Sex Positivity and Education: The False Dichotomy of Porn vs. Everything Else

Sex Positivity and Education: The False Dichotomy of Porn vs. Everything Else

The adage “sex sells” is very misleading. While sex appeal permeates all types of marketing, directly capitalizing on adult entertainment, it can be a real headache for most. The sex education arena can be even more complicated. So while pop culture leverages the risqué in the forms of scanty clothing and non-consensual fetish erotica, creating platforms that promote awareness and sex positivity is a minefield that industry leaders are trying to navigate - some by circumvention and others by just blowing stuff up.

For sex workers, adult entertainers, those whose business must be conducted online, payment options can be scarce. Payment processors, claiming that sex-related charges are a higher risk for chargebacks and fraud, tend to add fees or cut off accounts altogether, making e-commerce prohibitively difficult. This theme extends to adult toy brands, and the stigma further influences potential investors or other types of professional partner opportunities. Because of these barriers, it is remarkable when sex-related sites are getting financial backing, or developers are creating new ways to enable cash flow within the category itself.

Cindy Gallop of Make Love Not Porn

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Just in January of 2018, Cindy Gallop raised $2 million from an unidentified investor for her video platform Make Love Not Porn. Gallop launched MLNP in 2012 as a video sharing site that encourages people to share their recorded sexual experiences with romantic partners - differentiating themselves from porn sites in content and intention, but not with a “porn is bad” ethos - their tagline: “Pro-sex. Pro-porn. Pro-knowing the difference.” Still, self-described as being in beta, the site is structured to provide revenue for the content creators, encouraging content that embodies consent and individuality, encouraging safer sex practices and even humor.

While currently a user generated content site, Gallop has big plans to expand the reach of MLNP. Through her personal dating experiences, she noticed that many younger men are basically educated on sex through hardcore porn. Because our society is so tight-lipped about physical intimacy, it is the only readily available resource for many young people - but a very skewed, unrealistic tutorial at best. So not only was she inspired to source and distribute sex documentation between non-actors who have genuine connections, she plans to raise money to build a free, non-profit online sex education organization - the “Khan Academy of Sex Ed,” as she describes in Fortune Magazine.

Leah Callon-Butler of Intimate

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Innovations require capital, and this industry is no exception, aside from the fact that it has tremendous growth potential and chronic underfunding. To circumvent stigma and unreliability that traditional bank and payment companies cite, blockchain’s strengths make it a perfect fit. That is what Leah Callon-Butler is counting on, the Co-Founder and Chief Impact Officer for Intimate, a cryptocurrency that is optimized for the adult products, services, and sex tech industries. Upon learning that banks have such a say in the success of entrepreneurs because of their chosen industry, Callon-Butler decided to create a way for people to take control of their finances. "I was amazed at how broad this issue was," says Callon-Butler to the Sydney Morning Herald. "But if you have a token that is designed for the industry, you do not need the approval of a bank or gateway to run your business. It's essentially like a PayPal for the adult industry."

While cryptocurrency is anonymous, it also relies on being transparent. Since both safety and reputation is critical to sex workers, the Intimate team partnered with “Oracles,” as described in the service whitepaper. These Oracles are exterior servers that link accounts with reputation rating, and identify information that helps build the trust and safety that the currency will rely on when it launches at the end of this month. The startup has already reached $4.5 million in ICO pre-sales.

While Callon-Butler imagines that Intimate has applications outside the adult and sex industries, it also points to the possibility of other cryptocurrencies being developed that are tailor-made for specific industries. Could there eventually be a crypto-marketplace with dozens of currencies that serve particular categories? While interesting, it does seem an unlikely possibility, since industries have common values - especially data privacy and verification, and Intimate addresses both.

Much of the ghetto-izing of sex-related projects comes from stigmatizing the individuals that are spearheading them. This would lead one to believe that these projects are being built and promoted by sex workers, but the above examples are being lead by people that spent most of their careers in other fields. Gallop is a former ad agency executive and founder of IfWeRantheWorld, a “microaction” social change platform. Callon-Butler has a background in sustainable marketing and scent-oriented advertising. But both of these individuals saw a market that was drastically under-served, and rose to the occasion. While sex-related industries are continually swept under the radar, women like Gallop and Callon-Butler have an intimate relationship with how important it is to shine the light of public awareness and acceptance on such important matters as consent, industry transparency, and labor compensation.

 

 

Photo Credit: cover photo via Alexander Krivitskiy/Unsplash, second from via makelovenotporn.com, and third photo via newsroom.uts.edu.au

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