Feb 2, 2021

How to Lead a Social Sex Revolution: Cindy Gallop on Sex, Funding, and Building Better Business Models

Carly Sheridan

It’s no secret to anyone that we as a society are repressed when it comes to sex. It is one of life’s true natural pleasures. It can be funny and silly and messy. It can be both powerful and empowering. Oh, and it also creates life and is quite literally what keeps the world going. But nipples get censored, accounts get taken down, and entire communities are prevented and blocked from using online platforms. Sextech — that is any technology designed to enhance or innovate human sexuality — represents one of the most direct paths towards the destigmatization of sex. It can also help us have better conversations around everything from anatomy, pleasure and masturbation to consent and boundaries, birth control and porn. We have to get more comfortable talking about sex and sexuality for this to happen, and that’s exactly what one woman has spent more than a decade crusading for.

“Right now, there is nobody out there going, ‘Bring me sextech,’” says Cindy Gallop, founder and CEO of MakeLoveNotPorn. “And I can tell you from 11 years of working on MakeLoveNotPorn that sex is the one area where you cannot tell from the outside, what anybody thinks on the inside. The people you think would get it, don't and the people you thought were total prudes, do.”

For any other industry, you can identify who may be interested in investing in your company based on the type of companies they’ve invested in before. For sextech founders like Gallop, the usual means of targeted research can work, but it’s much harder. If we’re still afraid to talk about sex openly, how do we convince more venture capitalists to open up their wallets for something as virtuous as the world having better, healthier and happier sex lives? Many see Gallop as the unofficial leader of sextech, and the lessons she’s learnt along the way have her incredibly well positioned to lead the social sex revolution.

MakeLoveNotPorn (MLNP) is a user-generated, human-curated social sex video platform that celebrates real world sex. They are pro-sex, pro-porn and pro-knowing the difference… and that last part is incredibly important. It is an innovative and disruptive business model with a potential global reach. Gallop designed it to be a mainstream venture, but it has yet to receive the funding and support to let them scale to that level. Had Gallop raised the funds 11 years ago to scale MLNP the way she wanted to, the internet would not only be a better place, but there wouldn’t be, as she says, “so many people around the world having horrifically bad sex.”

But MLNP is so much more than a good idea. It is a fundamentally different approach to how a social platform can be built. MLNP is designed around human curation and, as such, Gallop created a rarity: a social platform that features only positivity and love at a time when every other platform is fueled by the exact opposites. On MLNP, the videos are hand-selected and watched from start to finish to ensure that they are consensual. Consent applies to everyone involved. That means if someone is filming the video, their consent is required even if they never appear on video. Importantly, if the creators want the video taken down at any time, nothing more than a simple request needs to be made and it’s gone no questions asked.

And then there’s their business model. With their revenue-sharing model, half of what is earned from the video goes to the creators; or as they call them the MakeLoveNotPornstars.

The thoughtfulness that has gone into MLNP is what has helped it stand the test of time, even as the funding has been elusive. As the pandemic keeps people at home and in and out of lockdown, people are craving connection. Many have lost their jobs. MLNP provides not only a source of entertainment, but also a way to earn extra income, and, for some, represents their primary source of income. Even with no promotion, MLNP has seen exponential increases in traffic and their submissions rates have doubled. To Gallop, this makes all the sense in the world. “The world needs love, intimacy, and human connection more than ever before,” she continues. “We are what the world needs. I am recrafting our investor pitch to demonstrate that we are not just pandemic proof, we are pandemic accelerated.”

Gallop has spoken on stages all over the world since her TEDTalk (which you can watch below) in 2009 went viral, and she’s relied heavily on the connections she’s made to not only find the right investors, but to educate and raise awareness of the importance of sextech. Saying it loud and proud is one of her mottos, and it’s one of her first pieces of advice for other female founders in the space.

“You’ve got to tell the world what you're doing as much as possible, as frequently as possible, as loudly as possible,” she says. “We as women have never been allowed to bring our lens to bear on human sexuality, and the world is a poorer place for it. The world makes it fucking difficult to innovate social narratives around sex.”

She recounts the time she was booked to interview Larry Flint, the founder of Hustler, at an entertainment conference in LA. The two were running through some questions beforehand, and Gallop said to him, ‘You pioneered in an industry that no one is ever encouraged to pioneer in. What would you say to entrepreneurs today to encourage them to do the same thing?’

“He interrupted me and said, ‘I never thought of myself as a pioneer, because I just didn't think I was doing anything wrong’ and I bloody love that attitude,” says Gallop. “That’s what sextech founders need to adopt. I’ve seen fellow sextech founders water down their ventures, rebrand them with something innocuous and pivot because early investors went ‘Oh no, don’t do that’ and they’ve ended up with less good startups as a result.”

“When you concept and design a venture around existing societal bias and prejudice, all you do is reinforce it,” she continues. “At MakeLoveNotPorn we refuse to bow to societal bias and prejudice because we’re out to change it. We are an utterly unique venture with an utterly unique capability. We have the power to change people's sexual attitudes and behavior, and a large part of how we do that is because we completely normalize sexuality and the human sexual experience.”

Whether you’re looking to watch, create or support from the sidelines, the revolution is underway. And it’s about time.

Photo by ECOSY on Shutterstock

Carly Sheridan

Carly Sheridan is a writer and editor passionate about technology and the arts, and the intersection of the two in a digital world. Her experience over the last decade has ranged from working as a journalist in Canada and South America for lifestyle publications, to the Director of Content and Communications for a digital art blockchain company in Berlin, and as a consultant to several startups across Europe. A storyteller at heart, she is forever trying to finish her first novel.