Special Report: The Future of Porn?

Daniel Pryor June 11, 2014 1
Special Report: The Future of Porn?

Daniel Pryor talks to Cindy Gallop – the founder of MakeLoveNotPorn – about her vision for a new era of ‘real world’ pornography.

I first came across Cindy when attending a debate at the Durham Union. The motion was ‘This House Believes Feminists Are All Too Often Sexists In Disguise’. Speaking in opposition, it was clear from the outset that she was an exciting, ambitious, and remarkably candid woman. Cindy is the creator of MakeLoveNotPorn (MLNP): a business which aims to “make real world sex and the discussion around it socially acceptable”. Last week, I spoke to her at length on Skype. She detailed criticisms of the porn industry and explained how she was hoping to turn it around.

“What happens when today’s total freedom of access to hardcore porn online meets our society’s equally total reluctance to talk openly and honestly about sex? Porn becoming – by default – our sex education, and not in a good way,” she stressed. After encountering the sexual behaviours of a generation raised on modern pornography (Cindy likes to date younger men), she decided to do something about it. Around five and a half years ago, she launched MLNP to balance the sexual myths and misconceptions generated by porn through discussion of real world sex: “actually, not all women like being bound-up, gagged, choked, raped, gang-banged, and having men cum all over them. Actually, not all men like doing that either.”

Actually, not all women like being bound-up, gagged, choked, raped, gang-banged, and having men cum all over them.

Cindy was also unashamedly graphic when launching MLNP at TED, and as a result was “the only TED speaker to have ever uttered the words ‘cum on my face’ on the TED stage six times in succession”. These unorthodox tactics appear to have worked, driving the extraordinary response to MLNP from around the world. “It went global without me doing anything about it. Every single day for the past five and a half years, I have received thousands of emails to my Make Love Not Porn inbox. They come from everybody: young and old, male and female, straight and gay, from every country in the world.” In the emails, people poured their hearts out. They talked about their sex lives and porn-watching habits. Maintaining near-total silence about our sex lives and pornography is something that almost everyone reading this can empathise with.

The sheer cumulative impact of these emails gave Cindy the impetus to take the venture forwards “in a way that would make it more far-reaching, helpful and effective”. The most recent component of MLNP to be launched is makelovenotporn.tv: “a user-generated, crowd-sourced video sharing platform that celebrates real world sex”. The porn on the site is a far cry from what currently dominates the market. “It’s not about performing for the camera. It’s simply about capturing what goes on in the real world – in all its funny, glorious, silly, wonderful humanness.” Cindy and her team watch every video to ensure authenticity, and the revenue-sharing business model means that 50% of the site’s income goes to the contributor.

It’s simply about capturing what goes on in the real world – in all its funny, glorious, silly, wonderful humanness.

Others’ reactions to the contemporary pornography have centred upon a strategy of state intervention: ban, censor and block. It’s an attitude that Cindy strongly opposes. “The issue isn’t porn,” she remarks. Her concerns are about the complete lack of openness in the world of sex. In a world where “the average age today at which a child is exposed to hardcore pornography online is eight”, very few parents provide their children with the knowledge that what goes on in the porn world isn’t necessarily what should go on in the real world. “It’s a function of what somebody shows your child on a cellphone in the playground. It’s a function of what happens when they go round to the neighbour’s house – because it doesn’t matter what parental controls you have at home. Your kids live their lives in other places. It’s a function of the fact that they are the most wired generation ever.”

The target audience of MakeLoveNotPorn is everybody. Why? “Because we want to make it easier for parents to talk to their children about sex. A father wrote to me on Facebook last year. He was a complete stranger. The headline of his message was ‘my wife and I cannot thank you enough for what you’re doing’. He said he had a ten year old son and had decided it was time to have the sex talk. So he sat down with his son, who said ‘Daddy, why do men wear masks when they’re having sex?’” It seems that early exposure to hardcore pornography is an inescapable fact of the modern age. Sadly, efforts to detoxify the porn industry have been hampered by the hostile attitudes to adult content that exist in the business world.

Early exposure to hardcore pornography is an inescapable fact of the modern age.

“My team and I fight a battle every single day to MakeLoveNotPorn happen. Every piece of business infrastructure, any other start-up can at least take for granted. We can’t, because the small print always says no adult content, so it took me two years to get makelovenotporn.tv funded.” Cindy pitched to countless potential investors, who simply wouldn’t touch her idea because it involved adult content. “PayPal won’t work with us, Amazon won’t, none of the mainstream credit card processors will.” Trying to fight the stigma surrounding porn, she wrote an open letter to David Cameron last year entitled ‘Don’t block porn, disrupt it’.

Her vision for a new porn industry is radical. She hopes to disrupt a sector – worth billions of dollars – in a way that is socially beneficial and potentially financially lucrative. “I want MakeLoveNotPorn to be the foundational platform for an entire collaborative ecosystem of other apps, in the same way that the iPhone, iPod, and iPad gave rise to an entire secondary and tertiary market of apps and accessories. I want to help anybody and everybody who wants to change the world through sex.”

The current state of the industry appears to be one of stagnation and conformity. It has fallen prey to what Cindy calls “collaborative competition – when everybody in a sector competes by doing exactly the same thing. Porn is tanking. It’s also true of the music industry, publishing, journalism, television, advertising, every single industry you can name. It’s just that the way those dynamics manifest in porn is more controversial and distressing. I have to explain to people that the explosive growth in extreme violent porn is not driven by evil, twisted, malicious forces that work in the porn industry, nor by us becoming more depraved and corrupt as human beings. It’s driven by – very boringly and prosaically – a bunch of guys scared shitless because they’re not making money, playing it safe”.

Porn is tanking.

Despite her disruptive intentions, many of those involved in the porn industry have embraced Cindy’s vision. “In amongst those thousands of emails were – much to my surprise – a lot of emails from people in the porn industry…as a result, I have a lot of friends in the porn industry. They’re helping us with MakeLoveNotPorn. That’s why we have a category where porn stars get to post the sex they have off camera: sex that is completely different from the sex they have on camera. My straight, gay and lesbian porn star friends are sharing the sex they have in the real world on our platform and talking about how different that is.”

In my opinion, businesses like MLNP demonstrate the beauty of the free market that is often lacking in cold, dry political analysis. They are fighting patriarchy at a profit. I’ve signed up for MakeLoveNotPorn, and recommend you do the same. Follow them on Twitter, like them on Facebook, and join the movement that is pushing #realworldsex into the limelight.

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