A revolutionary movie or an ‘artifact of abuse’? The landmark porn film ‘Deep Throat’ turns 50

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When it comes to a timeline of sex in movies, there’s before Deep Throat and after Deep Throat. Released 50 years ago in the summer of 1972, the barely hour-long film — directed by Gerard Damiano and starring then-unknown leads Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems — brought hardcore pornography out of the Times Square XXX houses and into the mainstream. It also ignited a firestorm of controversy that continues to this day about the line between free expression and obscenity in the public sphere, as well as the line between exploitation and consent within the adult film industry. And both debates could flare up again as a restored version of Deep Throat heads back into theaters for a series of 50th anniversary screenings and panel discussions in the U.S. and overseas. (Watch a clip from the restoration above.)

None of the principals involved in Deep Throat survived to see the film’s 50th year. Lovelace — whose real name was Linda Boreman and later, Linda Marchiano — died in 2002 of injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Damiano passed away six years later due to stroke-related complications, and Reems followed in 2013 from pancreatic cancer. The movie’s restoration and re-release has instead been overseen by the director’s children, Christar and Gerard Damiano Jr., in collaboration with Robin Leonardi, the surviving daughter of another adult industry trailblazer — and a contemporary of the original Deep Throat trio — Gloria Leonard.

Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems in a scene from the controversial X-rated film Deep Throat, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. (Photo: Cinematic Red PR)

“We’ve put the film back the way our father intended it,” Gerard Jr. tells Yahoo Entertainment. “Over the years it’s been changed and warped; stuff has been added, stuff has been taken out, and the music has been changed and so forth. We’ve really made an effort to put it back the way it was originally seen 50 years ago, and that’s what we’re presenting.”

Boreman is survived by two children from her marriage to Larry Marchiano, neither of whom is involved in Deep Throat’s return to theaters. In the decades following the film’s release on June 12, 1972, she became a prominent figure in the anti-pornography movement, working alongside such feminist pioneers as Gloria Steinam, Andrea Dworkin and Catharine A. MacKinnon. In 1980, Boreman published her harrowing memoir, Ordeal (written with Mike McGrady), in which she detailed the horrific abuse she experienced behind the scenes of the film at the hands of her ex-husband, Chuck Traynor.

By her own account, it was Traynor — who also died in 2002 — that forced her into appearing in porn films, including Deep Throat. “Every time someone sees that movie, they’re watching me being raped,” she told a U.S. Senate panel in 1984. “That movie was made against my will.”

Linda Lovelace in the controversial 1972 film Deep Throat. (Photo: Courtesy Cinematic Red PR)

Lovelace — whose real name was Linda Boreman — said she was coerced into making Deep Throat. (Photo: Cinematic Red PR)

MacKinnon was Boreman’s lawyer following the publication of Ordeal in 1980 up until her death in 2002, and still represents her children. Reached for comment about Deep Throat’s re-release, she indicates that her client’s opposition to the film that pushed her into the public eye never wavered. “She was extremely disappointed in her country, society and government in allowing Deep Throat to continue to be shown, as if she had not been abused to make it,” says MacKinnon, who has written multiple books sexual harassment and abuse, and is a professor of law at both the University of Michigan and Harvard University. “As if she didn’t matter — as if it counted and she didn’t.”

Deep Throat’s road to the big screen in 1972, and its road back 50 years later, offers a case study in the fraught relationship between pornography and popular culture. While the film itself has arguably lost the power to shock — or, for that matter, arouse — over the decades, its true legacy is as a bellwether for America’s constantly-shifting, yet always-uneasy, attitudes about sexuality in general and female pleasure in particular. That Deep Throat is re-emerging in an era where a resurgent conservative moment is seeking to put new restrictions on the ability of women to control their own bodies drives home how history never really ends — it just repeats.

The (porn) king of Queens

Gerard Damiano, director of Deep Throat

Deep Throat director Gerard Damiano attends a 2005 screening of the documentary, Inside Deep Throat. (Photo: Reuters/Michael Tweed)

Damiano never fit the conventional image of a pornographer. Born in 1928 into a staunchly Catholic family in the Bronx, he served a tour of duty in the United States Navy at 17 before opening a Queens-based beauty salon just as the ’60s-era sexual revolution was getting underway. And Damiano’s female clientele clued him into the fact that seismic cultural shifts were already happening in the bedroom. “I realized most of the women were very unhappy in their relationship with the person they were married to and supposedly in love with,” he recalled in the 2005 documentary Inside Deep Throat. “After 40 years of marriage, you can get tired of the good old in-and-out.”

