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Is Porn Ruining Our Sex Lives?

Cindy Gallop, founder of "Make Love, Not Porn" talks about how an entire generation has a skewed idea of sex because of hardcore porn.

Cindy Gallop has intimate experience with how porn is changing sex. That isn’t because she’s a member of the so-called porn generation — but because she sleeps with younger men who are.

The 51-year-old isn’t afraid to admit it, either — in fact, it was her opener when giving a TED Talk two years ago about her business venture, the website  Make Love Not Porn. A video of the successful British entrepreneur, with her angular blond bob, tight leather pants and stilettos, giving the raunchy four-minute speech at the venerable conference quickly went viral. The popularity of the clip wasn’t just a result of her cheeky frankness, but because she articulated something about our modern sexual experience that is either talked about in a moralizing manner or not at all — that the proliferation of porn is profoundly changing the way that we have sex.

With little concern for the tame, academic tone of the conference, she began calling out pornographic myths — like that all women enjoy being on the receiving end of the adult industry’s celebrated “money shot.” “There’s an entire generation growing up that believes what you see in hardcore pornography is the way that you have sex,” she said, adding that this miseducation is only exacerbated by our “puritanical double-standards culture where people believe that a teen abstinence campaign will actually work, where parents are too embarrassed to have conversations about sex with their children and where educational institutions are terrified of being politically incorrect if they pick up those conversations.”

This week, the topic of porn’s impact was  raised again in response to a survey finding that excessive porn viewing causes performance problems in young men. So, I decided to give Gallop a call — at her  all-black Manhattan “bachelorette pad,” which was formerly the men’s locker room at the historic YMCA — to talk about smut-induced erectile dysfunction, the sex talks parents should be having with their kids and what she really means by “make love not porn.”

What are your thoughts about this report on porn’s effect on young men?

When I talk about “Make Love Not Porn,” I always have to explain that the impact of porn as default, stand-in sex education is actually much more fundamental and insidiously ingrained than a lot of people have ever thought. So, in that context, this report doesn’t surprise me at all, because I observe in my own personal experience a number of things playing out that are very much in line with what the report talks about.

Can you elaborate a bit for those who haven’t seen your TED talk or read the e-book version of it?

I’m 51, I’m old enough to remember back in the day when the guys I slept with were extremely keen that I came, that I came first, that I came at least once, if not several times. These days, I don’t come and it’s not even remarked upon. Bear in mind that I date utterly lovely younger men – but this is simply what has been imprinted on them. Because 99.9 percent of all mainstream porn is made by men for men, the entire raison d’être of every single mainstream porn film is to get the man off. As a result, an entire generation of guys and girls is growing up believing that the be-all and end-all of sex is to get the man off.

It always amuses me when people talk about “watching porn” as if it’s like watching any other form of entertainment — because no one’s “watching” porn, they're wanking. If you are watching several hours of porn per day and night and you are wanking consistently all the way through that, then men can get so sensitized to the way that they bring themselves off that they can no longer [come with a woman]. This is something that I’d observed myself and had corroborated by Dr. Ian Kerner, who runs the website “Good In Bed.” He calls this “idiosyncratic masturbatory syndrome” — a number of his patients struggle with the fact that they can’t come through normal intercourse.

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