Inside Deep Throat – a review

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The documentary Inside Deep Throat, is extremely informative. Extremely informative!

If you are not aware of porn history in the United States; First Amendment history; the legendary film that is Deep Throat, it’s an eye-opener. From director Gerard Damiano’s inspiration for Deep Throat –listening to women talk about their sex lives while he worked on their hair; to actor Harry Reems being raked over the court coals and his subsequent spiral into alcoholism, the story covers more than what seemed merely a fun, funny, campy, female-orgasm-uninformative pornographic film romp. It’s a film about America and our sexual history. Maybe Gail Dines should have watched this before writing her bizarre book Pornland.

I was explaining the phenomenon of Sex and the City to a friend the other day–not the movies, the cable series–and how I really didn’t see it as a show about female independence as much as just a show that finally talked about female sexuality really candidly. Before Sex and the City, it was The Golden Girls, and post-menopausal TGG didn’t get into graphic discussion. The closest it got was Blanche’s very funny tongue-in-cheek sexual innuendoes.

Deep Throat made a lot of waves at the time. It’s interesting to note from what sexual tension it sprang in 1972 America.

Dr. Ruth Westheimer: I thought, ‘Fantastic! This is going to change the climate of talking about issues of sexuality in these United States!’ 

Deep Throat was a nationwide sensation, catapulting its stars Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems to superstardom. It was part of the national conversation, made famous because our own government was bent on shutting it down.

Camille Paglia: Deep Throat was an epical moment in the history of modern sexuality. It was the first time that respectable, middle-class women went to porn theatres. It really broke down traditional codes of decorum.

Gore Vidal: We lie about human sexuality because we’re taught to lie about everything. When you have a nation that totally lies, then you have no reality.

Somehow my mind has always underplayed the Sexual Revolution. Until I watched this film I didn’t really grasp the collective consciousness of sexual inadequacy in this country. I know that I knew nothing about the clitoris as a young woman. I missed Sex Education in my school by one year, and then it was completely removed from the curriculum and no one explained why. When it came time to ask my own mother about sex, her answer was, “All you need to know about sex is don’t have it until you’re married.” Unfortunately, marriage didn’t supply an instant magical answer. Suddenly my “teacher” was a man, and no closer to knowing about female sexuality. I was actually pretty sore about her response until I realized years later that she, herself, didn’t know much about it. And I can honestly say that part of the inspiration for getting into the adult industry, was so I might actually learn something about my own sexuality. For some of us, porn is a learning experience, which makes tales about harmful pornographers who withhold information and spring unwanted surprises upon performers all the more horrifying.

It’s mind-blowing to find that our entire nation suffered that kind of ignorance as early as the 1970′s. The film walks through what was acceptable at the time and how, ultimately, porn became an almost necessary sensation. It’s still wildly sensational today because so many authority figures treat sex like it’s a form of murder. Just that thought reminds me of the documentary, This Film is Not Yet Rated, and how graphic, long rape scenes are approved by the Motion Picture Association of America; yet graphic, long female orgasms are shut down. Makes you wonder to what lengths our nation’s leaders will go to crush the celebration of female sexuality.

I argue that there is still a general lack of sexual awareness in our culture because we’ve segregated sex from everything else. Harry Reems and Linda Lovelace had offers to star in non-sex roles in mainstream projects, but corporate executives shut them down. At that level who knows what their decision-making lives were like, but as a whole we have suffered, and are still naïve about how this effects our youth.

Counterpoints:

I am familiar with the saying, “Everyone was doing it.” ‘Everyone’ being the respectable crowd. Well, everyone is still doing it.

It is always insinuated that people starred in porn back then for the rebellion and not the money, yet every memoir, biography, and autobiography I’ve read finds someone from their time talking about ‘extra money’ as a lure. I only bring this up because I believe people still enter porn for the purpose of rebellion. It comes across as somewhat diminishing that people are justified in getting into porn “then” as opposed to “now”, almost condoning stigma against the performers of today. People made less money then, but the cost of living was a lot more reasonable. Unless we can exist without money, I’m not sure I understand that as a negative decision-making factor.

