August 19th, 2019

The Poignant Beauty of Bound: A Daughter, A Domme, and an End-of-Life Story

In November of 2012, a post from Elizabeth Anne Wood, whom I know in person and am Facebook friends with, appeared in my Facebook feed. It said that she was “putting [her] phone on silent overnight for the first time in seven months.” I remember finding the statement deeply poignant. I had learned from a post two days before that her mother was no longer alive in that physical form.

I had been peripherally aware via Facebook that Elizabeth had been caring for her mother through an intensive and terminal illness. Not long after, I learned that Elizabeth planned to write a book about the experience of being her mother’s caretaker during the health challenges that arose shortly after her mother’s later-in-life sexual exploration and foray into erotic domination. I made an immediate note to read it when it came out.

Doing so illuminated just how peripheral my knowledge of the situation had indeed been as Bound: A Daughter, A Domme, and an End-of-Life Story guided me unflinchingly into the thick of not only the mind-bogglingly complicated (thanks in part to the bureaucratic nature of current health care in the United States) care of the author’s mother Judy during her cancer diagnosis and treatment, but also through a poignant and engrossing narrative that touches topics ranging from Elizabeth’s childhood and her mother’s alcoholism until Elizabeth was eight, to her discussions with her mother about the latter’s discovery of and newfound enthusiasm for sexual dominance in her sixties, to navigating communications with health care providers upon whom the well-being of a beloved family member to some degree depends. Intertwined in the story are the tension that arises sometimes between the author and her sister as they navigate the utterly uncertain terrain of their mother’s health and care, the welcome presence of the male partner with whom Judy has developed an erotic relationship of dominance and submission, and an exhausting number of physical transfers from hospital to rehab centers to skilled nursing facilities and back again.

Bound is a book to which we already know the “ending.” Such is, in fact, included in the subtitle. Like many books in this category, the purpose of reading it then becomes not to find out how the volume resolves but to witness the shape, evolution, and content of the story as it progresses to its known conclusion. This is reflected on occasion in the actual text, in which Elizabeth at times not only foreshadows but actually shares a significant fact or occurrence that will become known later in their experience but that they are not yet aware of in the current scenario. Rather than detract in any way from the suspense of the narrative, these observations enhance the poignancy and, in many cases, highlight the frustration or anguish of aspects of the author’s (and her family’s) journey.

On page 193, I cried for the first time during the reading. It is on this page that a doctor offers Elizabeth the gentle invitation to “just be the daughter,” and I immediately sensed both the profound compassion in the invitation and also the earth-shattering and seemingly impossible surrender its recipient was likely to perceive in it. This was, of course, because Elizabeth had so effectively depicted the supreme propensities for organization, capability, and conscientiousness that had been dominating (no pun intended) her role of being her mother’s primary caretaker and medical advocate. It was easy to recognize, however, the beauty and importance of also “being the daughter,” and I cried alongside the author as she expressed, both out loud to the medical professionals and also in the written narrative, the frustration and uncertainty about what allowing herself to embrace such a role would mean.

This instance of being personally—and sympathetically—moved to tears contrasted with other times I felt moved in a more philosophical way, such as in the anguish and indignation I felt on pages 178-179 as Elizabeth alluded to the devastating racial and economic inequality of America’s health care system. (As a slight digression, it is a sincere hope in me that someday humanity looks back and recognizes a health care system—or what was called that—in any society that is centered on for-profit institutions and a for-profit industry that dictates what care individuals may receive according to how much money that for-profit industry is willing to spend as the inhumane abomination that it is.) Such practical and sociological conditions receive both recognition and illumination in this account of a patient who happens to be white and have high-quality employer-provided health insurance, as well as a primary caretaker and medical advocate who is well-educated and has the relative luxury of getting to take time off to care for her ailing mother full-time.

I experienced this book as a very personal offering from the author. Many, if not all, books are that, perhaps (though memoirs are explicitly so), but what I mean is that the way the author frames her words and what she chooses to convey feel, on one hand, very intimate, offered with both a generosity and a vulnerability inherent in letting us in to view this experience as she lived it. Simultaneously, the volume feels almost like an internal reckoning for the author herself, an exposition delineating her history, family dynamics, experiences, perspectives, and, perhaps most of all, her labor on behalf of all of those things, borne of love and laced with the confusion, obligation, competency, and uncertainty that (perhaps in that order) developed from her childhood and formed the unique psychic structures she exhibits as she rejoices in Judy’s late-in-life sexual development and shepherds her mother through the health-related ordeal that will result in her transition out of that physical form. This nuanced juxtaposition gives a beautiful, personal, poignant tone and energy to a story filled with love, sensitivity, and honesty.

One final note: Rather than at the beginning, the acknowledgements are at the end of this book, which seemed both moving and fitting somehow. To me, they almost seemed like a combination of acknowledgments and epilogue, and I encourage readers to continue through to their conclusion. The story hardly seems complete without them.


