“Bloody hell. Good god… It’s quite extraordinary, actually,” Cindy Gallop said mere minutes after walking into the Icelandic Phallological Museum. This was the first stop on Cindy’s itinerary in Iceland, which is perhaps not surprising given that she is the brains behind MakeLoveNotPorn, a unique tech venture designed around sex and social improvement. Cindy really loves sex. Not just for engaging in it herself, but an unconditional kind of love of the act itself. She deeply cares about sex.
Of course this museum is not really about sex. It’s just full of body parts—a bunch of disembodied phalli dangling in formaldehyde, looking odd and car-crash-fascinating, like a set of shrunken heads. “I have a few items I could donate to this museum,” she proudly exclaimed as she walked around.
Cindy was in town over the first weekend of June for the Startup Iceland conference, delivering a speech at their Sunday night dinner about MakeLoveNotPorn, as well as her other venture IfWeRanTheWorld, which aims to tap the pool of human good intentions that never translate into action. The former one took considerable precedence, as it has been a viral hit since she launched it in a graphic TED Talk two years ago.
“I’m particularly pleased to have this opportunity to speak in Iceland because it wants to ban violent porn,” Cindy said. “I have a very particular point of view on what all of us should be doing to change the things that concern people about porn, and it’s not banning it. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s opening everything up. I think it’s safe to say that Iceland will not have heard my perspective before, because it’s quite a rare one.”
The site that accompanies the venture, MakeLoveNotPorn.com, is definitely one of a kind. Cindy presents myths from the porn world side-by-side with the reality of human sexuality, a porn world/real world construct. There you’ll encounter such wisdom as:
Porn world: Saliva, all over everything, as much as possible.
Real world: Some women like having their pussies spat on, some don’t. Some men like having loads of saliva all over their cocks during blowjobs, some don’t. Some women like salivating all over cocks during blowjobs, some don’t. How much saliva features in sex is up to you. If you’re not wild about it, say so. If you are, spit away.
But Cindy is quite the opposite of a pontificating finger-wagger, emphasising that MakeLoveNotPorn is not anti-porn. “The issue I’m tackling isn’t porn, it’s the complete absence in our society of an open, honest, healthy, and authentic conversation around sex in the real world,” she said, spelling out her site’s tagline, ‘Pro-sex, pro-porn, pro knowing the difference’. “If we had that, amongst many other benefits, it would mean that people would bring a real world mindset to the viewing of sexual entertainment.”
Cindy continued: “Because of our attitude as a society towards sex, we’re all ashamed and embarrassed around it. We all do it, we never talk about it and we’re all screwed up about it. My main point boils down to—talk about it.”
One of her goals at Startup Iceland was to encourage entrepreneurs to try to change the world through sex. “At a time when we welcome innovation and disruption in every other sector going, not enough people are designing tech ventures that could help us all have better sex,” she said.
Cindy has particularly strong opinions on how difficult the tech world, the business world and the financial sector have made it for her to get MakeLoveNotPorn funded and driven. Since launching the site on no money, she has spent the past two years pitching her heart out to venture capital investors and coming up with bupkis. Finally, 18 months ago she found one private investor who put up a small amount of seed funding, and the investor remains anonymous. It still took her two months to access that money, since no financial institution would allow her to open a bank account with the word “porn” in the name, nor would any mainstream payment system, like PayPal or Amazon, allow her to set up shop.
“Many people said to me, ‘Cindy, why not just change the name of your company? Call it something different, take the word porn out of it and make it an innocuous holding company. It’ll make your life so much easier!’” Cindy said with an exasperated edge. “I refuse to do that. I refuse to bow to and reinforce existing societal prejudices and biases. I want to change them.”
She cites that she has many friends who are feminist pornographers that are trying to change the template of hardcore violent porn and create a new dynamic. They too run into the same problems she has had with MakeLoveNotPorn in terms of access to funding, mentoring and putting payment systems in place. She is already envisioning a new tech venture—a long way off, of course—which is to start “an incubator-accelerator for radically innovative tech startups operating in the field of sex and porn.”
“We pride ourselves in the tech world on freedom of the internet and open access to everything for every venture,” Cindy said. “Tech world, I call bullshit. Until they change their mindset about tech ventures that are designed to change the world through sex, all they’re doing is perpetuating the same old world order closed-mindedness that they pride themselves, in theory, on exploding.”
After seeing all the penises we could handle, we moseyed up to the Bubbletea Pancake Café where Cindy ordered some decadently sweet caramel-banana pancakes and a strawberry bubbletea. Surrounded by mothers with their 7-year olds, she went on passionately about her coital mission.
“I really want to exhort Iceland to think differently about this whole area and I would like to really move people’s mindsets,” she said. “There is a very unique opportunity for tech ventures in Iceland: they can be the tech community that is open-minded about all of this and seize the potential of tech ventures that can help all of humankind.”
“Iceland needs to understand that you cannot ban or block porn,” she continued, circling back to her solution of opening things up as far as porn in general is concerned. “It’s a little like the criminalisation of the drug trade. If you force something underground you make it more attractive, as anything forbidden is, and you enable very bad things to happen. When you take the shame and embarrassment out of sex, you have a very profound impact on many areas of existence.”
But as her orgasmic pancakes arrived at the table, her bleeding heart coagulated and her business-sense took over. “By the way, here’s a message to Icelandic investors and financial institutions: oh my god the money you can make when you make sex socially acceptable. Sex is the single biggest market you will ever have.”
Dreaming Up The Breast Museum
Cindy wasn’t just interested in the penis museum because of her fervour for sexuality—it turns out she’s really into weird and unusual museums, like the Museum of Broken Relationships in Croatia. She only found out about the Icelandic Phallological Museum on her way over to the country and it came as a delight, but with one little criticism.
“I do feel it should be balanced by a museum entirely dedicated to the vagina, so I’d like to lob this suggestion strongly at Iceland,” she said insistently. “I saw in one of the rooms that something was donated to this museum from a vagina museum in Rotterdam, but nonetheless, Iceland needs a vagina museum!”
After telling her about last year’s April Fools’ joke by the town of Mosfellsbær calling for a vulva museum, I suggested the idea of an all-gender encompassing breast museum. Cindy approved.
“What would be interesting about a breast museum, and what’s also interesting here and would presumably be in a vagina museum, are depictions through history,” she hypothesised. “In a museum like this, you realise that this is a perfectly natural part of us. So it’s great to have artefacts, carvings, things you can use in daily life. With breasts, I would be interested to find out when women had to start covering them up.”
She noted that there is a woman in New York City who deliberately walks around topless in the summer to make a statement about men being able to go around shirtless but not women, even though breast tissue is all essentially the same. Cindy’s also a pretty big fan of whipping her own out, but not on the streets of NYC.
“I spoke at the Cannes Advertising Festival last summer and one of the things I adore about the South of France is topless sunbathing,” she said. “The minute I arrived, I dumped my stuff at the hotel, raced down the beach, ripped my top off and then I looked around. I was the only one on the beach topless! I was gobsmacked. Later I tweeted, “France, what is going on?” and someone sent me an article which said that younger French women no longer want to sunbathe topless because they have body issues. So when I gave my talk at Cannes called ‘Porn, Youth & Brands,’ I said that the biggest socio-cultural influence on young people today that we don’t talk about comes from porn, media, and us—the advertising industry. And that’s appalling. It’s France!”
Cindy Gallop is a former advertising CEO and a tech entrepreneur behind the ventures MakeLoveNotPorn (.com and .tv) and IfWeRanTheWorld.com.
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