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Cindy Gallop’s “Make Love, Not Porn” Is Changing the Way We See Sex

With her pro-sex website "Make Love Not Porn," Cindy Gallop is flipping the script on adult videos — and what we all take away from them.

Sex remains one of the most under discussed topics in America. Many parents won’t touch it. Schools struggle with how to introduce the subject. Peers rarely discuss it. At least not enough. And that leaves us with just one outlet with which we can explicitly engage with sex: Porn. Porn has, in many ways, become America’s de-facto sex education machine. The problem is, it doesn’t inspire very enjoyable sex. In fact, porn also depicts scenarios and expectations that are unrealistic.

Cindy Gallop wanted to change this. So she did. In 2011, Gallop, then an advertising executive and activist, founded Make Love Not Porn, the world’s first social sex video sharing platform. Their tagline reads, “Pro sex, pro porn, pro knowing the difference.” The idea of the site is to celebrate “real world” sex as a counterpoint to porn. The idea is to socialize sex. The idea is to do something porn does not: promote better sexual values, and even better sexual behavior. Through videos of regular couples having real, consensual sex of various styles, Make Love Not Porn serves as a way to inform and educate the general public about what actual sex looks like. It’s a way to reframe the conversation. 

We spoke to Gallop about her vision, how depictions of consensual, realistic relationships can help reframe our idea of sex, and about our relationships to porn and each other.

So what’s the problem with taking cues from porn, really?

Everything you see in porn, somebody somewhere loves doing. In fact, millions of somebodies. The issue is not the act; the issue is communication and consent. People find it bizarrely difficult to talk about sex with the people they’re actually having it with, while they’re actually having it.

Why do you think people rely so heavily on porn for sexual guidance?

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Everybody wants to be good in bed, no one knows exactly what that means. And so you will seize your cues on how to do that in any way you can. And if the only scenarios you’ve ever seen are in porn — because your parents didn’t talk about it, because your school didn’t teach you, because your friends aren’t honest about sex —  those are the cues you’re going to take, to not very good effect.

What do you think the world will gain from a platform like Make Love Not Porn?

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, you will read endless pieces about consent. There are a ton of women out there writing wonderful pieces. I sent one to my team just yesterday. The issue is, you can read all these pieces about consent, but nobody knows what that looks like because you never see it.

At Make Love Not Porn, we are education through demonstration. We are social sex video sharing. Every single one of our videos is an object lesson in enthusiastic, consensual, wonderful empathetic, sympathetic communicative sex. We are the only place you can go to see what that actually looks like. Because you cannot be what you cannot see.

How do you select the videos that appear on the platform?

We very rarely reject videos. I want our acceptance rate to be 99 percent. I don’t want to reject anybody’s real-world sex. But there are three reasons why we do reject videos, and the first one is especially interesting: too porn tropey. Because of the ubiquity of porn sites today, people unconsciously internalize porn tropes without even realizing they’re doing it.

Like what?

For example, people think — because this is what they see in the tube sites — that we want them to start the camera the minute they hit the sheets and turn it off the minute they’ve cum. But we want real-world sex. And real-world sex has context. It has relations. It has a backstory. We want them to start the camera running as early as possible. We want to see how you get turned on. We want to see the kissing, the clothes coming off … and then leave it running as long as possible. We want to see the aftermath. We want to see the cuddling, and the conversation, because this is real-world sex.

Another interesting thing is, again because people see this in porn, they think they have to film genital close-ups to prove they’re actually having sex. We tell them to pull the camera back. We want to see the interaction. We want to get a sense of you. We want the whole dynamic. We know this is real-world sex. You don’t have to prove it to us. The third reason we reject videos is particularly frustrating: copyrighted music.

How does the experience affect the participants?

Our Make Love Not Porn stars, our contributors, tell us that socially sharing their real-world sex has been as transformative for them and their relationships as socially sharing everything else has been for the world at large. Because, when you decide to film yourselves having sex, you have to talk about it. And when you talk about it — it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together — the conversation goes places it has never, ever gone before. It’s fascinating.

What about the fans?

Our members write in to us often. We get some amazing emails. The words they use to describe the experience of Make Love Not Porn are words you will never hear used about porn. Words like, “Joyous,” “celebratory,” “life-affirming.” And here’s the one we get really regularly that we love: “guilt-free.” The very nature of what we do makes people feel really good about masturbating to our videos.

What’s wonderful is you celebrate a lot of different things on the site, genres that don’t often get such treatment.

We are deliberately celebrating things that you will not see in porn and you will not see anywhere else. So, for example, we have a whole category called “Make Pregnant Love Not Porn.” We had one contributor who was very heavily pregnant. She filmed herself masturbating for her husband, who works long distance. It was going to be a gift for him but she also decided to share it on our platform. We also have other couples that help show how to have sex creatively and carefully when pregnant. It’s educational in a really fun way. It gives you ideas that would otherwise never be able to access. I always say, if porn in the Hollywood blockbuster then we are the documentary.

What’s planned for the future?

We absolutely want to extend our content offering into more formalized sex education. And I use the term “sex education” in the broadest possible sense. Sex education not just about sex, but about love, intimacy, relationships, sexual health, and wellbeing. Several years ago, I bought the URL makelovenotporn.academy in order to facilitate what I call the Khan Academy of sex education. The Khan Academy teaches on every human topic under the sun except this one. Educational technology is exploding, but not in this category. The world is gagging for this.