Sex and Intimacy: A Conversation with Cindy Gallop

My desire to explore intimacy further sprung from an honest conversation with my girlfriends and what intimacy looks like for all of us—those with multiple kids, those with one kid, those with no kids—and how it’s changed over the years. I realized as we were talking that it’s a topic that I feel completely normal and natural discussing in my own home, but for whatever reason, in the public sphere, I get embarrassed and clam up.

Which is exactly why I wanted to talk to Cindy Gallop: If you’ve never heard of her, she’s a badass former advertising and branding executive who now runs a startup called Make Love, Not Porn. If you’ve ever watched one of her TED Talks, you know that she 100 percent owns who she is and how she feels about sex and relationships. It’s freeing, intriguing and refreshing to listen to her talk openly about what she wants out of a partner. And she fully contends that the definition of any relationship should be a dialogue between two people, which I completely agree with.

Speaking of dialogues, in my house, we have a very honest relationship with our bodies; I want my kids to grow up with a healthy relationship to their bodies, to never be ashamed or embarrassed. So we try to have frank conversations with them without dumbing things down.

That’s what I like about Cindy, too: She’s completely genuine, totally raw, and wholeheartedly stimulating. And with this month’s focus on body image, I thought it was important to highlight how intertwined our bodies and intimacy are. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Make sure to watch straight through to the end, as Cindy tackles how to have “The Sex Talk” with your kids! If you are interested in keeping the dialogue open about sex and intimacy too, drop a comment below or share this video with a friend.

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  • Hailey Owens

    Thank you so much for discussing this subject with us. I have learned a lot and have become more aware of my own body and desires. I really enjoyed viewing this discussion. I love you so much, Gen. ❤️

    P. S. I love that teal dress!! Where did you get it?

  • Melissa

    Awesome job! Thanks for sharing! Now to go talk with my hubby ?

  • Kayleigh

    Such an important topic. I’m only 18 and honestly scared of talking about sex and intimacy with anyone due to the stigmas and judgement. Things you prefer or desire when it comes to intimacy can be critiqued or judged as well as what you don’t want. At my age sex is seen as this task to complete rather then a connection or experience to enjoy with a person. Thank you for starting a conversation around this topic!

  • Tracey

    Hi Gen,

    Thank you so much for being brave to open up this conversation in public! I’m like you (and probably many other women) in which I can totally talk about it with my friends, in one of our homes, but I get too shy to discuss it in public places. And we shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk about sex and intimacy—it’s such a natural, beautiful part of life! Every time you are brave and post something that might be hard or painful to talk about, the first thing that comes to my mind is “thank you Gen, you are such an inspiration “!!! You are many other things, but inspiring is high on the list!

    Many thanks, Tracey xox

  • Kylee

    I loved seeing how open you are and the fact that you are wanting to make sure your kids are aware of all things sex and bodily as they get older. I personally never got the sex talk from my parents, so I had to find out through friends and the internet. I am a teenager and am completely open with talking about sex, bodily functions, and natural desires with my friends and their parents (it is easier for me to talk to my friends’ parents than mine about this). Most people are shocked and tell me to lower my voice when we have a discussion about these things. I definitely feel like kids and especially teenagers need to know how exactly things work when it comes to sex and bodily functions. We need to know how to be safe, how to make sure both participants are okay with what’s going on, that you need to establish boundaries before getting into a relationship of any kind, and that it is okay to talk about what you want out of it. For me personally, I feel like whenever I talk openly about sex and intimacy, I’m viewed as a sex crazed girl even though I’ve never had sex. I just want sex and intimacy to be the normal thing to talk about. It needs to be normal for our society to grow.

  • Kathy

    First off applause to you! This is something that dose need to be talked about in a not so much professional but comfortable setting. So many people these days associate sex with porn it’s ridiculous! Intimacy so important in relationships whether married or dating! yes even how to talk to children about sex is important! That’s the challenge for today’s parents bc so much is online that kids learn from that instead of speaking
    openly to their parents about it. Also being in relationships is important to talk about sex and what it means and to be open about it. I’m with you all the way Gen!

  • Gifs Dee & Gen

    I loved ???

  • Lami

    This is great. I understood every bit of it.
    There’s been so many times where I feel totally awkward and nervous to even bring up the word sex, but. Ow I feel like I should be open to having more conversation about it in my every day life.

