Written by Ruthie Friedlander. Originally published be Elle on June 18th, 2014.
“Sarah Beall’s job title is fairly commonplace these days: She’s a “community manager,” which would normally mean she manages social media and comment sections for a website. But the community Beall is managing is unlike most. At makelovenotporn.tv, she’s responsible for vetting real world sex videos made by, well, real world people.
She met her boss, Cindy Gallop, founder of makelovenotporn.tv—a site that describes itself as “of the people, by the people, for the people”—four years ago, while interviewing her for Nerve.com. While Beall has worked in the porn and sex industry for most of her career (she published a zine about sexuality, wrote for a mainstream porn company, and danced burlesque), she admits she didn’t quite know what to expect when coming to work for Gallop. “Cindy says this is a grand social experiment,” she tells ELLE.com.
Here, we talk to Beall about what it means to manage such a community, how to make a good real-world sex video, and what it’s like bringing her work home with her.
Can you give us sort of a basic description of what you do?
I’m the curator and community manager for makelovenotporn.tv. One of my major roles is being the guard of what content gets put up on the site. That’s a fairly involved process: evaluating all of our submissions, with our submission criteria.
What sort of criteria are you evaluating the submissions against?
All of the content comes to me first and I evaluate it against what we call the Six C’s. First of all, we want it to be Consensual. Then, Creative. We really ask people to try to think outside the box, or give them freedom to do that. We especially want it to be porn-Cliché free. I feel like even people who share videos on amateur sites replicate porn tropes without even realizing they’re doing it. We really try to get rid of those clichés, but work with people to do so. I mean, sometimes, somebody will really like something that’s a porn cliché. That’s okay. So long as they do another “C,” which Contextualizes what they’re doing. I don’t want to police sexuality. That’s not part of my job. We’re also looking for people that have creative uses of Condoms. I evaluate all the content based on that.
How many videos, on average, do you watch a day?
Typically two or three. In my experience writing for porn, I did have to watch a fair amount of porn, and I would say, when I entered that industry, I had very little knowledge of it. When I left, I think I had been so saturated, that it didn’t really affect me anymore. But since working here, I’ve actually become more sensitized. I find it’s a very intimate experience. Obviously it’s my job, but in terms of the videos there’s a certain vulnerability and sweetness that really comes across.
Can you explain that a bit more? What that feels like to watch?
It’s sort of intangible but particularly just seeing people that care about each other–they don’t necessarily have to be in love–but seeing people experiencing real pleasure and having the sex that they want to be having–it really draws you in and forces you to be present in the moment. Porn is all shock and awe, whereas real world sex holds your attention for a while and dares you to be there. It engages you on more than just a physical or mental level. We had a screening a while ago and one man said, “When I watch porn I want to jerk off, and when I watch real world sex, I want to have sex with my girlfriend.”
What kind of interaction do you have with the people who submit to makelovenotporn.tv?
Primarily it’s via email, but often times we’ll do a video Skype or sometimes have get-togethers for our makelovenotporn stars in New York or other places. A lot of it I feel like chalks up to just being a cheerleader or a coach.
Often times when people first submit, the video will be a little darker, they might not show their faces. They tend to start the video as soon as the action starts and end as soon as it ends and I think in some ways, this has to do with just them feeling a little insecure with their bodies and about what their real world sex is like. So I work with people around that. What’s really cool is that a lot of them really get into it. You’ll really see a progression. It’s so exciting to see that transformation. It’s sort of hokey, but I really think of it as a journey. The team at makelovenotporn, we get imbued with such trust to be able to be on the receiving end of something so personal and intimate.
Do you tell them why you liked the video? Why it works for the site?
Definitely! I think people are nervous! Generally, people on our site have never submitted a video before and they are really turned on by our philosophy. I think they’re really excited because they’re really proud of their real world sex lives and they want to be able to share that. And I think that’s a really generous thing for people to share.
What would you say is the most challenging part of your job?
Probably rejecting videos. I take my job really seriously in terms of the vulnerability it takes to share a video. I take great care in my rejection letters, and it’s usually just talking to people about how to contextualize. The biggest problem I have is people shooting way too close up. We’re okay with people not showing their faces on the site, but we want a more creative way [of filming]. There are other ways to shoot without focusing on your genitals. I hate rejecting videos. I don’t do it a lot, but it kind of breaks my heart.
What sort of people are featured on the site?
We’re still trying to raise awareness of who we have on our site. Before we launched, I basically seeded all the content, and I was reaching out very stealthily to people we knew would be interested in the mission. But we want it to be as diverse as possible. We’re interested in having more casual real world sex videos and in representing gay and lesbian real world sex, and we want to do it in a way that doesn’t put everyone in boxes. Eventually down the line, we want makelovenotporn.tv to be a place where people come across something they’ve never seen before, something that can let them play with the edges of what they’re comfortable with.”