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Interview With Cindy Gallop, Feminist Founder of MakeLoveNotPorn.com

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To hear the entire interview with Cindy Gallop as well as other feminists, including Kathy Najimy, Dan Savage, and upcoming interviews with Gloria Steinem and Cecile Richards, go to Katie's podcast, "Un-f It Up With Katie Goodman":

This interview is very explicit. Be forewarned. Not safe for work... unless you work in porn.

Cindy Gallop, is the founder of the site MakeLoveNotPorn.com. Feminism and sexuality have had a long history of gray zones and I wanted to get to the gray zones. As a feminist comedienne, actress and writer, who dives into material that often has a lot to do with sex and the sexuality of today's women, I have found people want to pigeonhole my opinions: "Katie's a feminist therefore she must think X", and assumptions are made that I must have some ill regard for erotic arts, porn, etc., but my bottom line has always been concern for women, especially concern for vulnerable women who could easily be exploited or hurt in any way. When money comes into it it complicates things and when power comes into it there are concerns. While there are gray zones with anything like this, Cindy considers herself a staunch feminist and seems genuinely concerned for women. Her goal is to change the culture. See for yourself what you think. I welcome comments.

You might want to check out Cindy's TED talk before or after you read the interview:

KATIE GOODMAN: I am here with Cindy Gallop in this unbelievable apartment I've never seen anything quite like it. What do you call it the black...

CINDY GALLOP: The black apartment. (Check out the photos here.)

KATIE GOODMAN: The black apartment. All the walls and floors are black I've never seen anything like it. Stunning art. Absolutely stunning, creative, amazing place. She is the founder of MakeLoveNotPorn.com, which is in my terminology, a feminist porn site.

CINDY GALLOP: No, it's not.

KATIE GOODMAN: Ha! Okay let's start there! You tell me what it is!

CINDY GALLOP: Well, first of all it's certainly feminist. It's not porn. I should explain that MakeLoveNotPorn began as a little sideline for me about four years ago born out of direct personal experience, which is that I date younger men who tend to be predominantly in their 20s and I encountered something which would have never crossed my mind if I hadn't encountered it very directly and very personally which is what happens when you combine ubiquitous access to porn online today with our society's total failure to have an open healthy dialogue around sex, which results in porn becoming default sex education. So when I realized this I decided to do something about it and I put up for no money a website at MakeLoveNotPorn.com which lists the myths of hardcore porn and balances them with the reality. So the construct is porn world/real world. It is not porn, it is not amateur, it is real world sex and our tagline is "pro-sex, pro-porn, pro-knowing the difference."

KATIE GOODMAN: And you had something on there about why it's not amateur...

CINDY GALLOP: The reason why I say it's not amateur is because I regularly have to explain to people that 99.9% of all porn on the internet billed as amateur isn't. It's made by professional production companies masquerading as amateur because that's what people want to see. I have to explain to guys "those dorm rooms don't exist, you know." And also I have a huge issue with the term amateur. It implies the only people doing it right are professionals and the rest of us are bumbling idiots and I could not disagree more. And even the sites that say they're real people having real sex, so for example, Home Grown Video bills itself as the largest oldest amateur porn site. Home Grown Video says to you we are real people having real sex. Well, if you go to the submissions page of Home Grown Video, first of all they tell you where to place the camera when you film yourself so you capture all the same camera angles as in porn. The submissions categories are same as in porn--anal, deep throat. So in the anal sex submissions category, Home Grown Video says to you "so our viewers like to think of the girl's first time. So when you film yourselves, please think of the girl's first time and say to the camera "Oh it's my first time I'm really nervous." So therefore when you film yourself having anal sex it's really important for the girl to be going "ooh, ow, ooh ow, get off!" That is not real people having real sex.

The core value proposition of MakeLoveNotPornTV resides in the fact that everybody wants to know what everybody else is really doing in bed and nobody does.