A cinephile from a young age, Damiano realized that mainstream Hollywood was well behind the times when it came to depicting sex on the big screen — a disconnect that independent filmmakers all too happily took advantage of with the advent of cheaper cameras and a theatrical circuit that was no longer monopolized by the major studios.

Famed provocateur Russ Meyer was one of the directors who found early success by embracing TAUT model, releasing a series of fast, cheap and out-of-control productions like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Vixen! that titillated audiences with copious nudity and raunchy bumping and grinding that never tipped over into hardcore porn. (Film critic Roger Ebert was one of Meyer’s most prominent champions, and even penned the screenplays for several of his films, including the camp favorite, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, which premiered two years before Deep Throat.) “My father was a big fan of Russ Meyer,” confirms Damiano Jr. “He took a lot from him [stylistically], and he also gave him the courage to be an independent filmmaker.”

Trading a blow dryer for a movie camera, Damiano started his career shooting some of the 8-millimeter XXX reels that were in high demand on the Times Square porn circuit. While casting one of his planned productions — the suggestively-titled Doctor Makes a House Call — Damiano met Traynor and heard all about the unique talents of his wife, Boreman, who had already appeared in several shot reels. “Chuck said, ‘She gives head very well,'” Damiano remembered in Inside Deep Throat. “When I saw what she could do, I said ‘Stop the cameras!’ What she was doing was so unique, I could build a whole film around it.”

LOS ANGELES - CIRCA 1974:  Seminal adult film star Linda Lovelace (Linda Susan Boreman) poses for a portrait circa 1974 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Suzan Carson/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Linda Boreman poses for a portrait circa 1974 in Los Angeles, Calif. (Photo: Suzan Carson/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Like Damiano, Boreman hailed from a conservative working class Bronx family and was roughly 20 years the director’s junior when they first met. In Ordeal she described how Traynor wooed her into fleeing a troubled home, only to reveal himself to be a destructive abuser, forcing her into prostitution and pornography against her will and subjecting her to horrific beatings when she objected. “He had taken me directly from the cradle to the whorehouse, and brutality was the only thing that kept me there,” she wrote.

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Boreman had kinder words for Damiano, writing that the director treated her “very politely” in their initial encounters. “He was hung up on one thing, the oral sex technique that Chuck had taught me,” she explained in her account of Deep Throat’s origin story. “[He said,] ‘We’re going to do a whole film … about a girl who has a clit in her throat … And Linda will be perfect for it.'” But the film’s producer, Louis Peraino, wasn’t convinced by Damiano’s casting choice until Traynor sent her to his office to “persuade” him otherwise. “‘We could get Lou to change his mind … if you’d just go in there and give him a blow job,'” Boreman recalled Traynor telling her.

The son of a well-connected mobster, Peraino — who is credited as “Lou Perry” onscreen — cut an intimidating presence throughout the production and release of Deep Throat. After the movie became a sensation, the Mafia seized control of its distribution, effectively cutting Damiano out of participating in the $600 million in profits it reportedly generated. As late as 2005, the director was still skittish about discussing his experiences with the Mob figures that were involved behind the scenes.

(Original Caption) 2/1973-New York, New York-Marquee of The New Mature World Theatre which is showing the porno-film,

A 1973 marquee of The New Mature World Theatre in New York City where Deep Throat played. (Photo: Getty)

“It was a thing I could not have won,” the director explained in Inside Deep Throat about why he chose not to confront Peraino. “That’s about as far as I can go with it.” (Prior to his death in 1999, Peraino was back in the news for funding the distribution of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s stolen sex tape. He was portrayed by Andrew Dice Clay in the recent Hulu miniseries Pam & Tommy, which Damiano’s son says he saw and liked.)

While Peraino may have taken Deep Throat away from Damiano at the time, the director’s children say that he never followed proper copyright procedures to establish any legal ownership over the movie. “What we discovered is that they didn’t follow the proper protocol, and people were just afraid to challenge that,” Damiano Jr. explains. “So the chain of title begins and ends with the author [our father] in this case.”

That discovery allowed them to move forward with the 50th anniversary restoration and re-release, which they’re financing independently. Asked whether he’s confident that the generation of mobsters that frightened his father are dead, Damiano’s son replies simply: “We hope so.”

Shocking or silly?

