An Actual Porn Star Speaks: Linda Lovelace Is Not a Porn Star

Arts, entertainment, and more.
Aug. 16 2013 1:38 PM

Linda Lovelace Is Not a Porn Star

The real world of porn has nothing to do with her experience in Deep Throat.

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The career path for women in porn has changed to allow this sort of careful consideration since Lovelace’s time, but these improvements are in large part due to women like Sovereign Syre, not people who hold anti-porn sentiments. “It’s one of the few jobs where women are empowered to be financially and emotionally independent and that terrifies people,” Syre said.

Seen in this light, porn is far more consciously chosen than many other jobs. Although stable careers in finance, technology, etc. are often encouraged by cultural pressure and expectation, porn—a profession that potentially carries so much social stigma—requires serious decision-making.

Ordeal and Lovelace’s subsequent anti-porn crusade were aimed at uncovering the “truth” behind porn. The structure of Lovelace (unintentionally, I believe) supports this misguided search for a seedy reality behind the glamour. In the film, the exciting porn experience is shown first (on-set laughter! huge audiences! meetings with celebrities!), and then the film repeats the entire sequence, showing what was really going on (coercion and abuse of Lovelace by her husband, Chuck Traynor, hotel-room rapes, parental rejection). It’s an alluring structure, one also put forth by the documentary The Real Linda Lovelace, released in 2001.*

It’s not wrong to see Linda Lovelace as a person who overcame hardship and was a survivor of abuse. There are, to be sure, current porn performers who have suffered abuse as well. Taking those stories to be the “real” picture of the porn world, however, is a broad mischaracterization. The big secret about the porn world isn’t that there’s hidden abuse and coercion everywhere; the big secret is that there is no big secret.

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Making porn is fun some days, not fun others. Sometimes you feel you get paid what you’re owed, sometimes you don’t. Some studios are filled with attentive and nice people, some are filled with irresponsible and unresponsive ones. In other words, in many respects, it’s like any other job. In fact, if there is a big difference between porn and other work, it’s that so many people outside the industry have been taught to believe that there must be something sinister happening within it.

Without going into all the reasons why societies demonize, legislate, and control sex, it’s clear that the stigma created by the sex-negative elements of our culture can create real problems for performers. Though we may be aware of what we’re doing when we get into the business, we may not be able to foresee the societally-imposed difficulties that await us once we’re in porn, including future (baseless) job discrimination, misapprehensions in personal relationships, and more.

Of course, these are problems created not by porn itself, but by our society’s cluttered view of sex. It doesn’t help that these misunderstandings are seized on by religious fundamentalists, social conservatives, anti-porn liberals, certain feminists, and others for power. These are the same groups that embraced Lovelace’s anti-porn stance while she was alive and continue to exploit her complicated humanity and specific story of abuse after her death.

But the hundreds of well-adjusted and happy porn stars I’ve interacted with and the tens of thousands of porn stars who live less sensationalized lives than Lovelace are testament to the fact that her story is not ours. Porn is mostly populated by people who aren’t victims, who have made thoughtful choices, and who won’t be climaxing with regret.

Correction, Aug. 20, 2013: Due to an editing error, this article presented conflicting information regarding the year of Linda Lovelace’s death. It was 2002, not 2001. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Conner Habib is a writer, porn star, and lecturer. His twitter is @connerhabib.