MakeLoveNotPorn is an entirely gender-equal proposition because young women are just as influenced by porn as default sex education as young men. In my case I am my own subject, so I date younger men and I freely admit I date them casually and recreationally. So no matter how casual the relationship I have one fundamental criteria: they have to be a very, very nice person. I have fantastic radar for very, very nice people and as a result I only date very lovely younger men. And I make that point specifically because more than any other area I operate in as a businessperson, sex proves the saying that we do not see things as they are but we see things as we are. Everybody processes me and what I'm doing with MakeLoveNotPorn through the lens of their own personal bias, prejudice, insecurity, fear. And so people jump to conclusions about me. And one of the conclusions they jump to all too frequently is, oh my God predatory hungry needy cougar flinging herself at abusive younger men, no wonder she gets the treatment she deserves. Now, nothing could be further from the truth in terms of the characterization of my dating life.

KATIE GOODMAN: And double standard.

CINDY GALLOP: Absolutely. I am deliberately very public about the fact that I date younger men for a couple of reasons. The first is that I'm a rampant feminist, and when anybody asks me if I'm a feminist that's my answer because that's how much of a feminist I am. And I object to the fact that for centuries the other way around has been fine: older man/younger woman -- no one bats an eyelid. Somehow old woman/younger man is less socially acceptable. So I'm very loud and proud about the fact that I date younger men because I feel that every time I say that I'm striking a blow for all womankind.

But the second reason I'm public about that is not because I'm saying everybody should do what I do but because it's emblematic of a much bigger point, which is I believe everybody should be free to design the relationship model that works for them, which may, by the way, be different at different stages of your life, versus the very limited number of relationship models society says it's okay for us to operate.

KATIE GOODMAN: How are you choosing what goes on the site, through a feminist lens, if you will? Are there some videos that you just say "Absolutely not. We're not putting this up."

CINDY GALLOP: First of all, I said to my team, I want our acceptance rate on MakeLoveNotPorn to be 99%. What that means is I want to give people a very clear idea in advance of exactly what we're looking for. Because I don't want to reject them. We really don't want to reject anything at all.

KATIE GOODMAN: On an ethical basis? Like you don't want to say this kind of sex is inappropriate?

CINDY GALLOP: We'd much rather not reject. What we're asking people to submit are videos of themselves having real world sex. This is not about performing for the camera, it is about simply recording what goes on in the real world. And we have a blog where we put up posts that help people understand what we mean by that, suggestions on how to make it easier to video yourselves, etc. Then on the platform itself when we invite you in we make it very clear what we're looking for and our criteria are very broad but also quite specific. So we are completely and utterly non-judgmental, we are utterly inclusive of everything, we are looking for LGBT content, we are looking for diversity, we are looking for anything and everything that constitutes real world sex. We do highlight the fact that we are looking for the comical -- real world sex is funny! So you normally never see the outtakes when you look at amateur porn. We want all the human moments, all the accidents, all the mishaps. We highlight the fact that we are looking for, for example, "condom hot", actual use of condoms in an arousing way. And then I and my team curate, so this is a wholly curated proposition. We view everything and we accept it accordingly.

KATIE GOODMAN: How do you deal with the fine line or not fine line when some material is, say, one might call it misogynistic and one might call it hot S&M. Or something!?

CINDY GALLOP: Essentially real world sex is anybody or anything that anybody does in their real sex lives that everybody involved is enjoying. With real world sex there's a very interesting opportunity to showcase what actually you tend to not see elsewhere on the net which is the process of negotiation.

KATIE GOODMAN: Between the couple.

CINDY GALLOP: Right. So in exactly the same way as we say to all our contributors, if you think you're interested in submitting, what we recommend is film yourselves over a period of time, start the camera running as early as possible, leave it running as late as possible. And so there's the opportunity to show how in the real world when you engage in BDSM real world sex there is absolutely a process of agreement and negotiation and everything that is being done is being utterly welcomed and utterly consensual in a way that you do not see.

