Business is Boring is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and a transcribed excerpt.
Today’s guest has been mentioned at least three times on the podcast for her leadership on some of the biggest topics facing business and society today. Cindy Gallop has become a by-word for changing the ratio in advertising, business and culture, getting diverse perspectives and experiences in terms of gender, ethnicity, background and moving past the stale pale and male.
As the leader of BBH New York, Gallop helped build one of the world’s great ad agencies, and since leaving has been a pioneer in sex tech and the global conversation about the effect pornography has been having on young folk. You might have seen her amazing Ted talk, you would have seen her quotes on Twitter. Cindy is the person that the people I look up to look up to.
Let’s look at that start-up and its journey because that’s a fascinating thing where it’s a business force, but also a cultural force that you’re bringing together, and many people would have seen that amazing TED talk that you did about the role of pornography in the shaping of the way that people were treating sex and your experience and that great talk went onto form, first the website Make Love Not Porn which was an awareness piece wasn’t it and then into the business about sharing real world sex.
Tell us a little bit about that journey.
Sure, so that journey was a complete accident, again. I never set out to do any of everything I now bizarrely find myself doing. Make Love Not Porn came about through direct personal experience. I date younger men and about ten or eleven years ago now I began realising through dating younger men that I was encountering what happened when today’s total freedom of access to hardcore porn online meets our society’s awfully total reluctance to talk openly and honestly about sex. The convergence of both of those factors results in porn-by-default sex education in not a good way.
So I decided something about this, back in 2009, I launched, with a talk at TED, a very little no-money website Make Love Not Porn.com. It posted the myths of hardcore porn and balanced them with reality – the construct of porn-world versus real world. I became the only TED speaker to have said the words ‘cum on my face’ on the TED stage six times. The talk went viral as a result and it drove an extraordinary global response to my tiny clunky website that I had never anticipated. I realised I’d uncovered a huge global social issue and I felt a personal responsibility to take this initiative forward that would make it much more far-reaching, helpful and effective. I saw an opportunity also to do what I believe in very strongly, which is that future business is doing good and making money simultaneously. I saw the opportunity for a big business solution to this massive untapped global social need. Make Love Not Porn is not anti-porn because the issue isn’t porn, the issue is that we don’t talk about sex in the real world. If we did amongst many other benefits, people would be able to bring a real-world mindset to the viewing of what is simply artificial entertainment.
Our tagline at MLNP is ‘pro sex, pro porn, pro knowing the difference’ and our mission is one thing only, which is to help make it easier for the world to talk about sex. Talk about sex open and honestly in the public domain, and by that I mean parents to children, teachers to schools, everyone to everyone. And equally importantly, talk about sex openly and honestly, privately in our intimate relationships. So I decided to take every dynamic and social media and apply them to this one area that no other social network will go, in order to socialise sex, and to make real world sex and talking about it socially acceptable and ultimately just as socially shareable as anything else we share on Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter/Instagram.
Four and a half years ago now, my team and I launched in public beta Make Love Not Porn.tv which is an entirely user-generated crowd-sourced video-sharing platform that celebrates real world sex. Anyone from anywhere in the world can submit to us videos of themselves having real world sex and we’re now very clear what we mean by this. We’re not porn, we’re not amateur. We’re building a whole new category on the internet that has never previously existed: social sex. Our competition isn’t porn, it’s Facebook and YouTube, or rather it would be if Facebook or YouTube allowed sexual self-expression or identification, which they don’t. So social sex videos on MLNP are not about performing for the camera, it’s just about doing what you do on every other social platform. Capturing what goes on in the real world as it happens spontaneously in all its funny, messy, glorious, silly, beautiful, ridiculous, awkward, embarrassing humanness. wWe curate to make sure of that, watch every single video, we don’t publish it unless it’s real. And we have a revenue sharing business model so we’re part of the sharing economy like Uber or AirBNB. You pay to rent and stream social sex videos and half of that revenue goes to our contributors, or as we call them our Make Love Not Pornstars, because we would like to make Make Love Not Pornstars as famous as YouTube stars for the same reasons – authenticity, realness, individuality – and to make just as much money.
We want to hit the kind of critical mass where one day your social sex video hits a million rentals at five dollars a rental, and we give you half that income.
I want to say that the important thing in all of this is that it’s designed simply to make it easier to be open, communicative and healthy about sex in a way that we currently aren’t. We call ourself at Make Love Not Porn ‘the social sex revolution’ – the revolutionary part is not the sex, it’s the social.
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