Pornography no longer seems to be the social taboo it once was. Thanks in part to books like Fifty Shades of Grey, not to mention the rise of free internet porn merely a click away, pornography seems to have crept into the realm of the edgy but acceptable. Much like tattoos, women seem to be embracing porn a lot more readily than in the past, adopting a laissez-faire attitude towards the once highly taboo subject and declaring themselves sexually liberated.
For those who think pornography is just another industry, a harmless pastime for consenting adults which doesn’t hurt anyone, Ordeal, written by infamous porn star Linda Lovelace might just change your mind. Granted, this book was written decades ago, and I think it’s probably fair to say that the world of pornography, like virtually every other industry, has evolved somewhat in the intervening years. Still, there are those who argue that pornography, much like prostitution, is essentially a male-dominated industry that essentially uses women, turning them into mere commodities who sacrifice their very human dignity for a shot at becoming a “star.” Whether you’re for or against pornography, this memoir is definitely one that will make you think twice about the harmlessness of porn.
Linda Lovelace never wanted to be a porn star. Throughout this gritty and graphic memoir, the porn star who became famous for her role in the movie Deep Throat, the first porn movie to gain popularity with mainstream audiences, is an unwilling participant who wants nothing more than to escape the life she’s been forced into.
Born Linda Boreman, Lovelace fell under the spell of boyfriend Chuck Traynor. Seeing a way out from under her staunchly Catholic parents’ strict household rules, Lovelace quickly married a man she barely knew, only to discover that her would-be saviour was an abusive psychopath who enjoyed beating and humiliating her.
Throughout their relationship, Lovelace would be forced into prostitution, and later made to work as a pornographic actress, always against her will. Threatened with death and viciously beaten when she argued, Lovelace gradually grew numb to the daily humiliations and degradations, believing that there would never be an escape.
Her rise to fame as a porn star happened almost by accident. No one involved in the shooting of Deep Throat ever expected the movie to become the runaway hit that it did. Sadly, though the film grossed over $600 million, Lovelace herself was paid a mere $1,250 for her role, and her husband took every penny for himself, leaving her destitute.
Though Lovelace eventually found the courage to leave Traynor, and eventually married and had children, her life was marked by tragedy. Over the years, Lovelace would eventually divorce her second husband, who also abused her, work a series of menial jobs and even ended up on welfare. She died in 2002 from injuries sustained in a car accident, and though many saw her as a symbol of the 1970s sexual revolution, Lovelace herself was never comfortable with her persona as a porn star. She died still searching for the joy and contentment that had eluded her all her life.
Admittedly, I read this book mainly because I’d heard about it and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. This memoir was far too graphic and gritty for my tastes – Lovelace holds nothing back, and so many of her experiences working in the sex industry were extremely difficult to read. While this book did give an eye-opening view of just how dehumanizing and terrible domestic violence is, Lovelace’s shockingly honest retelling was just too real for me.
There have been other memoirs written by porn stars that I would recommend over this one – Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like A Porn Star comes to mind as an example of how a memoir can deliver the shock value necessary to make a book like this work, but also remain witty and entertaining at the same time. If you’re looking for a graphic true story of just how terrible human beings can treat one another, this book might appeal, but be forewarned: it’s not for the faint of heart.