Can Cindy Gallop's Crowdsourced Porn Take Down Mainstream Pornography?

What Women Really Think
Aug. 27 2012 1:37 PM

Can Cindy Gallop's Crowdsourced Porn Take Down Mainstream Pornography?

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Cindy Gallop wants to remake online sex.

Photo by Johannes Simon/Getty Images

Two and a half minutes after I sit down with Cindy Gallop, the fiftysomething tech and advertising entrepreneur informs me that she regularly has sex with twentysomething men. She maintains a “stable” of them, she tells me—a collection of only the most attractive, sweetest young men on the market. But about a half-decade ago, she began “encountering certain sexual-behavioral memes” among her choice demographic: the presumption that female genitalia be hairless; a fixation on anal sex; an enthusiasm for ejaculating on a woman’s face. “I thought, Whoa. I know where that behavior is coming from.”

Amanda Hess Amanda Hess

Amanda Hess is a Slate staff writer. 

That would be hardcore pornography, a cultural product that’s been freely downloadable into my generation’s computers since we first learned to disable the family filter—and has now crept into Gallop’s bedroom, too. In a widely-circulated 2009 TED talk, Gallop told the crowd that she must routinely correct her young partners: “Actually, no, thank you very much, I would much rather you did not come on my face.” And she fears for a meeker young woman caught in the same porny feedback loop, wherein “her boyfriend wants to come on her face, she does not want him to come on her face, but hardcore porn has taught her that all men love coming on women’s faces, all women love having their faces come on, and therefore she must let him come on her face, and she must pretend to like it.” If you are not personally familiar with this dynamic, you may at least have seen it on Girls?

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Gallop’s point isn’t that certain sex acts are inherently bad—just that talking about them makes everyone’s sex life better. To facilitate the conversation, in 2009 she created a real-talk sex-ed website called “Make Love Not Porn” to dispel some of the common “myths” perpetuated by porn’s monolithic presentation of human sexuality. (On facial ejaculate: “Some women like this, some women don’t. Some guys like to do this, some guys don’t. Entirely up to personal choice.”)

Later, Gallop realized she could do more than just annotate the porn’s industry’s product—she could compete with it. This month, she launched a beta version of a crowdsourced online platform wherein amateurs and porn stars alike are invited to tape themselves engaging in “real world sex.” If Make Love Not Porn’s curators like what they see, the video is offered for sale on the site for $5 a pop. When viewers take a peek, profits are shared 50/50 between the site and the sex partners.

Gallop isn't the first to attempt to pin a business model on crowdsourced porn. But Gallop faults other "amateur" sites for expecting participants to model their sex after the pros—she cites submission guidelines that ask amateurs to focus on specific camera angles, engage in specific sexual dynamics, and even play up the idea that it's the girl's "first time" (even if she's a vet). 

Of course, putting sex on film will necessarily affect the proceedings, but Gallop encourages participants to film sex as close as possible to how they actually have it when the camera's off. That means not staging untenable, nonpleasurable positions just to angle genitals toward the lens. No editing out the messy bits, like the application of a condom or lube. And no expectation that the sexual encounter end in accordance with the typical porn conventions—a faux-orgasmic scream from her, an external ejaculation from him.  

Gallop’s initiative isn’t just about disrupting the hegemony of the semen facial—it’s about making “real world sex socially acceptable and socially sharable in a way no one has ever achieved.” This is pornography that is created entirely by the people participating in it, not an outside team of writers, directors, and producers (even if it's later picked over by a team of curators). Not only that, but the site favors porn that is made by and for women. Gallop is actively looking to appeal to women, but to do so she’ll need to overcome a serious gender barrier. Young men have long built a social order around the sharing of sexual material—think of the neighbor kid who farmed out his dad’s stash of VHS tapes to his friends—but it’s still less acceptable for women to talk openly about viewing porn, and even porn sites that encourage a commenter community are mostly filled with men. Then there's the ultimate male porn sharer: the guy who spreads private sex tapes to thousands of strangers through his “revenge” porn site. He’s not a libertine—he’s a misogynist.

Most people—men and women—are not served by this porn race to the bottom. Privately, Gallop says, she’s heard from many men who are frustrated by the porn that's most accessible to them. But if Gallop hopes to really change the porn landscape, she’ll need to convince men to surrender the sexual currency they hold over women in the internet porn marketplace, and pay real money for Gallop's more equitable experience—and that means solving a problem that goes far beyond the money shot.