Porn Is Dead, Long Live Sex

By Nathalie Olah

Photo by Eva Blue

Porn is dated, passe, over. It doesn't have anything to do with reality and its business model is so archaic production companies aren't making any money anymore—the internet's moved on, you see, but the industry hasn't. Make Love Not Porn is a video streaming website built around that notion. In its pages you'll find only videos of "real world sex," made and submitted by users, in an attempt to revert our understanding of sex from performance to experience.

I met up with founder Cindy Gallop, whom you might remember from her TED Talk that went viral in 2009, to talk about misconceptions, economics, and, of course, fuckin'.

VICE: Hi, Cindy. Why did you want to create an "alternative real world sex streaming site"?
Cindy Gallop:
Porn has gotten so big that it’s become conventional. It’s built on an old world order business model that is being destroyed by free online porn, and it hasn’t invented a new one. What do a bunch of guys scared shitless in any industry do? Play it safe. The explosive rise in violent, extreme porn is not due to evil, twisted, malicious forces within the porn industry, and it's not due to the fact that human beings have all become so much more depraved and corrupt. Much more prosaically, it’s a competition thing driven by business problems. People don’t realize that.

I’d never thought of it like that. How do you make your website not just the moral option, but the desirable option?
There is nothing moral about what we’re doing. I date younger men—predominantly men in their 20s—and realized six or seven years ago that a very important dual dynamic was going on: today’s total freedom of access to hardcore porn online had met with our society’s complete reluctance to talk honestly about sex. The result was porn becoming the sex education of today.

So Make Love Not Porn isn’t just about tackling the porn industry?
No. We’re tackling the complete absence in our society of an open, honest, healthy, and truthful conversation about sex in the real world. Our mission is to socialize sex and to make real world sex socially acceptable, in order to make it easier for people to talk about sex in public and with each other, to make better connections and get to better sexual relationships. Porn is purely masturbatory material. As one young member put it, "Watching porn makes me want to jerk off. Watching your videos makes me want to have sex."

Do you veto videos?
Oh, we watch every video. I don’t want to reject anyone’s real world sex, but we do reject videos for three primary reasons: The first is if the light levels are too low and you can’t see anything; also if you’re using copywritten music and if it's too pornified. We ask you to contextualize your sex. Real world sex has a back-story and a relationship. It can be, "we’ve been together for years," or, "I brought this guy home from the bar and am never going to see him again." Start the camera running as early as possible, leave it running as long as possible, we want to see you seduce each other and we want to see the aftermath. Porn sites make people think they have to start the camera running as soon as they hit the sheets and stop it running as soon as they’ve come, but real world sex is the whole experience.

Cindy's 2009 TED Talk

Have you created any celebrities?
We’re only ten months old and have a bunch of social features in the pipeline, which will give users the option of building a fan following. The users who do well are the ones who post lots of videos.

What I take from all this is that somebody’s sexuality can differ from one day to the next.
Exactly, and this is how we differ from porn. Because porn assumes that you know exactly what you want and what gets you off, and it tags everything accordingly. You go to bed with somebody in the real world for the first time, you don’t have the faintest idea what you’re going to get, and so we reflect that experience. Great sex is realizing that every sexual partner is different and there are no formulas. It’s about exploring what each of you like and realizing that what you may not want to do with one person, you cannot get enough of with another.

The language you use on the site is very different from a lot of porn sites.
Because we don’t speak about sex, there is no socially acceptable language surrounding it. So the language of porn has jumped in to fill that space, and that's an issue, because in a male-dominated industry the language of porn is all too often male-generated. The person who coined the term "finger blasting" didn’t have a vagina. The person who coined the term, "getting your ass railed" never got their ass railed. Pounding, hammering, banging… And language matters, because when the only language you have available is abusive and one-directional, in terms of having things done to you, it creates a very weird view of how sex works.

How do we know when what we’re seeing on-screen is a truly liberated woman, and not a product packaged by a male-dominate industry?
Here’s another social misconception: people don’t realize that women enjoy sex just as much as men, and men are just as romantic as women. And neither gender is allowed to express itself in that way. A woman expressing herself sexually must be pandering to men’s sexual fantasies, because she couldn’t just be sexual in her own right—that’s a problem there. And equally, men are forced into a construct of masculinity that says men are only about one thing; they just want sex, and—boy oh boy—admit to being madly in love with someone among your male peer-group, you’re fucked. That’s a problem.

Do you identify as a feminist?
Oh, absolutely. I’m a rampant feminist and as far as I’m concerned, feminism is more important today than it's ever been, for the simple reason that people think we’ve come a long way and we haven’t. I’m 53 and a strong woman living in New York, one of the most sophisticated cities in the world, and every day I walk down streets and see roadworks ahead of me and a gang of men hanging around a delivery entrance to a store and I stiffen and clasp my purse so that I’m hiding my tits. Because I’m conscious of the probability that I’ll be sexually harassed. That experience, that people in other parts of the world go through to infinitely more unpleasant degrees, is something men never experience. They have no fucking idea.

How long before we’ll see your feminist view of the future in full swing?
It’s difficult. It took me two years to get MakeLoveNotPorn.tv funded, which is very ironic, because in theory I should have been the triple whammy of Silicon Valley desirability. We have an idea enabled by technology, designed to disrupt a sector worth billions of dollars in a way that is both socially beneficial and also very lucrative. But because that sector is porn, no venture capitalists want to come near me. Our single biggest operational challenge has been putting payment infrastructure in place. Amazon won’t work with us. Paypal won’t work with us, no other mainstream credit card processors will.

Our biggest obstacle is fear of what everybody else is going to think. A young venture capitalist reached out to me and said he loves our site but said, “It’s not about what I think, it’s about what every other partner in our firm will think, and every investor in our fund will think.” We need to find the people brave enough to stand up and publicly support us; the one investor, the one celebrity – we want to be the future of celebrity sex tapes, in a good way. It’s very important not to give a damn what everyone else thinks.

Follow Nathalie on Twitter: @NROlah

Previously: Irvine Welsh Doesn't Regret Choosing Life

Comments