One of the things that I have had to explain ever since I launched MakeLoveNotPorn 3 1/2 years ago is that MakeLoveNotPorn is not anti-porn. The issue that we are tackling is the complete lack in our society of an open healthy dialogue around sex and porn which would then enable people to bring a real world mindset to the viewing of what is essentially artificial entertainment. So if you brought our message down to one thing it would be purely and simply to talk about it all. MakeLoveNotPorn.com and MakeLoveNotPornTV exists to do is to facilitate an open healthy dialogue. To enable you to talk about sex openly and honestly with your partners with your friends, with your network in society as a whole in a way that we don't do today.

So I'll give you an example of what you'll be able to do further on down the line when we have these features built, you'll be able to put together your own MakeLoveNotPornTV playlists, just like you do on iTunes and Spotify at the moment, so just like any other form of social media, and those playlists might well be just for solitary usage so maybe they're going to be the collection to get you of 20 seconds every time, but they could also be the sex equivalent of a mixtape. So imagine that you've begun dating this really hot guy or girl, you can curate and put together your own MakeLoveNotPornTV playlist and send it to them, we have a gifting capability, or we will have.

KATIE GOODMAN: (Laughs) Send that to your mother-in-law as well.

CINDY GALLOP: You absolutely could. And because it's us it's socially acceptable to do that. And that playlist might just be here's some really hot stuff to share next time we're together, or it could be here's what I'm really into. This is what I'd really love you to do to me. This is what would actually really make me come, and by sending this playlist I don't have to have the actual conversation out loud in words heaven forbid because that would be really embarrassing for both of us and I can see how you respond and we can take it from there.

KATIE GOODMAN: As a feminist what do you feel about feminism and porn and degradation of women and the sometimes enjoyment of that degradation?

CINDY GALLOP: MakeLoveNotPorn is utterly nonjudgmental. Sex is the area of human experience that embraces the widest possible range of taste and proclivities. But the other observation I would make is that it's very interesting to me that a lot of the things that people find deplorable about porn are driven by two factors, the first is that they are driven almost entirely by the business problems that porn has as an industry sector. The porn industry is like any other industry that I study, and I study a huge range of them as a business consultant. Porn has gotten so big that it's gotten conventional. So porn has norms and rules and conventions which is why so much of it is so repetitive and actually quite boring. It has totally fallen prey to that syndrome of collaborative competition which is where everybody in the sector is doing exactly what everybody else in the sector is doing and it's tanking. Its old world business model is being destroyed by the advent of online and it hasn't yet worked out a new one.

Now, every dynamic I've just cited is also true of music, broadcasting, publishing and advertising. And every other sector you care to name.

KATIE GOODMAN: Or bad sitcoms. I mean it's even in my field, comedy.

CINDY GALLOP: Exactly. So that's why it's not misogyny driving some of the more deplorable forms of porn, it's problems of business.

KATIE GOODMAN: (Laughs) A lack of imagination!

CINDY GALLOP: Absolutely. Business as a whole across every single industry is a male-centric construct, and that's not surprising because for centuries we weren't allowed to do it. So business has built up around a male leadership model of command and control, around male core business values, and we are at a zeitgeist moment right now where for the first time in any real form as opposed to isolated instances we are beginning to see the impact of women in those sectors.

KATIE GOODMAN: What do you feel about the women and young girls (or young men) who are posting themselves online? I get nervous for them it's career suicide and there's problems that arise from posting yourself on-line. Do you have any personal feelings about that?

CINDY GALLOP: Of course I do. The natural corollary of what we're doing is that ultimately if we're successful you should never have to worry about naked pictures or sex tapes of you being posted online because it doesn't matter.

KATIE GOODMAN: That's a future you're hoping to create?

CINDY GALLOP: Absolutely.

