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    Slow Porn: Cindy Gallop's Quest to Blow Up Internet Sex

    Written by

    Arikia Millikan

    It didn't take long for a scruffy guy with glasses to approach me. It was a Saturday night last January, and I was at a cocktail party sitting feet away from porn stars and programmers alike.

    “What’s your, uh, involvement with the site?” he shyly asked me. I told him I was a journalist. “Oh,” he said, and laughed in the way that indicated he was secretly hoping he’d gotten off watching me fuck before.

    This uncommon intersection of individuals was gathered at the home of Cindy Gallop, one of New York’s boldest technocultural ringleaders, to celebrate the release of the site they hope will turn the porn industry on its head: Make Love Not Porn.

    Though the site hasn’t officially launched, it’s come a long way from the bare-bones, restricted-access version that Gallop launched five years ago after she stood on stage at the TED Global conference and became the first person in the history of the glossy confab to describe depictions of semen facials as a World Problem.

    From the observations she'd gathered during her many sexual encounters with men 20 to 30 years younger than her, Gallop had grown worried that the generations growing up using hardcore internet porn as sex education were developing an unfortunately skewed relationship with sex.

    "My concern is particularly with the young girl whose boyfriend wants to cum on her face," Gallop told the audience. "She does not want him to cum on her face, but hardcore porn has taught her that all men love cumming on women's faces, all women love having their faces cum on, and therefore she must let him cum on her face and she must pretend to like it."

    This was the beginning of Gallop's initiative to reprogram the porn industry to reflect real world sex, thereby incorporating women's desires and direction into the narrative—and to profit immensely from doing so. Her primary weapon: MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, a sex site where users can upload their homemade porn videos for a nominal fee; profits from rentals of the videos are split 50/50 with the creators. The goal is to promote real world sex, not porn per se, and in so doing to inject more humanity and openness into the otherwise troubled world of Internet pornography.

    "I like to blow shit up. I am the Michael Bay of business," the 53-year-old, sporting a powerhouse haircut reminiscent of Anna Wintour, declares as the tagline for her personal brand. As former chairwoman of BBH, one of the top ad agencies in the country, Gallop casually advises some of the most business- and media-savvy women in New York via Rachel Sklar's notorious "xx in tech" mailing list, which is how I became fascinated with her.

    I like to blow shit up. I am the Michael Bay of business

    I met Gallop for the first time last November on a tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Hosted every Friday and Saturday evening by international businessman Nick Gray, the “Hack the Met” tour reveals some of the best easter eggs in the museum as Gray leads groups of debaucherous New Yorkers around the endless maze in hopes of eventually refining his tour to the standards of the Saudi Royal Family.

    Beneath the Sphinx statue in the lobby, Gray began his tour by announcing that Gallop was the VIP guest and had the privilege of requesting the night's artifact theme. In his iPad presentation, the words "ANCIENT DILDOS" flashed across the screen in all caps.

    "I said I want to see antique pornography," Gallop unabashedly clarified. "Every single triple X rated antiquity and artifact the Met has to offer."

    During the tour, Gallop forged ahead of the pack, racing from one remnant of ancient human sexuality to the next. In black leather pants, her commanding strut seemed more suited to someone wearing a ten gallon hat than a pink velvet hoodie.

    Post tour, we sipped bourbon at Gray's West Village apartment awaiting a presentation from the best hammered dulcimer player in North America. I told Gallop I'd been following her on TheLi.st, and we got into a conversation about why women really love James Deen. It is ‘porn that women like,’ Gallop concluded, but not because lady porn is simple and sweet like J. Bryan Lowder supposed in an infamous XX_Factor article. We like him, Gallop supposed, because James Deen fucks (and blogs and tweets) like he enjoys getting women off.

    Gallop on her bed at the Black Apartment  (via Gala Darling)

    Gallop's residence in the Flatiron District--a glamorous and sprawling loft dubbed The Black Apartment--looks more like the set of a high-class erotic thriller than a casual homemade porn video.  A converted YMCA locker room, it was actually used as the set for The Notorious B.I.G.’s "Nasty Gal" video in 2005. The cavernous loft, filled with taxidermy and lined with bookshelves, windows, and a display case for Gallop’s 300 pairs of high heels, also serves as the base of operations for Make Love Not Porn when her staffers are in New York.