“Hospitals, on the other hand, remove our agency immediately, in very unceremonial ways, and then offer it back coercively by way of consent forms that we are compelled to sign in order to get the treatment we know we need.”
-from Bound: A Daughter, A Domme, and an End-of-Life Story

June 19th, 2019

A Focus on Abortion Access

A couple weeks ago I heard Dr. Randall Williams, director of Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services, say on NPR’s All Things Considered that if Missouri’s single abortion clinic were unable to provide abortions, people seeking abortions in that state have the fortunate circumstance of Missouri’s being surrounded by eight different states, so that many facilities that provide abortions are “very close by” there.

How handy! Arkansas, for example, which is so well known for its rich abundance of reproductive health facilities, is a mere 150-mile hop, skip, and jump from central Missouri. What a relief! Such a relief, in fact, that while they’re at it, perhaps they should stop selling Viagra in Missouri and just send anyone wanting it to one of the very-close-by neighboring states to pick it up. It’s fair to assume, incidentally, that people seeking such health care measures are just sitting around with gas-filled vehicles looking for something to occupy their time, yes?

Something I’m aware of about myself is that when I get sarcastic, it means I’m so pissed off I can hardly see straight and haven’t quite processed that yet. So I’m taking a deep breath now. And what I mean to say is that if you don’t want people with uteruses to legally have the same bodily and sexual autonomy as people without uteruses, please acknowledge that and spare any listening audiences the malevolent condescension of pretending you give a shit about the health and well-being of such people.

Case in point: the interviewer asked two direct questions about patients seeking abortion care, and Dr. Williams’s answers to both did not reference or mention patients a single time. While telling, this is not surprising. Because he doesn’t care about them.

For those who want to talk about killing the unborn, this is my serious response: You prefer killing already born or grown people via war, economic policies that encourage poverty, and inaccessible healthcare? Obviously we see this differently. But if you want to say that abortion is murder and leave that statement as the singular reason abortion is wrong or should be illegal, I will assume you are 100% against all war under all circumstances. If you are not, that means you find “murder” justifiable under some circumstances. When and why is it okay? When it is government-sanctioned and done to people on the other side of the globe by people in uniform? Yes? No? If it is not the case that you are against lethal warfare under all circumstances, then that means you find killing people justifiable under some circumstances, so you need to come up with why it is not justifiable in the case of abortion if you think killing someone is what it is. Simply falling back on the statement that it is “murder” does not work, as we just established that you do not find murder 100% unacceptable or unjustifiable in and of itself.

I’ve said this before, and I continue to find it an important consideration on the subject of abortion: pregnancy and childbirth are unique. I don’t think they can be compared to anything else, so using a framework of comparison—whether the fetus is a “person,” whether abortion is “murder”—seems foolhardy to me. If you find it unacceptable for a pregnancy to be terminated, then you do. Perceiving the subject of that pregnancy as something you have anything to do with while it is inside and depends for survival on someone else’s body is beyond comprehension to me. Unless you are the impregnator or intimately partnered with the pregnant individual, that pregnancy has nothing to do with you, and you have nothing to do with it. Even if you are the impregnator or partner of the pregnant person, it is the case that the individual carrying that pregnancy is its sole connection with life, and it is that body and that person who chooses how to interact with it.

If that person chooses to engage them as such, others may certainly be in consultation about it. But the common thread in all pregnancies remains that except in cases where a pregnancy releases on its own (miscarriage), the pregnant person (assuming they are an autonomously competent individual) is responsible in all stages of the pregnancy for interacting with it the way most resonant for them, whether that is choosing to release the pregnancy via abortion services, continuing with the pregnancy through birth, feeling compelled to release the pregnancy for tragic reasons after it had been received as desired, or other scenarios as may arise. If a pregnancy is embraced as desired, ideally all the circumstances surrounding it result in a life-affirming and healthy pregnancy and birth. Whether or not this occurs, the position of the individual harboring the pregnancy as the ultimate authority on it throughout the process does not change.

To return to the subject of Missouri, I am aware of the legal strategy of what they and other states are doing, and I feel confident that Roe v. Wade will be overturned in the foreseeable future. Obviously, I can certainly appreciate the activism protesting that: Human-made laws that circumvent the autonomy of a pregnant individual and force a potential human being to form in and emerge from a being and body that does not desire or consent to that process is a literal perversion of the phenomenon of the creation and birth of life. Yes, such a specter is appalling to me. The ignorance and unconscious distortions that motivate a desire for such perversion similarly dismay me, and they are clearly operating to an ominously prevalent degree in current society.

That said, I see the loss of Roe v. Wade’s precedent as a legal protection as close to an inevitability as long as the government of this country continues in the form it has since its creation. I thus admit I feel more urgently oriented toward practical organizing in terms of helping people get abortions once doing so is criminalized again in this country. How will networking and technological advances best be leveraged to help people seeking abortions get them and help people obtaining and providing them stay out of jail? A recent article by Rebecca Traister speaks directly to this question:

“[T]hese organizations already exist, are founded and run by women of color, have long been transporting those in need of reproductive care to the facilities where they can get it; they are woefully underfunded. The trick is not to start something new, but to join forces with [those who have already been organizing around abortion access for those denied it]. . . . Distinguishing the work of abortion funds from the policy fights in state houses and at the capitols, Hernandez said, ‘whatever happens in Washington, and changes in the future, women need to get care today.’