KATIE GOODMAN: Can we talk for a second about the money aspect of it? Which is of course an issue in porn. Part of the reason I started this series is - and I don't know if it's me or what it is! -- but at dinner parties these conversations have been coming up about legalized prostitution, arguments saying a lot of these women are loving doing it, they feel empowered blah blah blah, and I take issue with the person who's saying it, saying they know for sure that these women are feeling empowered. Everybody's different and there's a lot of stories and there's a lot of abused and victimized women coming to this and they don't know what else that they are either good for or they are looking for approval and there's a lot of negative reasons to go into porn and stripping, and my question is about when the money comes into it.

CINDY GALLOP: I want to answer the first point you made before I move onto this one. I can tell you that my friends in porn are exceptionally intelligent, do not come from abused homes and broken homes and backgrounds, and run completely counter to this utterly stereotyped picture that that too many people have of the porn industry. And the porn industry is like any other industry: there are bad parts and there are good parts but everyone latches onto Boogie Nights or Linda Lovelace or whatever. So one of the things I want to do is I really want to help my friends in the porn industry break down these ridiculous societal barriers that again only perceive them through a particular lens that says you must be a broken abused human being.

KATIE GOODMAN: Right. And actually the conversations that I had were more about stripping and prostitution, which are different from porn obviously, particularly in that it's not partnered.

CINDY GALLOP: But I also argue that the same thing applies.

KATIE GOODMAN: Right. But what I was saying was that as soon as you take out of the legalization of it, when you make it legalized it's a completely different animal and I was saying there are still some women who are broken and are going to it seeking unhealthy whatever -- I'm not a shrink -- but seeking possibly unhealthy reasons to be going into it and you can't say, just exactly what you're saying, everybody has the same reasons, same interests, same drives. So it was just a conversation that just kept coming up so I know it's an important conversation when the money comes into it that it can change the dynamic.

CINDY GALLOP: And again I would say broken unhealthy people go into music and--

KATIE GOODMAN: Of course! I am a comedian! Are you kidding? This is my field! (Laughs)

CINDY GALLOP: So what we're talking about exists in every single industry sector going.

KATIE GOODMAN: Of course. But there is a statistic that I read a while ago that like 85% of strippers are incest survivors. I mean it was a huge number, and it was really disturbing and made me never go "oh this is okay and fun."

CINDY GALLOP: I would seriously question the validity of that statistic.

[Author's note: Here are the facts I found after the interview. This topic deserves a separate interview, but for now...This was a study that I read probably 20 years ago and it's been around for a while in the consciousness. There has been a study just last fall that came out debunking these myths or it's possible that the sex industry has changed quite a bit in the last 20 years. If you'd like to read about io9.com posted about it called, "Porn Stars Have Great Self-Esteem." (Ha.) www.I09.com\5963415\contrary-to-common-belief-female-porn-stars-have-great-self-esteem. It's a good piece and there's a lot of data in there. In general though I was quite relieved to see that women in porn are a bit better off than I'd heard, but as you'll see there are still huge problems with health, drug use, etc. This is just a really complicated issue and of course every woman is different. I'm concerned about women's health and mental health so I feel like it's worth having the conversation continue, as I'm sure it will for years to come.]

So I design my start-up ventures around my own personal beliefs and values. Both of my start-ups are built around what I believe in and what I have come to value over the course of my 52 years of existence. So I designed MakeLoveNotPorn's business model around several things I feel very strongly about. The first is I believe very strongly that people should realize the value of what they create. And I feel that particularly strongly because my background is theater and advertising--like yours in the theater case. Two industry sectors where ideas and creativity are massively undervalued even by the traders themselves. So I believe that if you create something that gives people joy and pleasure you should absolutely get a financial return on that pleasure. And I believe the more people that enjoy that pleasure the bigger the financial return you should get.