Lovelace and Reems in Deep Throat. (Photo: Courtesy of Cinematic Red PR)

Lovelace and Reems in Deep Throat. (Photo: Cinematic Red PR)

For a film that’s lived in infamy for 50 years, what’s most surprising about the experience of watching Deep Throat in 2022 is how … square it seems. “No offense to Deep Throat, but there were better films back then,” award-winning adult film director Jacky St. James tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I mean, The Opening of Misty Beethoven was so good! I also really enjoyed Taboo. Those movies had really interesting storylines and qualities to them in a different way than Deep Throat, which is just very campy and silly.”

“Watching Deep Throat, I wasn’t like, ‘Whoa, I’ve never seen anything like this before,'” agrees Eve Arballo, a curator at the Museum of Sex in New York City who oversaw the recent exhibit Porno Chic to Sex Positivity, which featured select memorabilia from Deep Throat. “Being a millennial, there’s a lot more sexual content in our day-to-day lives now, so it’s not quite as shocking. But when I try to put myself in the place of people at the time, I can imagine the shock value. I also didn’t see it in a theater, which I think makes a huge difference.”

Those muted modern-day reactions to Deep Throat wouldn’t surprise Damiano, and they certainly don’t bother his children. “He was not proud of Deep Throat as a film,” Damiano Jr. admits. “He certainly enjoyed the celebrity that it afforded him because then he was able to go on to make better films. But as a movie, it was the best that they could do at the time. Now, The Devil in Miss Jones he loved! He always said this about [star] Georgina Spelvin: ‘She’s doing three pages of dialogue while she’s getting f***ed. You couldn’t find anybody in Hollywood that could do that!'”

Seen today, Deep Throat is best understood as the missing link between the cartoonish Russ Meyer sexploitation films that were edging into the mainstream and the hardcore porn reels that had yet to cross over. Made on location in Florida for two weeks on a $25,000 budget, the film’s barely-there story casts Linda Lovelace as… Linda Lovelace, a sexually frustrated young woman who enlists the help of Dr. Young (Reems) to understand why she’s not finding a partner that’s capable of ringing her bell. His professional diagnosis? Her clitoris is in her throat, and the only cure for that condition is mastering the art of deep throat fellatio.

No offense to Deep Throat, but there were better films back then.Jacky St. James

After practicing her technique on Dr. Young, a newly confident Linda heads off into the world for additional sexual encounters, including a bizarre interlude involving Coca-Cola-infused cunnilingus that’s scored to a spoof of a vintage Coke jingle. In the closing moments, she agrees to marry her boyfriend after he promises to get a penis reduction — an unexpectedly PG-rated ending for one of the world’s most famous XXX features.

“It is a love story,” notes Leonardi. “It’s about Linda’s quest for love: She even says to her roommate, ‘I want to settle down, I want somebody to marry me.'” Damiano’s son says that his father had an “old fashioned” streak that frequently manifested itself in his films, no matter how uninhibited the onscreen action got. “Some of his best work involves this philosophical debate about what’s more important: love that grows out of sex or sex that grows out of love. Oftentimes, he found that sex was only important when you didn’t have it. And then once you have it, you focus on other things like love. Sex is easy to get, but love — that’s the tricky one.”

1972, American actor Linda Lovelace (1949 - 2002), as Herself, adjusts her garter in a still from director Gerard Damiano pornographic film 'Deep Throat'. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)

Boreman in a scene from Deep Throat. (Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images)

Both Damiano children remember being on the set of Deep Throat, although Christar says that her father made sure they were elsewhere when the clothes came off. “We knew it was a film with sex in it, but we didn’t see any of the sex,” she says, adding that her father prevented her from watching the film at all until she was an adult. “When I did see it, the one takeaway I had was how it brought the female to the forefront in terms of her pleasure. It created this dialogue about what a woman wants in sex, and what’s important to her. That was something that I was proud of my dad for being a forerunner in.”

Even though Deep Throat depicts a woman’s journey for sexual satisfaction, St. James notes that it still presents a distinctly male fantasy of female pleasure. “The fact that her pleasure is in her throat basically means that the only pleasure she can give is to men,” says the director, whose credits include The Temptation of Eve and The Submission of Emma Marx. “That was a very common approach in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s to focus on male pleasure. It’s different now: a lot of female directors, myself included, focus on the connection between men and women in straight porn instead creating a campy fantasy where you see those kinds of silly storylines.”

