Cindy Gallop is a prominent, provocative leader in the advertising industry in addition to being the visionary behind sextech startup MakeLoveNotPorn. Allison Huang, our Design intern, and I talked to Cindy. In Part 1 of our conversation, she talks about why innovations in sextech are so important, why women have so much to offer this industry, and how technology can be used to bring people closer together. This portion includes Cindy’s vision for how diversity and inclusion can be used to design spaces for open conversation around human sexuality and technology, and how that conversation can lead to personal and relational transformation.
IN: You gave one overriding principle that would steer sextech towards something that supports human interaction: gender equality. Are there any other supporting design principles or criteria that you think sextech requires in order to support that humanity?
CG: No, it literally is that simple. Diversity drives innovation. True innovation, true disruption is the result of many different mindsets, perspectives, insights, backgrounds, experiences, worldviews all coming together in constructive, creative conflict to get to a better place none of us could have gotten to on our own.
Everything else becomes possible when you have diversity. I mean not only gender diversity; I also mean diversity of race, ethnicity, sexuality, age. When you have many, many different perspectives coming together, you get to extraordinary things together. And really, all other issues fall away, because then you have the full spectrum of humanity inputting into things that will create better lives for the full spectrum of humanity.
IN: Well, that is a great call to action. Do you have any other words for us?
CG: Thank you. I’m thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to talk about this at UX Week. I’m really looking forward to having the audience bring to my talk all of their own experiences with sex and their sexuality. This is about all of us learning together and inputting together to design a better future for all of us in the one area of universal human experience, the one universal human use case that is still a no-go area for so much of society, business, and tech.
One of the things that I campaign for is a more open, honest, authentic approach to sex in every area of popular culture. My industry, advertising, is missing out on huge opportunities when they refuse to add this area to the consumer insight and human psychology that is the foundation of all the work that we do.
At the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, I said that because we don’t talk about sex, we don’t understand how much it could be informing every single area of product, brand, marketing. So I gave examples: people have sex in cars. An awful lot of people have an awful lot of sex in cars—particularly in countries and societies and culture where young people live at home for a very long time, where sex outside marriage is frowned upon. The car is the haven, the refuge for people who are unable to have sex indoors. Automotive manufacturers are spectacularly failing to design for this, and they’re also spectacularly failing to incorporate it into the marketing of cars.
At an even more fundamental level, people have sex in bed. All over the world, everywhere, people have sex in bed—yet mattress manufacturers only ever spend money on R&D and talk about technology and design that is all about giving you a good night’s sleep on their mattress. Nobody is focusing their mattress R&D and their design and technology on coming up with the mattress of the future that is the most fantastic mattress to have sex on. People have sex on kitchen counters. The kitchen industry is failing to leverage that fact.
This impacts everything and therefore provides opportunity for everything in a way that our entire society and business world is failing to see. And I’m really trying to open up everybody’s mind to that.
The irony is that everybody is dying to talk about sex. Our biggest obstacle of building MakeLoveNotPorn and then specifically raising funding is a social dynamic that I call fear of what other people think. It’s never about what the person I’m talking to thinks. When you understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, no one can argue with it, the business case is clear. It is always their fear of what they think other people will think, which operates around sex more than any other area. And I always want to say that everyone else is thinking just the same.
People are dying to talk about sex. This is the appeal of MakeLoveNotPorn. It has everything to do with the fact that everybody wants to know what everybody else is really doing in bed, and nobody does. And now, at MakeLoveNotPorn, for the first time, we’re showing them—real world sex shared socially.
IN: It amazes me that so many people are willing to record and publicly share themselves having real sex. I’m aware of the policies you have for MLNP that make it safer and more comfortable for people to share their videos with the site—you’ve made it as safe as you can for people to share their videos online, but it still seems terrifying and unimaginable to me.
CG: We spent years concepting and designing MakeLoveNotPorn.tv because we knew that if we were going to invite people to do something they’ve never done before, socially share their real world sex, we had to think through every possible ramification of that in order to design a completely safe and trustworthy space. We operate unlike anybody else in the adult sphere, and in fact, in terms of the measures we put in place, we operate unlike anybody else on the Internet.
Before we launched, we obviously had to seed the platform with content before we could put it out there. I and my community manager and curator Sarah spent a year asking our entire network—and complete strangers—if they’d be willing to film themselves having real world sex for us.
Every time I would have a conversation about MakeLoveNotPorn, I would always end it by asking the person I was talking to, “So, would you be interested in contributing content?” I would always ask this question regardless of whether I personally thought the person I was talking to would or wouldn’t. I have to tell you that 99.9 percent of the time the answer was yes, to the extent that I literally had to force my facial features to stay immobile, because I would go, “What?”
We discovered the desire to do this lies a lot closer to the surface in many more people than you would’ve ever thought, and given the reason, given our social mission and our social values, people jump at the chance. Here’s the thing that was really revelatory to us: we’re a social experiment. We’re putting this platform out there. We have no idea what’s gonna come back. We don’t dictate what real world sex is. You are the world, show us.
We’re learning all the time. The thing that we were riveted to learn is that sharing your real world sex on MakeLoveNotPorn is as transformative for you and your relationships as socially sharing other things are, for humanity at large. We’re all-inclusive and we have lots of solo MakeLoveNotPorn stars—male and female masturbation videos. Very few MakeLoveNotPorn stars have ever even filmed themselves having sex before. They’re doing it for us because we gave them permission.
The men and women who film themselves masturbating have never done this before, and they tell us doing that made them love themselves more. It enhanced their sexual self-esteem, their sexual sense of self. The couples who film themselves having sex tell us it was transformative for their relationship. Because when you decide to film yourself having sex, you have to talk about it. And when you talk about it, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together, the conversation can go places it’s never gone before in your relationship. People write to us and say, “Doing this took our relationship to a whole new level.” We started a section on our blog where our MakeLoveNotPorn stars guest post about their individual experiences of why they did this and what it’s done for them and their relationships subsequently. It’s absolutely fascinating.
IN: That is fascinating. Thank you very much for speaking with us. It was a real pleasure.
Cindy will be giving a keynote at UX Week 2016 (August 9-12) entitled “Redesigning The Future Of Sex Through Sextech” in San Francisco. Register here to hear the talk. If you missed it, read the first part of our conversation with her here.