    As we sat there, Gallop facing me over a taxidermy statue of a mongoose fighting a cobra, she began to tell me the story of her fascination with porn.

    Like so many of us, Gallop, who was born in England, lived in a household where sex was taboo. She was able to piece together what the act more or less involved from indirect references in Shakespearean sonnets at the age of six, and first encountered real porn as a teenager when she and a friend snuck into a XXX cinema in Oxford. As Gallop told VICE's Pornification, she was raised in an age of zero online porn.

    Her porn obsession first developed ten years ago while she was leading BHH New York, representing an online dating company. Match.com was the only real competitor at the time, and like any good ad exec, she made sure to thoroughly sample the product.

    “I suddenly realized I was every young guy's fantasy. I was an attractive older woman with a high-flying career, never wanted to get married, never wanted children, didn't want a relationship,” Gallop recounted. “I just wanted to have some fun, which was severely missing from my life at the time.”

    Indulging in the internet's sexual smorgasbord led Gallop to realize something that's apparent to anyone who’s fucked a twenty-something in the past decade—inexperienced guys try to mimic porn, which inevitably results in sex that isn’t pleasurable for women. “We all get enormously vulnerable when we get naked,” Gallop said. “If the only cues we've been given are from porn, those are the ones we'll take absent anything else.”

    For women who know how to get what they want from sex and have no problem guiding, coaching, and recalibrating men away from their porn-derived tendencies, the process is like training a puppy—it’s annoying, but most of them learn quickly and the fun outweighs the hassle. But Gallop is concerned that if a generation grows up only exposed to—and possibly addicted to—mainstream porn, they might think that’s just the way sex is.

    It’s not that Gallop's opposed to porn, though--she admits to enjoying it. She just wants to create a counter point so people get the difference between real sex and artificial entertainment.

    Team MLNP, L to R: Gallop, Michael Smith (UX Architect), Sarah Beall (MadamCurator), Corey Innis (Co-founder & CTO), Oonie Chase (Co-founder & User Experience Lead)

    As a 26-year-old woman, this strikes me as shockingly valid. I remember the first time I looked at online porn: I was eight years old and I made sure I was alone before typing www.sex.com into the URL bar. Days before I’d learned in a chatroom how to live outside of the garden of AOL's splash screen navigation, and I remember thinking, as I watched the blurred pixels cascade down the screen into clarity as the page loaded over dial-up, about how weird it was that they misspelled "come" in such a big font.

    Up until a few years ago, I was convinced that either something was wrong with me because sex tended to hurt more than it was enjoyable, or that sex was all just a big conspiracy orchestrated by men to oppress women.

    You can’t click a link on YouPorn or RedTube without reading something about pussies being wrecked, destroyed, abused, pounded and torn-up

    In a way, I wasn’t totally wrong. As Gallop points out in her TED talk, “the porn industry is driven by men, funded by men, managed by men, directed by men and targeted at men," so it’s really no wonder that women getting fucked by men who learn how to fuck from porn are seeing red flags. Even the standard language of porn is male-centric, as you can’t click a link on YouPorn or RedTube without reading something about pussies being wrecked, destroyed, abused, pounded and torn-up. It's a desensitizing recipe, one that insults women and erodes the kind of chemistry that underwrites physical intimacy.

    “Anybody with a vagina cannot but help wince at the term ‘finger blasting,’” Gallop said. “That makes me want to cross my legs immediately.”

    Additionally, mainstream porn gives the impression that condoms aren’t necessary or slip on like magic; in reality the STD testing procedures used in the porn industry are laborious, and directors simply edit to cope with condom mishaps. Gallop finds it rather baffling that some people consider porn “dirty” because to her, porn tends to sanitize sex. Think about it. Nobody uses lube. Everyone is waxed bald. And you never see period sex even though many women say that’s when it feels the best.

    "No big deal, blood everywhere," Gallop proclaimed, imagining a more realistic depiction. "Take the tampon out with your teeth—whatever turns you on.”