An off-camera ordeal

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 6: Linda Lovelace being interviewed by Stanley Siegel on THE STANLEY SIEGEL SHOW.  Image dated February 6, 1980.  (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

Boreman being interviewed about her book, Ordeal, on The Stanley Siegel Show in 1980. (Photo by TAUT via Getty Images)

Deep Throat’s onscreen frivolity masks the physical and emotional pain that Boreman described experiencing off-screen. Jealous of her budding friendship with Reems, Traynor’s abuses worsened during production, culminating in a vicious beating in their hotel bedroom while members of the film’s crew partied in the next room. “‘Help!’ I called out. ‘Oh God, please me! Someone, help me!'” Boremon wrote in Ordeal. “Help did not come.”

Traynor’s attack left her with large bruises on her thighs and legs, injuries that she said could be seen in the film. (Discolored areas on her legs that could be bruises are visible in an early scene at a swimming pool.) While Boreman does credit Damiano with finding ways to keep Traynor away from the set — dispatching him on cigarette and coffee runs, among other errands — she also implies that he and the rest of the all-male crew willfully turned a blind eye towards her plight. “These men had their chance to help me and they didn’t respond.”

Responding to Boreman’s Ordeal account in Inside Deep Throat, Damiano said that his star was “very happy” while making the film, and suggested that the stories recounted in the book were shaped by her involvement with the anti-porn movement later on. The director’s children express similar feelings. “What I know of Linda is that she was very submissive,” says Christar. “She was a person that needed people to tell her what to do. She tells so many different sides of the story, and none of them really gel — they’re all very different interpretations of it. It’s too bad that she didn’t stick up for herself and really tell the truth. It was like someone told her what she should feel or what she should say, and she did that.”

Leonardi adds that her mother and other adult industry performers didn’t look kindly on Boreman’s choice to publish Ordeal and ally herself with anti-porn groups. “My mother always kind of resented the fact that Linda pulled the victim card after she had said in earlier accounts, ‘This is sexual freedom,'” Leonardi says. “She gave conflicting reports, which then gave a bad rap to other female performers and the industry as a whole.”

“We are fans of Linda Lovelace: There would be no Deep Throat without her,” says Damiano Jr. when asked to clarify whether or not they believe that Boreman was being truthful in Ordeal. “She was definitely abused, but she was abused by her husband. She and Chuck had a very open relationship that they were very upfront in that it was kind of a master-slave thing. He would order her around and she would dutifully do it, but it was like their kink. On the set of Deep Throat, that’s how they presented themselves. But once Linda got famous and people started circling around her, everybody said, ‘What are you doing with this a**hole who’s beating you up?’ and then she was able to get away from him. Deep Throat might have saved her life.

“Her story evolved over time, but so did she,” he continues. “She died, which is a tragedy because we would have loved to have her come and be on a panel discussion and answer these questions and talk about how she really feels about the film. During the time she spent with the anti-porn feminists, she gave a lot of famous quotes that are about her being raped. But you’re just catching that one moment in her life: She said different things before that and then later on at the end of her life, she made comments about how the feminists had used and abused her for their own purposes — worse than the porn people did.”

Catharine MacKinnon, James Barr Ames Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard Law School, speaks at the Milken Institute's 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S. April 30, 2018. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Catharine A. MacKinnon speaks at the Milken Institute’s 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills in 2018. She was Linda Boreman’s lawyer from 1980 to 2002. (Photo: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

But Boreman’s lawyer, MacKinnon, rejects the suggestion that her client “evolved” her story over time. “They’re saying there’s a difference between what she said when she was in captivity and after she had escaped and was free of that threat,” she says. “That’s called a change in her story? Really?” MacKinnon also says that Boreman remained adamant up until her death that Traynor forced her into making Deep Throat. “There was never any changing her story about that.”

Boreman’s accusations continue to cast a pall over Deep Throat. Arballo says that the subject was brought up by an audience member who attended a panel following a recent 50th anniversary Deep Throat screening at the Roxy Cinema in New York co-hosted by the Museum of Sex. “There was one person that tried to make it about the Linda Lovelace situation, but the conversation didn’t really stick,” she recalls. “It’s a complex issue: As a woman, I obviously don’t discount what she said. Do I think that means the film shouldn’t be seen? No. Do I think she had a very valid reason for feeling the way she did? Yes.”

St. James agrees that Boreman’s account can’t help but affect the way she views Deep Throat now. “Of course it’s going to cloud your judgment, but I think there’s still that impartiality that you can maintain if you look at the film for what it is. You can recognize that something traumatic happened to this person, but what the film did was historically groundbreaking. Linda seemed so truly innocent: She wasn’t this sexually objectified persona with gigantic breasts. She seemed like she’d be your next-door neighbor, and someone who was almost too sweet and innocent to be in porn.”