So I designed MakeLoveNotPornTV's business model around revenue sharing, around the model that you as the contributor get 50% of what your real world sex video makes, and the more people that enjoy it love it the more money you stand to make. I also designed MakeLoveNotPornTV around a circular ecosystem, so essentially if you want to watch real world sex videos for free it's very easy to do that, all you have to do is create your own real world sex videos. Other members pay you and you can use the money in your account to view whatever you want for free. And that obviously is a way of populating our platform and seeding it.

The third thing I should say also, when I decided to take MakeLoveNotPorn forward I decided to take it forward as a business, and because MakeLoveNotPorn.com wasn't one, it was a sideline, I just put it up with no idea where that would go, and partly that's because I believe that all businesses of the future should be about doing good and making money simultaneously. Have a high order social agenda and have the ability to be enormously profitable. I believe the business model of the future is shared values plus shared action equals shared profit. Profit in the social sense and the financial sense. And by the way that is the business model my other start IfIRanTheWorld is built on, and it's the business model IfIRanTheWorld is designed to inculcate because the audience is businesses and companies and corporations. It's my effort to help redesign the future of business along the way that I feel it should be operating.

So I designed MakeLoveNotPornTV around that but also because I knew I had to create something that had the potential to be highly scalable. If I had to counter the impact of porn as sex education, I have to create something that has the potential to be as mainstream and as all-pervasive in our society today as porn currently is. And I can only do that if I create it as a business that can fund itself as it grows.

KATIE GOODMAN: Long ago I produced something called The National Women's Theatre Festival, it was in Los Angeles and it had a million women's issues in it. One of the women did a solo piece about having been just a stipper, I think, not anything else, and she had done, and the money was incredible, she was young, really young, at the time, 19 I guess, and she it's a little bit complicated with her because she was a lesbian so it was all different kinds of issues with power and she was very angry at men at the time. So she did this theatrical piece and the whole thing was about how degraded she had become. And felt. And that the money was the drawing factor for her. At the end of the show --this amazing, wonderful, empowering show -- and this was in the 90s too so this was a bit different, we went out for dinner and drinks with all the different actors and we had a lovely conversation at the end of which she said she had just gone back into this field. Unhappily. And our jaws just hit the floor after seeing this entire piece about how awful this had been. And she said "I can't pass up the money." And it stayed with me, 15, 20 years later. She felt degraded and yet... And of course she's making the choice she's an adult, but I --

CINDY GALLOP: Do you know how many people within your network and mine feel utterly degraded in appalling stifling corporate jobs that they are staying in just for the money?

KATIE GOODMAN: Yeah or advertisements in mine. I've turned down going for auditions for like Chase Bank...

CINDY GALLOP: Feeling degraded and doing it for the money is not exclusive to stripping or porn. Feeling degraded and doing it for the money is true of every single industry sector you can talk about.

KATIE GOODMAN: Do you not feel...I'm asking a question I'm not --

CINDY GALLOP: Yeah.

KATIE GOODMAN: You're reinforcing this?

CINDY GALLOP: No I don't, actually because I can tell you from my own experience and from how many women are being degraded in different ways in jobs they hate for money that are equally soul destroying.

KATIE GOODMAN: You mean from sexual harassment, or you mean because the job sucks?

CINDY GALLOP: No. In terms of attitudes to women in different working environments that can be as appalling and ultimately as degrading and depressing as anything any stripper experiences stripping.

KATIE GOODMAN: Although there may be some reasons that they are being degraded that have come from, I'm not saying what you're doing, but from the original porn industry, sex-working industry, that are leaking over into the rest of the workplace.

