Not talking about sex means many of us turn to an equally clandestine source – porn. But when our limited knowledge of sex comes from a scripted act – it doesn’t leave much room for individual fulfilment. Advertising mastermind Cindy Gallop is here to change that.
On the day, she is dressed in a denim catsuit, studded leather boots and is wearing two silver necklaces: one bearing #cindygallop, the other a Facebook thumbs up. Call it shameless self promotion and you’d be quite right – she is the founder of Make Love Not Porn, the initiative making real world sex a more comfortable topic – and act – by dispelling myths and shame. Her tools are openness and honesty: As a 57-year-old who dates men in their 20s, she went viral in 2009 when she became “the only TED speaker to have said, ‘come on my face’ on stage, six times.” She also credits herself for the fact that her father now talks about porn.
Cindy, tell us why it is so important to have the social sex revolution and get more comfortable talking about sex?
Because we don’t talk about sex, it’s an area of rampant insecurity for every single one of us all around the world, no exceptions. People therefore find it bizarrely difficult to talk about sex with the people they’re actually having it with – while they’re actually having it – because you’re terrified in that situation that if you say anything at all about what is going on, you will potentially hurt the other person’s feelings and you will put them off you. But at the same time, you want to please your partner. Everyone wants to be good in bed, but nobody knows exactly what that means and so you will seize your cues on how to do that from anywhere you can. So if the only cues you’ve ever seen are in porn because your parents have not talked to about sex, your school teachers, your friends aren’t honest, those are the cues you are going to take to not very good effect. Overly porn influenced sexual behaviour is usually driven by the best of motives and not the worst.
How do you suggest we talk about sex more openly?
Firstly, talk about sex more in bed with your partner, then start talking about sex more in general. When people post on Facebook about their birthday party or else they’re on some gorgeous tropical vacation everyone leaves comments saying, ‘Have a great birthday,’ or ‘Hope you’re having a great time’. I will deliberately leave a comment saying, ‘Hope you have great birthday sex,’ or, ‘Hope you had great sex on the beach’, because you know perfectly well that they did. By deliberately commenting on Facebook with that I am normalising it as a natural part of life. So when I say to people, talk about sex every day, I don’t mean literally talk about sex I mean, when you’re talking to your friends, when you’re talking to whoever, where you’d naturally mention something about sex – do it.
“Everyone wants to be good in bed, but nobody knows exactly what that means.”
"Because we don’t talk about sex we’ve defaulted it to a thing we do. It’s not. Sex is personality. Who we are sexually is a fundamental part of our humanity."
What’s the most comforting thing about a good sexual encounter?
Great sex is all about great communication… Literally just start talking, otherwise so much miscommunication happens. When you do, you will be amazed at how comforting and amazing it is. Also, people need outside prompts and that’s what Make Love Not Porn is designed to work as. So we get thousands of emails. There’s a whole group of them that say the same thing. They go something like this: I came across your TED talk, I went to your website. I show it to my – fill in the blank – boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, lover, partner – off the back of that we had a great conversation, now our sex life is so much better, thank you so much. People need springboards.
And what comes after great fulfilling sex? What does it do to us?
So here’s an interesting thing. Because we don’t talk about sex we’ve defaulted it to a thing we do. It’s not. Sex is personality. Who we are sexually is a fundamental part of our humanity. It’s a key driver of how we feel about ourselves, how we feel about other people, our lives, our very happiness. Our Make Love Not Porn stars [One of Make Love Not Porn’s first steps has been to found makelovenotporn.tv, a resource of user-generated sex videos] tell us that socially sharing their real world sex is as transformative for them and their real world relationships as socially sharing everything else has been for the world.
What does good, real life sex look like to you personally?
It’s all about communication. I live my own philosophies. You know the really tragic thing is, when we don’t talk about sex, and people learn about sex from porn, porn makes you think that sex is a performance. Nothing must go wrong because – oh my god how embarrassing – no, because when you are able to feel completely comfortable in your sexuality, relaxed into is and be able to talk about it, communicate, and laugh, it makes such a dramatic difference.
"When you are able to feel completely comfortable in your sexuality, and are able to talk about it – and laugh – it makes such a dramatic difference."
Tell us about your dating life: Why are you most comfortable dating younger men?
Well it works perfectly for me, for several reasons. First of all, I don’t want a relationship. I’m enormously happy being single, I cannot wait to die alone. I don’t want to get into a relationship with anybody. Secondly, I date younger men for sex. I like lots of stamina and very short recovery periods. I talk publicly about my dating model because it’s very different from most people’s idea when they think of the term ‘cougar’. We don’t have enough role models in our society who demonstrate that you can live your life very differently than society expects you to and still be very happy. So, I date younger men casually and recreationally. I date a lot of them, I’ll meet them on cougar dating sites online but I’ve one fundamental requirement: no matter how casual the relationship, you have to be a very nice person. I have a fantastic radar for very nice people. As a result, I only date utterly lovely younger men in an atmosphere of mutual trust, respect, liking, and as a result entertainingly, my so called casual relationships go on a lot longer than most of the so called committed ones.
Did your sex life change with age?
No I mean, I just find the older I get the hornier I get.
"We don’t have enough role models in our society who demonstrate that you can live your life very differently than society expects you to and still be very happy."
And what about transferring intimacy to casual sex? A lot of people believe that this can’t be achieved…
No, no, no. Every sexual partner you have is different and it should be a wonderful moment between the two of you whether it’s casual or it’s committed, exactly the same approach should be applied, not least because that’s the only way a woman gets to have a good time as much as the guy. And also it’s enormously simple, the single biggest turn on in the entire world is to be in bed with somebody and know they’re having an absolutely fantastic time because of you.
Do you think it has something to do with your confidence as well?
Maybe so, but again – and this is the mistake that many people make – when you are in bed with a man, or another woman, or whoever, let’s not be heteronormative, honestly the other person is so pathetically grateful to be there and so glad you’re naked, they just think you look like the most amazing thing in the world, no exceptions, it’s always true. And then I can tell you that I have never been told more how beautiful I am since I started dating younger men. Younger men think I’m fucking amazing, my body is fucking amazing. It’s fantastic.
"Younger men think I’m fucking amazing, my body is fucking amazing. It’s fantastic."
Cindy wears our Robe.
To support Cindy’s social sex revolution, donate here. To learn more about the cause and discover the positive impact it’s already had, watch the documentary Make Love Not Porn: The Social Sex Revolution, via the same link.