The other idea I’d like to challenge is the idea that porn went from art to money, when the film clearly shows that the backers of Deep Throat were concerned with just that: making money. Over 600 million dollars was made off that movie, and some of the people involved in actual production were never paid. Obviously, movies were more artistic then, people overall were more innocent. But we shouldn’t mourn change too much. Every single thing from institutions to human development to cultural fads have a growth phase, and maybe we are finally coming upon a maturity. The adult industry is still relatively young, but it’s creating discussions beyond the polar, black & white “porn harms” and “it’s porn, who cares” conversations. Topics of racism, responsibility and gender equality are, more and more, becoming important themes in pornography today; pushing out the anti-porn radicals as well as the sensationalist, profit-driven predators looking to outdo one another through semen omelets, crying performer outtakes and making “bukakke” petri dishes out of women’s faces. Eventually extremist generations give way to moderation, and it can’t happen sooner. Extremes are ugly, limiting phases. Porn can be art again in the hands of thoughtful conscientious adults.

With cameos by John Waters, Norman Mailer, Gore Vidal, Al Goldstein, Georgina Spelvin, Andrea True, Wes Craven, Peter Bart, Susan Brownmiller, Annie Sprinkle and many more; narrated by the venerable Dennis Hopper; with archival footage taken from news programs, interviews and popular shows of the times, Inside Deep Throat is a must-see. You don’t have to be a porn fan to enjoy and benefit from the information this film has to offer.

*If you live in Los Angeles, don’t miss The Deep Throat Sex Scandal live at the Zephyr Theater February 7 -10, 14 – 17. The cast includes the legendary Veronica Hart and Herschel Savage, and features cameos by Nina Hartley, Christopher Knight, Georgina Spelvin and Ron Jeremy (speedy recovery from surgery pending!).

[UPDATE: I read that Ron Jeremy is being replaced by Christian Mann, but Ron is awake, alert and recovering from his surgeries.]


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Author: Julie Meadows

Francophile, oenophile, French Scrabble advocate and future zombie apocalypse survivor.

17 Comments

  1. these are films made by men for men. even the female producer/directors know they have to appeal to a male audience… would female porn look more like ‘Marie Antoinette’ or ‘Sex in the City’ (or Ab Fab) with less clothes? at the very least, a complex script that would push the imagination? not always?

    Did you ever see ‘Wonderland” about John Holmes?

    http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0335563

  2. There was an interesting conversation I posted about here between ABC News and Jezebel.com. The idea that “Ladyporn” (romance porn) got women interested in adult product when they were always interested in it. Candida Royalle is a couples porn pioneer from the 80s. I’d love to interview her!

    There are lots of women, actually, who enjoy the violent-looking porn, so I guess womens’ tastes can be as varied as mens’. Just the women who happily perform in that type of product is testament to that.

    Interestingly enough, Deep Throat director Gerard Damiano was inspired to make porn because he heard so many women day-in and day-out talk about unsatisfying sex! lol

    It’s really an interesting film. I watched it twice and will probably watch it again.

  3. I did see Wonderland. I thought it was good, though obviously really sad and also shocking, honestly. I want to read Jill C. Nelson’s book “John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches”.

  4. Damiano made Deep Throat to help satisfy women… that must be marketing garbage, but I do agree it’s an important film and the commentary must be amazing.

    I guess there are as many reasons to view as there are viewers. The reviews are great and always interesting.

    Thanks for the book :)

  5. Not for women per se, but their sex lives weren’t exciting.

    In the play version, Veronica Hart plays “Salon Lady” and Herschel Savage plays Gerard Damiano. The scene is a giggly lady in Damiano’s chair talking about boring sex with her husband, and Damiano’s character says, “Why don’t you give him head?” She says, “No way,” or something akin to that, and giggles. He then asks, “Do you like Bourbon?” She says yes. “Then dip it in Bourbon.” She giggles hysterically.