CINDY GALLOP: I gave a seminar which was called "Porn, Youth, and Brands: The Biggest Cultural Influence on Young People Today That We Don't Talk About" and I was talking to an advertising industry audience, and I was talking about the pornification of culture and to be perfectly honest and this is not so much just about porn but about the unhealthy attitude about sex and sexuality that drives it, I always really enjoy an excuse to visit Cannes in the South of France because I really enjoy sunbathing topless, so I explained to the audience because I told this anecdote on stage, so when you live in the US like I do, you can't sunbathe topless, because unless it's on private property the only place you can is at that swimming pool at Caesar's Palace in Vegas where they have the sign that says "European Style Sunbathing"

KATIE GOODMAN: (Laughs)

CINDY GALLOP: So I arrive at Cannes on the Saturday before the Festival starts on Sunday and I've done my luggage and my rental car, and I raced out to the public beach--

KATIE GOODMAN: I just have to tell you I've actually been there [Caesar's] because we checked it out and there's very few women. There's like 95% men, 6 women in the corner.

CINDY GALLOP: No precisely. So I arrive in Cannes and I race down to the public beach and I whip my top off. And I look around me and no one else.

KATIE GOODMAN: No one else? (Laughs)

CINDY GALLOP: And I was really startled because I've not been back to Cannes for about 5 years, all the previous occasions I've been in Cannes, you know, topless women galore. So I got back--of course I didn't let that stop me.

KATIE GOODMAN: (Laughs)

CINDY GALLOP: So I go back to my apartment I tweeted this. I said "France, what gives? Why was I the only woman on the beach in Cannes with my tits out?" And so one of my followers Tweeted back to me and she sent me a link to an article which said that according to a survey done in France in 2009, older French women, my generation, very happy, very comfortable bathing topless, younger French women no longer want to sunbathe topless and have trouble doing because they have body issues.

KATIE GOODMAN: Oh, I knew you were gonna say that. Oh that's so depressing.

CINDY GALLOP: So I said to the audience at Cannes, I know exactly where that comes from.

KATIE GOODMAN: Porn. And advertising, and film, everything.

CINDY GALLOP: So I said to the audience, how many of you are strategic planners in advertising? Hands went up. So I said, okay, so how many of you strategic planners whose hands went up, how many of you talk to the creative department, or your client, or the account team about a new brief, how many of you say so our target audience for this campaign is a young man 18-24 years old and this is what he does and he tends to have this kind of job and he does this and he watches between 2-4 hours of porn a day or night and this is how that impacts on his perception of women and his relationship with his girlfriend. Deathly silence, I went, no, I didn't think so. And I said this talk is not about social responsibility this is not me saying brands should take this on as an issue, this is me saying the future of advertising is not about stereotypes, the future of advertising is about real. And one of the things I said to this audience is the point I made to you earlier which is the future of advertising is female informed, because women are the majority of purchasers in every single sector, women form the majority of influences on every single sector, women are the majority of users in social media, women are the majority of gamers and women are the majority of people who express themselves online in digital personas, yet the majority of communications targeted at women is created by men and the majority of people evaluating whether those communications are creative, good and effective, is male. And I said that because I was at the Cannes Lions Awards Festival where every single one of the awards jury were all men. So my point to them was the new creativity is female informed, the future of advertising is female gaze not the male gaze, and that will create a new approach to advertising communications that will be welcomed by men as much as women and will help create a better world. So the same dynamics.

KATIE GOODMAN: "From your mouth to God's ear," as my grandmother would say! Okay I think we're gonna stop there but thank you so much this has been so interesting and you're lovely and I really wish you all the best with this.

CINDY GALLOP: Thank you.

Katie Goodman is an award-winning musical comic, actress, author, creative coach, and social activist. She has written for O, The Oprah Magazine and is the author of Improvisation For The Spirit.

She is the creator and headliner of "Broad Comedy," (www.BroadComedy.com) an internationally touring satirical musical show that she and her husband Soren Kisiel write and direct. Her solo show, "I Didn't F*ck It up" is presently playing in New York City at Joe's Pub and Stage 72. Katie and Soren were nominated for the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant for their extensive work in theater, and were also nominated for The EPIC Award from The White House Project for emerging artists. Her album is available on iTunes. www.katiegoodman.com