  • Kylee

    I love how open you are about wanting to make sure your kids are aware of all things sex and bodily. My parents never gave me the sex talk, so I had to find out through friends and the internet, which most definitely is not the best way. Before I get into any relationship, the first thing I do is talk about my boundaries, what I’m okay and not okay with. It shocks a lot of people that me, a teenager, is so open about sex, bodily functions, and my desires. In my family, it is frowned upon to want things sexually and to want to talk about it, so any chance that I get to discuss these topics, I fire away. I feel like most people that hear my conversations about sex view me as a sex crazed girl, even though I’ve never had sex, when really I’m just being open about a topic that should normally be discussed in society. My current boyfriend was completely shocked and thrown off that I want and am okay with certain things. He said, “I thought you didn’t like those thing.” It was like he didn’t think girls want the same things guys do, and I really want to open up that girls like sex and intimacy too, and it is okay! Thank you so much for putting this conversation out there. It is very much needed in this world!

  • Jam

    That was great! Thank you Gen for bringing sex to discussion ?

  • LauraJ

    Cindy Gallop is fantastic, I love her TED Talks. So brilliant that you were able to actually meet her and have a proper chat!

    It’s almost 5am here in the UK and I’m so pleased I watched your video, I kept nodding along thinking “yes, that’s how I think and feel too!”

    I was raised by parents who were very alternative-one parent was professional dominatrix(!)
    My parents were open about what the job entailed (age appropriate) and there were so many talks about professionalism, boundaries, different desires, and what that meant regarding personal relationships and love.

    The subject of not hiding your desires and discussing with a partner what makes you happy really resonated: you can’t be being honest and 100% happy with someone if you have to hide what pleases you sexually. It also helps if you’re with someone who hears what you’re saying when you speak.

    I’ve got three boys, the oldest is about to turn 7. His school teaches about personal space, asking permission, keeping your hands to yourself and that no means no-even a hug, from Reception (age 4-5) which I think is good. Sex seems to have been discussed a bit in the last 18 months, in the context of ‘the human body’ and babies. At home there is no such thing as a wrong question, which I think has helped? We’ve also had the ‘not everything on tv is real’ talk, but that’s a work in progress as I’ve even asked if talking dogs are real!

  • Mickie

    I was shy and overweight from early childhood to adulthood. I was born in 1970. I was ashamed/embarrassed of my body. I guess. I don’t really remember looking at my body. I do remember my mom’s youngest sister saying something to my mom because I did not want to change clothes in front of her. I was a preteen or young teen. It hurt my feelings, made me feel more ashamed/embarrassed. I was fortunate to have found by best friend that became my husband who came from a family that must have communicated about sex sufficiently, at least for that time era, because I never felt ashamed or embarrassed with him. I was unfortunate to have only had him 10 years before he got killed. I have been widowed since 2000. I focused on raising/homeschooling my daughters. They are 18 and 22. Adults. Now it is time for me. 2017 I was 46, diagnosed with type2 diabetes, 275 lbs, A1c 7.1, 5’8″. I am now 200 lbs and A1c around 5. I had weighed as much as 315lbs. So 200 feels small. And I notice my body a lot. I had scanned Gen’s blog article earlier and was thinking about it while I exercised before bed and then while I was in front of the bathroom mirror after exercising. I realized somethings. I think it is “sexy” when a woman wears her man’s button up shirt. Some time back, at a goodwill there was a black button up shirt for 0.99. It felt heavenly. It was a guys shirt in the women’s clothing. Best dollar I spent. I model it many nights in front of the mirror and or dance around in it. I think I look pretty doggone cute in it.

