TED Conversations

Cindy Gallop

Founder & CEO, IfWeRanTheWorld


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What do you think each and every one of us can do to counter the impact and influence of porn as default sex education, everywhere?

Today hardcore porn is more freely and widely available online than ever before, thus accessible by kids at earlier and earlier ages (the average age at which porn is first viewed online is 11; a friend of mine recently found her 9-year-old son watching hardcore porn on her iPhone). At the same time, we do not as a society talk about sex openly; the majority of parents are too embarrassed to teach their kids about sex, and sex education is generally not taught in schools in a realistic and directly relevant way. As a result, and I can testify to this through my direct personal experience of dating younger men, an entire generation (guys and girls alike - girls watch and are as influenced by porn as guys are) is growing up believing that what you see in hardcore porn is the way that you have sex, with some very fundamental, ingrained negative impacts. As someone working to counter this with my venture http://makelovenotporn.com, I would love all thoughts and ideas from the TED community as to how we can collectively address what is, quite frankly, the single biggest impact technology is currently having on the most fundamental aspect of huma behavior - our sexuality, which informs everything to do with how we feel about ourselves, other people, our relationships, our lives and our happiness.

This is a global issue that is currently impacting everywhere.

We'll start this conversation at 1pm EST on Wednesday December 7. I am very much looking forward to conversing with all of you!


Closing Statement from Cindy Gallop

Everybody - I loved this conversation! Terrific free and frank exchange of views, many aligned. I found this enormously helpful, both to me personally as I take MakeLoveNotPorn forwards, but also in the context of the many friends I have who are all tackling different aspects of this whole area in different ways, and will also find a lot of this useful. Many thanks to everyone who participated - I really appreciate it. I hope to continue the conversation in due course, and certainly to add to and expand it when I and my team launch http://makelovenotporn.tv in spring 2012.

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  • Dec 7 2011: Fair enough. So what are you defining the issue as, then? Yes, pornography builds a fantasy world. Whether one realizes that or not from the beginning, eventually reality would kick in, wouldn't it? I think that any reasonable person would, after enough sexual encounters, figure out that the pornographic universe isn't the realistic universe. And perhaps some wouldn't, but such a person would probably be thinking irrationally in the first place.

    Its for that reason that I don't really see it as a "global issue." I think you're missing the real issue, and its more basic than the specific example of sex, though certainly applies: We are an enlightened species, why are we still ashamed of anything at all? I think that it is weak and cowardly to dance around any subject because it is socially taboo. That attitude, in my opinion, does far more harm than good.
    • Dec 7 2011: Young people, girls especially, can be really hurt -- physically, emotionally and practically -- before reaching that point of "after enough sexual encounters." Teens do tend to "be thinking irrationally in the first place."

      It's not a question of socially taboo or shame; it's a practical and safety issue: for example, do teens think condoms are necessary? Porn "teaches" that they're not. Do they understand that abuse is never acceptable? Do they understand consent and that it's ok to say no?

      The concern is not that porn might teach kids new moves. It misleads them into thinking dangerous or hurtful behavior is normal.
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        Dec 7 2011: Agreed, Kit. The ways in which porn as default sex education impacts can be much more fundamental, insidious and ingrained than simply to do with 'sex acts'.

        For example, the bulk of mainstream porn is made by men for men. When female pornstars produce and manage their own content, they are still targeting men and so operating by the industry conventions: the sole raison d’etre of porn is male pleasure, and therefore the be-all and end-all of every scene is to get the man off. Which has led to a generation of guys and girls alike growing up believing that the be-all and end-all of sex itself, is to get the man off.

        I’m old enough to remember, back in the day, when it was important to the men I slept with that I came, that I came first, that I came more than once. These days, if I don’t come, it’s regularly not even remarked upon. (And I only date utterly lovely younger men.) This isn’t deliberate selfishness, it’s unconscious ingrained imprinting – reinforced for men by sex with women equally imprinted, who are focused on getting the guy off without expecting, asking for or claiming their own pleasure, because they believe from porn that that’s what makes them ‘good in bed’
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      Dec 7 2011: Eric - you and I are very much on the same page. :)

      Unfortunately, reality doesn't always 'eventually kick in'. I can personally testify to that based on, ahem, quite a lot of personal experience (I freely admit I date younger men casually and recreationally, and I date a lot of them :) and based also on the hundreds of conversations and exchanges I've had about this since I launched MakeLoveNotPorn nearly three years ago now.

      It is indeed a global issue - you can find more detail on all of the feedback I've received from people in countries all around the world in my short TED book: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/make-love-not-porn/id452296228?mt=11 - and I totally concur that the issue is that we should be open and not ashamed at all about anything to do with sex.
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      Dec 7 2011: I think you've got a point there Eric. Porn is a fantasy world. Maybe if it were "sold" like that - in a sense of: if we built a culture around sex as a form of fiction - the positive effects of porn would get to overshadow the negative ones
      • Dec 7 2011: But then again when you watch an action movie or a police drama, you don't really think life works like that. Fiction is fiction. So why is there assumption that porn is any different?
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          Dec 7 2011: Philippe - because the lives we live openly don't involve Tom Cruise running down our street or getting caught up in car chases. The sex we have behind closed doors and never talk about in public is never openly displayed in the same way as the real world option vs the fantasy world of porn.

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