Laurie Toby Edison

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Make Love Not Porn, Cindy Gallop’s Voyage of Discovery

Lynne Murray says:

I found Make Love Not Porn: Technology’s Hardcore Impact on Human Behavior as a TED Book and was captivated by Cindy Gallop and her story. As an advertising executive, she signed up with an online dating service as part of her research for a client.

cindy gallop on the Ted talk stage

The rest of my team were all married, living with partners, or dating, and so they created fake personas online in order to conduct this research. I was the only one who was single. Since I needed to do this for my job anyway, I thought, why not do it for real and see what this whole online dating thing was all about?

When I registered my profile online, I was completely honest about everything, including my age. To my surprise I received an avalanche of responses … 75% of those responses were from younger men. The majority were much younger than me (I was 42 at the time – I’m 51 now). For them, I was a fantasy come true: an attractive older woman willing to have a no-strings-attached relationship….

So I proceeded to date younger men … and had an absolute whale of a time …

I gradually began to notice, however, that having sex with younger men often involved a number of interesting dynamics (and, if you like, sexual memes) that felt increasingly recognizable. Those modes, those facial expressions, that particular modus operandi seemed familiar. And had not heard those accompanying verbal expression somewhere before? Eventually, it struck me that what I was encountering, very directly and personally, were the real ramifications of the creeping ubiquity of hard-core pornography in our culture.

Gallop quotes research data showing that the average age at which a child now first views porn online is 11, that the fourth most popular search term by 7-year-olds and under is “porn” and that more than 80% of children between the ages of 14 and 16 regularly access hard-core pornographic footage on home computers or mobile phones.

Gallop suggests that “today, there is an entire generation of boys and girls growing up believing that what you see in hard-core porn is the way that you have sex.”

Gallop concludes that because of parental embarrassment around sex education,

[H]ard-core porn has become, by default, the sex education of today.

That’s not a good thing.

So when I realized the nature and recalls of what I myself was encountering, I decided to do something about it.

She decided to make a fun and funny educational website contrasting “Porn world vs. Real World.”

She uses ten stories from her own experience of “what can happen when technology enables unparalleled level of access to porn, which then informs and drives real-world human sexual behavior.”

Her first example contrasts how in porn actors must “open up” for the camera, which provides visibility, but minimizes skin-on-skin contact when you try it in real life. She realized that her young sex partners were performing joined only at the genitals as they had seen in porn films:

I found myself having to do a certain amount of, quote, “Hey, come here, Mister” — literally pulling my partner into an embrace to get as fully tactile as I’d like.

Her graphic examples of how porn differs from real life will be familiar to anyone who has experienced enjoyable sex and then cringed at such popular porn favorites as the inevitable semen facial bath, instant female orgasm with no foreplay, and women begging to be “deep throat” gagged by giant penises.

Gallop had not intended to launch her website at the Ted conference, but there was a call for short talks, and her proposal was welcomed once she reassured the conference organizers that, “it would employ words and graphics only, as opposed to anything that was triple X rated.”

The reaction to her TED talk was dramatic:

I think it’s safe to say that 30 seconds after I began, you could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium. One Twitterer reported that this was “probably the first time the words ‘come on my face’ have been heard six times in succession on the Ted stage.” But the ripples of laughter in (mostly) the right places told me, the audience was on my side.

The traffic to her website was so dramatic that it nearly crashed when it first went live, and continues to resonate with both women and men. Gallop says her inbox for MakeLoveNotPorn is pretty much gender equal. She provides samples of correspondence that often poignantly illustrate the confusion and lack of information about actual sexuality that trails in the wake of the porn industry.

Gallop makes a point to say that her site is not skewed intentionally toward “heteronormativity,” but simply because she hasn’t had the time or money to expand it.

Addressing this issue she says:

I do want the next iteration of MakeLoveNotPorn to encompass the gay/lesbian/queer experience of all of this and in canvassing all those who talk to me about this further suggested quote porn world versus real world” scenarios to incorporate going forward.

Visitors to the site can participate in forums.The area where participants can view and/or share short personal videos of real world sex is in beta test.

I love Gallop’s unfazed attitude and unflappable determination to shed light on how and why so many people can be starving for pleasure in a banquet of titillation and performance-oriented raw footage. MakeLoveNotPorn is not anti-porn but it is pro-humanizing porn. Gallop may be making some progress towards reconnecting people with what genuine sexuality looks like–and feels like.

2 Responses to “Make Love Not Porn, Cindy Gallop’s Voyage of Discovery”

  1. Nancy Lebovitz Says:

    Clarisse Thorn on the temptation to perform the pornography she’s seen:

    http://clarissethorn.com/2011/05/27/im-not-your-sex-crazy-nympho-dreamgirl/

  2. Debbie Says:

    I missed this one, even though I am a major Clarisse Thorn fan. I especially like her point that people saturated with images have a hard time figuring out what’s going on in their own bodies. Thank you!

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