  • Claire

    What a great discussion! Thank you

  • Arianna

    Hi miss Gen! Just wanted to say how enlightening this was for me, and I wanted to share my story about my “exposure” to “the world”. Growing up, I’ve always been homeschooled, and next year I’ll be graduating (thank god), but when I was a 12, I desperately wanted to go to a school and be “normal”. After a TON of begging, by parents let me go to a charter school, and not surprisingly in the first week, I started hearing kids talk about where babies come from. Now, I’d never heard of anything like this, so when I got home I asked my mom “where do babies come from?”, and she just said “I’ll tell you later”. Then at church I heard a pastor say how “porn is bad”, so I asked “what’s porn?” And she said, “I’ll tell you later.” Finally, I got so fed up with those answers, I decided to go to the big web and search for what I wanted to know. Not surprisingly, the only results were porn. And also, this was my first phone, so I barely knew how to use it. I started researching into the medical side rather than the porn side, but it remained in my phone history. I guess mom caught on that I wasn’t berating her with questions, so she decided to check my phone history. She totally flipped out, and said how I shouldn’t be on the internet, then told me she’s pulling me out of school, taking away my phone, and that I’m not allowed to listen to music (like what?). I’m going to be 17 next month, and my mom and dad still don’t trust me on the internet. Like if they say “look up the piano tutorial for this song to learn” then they’ll stop and say “wait. I’d better do it, I don’t want you seeing things again.”. I wish they’d have just been open with me in the first place, and I don’t think I’ll ever have them actually look at me the same, all because of a mistake when I was 12. But was it really a mistake? If I had waited until later to ask, would they ever have told me? (Also, I was almost raped when I was 8 and again at school, and the whole time I didn’t know what was going on.) truth is better. The longer people put off saying what the kid wants to know, the kid will go find out them self. But in my case, my parents hate me for being an independent girl.

  • McKenzie Sievert

    Thank you for talking about real stuff rather than the “normal” girl stuff other blogs talk about it’s such I relief to know when I come to your blog to will be 100% real and true.?

  • McKenzie

    Thank you for talking about real stuff rather than the “normal” girl stuff other blogs talk about it’s such I relief to know when I come to your blog to will be 100% real and true.?

  • Pam

    Really appreciate not only the interview but the raw honesty. Unfortunately, in today’s world many men are under the impression they have to perform as if they were in a porno to be able to turn on their partner, or to be turned on. It’s a shame. Simply because it couldn’t be further from the truth. I have often wondered what it would be like if we, as adults, actually talked about sex and what we need, instead of the fear that grips you from being afraid of hurting your loved ones feelings. Great podcast!

  • MaryJane Stricklin

    Thank you for this. I had a baby later in life. My expectations collided with reality. My former athletic body portrayed me. Breastfeeding was a nightmare but not how one might think. The nursing was fine. Its was my perceptions that altered. When not nursing, my baby girl was this beautiful creature but when nursing, she turned into a needy, ugly slug that made me angry. Luckily, I recognized this as very wrong so went to doctor and was diagnosed with postpartum depression. Little blue pills later, I was great and enjoying my daughter once again. Yet my libido was shot. Like completely and utterly gone. I would “service” my husband which was a disservice to both of us. Making matters worse was the start of co-sleeping recommended to me by my sister as a means of eliminating my total exhaustion. What a mistake. Years later – yes of really bad sex if it happened – I was no longer nursing, kid was only occasionally coming into our bed, and I had gained weight. Now I didnt feel sexy. So I took action. Lost some weight (not thin and athletic like I was) and decided to embrace this new me. This volunteer and swim mom self. Started dressing better than mom jeans and dad tees. Got a job that didnt interfere with kid schedule but did allow adulting.

    Now kid is 14 and getting ready for boarding school. My husband and I have rekindled some (not all – baby steps LOL) sexual awareness of each of other yet I am not sure we have rekindled the intimacy we had before kid. Trying but i wonder if he or we are afraid to trust that intimacy as real after so many years of being parents and not lovers. Listening/read to you both may be an eye opening revelatory experience as it might shed light on how to reconnect and still be parents to our beautiful teen girl.

    Thank you for your honesty. Its refreshing.

  • Philippa

    Such a great, eye-opening conversation! Thank you for sharing it with us! I was lucky enough to be brought up in a family where we have always been able to talk openly about sex. Particularly with my mum – if I’ve ever been worried, about anything (body parts, feelings, etc), I’ve always gone to her without hesitation. I hope your children will grow up thinking the same about you and Jared! Now to go and reflect on my sexual values because Cindy was right: I’ve never thought about it!

  • Lisa

    Thank you Gen, I am one of those that was raised to think sex was taboo except to have kids. This mentality and lack of wanting sex, has been causing issues in my marriage. I made the decision to just get over it and “give in” to my husband when ever he wanted it. And what Cindy said about doing it even though you dont feel in the mood really does work. I also have an 11 year old who is starting to “experiment” with himself… i freaked out, but hearing how to talk to him helped big time. Thank you for doing this. I will be watching so more of her TED talks!

