I don’t think in terms of getting older, I think in terms of getting better and better
Cindy Gallop, founder of Make Love Not Porn, the world’s first social sex sharing platform designed to normalize the way we view, practice, and talk about sex
I can’t really say I talked with Cindy Gallop. Actually, I’ve been swamped by her words, fascinated by the magnetic energy of her brilliant mind and pushed to the side of the blender by the centripetal force of her reasoning. After our conversation ended, I put my pen down on the paper and a sentence I heard time ago came back to my mind: “She lives in the 3000s.” I write this with awe, not with scorn.
Prior to becoming the founder of Make Love Not Porn (we’ll talk about that), Cindy worked her way up from theater publicist in London to chair of the board of Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), a no-introduction-needed global advertising agency. Basically, she went from planet Earth to Mars and back in less than sixty years. So, she proved that yes, it’s possible, even necessary, to be an agent of change. And she has a point: if we don’t do what we can, nobody will hand us the world we would like to live in.
With your work at Make Love Not Porn, you’re helping to “reeducate, rehabilitate, and reorient” the viewer on what love actually looks like. Do you agree that there is a distortion in the representation of older women in the media, too?
I have a simple solution for this: when you have older women leading companies and gaining power, you will see real change. Make Love Not Porn is an example. We operate in the area of social sex. Basically, we do what Facebook would have done if it hadn’t blackened out this area of our life. We welcome our MNLP stars at any age, we celebrate sex the way it is, messy, funny, humbly, and fundamentally human. The same goes for older women. In order to truly appreciate and celebrate them we need better representations where it counts. You need to enable older women to create, fund and run companies.
How do we get there?
Ageism is a form of bias and I know it perfectly well: we are facing a triple whammy: because we are a sex start-up, because we’re old, and because we’re women. But there’s no other way than trying.
The way media represent (or does not represent) aging women confirms what they are brought up to think about themselves. Do you agree?
Absolutely, but as I said, in order to change the way women are represented in the media and therefore what they think, you need to change their representation at the head of the industries that shape our imagination. That means film, advertising and publishing. We need to fund older women: they know how to start and operate businesses. We need to value and promote them, otherwise it will always be an industry of white guys who talk to white guys and create products for white guys.
Advertising is dominated by men, despite the fact that women buy the largest proportion of any goods. Even the porn industry is led, driven, managed by men, despite the fact that it is a mistakenly man-only audience. When the women will make 50 percent of the money, everything will look different, creative, disruptive and lucrative.
I know you invite women to speak up for themselves, but women over 50 are the single demographic more at risk of unemployment, homelessness and suicide. The fact that they are afraid of raising their voices and taking a stand is comprehensible.
I ask women: how do you want to live your lives? Never say a word about what you want? Laid off when they think you’re not useful anymore? I am an evangelist of working for yourself. It might look like that, but a corporate job is not the safest option. You can get laid off, passed over, or demoted, and you are at the mercy of market elements you cannot control. I asked: into whose hands would you put your life? The ones of a stranger or the ones of the person you trust the most and who has your best interests at heart? Y-o-u. Start your own business, alongside your current job, if necessary.
Aging for women is a socially diminishing process, whereas everything that has to do with the way older men are portrayed and perceived increases. What do you make of that?
Men make themselves that. It’s the white guy industry. They reflect themselves the way they want to be seen. They believe that and we believe that they can dictate the picture.
You probably heard about Sarah Lewis - the Harvard professor fighting for racial justice in photography. She said, “You can’t become what you can’t accurately see.” How can we cope with decades of visual socialization that exclude aging women?
I am frustrated it still being asked, Stefania. When you talk about this, don’t use passive tense. We make change. I don’t sit around waiting it for happen. As Alan Kay, the American computer scientist, said: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” People think it happens, but we need to understand that it’s not going to be handed out to us.
We need to decide what we want to be and make the future happen. It’s not true that micro-actions don’t count. They do. Ageism as a social conditioning is very deep-rooted, but it’s up to the individual to decide to speak up. The more each one does, the more eye-opening it becomes.
Do you think that the battle against ageism is a feminist issue?
If we talk about the fact that basic human rights are human rights and that women are people, than yes.
As it happens to many people, at a certain point, you turned your life around and left the corporate world. Can you tell us about this moment?
I’ve never planned anything. I thought of 45 as the mid of life point. On my 45th birthday, I stopped, paused, and reviewed my life and I realized I’d worked for 16 years for the same company. I felt it was time to do something different and it was a massive leap into the unknown. I didn’t have another job, but it has been the best thing I did in my life. If I had reviewed every option, put myself on the market, I couldn’t have come up rationally with what is keeping me busy now in the second part of my life.
How do you relate to aging?
I don’t think in terms of getting older, I think in terms of getting better and better.
Is there anything I didn’t ask and you would like to say?
You can’t talk about body representation; you have to change the way it is represented. We tend not to talk about our insecurities and our sexual ego is fragile. The fact we are visually embarrassed is a global social issue that must be changed. Make Love Not Porn does exactly that: social sharing is transformative (the creators of the content get 50% of the revenues of the video).
Solo stars write to us to tell us that the experience made them love themselves more. Couples write saying that sharing has improved their relationship, you need to talk about it, go where you’ve never been before. We help make it easier to talk about sex privately and in the public domain. We celebrate real world. Everybody is beautiful and sex is normal. Reality changes everything.