Make Revolution Not Porn

Stella Fosse

Stella Fosse

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Make Revolution Not Porn

I don’t watch porn.

Not even the home-grown, fully consensual, amateur porn on Cindy Gallop’s website, MakeLoveNotPorn (MLNP). So I might seem an unlikely fan of Ms. Gallop, the almost-60-year-old former advertising executive whose main claim to fame is starting MLNP. And after being at the receiving end of various campaigns against fat people, white women, and Boomers, I am also uncomfortable with labeling and writing off everyone in a group of people. So I’m not thrilled with Gallop’s tendency to lump white men together as entitled and predatory incompetents (not that we need to look too far for specific examples). Gallop is a visionary who started MLNP to launch a revolution in values about sexuality, power and diversity that she believes is essential. And we need warriors like Cindy Gallop in our cadre of change makers.

Gallop never wanted to marry, never wanted children, and she started dating younger men when she was in her forties. The main thing she sought in partners was neither looks nor charm. Instead, her priority has been to date nice people. And what she found, increasingly, was that the basically nice people who asked her out were inculcated with some not-very-nice expectations by the porn that is now so accessible on the internet. Cindy Gallop began to suspect that porn had become the de facto source of sex education in the United States. From her vantage point as a cougar, Gallop could see that something must be done.

I like to blow shit up,” Gallop says endearingly, in her TED talks and in interviews. She follows through by telling women, olders, LGBTQ folk, people of color, and people with disabilities to start our own industries – not just companies, but industries. Why? She believes the entrenched power structure in the corporate, tech, and advertising worlds is not motivated to share power. In Gallop’s experience, much of the talk about diversity that takes place in the halls of power is just so much lip service.

Gallop believes that lack of diversity has an impact on internet safety. She reasons that when decision makers are not themselves the object of harassment, ensuring social media safety lacks an urgency driven by personal experience. So she makes sure that on MLNP, every video is curated before it is posted to ensure that it is fully consensual. A real employee examines two forms of picture identification for everyone in the video, and checks in with participants. Instead of staged demonstrations of sex, MLNP shows how people conduct themselves in respectful, caring sexual relationships.

This already sounds like a revolution. But the intrepid Ms. Gallop does not stop there. She continues to speak out about the industry she knows so well, advertising: its ageism (she says people are phased out beginning in their thirties!), its sexism and systemic racism. The problem, she says, is not preferential treatment of women and people of color. The problem she sees is preferential treatment of white men. In that talk she gave to an advertising conference, she gave specific examples where competent women and people of color were passed over in favor of white males she believes are less competent and less motivated.

What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it,” said Maya Angelou. And there is a lot about the status quo that Cindy Gallop does not like. While she advises people who are not able bodied white men to start their own industries, she also points out to white men that they would be richer if they operated a meritocracy. She dares those in power to embrace the win/win.

While her success has been impressive, Gallop is not content to rest on her laurels. Looking ahead, she wants to start an academy to distribute the research literature from sex educators all over the world. She also plans a platform for self-publishing erotica (which would be great news for writers over fifty). 

So I am intrigued by this woman even though her main product is not for me. Even though I would like us each to be judged by our individual behavior and not by the groups into which we were born. And I’m a fan even though marginalizing a group you are seeking to change is, in my opinion, likely to take longer and require more effort than including them in change. I’m a fan because she has the drive to blow existing things up and make good things happen. Cindy Gallop is a woman who goes far beyond seeing what is wrong and complaining. Instead, she sees what could be and creates it.  We need warriors, and need to support them even if they don’t meet our personal criteria for perfection. Imperfect change in the right direction is better than perfection in thought with stasis.

I suspect that when Cindy Gallop began MLNP, she heard from lots of people why she – an older woman – could not possibly take on the porn industry. But she ignored their expectations and made stuff happen, and she is still at it. Gallop models the courage, drive and creativity that all of us older women need to craft meaningful lives and to help this broken world.

And who knows? Maybe one of these days I’ll get past my own resistance and watch some value-driven porn.

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