American actress Linda Lovelace (1949 - 2002) with her husband Larry Marchiano and their son Dominic outside their Long Island home, 1980. Lovelace starred in a number of pornographic films in the 1970s. (Photo by US Magazine/Pictorial Parade/Getty Images)

Boreman in 1980 with her husband, Larry Marchiano, and their son, Dominic. The couple divorced in 1996. (Photo: Us Magazine/Pictorial Parade/Getty Images)

Even after she left Traynor — and the porn industry — MacKinnon says that Deep Throat shaped the rest of Boreman’s life, costing her jobs and impacting her relationships, including her marriage to Marchiano, which ended in 1996. “As she put it, she wasn’t the star of Deep Throat, she was its victim,” MacKinnon notes. “People kept finding out who she was, and if you can’t clean offices at night or enter data for companies because people find out that you had once been coerced into being in pornography, your life just becomes impossible. She was outraged by it, and also felt a lot of despair. What she wanted most in life was to be a mother, and she succeeded in that — she has wonderful children — but it was impossible to have an ordinary life.”

Unlike their mother, Boreman’s children — Dominic and Lindsay Marchiano — have been able to live outside of the public eye. Both served as consultants on the 2013 biopic Lovelace, starring Amanda Seyfried as their mother and Peter Sarsgaard as Traynor. Damiano’s children say they haven’t met the Marchianos, but would be open to hosting them on an anniversary panel.

“I don’t really know how they perceive their mother now,” says Damiano Jr., adding that he and his sister are the founding members of Club 91, a support group for the children of adult film industry stars and directors. “Linda’s kids would be honorary members, and we’d be happy to have them on a panel to hear their viewpoints, because I think that’s important.” (MacKinnon declines to comment about whether the Marchianos would be open to appearing on a Deep Throat panel.)

[Linda] wasn’t the star of ‘Deep Throat,’ she was its victim.Catharine MacKinnon

Asked whether they plan to share any of the profits generated from the film’s re-release with Boreman’s children or organizations that aid battered women, Damiano’s son says that there is currently “no money to share” considering the $250,000 price tag required for the film’s 4K restoration, plus associated legal fees. “So far, all we’ve done is lose money on the whole process. But we’re not in this for the money right now. Everybody before us was trying to make a buck: We just want to preserve the film and reintroduce it, because it started a dialogue and brought up issues fifty years ago that are still relevant today.”

A public affair

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 15:  Porno Actor Harry Reems in front of a porno shop on May 15,1976 in New York, New York. (Photo by Santi Visalli/Getty Images)

Deep Throat star Harry Reems in front of an adult movie theater in New York City in 1976. The actor was tried and convicted on federal conspiracy charges over his role in the film. (Photo: Santi Visalli/Getty Images)

At the time of its release, Deep Throat scored significant legal and financial victories that seemed impossible just a few years earlier. Moviegoers who previously never would have considered watching porn in a public setting made a point of seeking out Damiano’s film, pushing it onto Variety’s weekly box office charts — a first for a hardcore feature — as it climbed to a reported $600 million final gross.

Those numbers were hard for mainstream culture to ignore: It wasn’t long before Deep Throat references found their way into everything from The Tonight Show to Sanford and Son. The movie hit a whole other level of pop culture notoriety when it became the nom de plume for anonymous source that gave Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein inside details about the Watergate scandal and helped bring down Richard Nixon’s administration in 1974. (Decades later, that “Deep Throat” was revealed to be FBI agent Mark Felt.)

Deep Throat’s box-office returns were all the more impressive considering that it never received the kind of wide theatrical release that became standard operating procedure for studio-made blockbusters like Jaws and Star Wars. Banned outright in 23 states, the film was the target of state and federal obscenity law litigation in the areas where it did screen. Reems himself was prosecuted and convicted of conspiracy charges at the federal level in 1976, although that verdict was overturned the following year. At the same time, the movie successfully challenged local obscenity laws in states like Connecticut and New York, where it played in various theaters for almost two years.