  • Shaista

    This is awe-inspiring and amazing! Kudos to you, Genevieve! I feel that the rate of crimes related to sex will actually go down if people, especially kids these days, are taught at the right age and by the right people (parents, guardians) because then they’ll know what a “good touch” or a “bad touch” is. And consent, sexual values are are important as our basic needs, as rightly said by Ms Cindy! Amazing! You’re both doing a great service to parents, to the society and to humanity! Keep up the good work, ladies!!! Beat the stigma, and show them what women are really capable of! #TheFutureIsFemale
    Thank you very much, again.
    Yours respectfully,
    An Indian Muslim Teenage Writer.

  • Ginger

    Thought provoking,intelligent and honest.
    Truly enjoyed this.

  • Tori

    Wow! That was awesome to watch. My son is 8 and I have started to think about what I will do when he asks me about sex. Cindy had a great perspective of how to do it and what to say.
    My daughter is almost 6 and she has been exploring her body for about 2 years. I admit the first time I saw her, I reacted poorly. I was instantly panicked that someone tried something with her or she saw something. Her pediatrician assured me that sometimes they start this at an early age because all they know is that it feels good. So I just remind her that she need to have her own privacy if she wants to do that. But I try to make sure my words or tone is not going to make her feel ashamed or punished in anyway.
    Thank you again for taking this new path in life. My parenting ideals are inline with yours, so what you do is very helpful for me. ❤️

  • Ashley

    Hello Gen,

    This was an absolutely amazing topic. For me as a woman, mother and a step-mother to a 9 year old the talk is coming very soon. I also have been very blunt about sex with my husband but the exception of the “sex talk” with my step-son. I don’t want him or my 7 month old and one on the way to be given a talk that makes them feel shy to ask questions or to be afraid to say certain things. Sex is normal and we shouldn’t be shy to speak about these things. My husband and I speak bluntly about sex and what we like and what turns us on and I don’t want our kids to feel embarrassed or learn something strange by the internet or kids. Cindy is amazing. I’m so happy you introduced her on your blog. Thank you for this topic and helping make it normal and okay to speak about!!

  • Suzi

    Great discussion, thanks!

  • Deb

    Thank you for this interesting interview, and introduction to Cindy. I hope you do more on this topic, and actually delve into specifics, what turns people on, how to handle one partner really wanting something the other can’t provide, fetishes, role playing… the list is endless! And I loved your comment about hubby doing the dishes. I had an image of you trying to jump him while he is elbow deep in suds, lol!!

  • Sheena

    I absolutly loved this video. My son is ten and overheard a conversation on the school bus. Because we have such an open dialog in out home he felt comfortable enough to ask us about the truth in what his buddy was saying.

  • Victoria Lisowski

    I really enjoyed this video. Honest conversations about sex with my kids is really important and even though they’re only 3 (I have twins) I still worry about how I’ll address it and what I can do to try and lessen the impact that society’s sexual negative and misogynist views will have. I found this video really interesting and I’m really glad you shared it. Your blog is developing and becoming better and better with every post and I’m so excited for you and inspired to continue chasing my own endeavors. Thank you for this!

  • Nikki

    Amazing commentary. As a southern baptist it has always been very taboo, but I agree 100% agree on the importance of open dialogue and discussion on the topic. Very inspirational, thank you for sharing.

  • Johna

    Gen, thank you for sharing this video with us. It brought to mind what started me being open with my children about not just sex but the human body. It all started when I got my first period. I woke up that morning thinking I was bleeding to death because my mom nor my 3 older sisters never talked about it. I remember also being embarrassed about it every month especially when having to get hygiene products. My oldest son who be 17 in less than a week (GAH) down to my youngest daughter who’ll be 10 in just a few weeks (again GAH) all know about sex. One things that’s got me confuzzled is how to explain an orgasm as my 12 yr old is the first one to bring it up and he brought it up in front of his 2 younger siblings. Any suggestions? I was honest with him and told him I would have to thonk about an age appropriate response and asked him to give me a few days. Thanks again.

  • Helen

    Hi Gen, I love that you shared this interview so honestly and at a perfect time in our family’s lives. We have 2 teenage boys and a younger daughter (my 40th birthday present – so 40 isn’t all bad!). After having quite straightforward and open conversations over the years with our children, I am inspired to continue talking to them not just about physical sex and emotions but also sexual values, which makes perfect sense and is really important at their ages. Thanks to you and Cindy, love and best wishes. ?