    Screengrab of Make Love Not Porn

    But it’s one thing to have real sex and another thing to watch people on a screen for entertainment, which is what porn is: entertainment. We don’t go to the movies to see home videos, so why would we watch porn to see Average Joes and Plain Janes having period sex? I asked Joanna Angel, Brooklyn-based founder of the alt punk porn site Burning Angels, how a model like Make Love Not Porn might shake things up.

    “I respect it as a business platform," Angel explained. "As a small business owner, I think that's awesome. Do I think it's going to change the world morally or politically? No.”

    Angel pointed out that real sex as porn isn’t as new of a concept as Gallop makes it seem with her flawlessly executed business pitch. She recalled one of her films, True Fucking Love, which features all "real" couples: “For our audience, I don't think it was as exciting as our other movies. We shot scenes where the guy couldn't do it. It's just not natural for a guy who's not in porn to show up somewhere and be like, one-two-three fuck.”

    Make Love Not Porn doesn’t exclude porn stars from participating, and actually garners quite a bit of support from the porn community—they just have to be real couples. In a preview for one MLNP video featuring pornstar couple Lily Labeau and Danny Wylde, they explain that they fuck each other very differently than they fuck people on screen in porn. Labeau said her nether regions often get "out of commission," so when she goes home to Danny, she asks that he kindly only put it in her ass.

    “It got to this point where I was almost like, I don’t know how to show real sex,” Labeau said. “I feel like, as performers in the adult industry especially, every time you bring out a camera it's not real anymore."

    “What's real and what's not real? Who cares at the end of the day?” Angel said. “Your goal isn't just to get yourself off, it's to get the world off. When you watch something and you think it's real, then it's succeeded in its goal." 

    Porn is entertainment, and despite rare success stories like Angel’s, the business side of it as flawed as the rest of the entertainment industry. With Make Love Not Porn, Gallop aims to capitalize on the failings of an industry that's been disrupted by the Internet, with a business model that splits profits in half with contributors—a template that Joanna Angel admits is appealing in its radical difference.

    To submit, aspiring MakeLoveNotPrn stars must pay a $5 nonrefundable “curation fee” that acts as quality control to screen out trolls, spammers and other crap. Once a video is approved by Madam Curator, Sarah Beall, each of the videos is put on the MLNP marketplace for $5 to “rent” for three weeks; half of that money goes right into the pockets of the contributors. This plan, she says, will have contributors marketing the site as they use social media channels to promote the sale of their videos.

    via Tomas Reyes

    Gallop wants people to create a sexual profile, the digital form of flagging, a lesbian tactic I learned about in San Francisco last summer that involves sporting a different color bandana in your pocket to let strangers know what kink you’re into. "We're taking everything that makes Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Zynga so addictive to people, and following it the one place they will not go," Gallop added.

    This is where the appeal ends for me as a user. Even if I did have a partner that I had ideal sex with, I probably wouldn’t want to share my naked body with any pervy old internet user for $5 a pop. Maybe this makes me a prude by Gallop's standards. I don't know. But I’d like to keep my most intimate advertising reserved for people I actually want inside me at any given time. I'll watch other people's Love Not Porn all day and night, don't get me wrong. But the only foreseeable case I could imagine in which I would actually contribute to the site would be if someone was threatening to defame me with naked pictures. In such a case, MLNP would be the perfect platform for demolishing a creep's leverage. A nuclear option, to be certain, but I'm glad to know I have a forum like this rather than no option.

    But judging from the amount of pornographic content on Twitter and Tumblr, which is rumored to be as much as one third porn, the population of people who want a platform to share their exploits is alive and well. Exhibitionists gotta exhibit, so they may as well get paid for it. And viewers, bombarded by what science has said is an unhealthy surfeit of pornographic images, might have something to gain from a site where the actors are real couples, their bodies aren't shaved or pounded, and the tempo is slow. Appreciation, not fetishization or obsession, is the site's operative logic.

    Back at the party at Gallop’s place, I sat on a Chinese Wedding Bed chatting with Sarah Beall, Madam Curator. Nearby, a Gallop staffer deep in a programming trance pounded a keyboard.

    “This whole idea of being good in bed is like being an acrobat or having a ten inch dick,” Beall said. “But being good in bed is really about paying attention to your partner and knowing what they like, and being comfortable in your own skin and being comfortable with them and their body.” 

    Sounds like hot sex to me, even the kind I'd click on.

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