TRIGGER WARNING Sexual Abuse, Sexual Exploitation

Ordeal by Linda Lovelace

Ordeal by Linda Lovelace
By now most feminists are familiar with the sorry life story of Linda Lovelace. Forced into prostitution and pornography by her abusive husband Chuck Traynor, Lovelace would find herself famous (for which you may read “internationally notorious”) as the lead character of infamous porn film 'Deep Throat'.

In the years that followed, Linda Lovelace seemed to make the most of her status as star of the world’s first theatrically released porn film, only to perform a complete volte face and campaign vociferously against pornography in all its forms.

Ordeal is Linda’s third autobiography, a tell-all about the abuse she had suffered while in the sex industry, was first published at this time. It directly contradicts much stated in her previous two.

It’s likely that this is because much of Ordeal concentrates on the abusive nature of Lovelace’s marriage to Chuck Traynor, a known abuser whom she was with when the first two books hit the shops.

Before “helping” his wife find “stardom” in Deep Throat, Traynor was fond of using acts of physical violence, rape and forced prostitution in order to persuade her to do what he wanted.

At one point he filmed her engaging in sexual acts with a German Shepherd, which he then marketed widely apparently accruing a small fortune. Though she had been drugged then forced to take part in that particular taboo too, Lovelace’s massive sense of shame over it meant that for most of her life she refused to acknowledge that she was the woman shown on camera. And so, unlike most of the acts mentioned, it is not discussed in Ordeal.

The conversational tone used by Lovelace and her co-writer Mike McGrady throughout the memoir does little to lessen the brutality of the details Lovelace does disclose. It is, frankly, a horrible story and will likely be no less horrifying for those readers who know what to expect before opening this memoir’s pages.The conversational tone used by Linda Lovelace and her co-writer Mike McGrady throughout the memoir does little to lessen the brutality of the details Lovelace does disclose.

It is, frankly, a horrible story and will likely be no less horrifying for those readers who know what to expect before opening this memoir’s pages. Anyone who is at risk of finding themself triggered by themes of sexual abuse and brutality might do well to stay away from it and the Amanda Seyfried film it’s been reprinted to coincide with.

Which is not to say it’s a bad read. It is, in fact, an excellent one. The book brings a very human, inevitably tragic face to the type of sexually abusive circumstances that can lead a person to a life in the sex trade.

In an era where many feminists feel pressurised to be “sex positive” it is important to take on board the testimony of a woman who was – as feminists such as Andrea Dworkin, Gloria Steinem and Naomi Wolf have suggested – a victim of exploitation. Steinem, incidentally, became a close friend of Lovelace’s after this book was published.

Her former husband on the other hand tried to use the same argument that many sex positive feminists will when asked to discuss the role of exploitation in pornography.

Linda Lovelace, he claimed, was empowered enough to make the choice to take part in porn, and further empowered by it. This book, not to mention the evidence given by multiple sources who knew the couple at the time, suggests the truth was very different indeed.

Granted, Lovelace’s own actions do not help the credibility of her narrative. As mentioned, she had already published two books that made out her out to be a wholly willing sexpot and would years later complain that anti-pornography campaigners had “made a few bucks off of” her.

She would also state that if Deep Throat had helped positively transform the sex lives of many American couples then it was “OK” before taking up modelling lingerie in later life.

Yet, when faced with the testimony contained in Ordeal it’s hard to doubt the veracity of it. Linda Lovelace did her best in difficult circumstances and, upon overcoming them, wrote this book to try and help others. At times it’s a difficult read but still, like the woman herself, wholly worthwhile.