  • Elena

    Love this subject. Sex has become this shameful thing in society when it’s the most natural thing. I hope that I can raise my children to value love, sex and their partners. I think by doing this we can change how sex is viewed.

  • shelby

    Really interesting! refreshing to find something thats more relivant with kids now a days, so many kids still are not taught the basics, very hush hush, and yes sex and inimacy should be private between you and your partner but its a topic that needs to be more talked about, whats right, or wrong and so on. I am 26 and have decided to wait till marrige, luckly I have a friends and a great family thats really open about everything. Our girls nights can be interesting as you can imagine! Have you heard of this site? Its all about fighting porn, that love is stronger. would love to hear your thoughts on it! Love your modern take on the subject, great role model for girls 🙂

  • Holly

    Gen thank you so much for introducing me to Cindy Gallop! Thank you for the honest conversation! I loved when Cindy talked about how we are taught values and ethics in other areas of relationships, but never in sexual realtionships. I think that is so important. As someone impacted by sexual abuse these lessons and conversations are even harder, but doubly valued! I also really appreciated her comments about how to talk about porn to kids…and to keep those lines of communication open. Such a great dialogue…thank you for being brave enough to share it with us!!

  • Jen

    Thank you for including this interview with Cindy in your blog! I will definitely check out her Ted Talks and Make Love, Not Porn. What really hit home for me is her emphasis on taking to your kids about what they see online and that the average child is exposed to porn at 8 years of age? My youngest just turned 13 & although I would like to think that my husband & I keep a close eye on his devices , Cindy also brought up the important fact that Porn is out there and he will beIMG_7639.JPG exposed to it eventually. Your talk with Cindy made me realize that we need to discuss the ideology of Porn with our both of our teens and the unrealistic image it projects in society. This is raw but necessary info that needs to be addressed. Thanks Gen, for including this subject in your blog! ? Jen. PS: just think, if the porn industry was run by females, there would just be a bunch of videos of hot spouses insisting that they”ll do the dishes while you finish your glass of wine! ?

  • Shareka

    I love this. It’s so great to hear about things like this from two beautiful and inspiring women. Keep up the good work and I can’t wait to hear more about stuff like this.

  • Victoria Stephens

    I have lost all interest in sex. Maybe it’s age but maybe it’s what I have been listening to, i.e., doing the dirty, bumping the uglies, on and on and on. Whatever beauty or enjoyment I ever had was stopped with this kind of talk. Is it too important or not important enough?

  • Lindsay

    What a wonderful discussion. Cindy is so thought-provoking and inspiring. Thank you so much for making the introduction. You also made an excellent point about basic human needs and the survival of the species and needing to include sex and intimacy on the list. I actually laughed out loud when you said the older you get, the less you give a shit. I’m in my 50’s and say this a lot because it’s true, and it’s freeing. But look at Cindy – 57 and blazing a trail. She’s taking that freedom and putting it to good use. Thank you again, and I hope you continue sharing these types of discussions.

  • Harper

    Hi gen! I know this is an older post, but I’ve just recently been catching up with everything you do! I’ve never had sex, and I legitimately believed porn was accurate and I’ve never had anyone talk to me about it before. I appreciate you opening up this conversation and encouraging naive virgins, like myself, to learn more. I just want to say thanks for making it less scary for me to ask questions, and to be curious and open.

  • Brandy

    Like many, I didn’t have the best experience regarding sex/sexuality growing up. My husband also saw how girls could be mis or uninformed. So when our daughter was born I made her a promise to always tell her the truth to any questions she asked and we were adamant that she be comfortable with her body.

    She was more precocious than I ever anticipated which made me truly think deeply and consider my answers. We worked hard and planned how to address various stages of development. As she grew we armed her with knowledge that probably made other parents uncomfortable. There were many times she would complain of misconceptions her friends believed.

    I am very happy that now at 22, my daughter is so very at ease with her sexuality and is comfortable confiding in me over any subject. Some might squirm at the frankness of some topics we discuss but I love that she can talk to me. It is an amazing relationship and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

  • webbie

    This topic is absolutely helpful for us being disregarded with our partners.

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