While Damiano may not have been happy with Deep Throat as a film, he recognized the unique opportunity its success presented to bring the freewheeling erotic energy of the adult film industry into mainstream moviemaking. But that proved to be a larger war that he ended up losing. In 1973, the Supreme Court established new standards for obscenity via the Miller v. California case that opened the door for more aggressive regulation of theatrically released porn films and made major studios hyper-aware about the sexual content in their own features. Meanwhile, the advent of the VHS era — followed by DVD and the internet — opened up a lucrative new market and cheaper production economics for XXX features. Today, porn exists as an entirely separate industry within Hollywood, and is consumed almost entirely in private.

“Even as a kid, I remember my father saying, ‘Every time you see a couple in a Hollywood film and they kiss, the camera pans away and in the next scene they’re pushing a baby carriage,'” says Damiano Jr. “He wanted to make the Hollywood film where the camera never panned away. That was his vision, and unfortunately the industry didn’t quite get there. In the U.S., there’s still this kind of hypocrisy about sex: It’s become a dirty word and you thought we would have evolved beyond that by now. Your parents had sex whether you want to admit it or not, so let’s be real about it.”

HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 19:  Director Jacky St. James at the 2016 AVN Awards Nomination Party held at Avalon on November 19, 2015 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

Acclaimed adult film director Jacky St. James at the 2016 AVN Awards Nomination Party in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo: Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

St. James argues that many of today’s leading adult film directors are being real about sex, even if that’s not the popular impression of her industry. “People make a lot of assumptions that contemporary porn is campy, but those are people that literally know nothing about porn,” she notes. “Right now, directors are doing things that are a little bit more artistic with better storylines than the cheesy, ‘Oh, your clit is in your throat,’ thing. We don’t really do that kind of stuff anymore.”

At the same time, St. James allows that something has been lost in porn’s migration from movie screens to TV and computer screens — a reflection of American society’s wider impulse to make sex a taboo topic for public discussion. “We can’t really be open about it unless we’re alone in our home. People are immature when it comes to talking about sex: You see them giggling or treating porn as the punchline to a joke. It makes children out of adults.”

That’s why it’s hard for her to imagine modern audiences watching Deep Throat at one of its 50th anniversary screenings without that kind of childish immaturity asserting itself. “Younger generations who sadly have grown up on porn might have a more mature reaction,” St. James says. “But I still think it’s going to be giggled about. I mean, you can’t deny the movie is funny! That storyline is ridiculous. But even removing the storyline, the mere fact of watching two people have sex is difficult for people to handle.”

Arballo reports that the Roxy Cinema’s recent screening of Deep Throat went over smoothly, although the audience was on the older side and seemed more familiar with the film’s legacy. “No one left the theater, and nothing disrespectful happened,” she says. “I think it’s going to come down to the types of theaters that are showing it. I co-host a monthly series at the Roxy where we show erotic art films, and I’m always super-impressed by how audiences view it — they’re genuinely interested in the intersection of art and sex. But I have been in other audiences at other theaters where there’s laughter and people covering their eyes. So it really depends.”

LOS ANGELES - CIRCA 1976:  Seminal adult film star Linda Lovelace (Linda Susan Boreman) poses for a portrait circa 1976 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Suzan Carson/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Boreman poses for a 1976 portrait series photographed in Los Angeles. (Photo: Suzan Carson/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

And then there’s the larger question about whether Deep Throat should even still be viewed at all in light of Boreman’s strongly-expressed feelings about the film. Like her client, MacKinnon would prefer that Deep Throat remains in the past as a piece of history to be studied rather than celebrated. “I don’t think people should go around showing it, but I do think it is important to preserve as an artifact of abuse, and to understand what it took to get someone to do that,” she says. “Also to understand what the consequences are of people viewing a sex act that is completely impossible, objectively speaking. Women do not have clitorises in our throats, and what the film has done in the real world to promote forced fellatio is important to understand and to learn from.

“For me, it’s important that the film be known to exist and be able to be studied, but nothing beyond that,” MacKinnon continues. “Not that it be ‘shown’ in the sense of entertainment. It’s an artifact of abuse and has had a very powerful social effect that you can’t understand without watching it. By saying which, I’m not promoting people watching it.”

For their part, the Damiano children emphasize that Deep Throat‘s 50th anniversary re-release is about placing the film in the context of the times that produced it. “We’re taking it to places where we can have a discussion or talk back to give audience members the opportunity to ask questions, and where we can bring in people that were involved in the film or experts that have varying opinions that can contextualize it historically,” says Damiano Jr.

“We also want to bring justice to our dad because of the amount of money that everyone else made from his creativity and his artistic work,” adds Damiano’s daughter, Christar. “We want to bring justice to him, and make him proud as his children. That’s really why we’re doing this — for him.”

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