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The Sexes: Wonder Woman

4 minute read

What, if anything, gives a blue movie enough “redeeming social value” to keep it from being judged obscene?

That was the main issue in a long Manhattan trial that was adjourned last week to await the judge’s verdict. The movie would lead viewers to practice sex with more freedom and pleasure, suggested a psychiatrist. The film was an amusing satire on contemporary sexual mores, said a movie critic. There was nothing new or compelling in these arguments, which have been advanced for many a skin flick in many an obscenity hearing.

This case will set no national precedent. What made the trial interesting—and the occasion for a totally new set of arguments—was the movie that was in the dock. Called Deep Throat, it is the story of a rapacious girl named Linda Lovelace. In spite of dozens of greatly varied sexual experiments, Linda is never really satisfied, never sees those well-known fireworks. It is only when she learns from a helpful doctor that her clitoris, for some strange reason, is misplaced and imbedded in her throat, that she is able to improve her sex life dramatically. “I love it,” she sighs ecstatically.

No Ice. So why is Deep Throat more socially valuable than most pornographic films? “This is one of the first sexploitation films to show sympathy for the idea that a woman’s sexual gratification is as important as a man’s,” Arthur Knight, critic and professor of film at the University of Southern California, told the judge. Manhattan Psychiatrist Edward J. Hornick echoed the argument. Unlike other films of this genre, he explained, Deep Throat did not deal with the sexual exploitation of women by men, but with “a young woman who seeks orgasmic pleasure for herself.”

Viewing the movie, said Dr. John Money, professor of medical psychology at Johns Hopkins, could have a cleansing action on people’s sex lives. He added:

“If I may use the phrase, it puts an eggbeater in people’s brains and enables them to think afresh about their atti tudes and values.”

By no means all the witnesses agreed. The fact that it was a woman rather than a man doing the exploiting cut no ice with Psychoanalyst Ernest van den Haag. “Once you regard a person as merely a means to your plea sure,” he declared during his four hours of testimony, “then you will be ready to commit any act for your pleasure or displeasure—putting another person in a concentration camp or exploiting his teeth and hair.”

Dr. Max Levin, a 71 -year-old psychiatrist, objected to the fact that the plot turned on what he called an “an atomical absurdity.” Worse, he said, the movie would strengthen the Women’s Lib thesis that anything other than a clitoral orgasm is a male myth. “I think that vaginal orgasm is superior to the clitoral,” Dr. Levin announced.

Apart from its Manhattan trial, perhaps the most notable thing about Deep Throat has been its commercial success.

Explicit in its sex scenes, it is nevertheless tame compared with many other dirty movies. Yet, according to the distributors, it has grossed almost $3,000,000 in over 60 U.S. theaters—the biggest take of any hard-core porno movie to date. This is partly because women—both alone and with dates—have been lining up to see it. Many find it revolting, but some seem drawn to freckled Linda Lovelace, the female Don Juan who is also funny: a Mad magazine cloning of Little Annie Fanny and Mary Marvel. The Texas actress who plays the role, however, seems unaware that she may be joining Wonder Woman in the underground pantheon of liberation. Asked by a girlie magazine why she made the movie, she answered, “Because I’m an exhibitionist . . . and I make good money.”

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