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Linda Lovelace exhibition at the Museum of Sex

Seeing that New York City’s Museum of Sex was temporarily housing a multi-boob shaped moon bounce, I had to pay a visit.

Both fortunately and unfortunately, the moon bounce wasn’t the only big attraction at “MoSex” this mid-April. Before walking through a maze to get to the epic boob bounce on floor three, visitors have to endure a full floor exhibition dedicated to arguably the most famous porn actress of all time, Linda Lovelace.

Mainly meant to showcase her photo shoot with the iconic Milton H. Greene (the man behind the “Black Sitting” photo portraits of Marilyn Monroe), the exhibition covers that and more, including Linda Boreman’s (her last name at birth) relationship with what the museum’s website calls her “husband-manager” Chuck Traynor, whom she’s since come out to denounce as her long-time abuser, the man who literally forced her into prostitution and then porn at gunpoint.

Overall, the Linda Lovelace exhibition is horrifying and, in my humble opinion, should not have been there. I would call it glorifying one woman’s saga of abuse, but instead it seems to gloss over that part of the story. In fact, it would have you believe the abuse was just a “part” of the story, when it truly would be better deemed “the whole story.”

This, of course, is if Boreman’s account is to be believed, and why shouldn’t it? Making up a story of abuse like the one she told in her book, Ordeal, isn’t exactly something people tend to do on a lark. The exhibition, called “The Eve of Porn,” however, does look at Boreman’s story through a lens of doubt. It focuses much more on her porn stardom and all the fabulous celebrities she fucked (Hugh Hefner! Paul Newman and son!) as if these were glorious accolades in her lustrous, happy career.

Linda Lovelace again

Only when you make your way around to the latter end of the room do you start reading and hearing about Boreman’s “Ordeal.” According to Boreman, Traynor forced her into pornography and prostitution, threatening her with physical violence, firearms, and mental abuse that went on throughout her entire career. He completely controlled her and her finances, holding her prisoner.

“The Eve of Porn” throws this information in as if it’s an afterthought. If I remember correctly, it almost offers the information that Boreman became an anti-pornography advocate as a fact disconnected from her coerced entry into the industry, as if it’s some big mystery as to why this “Eve of Porn” would ever turn on the world that brought her so much fame and fortune (she attests to never having gotten paid for “Deep Throat,” with Traynor taking the money for her appearance in the film). Again, the exhibition favors glossing over analyzing.

Overall, it seemed that shock value was the main focus. A giant screen in which the sucking part of “Deep Throat” plays on a loop serves as the centerpiece, and the porn “Lovelace” made with canines as co-stars takes up no insignificant portion, either. True, Boreman’s story does tell an important one about the porn industry and its earlier days and the various, controversial stances on it, but her story should most prominently serve as a cautionary tale of intimate partner violence.

Seeing that tucked into the background of this exhibition was frankly disturbing. I felt deeply uncomfortable as I moved through it, but compelled nonetheless to read every sign, hoping for something to redeem the curator, and found very little (Lovelace talking herself about the abuse was just one, small video with poor sound quality playing on a screen greatly overshadowed by “Deep Throat” on the big screen). In a way, though, the exhibit mirrored how people saw this porn industry icon—in the foreground, as a sex goddess to whom no carnal feat was out of reach, and in the very distant shadows, a woman trying to survive in an abusive relationship.

Moving up the stairs to culinary and architectural designers Sam Bompas and Harry Parr’s Funland installation meant entering an entirely different universe, where sex felt more exciting and innocent. Coming straight from reading and hearing about Lovelace starring in bestiality flicks, it took a serious distraction to not feel a little queasy when finally getting to bounce around giant boobs in Funland (the boob moon bounce is what draws everyone to the Museum of Sex right now, isn’t it?). Visitors get exactly that in the mirrored maze that leads to the rest of Funland. Finding the much-awaited inflated boob castle at the end of a winding, mirrored path proved a true challenge.

Bompas and Parr boob bounceOverall, the exhibition was more fun than I’d had all week, possibly even month, outside of having sex itself, but it was underwhelming in size. More important to note, it was a true feat of strength, forcing visitors to exercise both their bodies and their minds as they completed challenges like not getting winded as an adult in a moon (boob) bounce for more than five minutes and scaling a rock (boob/dick/butt/vagina) wall.

Kids would have thrived in Funland if their parents deemed it appropriate (though they may have bumped their heads on the glass maze of an entryway one too many times in getting to what they’d consider the “real fun”) and the elderly would have met with a truly difficult time—but neither are the demographic this museum caters to.

As young adults, my friends and I managed semi-swimmingly. We all slipped at the same part on the rock wall and got winded at about the same time in the boob-filled bouncy castle. We thrived in the mirrored entryway, but less so in the carnival game necessary to kill time while waiting for your turn in the boob bounce. The game featured golden, mini-penises (one per player) that inched forward as said player got more wooden balls in a hole. A filler of a game, it seemed a necessary addition to bring the full carnivalesque ambience. The penises were a bit trite, but very cute and ultimately entertaining. I suppose that description could sum up the whole exhibit.

Either way, there was almost enough going on in Funland to lead me away from the disturbed feeling I got walking through “The Eve of Porn.” Almost.

For more information on these exhibitons and New York’s Museum of Sex in general, check out its website.

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*Images credited to the Museum of Sex.