    It’s explained better in the film than I can, but it walks through the government and feminist frenzy at the beginning–an introduction of all that’s covered in the doc–then cuts to Damiano saying that he guesses the film really stirred things up, then has a hearty laugh. It’s funny because obviously it was a campy idea that didn’t lend any truth to blow jobs being particularly fun for women, yet one man’s guess at what might be interesting sex subject matter and a way to spice things up, knowing at least that it is very pleasurable for guys. That and Linda Lovelace had a specific talent. It was a big deal. I still can’t believe that somehow. Humans have been around for how long??

    Sorry, I get caught up but it’s just so damn fascinating!! lol

  6. I’ve seen more talent in the primate enclosures at the zoo than most couples would try on a drunken weekend in Vegas. Bourbon? Ouch!!! :)

  7. Friends don’t let friends drink and post… I went back and read the DT Scandal, then retread this – they really need to be read together.

    I saw DT on video with a bunch of drunken idiots and didn’t think much about it at the time. Then Linda’s book came out and I wondered how much of it was true. I remember reading Damiano was a hairdresser and it makes much more sense that he would feel tuned into what women would be saying… still think he must have been a horrible guy.

    Can porn be tasteful and artistic? It’s exploitive by nature… the origin of the word gives it away. I question how much of the art depicting women was ever really high art to begin with… art has buyers, so what’s the diff you have to ask.

    If DT reflects what was happening in the 70′s, what does the current product say about us now… are we ugly and extreme? And why is the hint of a bikini line, a tight boot strap and a woman adjusting her so much more interesting than meat on a slab?

  8. I’m reading Hank Rose’s Lust Life right now–he was a performer during the late 80s/early 90s–and he’s got a section that talks about the transition from 70s film to 80s video to 90s internet. We’ve made everything fast and easy, and we suffer for it. Look at the food industry. It’s unhealthy for people, and it’s cruel towards animals. We are pigging out on everything.

    I do believe art can be found in anything, though. Depends on your personal taste. Porn is a lot like comedies; whether romantic or otherwise. How many Jackasses can one see before ignoring it altogether? And romantic comedies? Forget about it. Formulaic and boring. I’d rather read an instructional manual.

  9. ‘I believe entertainment can aspire to be art, and become art, but if you set out to make art you’re an idiot’ – Steve Martin

    I’m not calling you an idiot. There is magic in all things if you look.

  10. fast food isn’t satisfying ’cause it doesn’t take a genius to know what it really is. it’s gross. give the people what they want… I hope they choke on it. like Mr. Hazzard said- ” go to the gym” :)

  11. Jane Hamilton was ‘Salon Lady’… that’s awesome! I didn’t know who Veronica Hart was – how dumb is that? sounds like a great play. Who wrote it?

  12. Wonderful review Lydia. I think you said it all. The movie brought back memories of my work friends and I going to see it in a theatre when I was just old enough to get in, and it was soo “forbidden”! I truly hope this era of extremists, as you put it, ends soon. I’m sick of these ass holes who evidently hate women cease to find a market – “Let’s see what we can do to this women and she comes up smiling afterward”. And the females who brag in interviews or on twitter how “so and so made them bleed or tore them”. E-FUCKING-NUF!! Sorry to terrorize your blog, as always you are a good source of information and discussion.

  13. Sorry my mouse is dying. I meant to say “I hope they cease to find a market” Sorry.

  14. Ha!! I read your followup comment first and felt bad. I used to have pet rats, so I thought you were literally talking about your pet mouse. lol

    I agree. I don’t know how to even tackle the subject matter without 1) getting really angry, or 2) avoiding the harassment that comes with it. You dip even a toe in the mud, you are going to get dirty.

  15. It’s my understanding that the producer, David Bartolini, wrote it. Someone close to him repeated it a few times, though it’s not stated on the play bill.

  16. the performance, design and fit of the costume, hair, makeup, lighting, editing… creating and wearing the persona: yes, that is very artistic. it doesn’t matter what Ginger Lynn Allen or Marilyn Monroe or Mae West did off camera or what brought them to us… it was only a character. There’s the art.

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