Growing up in Chicago in the seventies, Lisa Palac was a slutty Catholic schoolgirl. Hey, I'm not being judgmental; she says so herself in her 1998 memoir The Edge of the Bed: How Dirty Pictures Changed My Life. Anyway, desperate to lose her virginity she chased boys until she achieved her goal..and then she kept on chasing. Lisa went away to college where she became a feminist. You might remember the early eighties, when political correctness was aborning and we feminists were leading the way. We weren't girls, we were women, and don't you dare hold that door open for me, you sexist pig. And pornography...well, pornography was nothing but bad; in fact, radical feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon spent much of the eighties pursuing anti-pornography ordinances (because, you know, empowered women weren't powerful enough to protect ourselves).
Lisa dived right into the feminist movement, embracing with a vengeance all of its tenets, believing all she learned. And then, at the age of twenty, a vibrator literally fell on her head from the closet of a new apartment, she sterilized it, she tried it, she had her first orgasm. And then her boyfriend introduced her to the joys of porn. And then Lisa changed her point of view and became a sex-positive feminist.
You'd think, considering its subject and her utter frankness about it, Lisa Palac's book would be a lot more fun. Unfortunately, most of it reads rather like the paragraph above, a series of and-thens alternating with lengthy interludes of whiny self reflection. Palac did many interesting things and met many interesting people, and she's at her best when she leaves the introspection behind and explores her life, say, at the pioneering lesbian magazine On Our Backs, where she worked with the great Susie Bright (who writes a lovely introduction to this book), and met the creme-de-la-creme of radical West Coast lesbian pornographers. And she's absolutely captivating when she's describing her forays into the then very new world of the internet and cyberporn, when it took thirty minutes to download one dirty photo and the chat rooms were full of people discovering the joys of being able to be whoever they wanted to be and say whatever they wanted to say and live out online whatever fantasies they wanted to type.
When you get right down to it, Lisa Palac is a sort-of interesting person who has known many truly over-the-top interesting people--in addition to Susie Bright, Palac worked with prostitute turned performance artist and sex educator Annie Sprinkle, and Betty Dodson, the grandmother of the women's sexual liberation movement, among others. Palac's book would have been far more fun and engaging if she had concentrated more of her attention on stories of her fabulous friends and less time recounting her disillusionment with Catholicism and examining why she ultimately embraced a traditional married lifestyle. As it is, however, The Edge of the Bed shows flashes of joyous fun, but is ultimately flat and self-indulgent.