Sex & Relationships

Alternatives to Mainstream Porn Can Be Really Hot

The lack of authenticity in porn is inspiring some to create their own alternatives.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

A growing pool of sex entrepreneurs are tired of what they see in mainstream pornography. The reasons they offer seem fairly compelling.

Porn departs from reality in two major ways. For one, it fails to provide a cast of representative bodies. Ever feel like large women, people of color and “average-sized” men don’t get enough screen time on porn platforms? Right. That’s because they don’t. The second point relates to the way in which the sex is served. According to the PornHub analytics blog, the average American spends just under 10 minutes per visit looking at porn, which suggests that those looking for a quick release aren’t generally interested in setting the mood. No context, just sex.

Add in the editing, makeup, angles, Photoshop and all the perks of postproduction, and you land at the obvious fact that porn sex is a far cry from the sex most of us are having at home. Some appreciate the theatrics, some don’t. Opinions will vary. But one very real concern revolves around the fact that newer generations seem to be looking to the medium not as entertainment, but education.

Enter Cindy Gallop, whose company, Make Love Not Porn, operates on the premise of providing real-world depictions of sex to real-world audiences. Gallop, 55, likes having sex with younger men. Men in their 20s. Men largely raised under the umbrella of the Internet. Men raised on porn. As time went on, she began to notice the amount of influence dominant porn tropes had on the way these guys were behaving in the bedroom. “No, thank you very much, I would rather you not come on my face,” she found herself saying to her younger partners.

Realizations like this led Gallop to start her company. The site is not anti-porn, but it does position itself as a statement against the pressure younger generations may feel to recreate porn scenes in their personal lives. The goal is to grow it into a social sharing platform, but instead of seeing photos of weddings and anniversaries on your feed, you'll be getting videos of wedding and anniversary sex. 

“Porn has now become so big it’s now conventional,” Gallop told AlterNet. “Porn now has norms and rules, which is why so much of it is repetitive and boring. It’s totally fallen prey to collaborative competition. Everyone’s doing the same thing.”

Real-world sex, on the other hand, tends to be more diverse. “It’s rich and it’s varied,” says Gallop. “The reasons we're doing this is because when you make real-world sex and the discussions around it socially acceptable, and therefore just as social sharable as anything else, you create a really healthy open atmosphere in which people learn, people understand, people can talk to each other and people can communicate. And the world will start having better sex instantly.” But curation can be complicated by the fact that the sex videos people are submitting to Gallop's site are starting to resemble mainstream porn. Gallop explains, “Our only criteria is, is this authentic, is this real?" (Also, participants must 18 years old or older and give absolute consent.)

Gallop described the three reasons she and her team may reject a video. One is if there is copyrighted music present. “We just can’t take that risk,” she said. Another is if the images are too dark. The third has to do with if the material seems “too porn tropey.”

“The sheer ubiquity of porn and amateur porn means people unconsciously internalize porn tropes without even realizing they’re doing it. People think because they see this on tube sites all the time, that what we want when they film themselves is for them to only start the minute they hit the sheets and turn it off the minute they’ve come. Real world sex is context. It has a backstory. It has a relationship.”

“We want to see how you begin getting turned on. We want to see the kissing, we want to see the clothes come off slowly; we want to see the ridiculousness, the awkwardness. We want to see all of it. And then afterwards, we want to see the cuddles, the conversation, the coming down from whatever it is you’ve been doing.”

The kind of material Gallop is trying to promote often gets slapped with labels like "feminist porn" or "porn for women." For Gallop, those are not welcome tags. “I hate the term ‘porn for women,’” she told us. “I hate those terms because people marginalize that as...made for women. Men have no idea how hot they will find porn made by women and feminist porn. They don’t even look at it because they think it’s 'made for women.’”

There are other entrepreneurs putting themselves out there with the intention of disrupting mainstream representations of sex. Trans performer James Darling has helped give even the most marginalized bodies a place in porn through his company FTM Fucker. “I got started in 2009. Before that, I had seen very limited images of trans men in porn. And I decided that I would really love to do that — to be involved in some kind of erotic representations of trans bodies,” he told AlterNet in a recent interview.

Darling’s work may be considered a little "tropey" compared to the material Gallop is trying to promote. Still, he believes it’s helped provide those in underrepresented bodies with the affirmation they need to express themselves sexually.

“It’s started a lot of conversations with partners about different ways to have sex and different ways to make your body feel good in ways that are affirming and hot,” he said.

April Flores is on a similar mission. She launched her company, Fat Girl Fantasies, last year with the intention of sexualizing—not fetishizing—fat women.

“There’s definitely more dialogue around body diversity and plus-sized people, but I think in media in general, fat is still taboo,” she says in one article. “Fat is one of those things that’s still OK to make fun of."

"I’m glad to challenge these stereotypes in porn. There needs to be representation of a fat woman who is sexual and competent and happy, and enjoying her sexuality.”

And it's just not the viewer that stands to benefit from new material. "We didn’t realize that for our Make Love and Porn stars, sharing their real world sex would be utterly transformative for themselves and their relationships," Gallop told us. "We began realizing this when very early on, a woman submitted a video and she wrote to us. She said, ‘I just had to write and tell you, this was the most rewarding experience of my entire life.’ She said that doing this had driven amazing communication with her partner. Because when decide to video yourselves having sex, you have to talk about. And when you talk about it, the conversation goes places its never gone before in your relationship."

Carrie Weisman is a writer focusing on sex, relationships and culture. 

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