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With MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, the Irrepressible Cindy Gallop Aims to Give Porn a Reality Check

Everyone wants to know what everyone else is doing behind closed doors, and Ms. Gallop aims to please.

It took her two years to get funding. She finally raised $500,000 from an angel investor who’d prefer not to be named, and then she couldn’t get the cash for another two months, she said, because she couldn’t open a business banking account for a company with the word “porn” in the official name. Pivotal Labs, a San Francisco-based software design firm she’d worked with previously, turned down her request to build it. She’s had to resort to working with European credit card processors, to avoid the higher fees charged by American companies that work with adult businesses. Because PayPal won’t handle adult content, she’s working with online-payments upstart Dwolla to compensate contributors.

Ethan Imboden, the founder of luxe sex-toy maker JimmyJane, sympathizes. Venture capital firms often have limited partners like the California Pension System, which can’t exactly flounce around investing in sex-tech startups. And despite the “real-world” packaging, the site “will absolutely be categorized as pornography,” because, for the world at large, “that is the simplest way to describe what she’s doing.”

“That’s a real hurdle,” he added, “because of one, the morality clauses banks and even VCs often have, and two, the general stigma, which is the result of such a long history of being seedy and often tied to unsavory characters.”

And getting the site up and running isn’t the end of the challenges Ms. Gallop and her team face. They’ve still got to add many of the social elements, like the system of badges for “exploring” and such. They haven’t even begun to build search functionality for the site.

 With MakeLoveNotPorn.tv, the Irrepressible Cindy Gallop Aims to Give Porn a Reality Check

A sampling of MakeLoveNotPorn.tv’s wares.

The economics of porn aren’t what they used to be. The so-called “Tube Sites”—YouPorn, XTube and their ilk—have placed free pornography within a few mouse-clicks of anyone who wants it.  PornHub gets 15 million unique visitors per day; YouPorn gets 12 million. Both are owned by the blandly named Manwin Entertainment and used to funnel eyeballs toward an extensive network of paid sites.

In short, it’s far from given that anyone will cough up the $5 in cash to rent any kind of video, much less those that lack the production values of the standard San Fernando Valley skin flick.

The needs of discriminating adult content consumer aren’t going entirely unmet. Director and performer Madison Young pointed out that there are already people and production houses pushing back against the standard formula. For example, Tristan Taormino is doing sex ed videos for Vivid, the most mainstream porn company imaginable.

“Fast food pornography is now available online for free, and people don’t want to pay for it,” Ms. Young said, “but people are actually still buying sex-positive porn and feminist porn.”

Ultimately, the key to Ms. Gallop’s success will likely be publicity and momentum, Mr. Imboden said. “If she can get Bethenny Frankel talking about the importance of fantasy, of storytelling around sexuality, of exploration, and she goes to Cindy Gallop’s new site, it will really change the conversation.”

Offering up the example of Fifty Shades of Grey, like Deep Throat and Emmanuelle before it, he added, “It’s become a cultural meme, and I think that for her, there needs to be that same sort of crossover moment.”

Ms. Gallop is confident in her ability to plead her case. “I make a very good front person,” she said. “I’m a very articulate spokesperson, and I have no problem talking about any aspect of this whatsoever.”

Her co-founder, Oonie Chase, put it a little differently: “She has a reality-distortion field around her, like Steve Jobs is said to have had. You enter that field, and absolutely anything is possible. It doesn’t matter if you have no business doing it, it doesn’t matter if you have like no experience doing it—absolutely anything is possible.”

As she escorted the Observer to the door, Ms. Gallop confided that, whatever the fate of Make Love Not Porn, she is already plotting her next venture: an incubator/accelerator for “radically innovative sex-tech startups.” That’s right, she told us with a certain sparkle in her eye—she’d like to found the Y Combinator of porn. And, she promises, a tiny investment would generate returns “beyond Paul Graham’s wildest dreams.”

Now that’s a fantasy even a venture capitalist could get off on.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com

Comments

  1. Reblogged this on My Life as a Psy-Eroticologist and commented:
    “Real world sex is more creative, more innovative, more surprising, more amazing, more arousing and more hot than porn will ever be.” – Cindy Gallop.

  2. Katy says:

    Wow, awesome idea. I have thought about this but it’s totally true. I think I’m gonna join this initiative with my boyfriend. Sounds funny :)