. The first people to go, “I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks,” everyone else will fall behind them.

Fear of what everyone else will think is the single-most paralyzing dynamic in business and in life.

Basically you need an angel or a VC who’s you, Cindy.

Yeah, exactly. What I’m doing is, I have to pave my own way. I have to break down these barriers in order to be able to grow and scale my own business. So this is what I say to entrepreneurs: When you have a truly world-changing startup, it’s not enough to simply build your startup. You have to change the world to make it fit your startup, not the other way around.

The issue is a lack of counterpoint in the real world, including a lack of an authentic portrayal of sex in popular culture. In movies, in television, in music videos, in advertising. So I’m convening a panel of people from all of those sectors to talk about how we need to open up this discussion around sex in the real world in order to counter everything that worries people about porn.

Ironically the answer to everything that worries people is not to shut down porn or repress it but to open up. Open up the dialogue, the way we’re trying to. Open up to welcoming and supporting and funding entrepreneurs who want to disrupt the world of sex and porn for the better. Open up to people like me who want to do business on the same terms as everyone else, to make it easier to make those things happen. That’s a whole additional level of work because I’m having to create the conditions for my startup to survive.

Have you always been this outspoken about sex?

Yeah, pretty much.

Can I ask how you came to be this confident and outspoken and willing to put yourself out there like that?

Um… Life. (Laughs)

I mean, I’ve always been pretty open and straightforward about sex but only in the way that I’ve always been pretty open and straightforward about everything. I’m that kind of person.

Were your parents pretty open about sex?

No, absolutely not. No, my father is English and very old fashioned and my mother is Chinese, with everything that comes with that. I grew up in Asia so, no, they really weren’t at all.

I just believe in being honest and straightforward about everything. Sex is no different.

I have to tell you, it’s been enormously demoralizing and debilitating battling everything we’ve had to on Make Love Not Porn. In many instances I’ve thought, “I can’t do this anymore. I just want to give up.”

And then I get one of those extraordinary emails. Honestly, so many emails I’ve gotten over the years where I don’t even know how to respond. People are just laying their guts open on the page and it’s the people who write to us and say, “Thank you for existing.” It’s the sheer amount of human unhappiness that derives from the fact that we don’t talk about sex that motivates me and my team, the amazing Corey Innis (CTO), Oonie Chase (UX Lead), and Madam Curator Sarah Beall.

Our ultimate end goal – and this is a very big goal, it will take a long time – but if we can achieve our social mission, the ultimate marker of success is that one day, nobody should ever have to be ashamed or embarrassed ever again about having a naked photograph or sex tape posted on the internet because it’s simply just a natural human part of who we all are.

When you take the shame and embarrassment out of sex, you defuse revenge porn and many other things that have the potential to make human lives very unhappy.

And that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.

That’s an amazing mission and I admire you even more for it. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me, Cindy, and good luck fighting the fight.

Thank you, Emma.

 

Author’s note: Interview edited for clarity and length.

Photo courtesy of Cindy Gallop

3 Comments

Leave a Reply