“And whatever comes next, she said, it’s the people who have been doing this work for years who are likely to be best prepared to deal with the harm inflicted, which is a good place for the newly enraged to start. ‘If and when Roe is abolished,’ said Hernandez, ‘the people who are going to be getting people to the care they need are those who have largely been navigating this already and are already well suited for the logistical challenges.'”

Safe, professional, legal abortion has indeed been inaccessible to a number of people and populations for some time due to legal intrusions such as the Hyde Amendment, waiting periods, minor consent laws, and other legislation orchestrated to impede the accessibility of abortion services. That the legal orientation in the United States currently appears to be continuing in that direction is abhorrent, and simultaneously, a shift in how we support reproductive justice (from working to defend Roe to supporting the population after abortion is criminalized in some states) seems, however wretchedly, called for to me.


  • “Every road they led you down felt so wrong, so you found another way…”
    -Lindsey Sterling featuring Andrew McMahon “Something Wild”

  • June 12th, 2019

    Autonomy, Ignorance, and Porn

    Some readers may have heard about the recent kerfuffle over a high school newspaper that carried an article based on an interview with a senior (eighteen years old) at the school who was working in porn. When the school administration heard the article was in the works, they asked to be able to see it before the paper went to press. The paper’s faculty advisor, a journalism and composition teacher at the school, refused. She was subsequently threatened with disciplinary action up to potential firing, which made national news. (Note: For anyone who doesn’t understand why it would be such a big deal for her to have allowed the administration to read the article before it was published, it would be the equivalent of the United States government’s requiring that media outlets run things by them before printing them. I hope that illuminates the debilitating chilling effect such would have on the press. Indeed, it represents the antithesis of the purported purpose of the press in the US.)

    I first appreciate the teacher’s steadfastness in refusing the administration’s demand even in the face of potentially losing her job. (The appalling behavior as such of the administration is an entire subject in and of itself that I am not covering here.) I also find the uproar about writing an article about a student legally and consensually working in porn both maddening and disheartening. It’s as though we sadistically cannot handle a sex work narrative that doesn’t fit with the collective view we seem to have of the suffering, exploited, defeated sex worker. I feel saddened by this because wouldn’t people rather discover that someone is not suffering the way they assumed than be right? Even if we have to let go of our preconceptions and misguided notions based on (sometimes innocent) ignorance, is it so much to ask to listen to sex workers and allow them to have credibility on the subject of their own lives and experience?

    On top of that, I then saw an online comment about the story that quite increased the ire I experienced. I’m sorry that I have to paraphrase it here as, even after a valiant search, I was unable to relocate the comment. Here was the gist of it:

    “What the article should be about is people luring young girls into this kind of work, because does anyone believe she really didn’t start until she turned eighteen? That idea is ridiculous, and people in the porn industry need to stop preying on children.”

    To some degree the ignorance this commenter displays is understandable because one would not necessarily know of US Code 2257 if one has not worked in the porn industry. If one has, however, they are likely aware that they are not going to find any legitimate producer who does not require two legal forms of ID that indicate that any performer is at least eighteen years old. Said producer will make photocopies of these proofs of identity and keep them as legal records. Why? Because if they don’t have that information available and are questioned about it, they are in violation of 2257 and may face steep legal repercussions as such.

    The 2257 law relates to record-keeping and was purportedly created to prevent underage participation in pornographic endeavors. Essentially the law requires, among other things, that anyone owning and producing depictions of sexual acts acquire and maintain proof of the age and identity of any person visually portrayed performing such acts. So if Person A sees a pornographic video with Jane Example in it and says to a law enforcement agency, “I want proof that Jane Example is at least eighteen years old,” 2257 allows said law enforcement entity to indeed ask whoever displayed Jane Example engaged in sexually explicit acts or positions for proof that she is at least eighteen years old. If they don’t have it, they’ve violated 2257 and can face prison time. It doesn’t matter if Jane Example appears to be fifty years old and is very obviously not under eighteen. The law states that under circumstances in which an individual appears engaged in sexual acts, legal proof of that person’s identity and age of at least eighteen must be accessible to law enforcement via whoever is in control of displaying such content to the public or others.

    The notion that people producing adult pornography at this time would be willing to risk the significant legal penalties of having anyone underage work for them when it is relatively easily to obtain proof that someone is not, and when there are a plethora of available workers that are of age, is frankly ludicrous. Thus, a comment like this is patently indicative of the ignorance that pervades on the subject of sex work and this rather baffling assumption that underage involvement in that industry is undifferentiated from consensual adult participation in it.

    So yes, commenter to whom I wish I could refer by name, I do believe Ms. Fink did not start in the industry until she was eighteen. Were you to read the above, I hope you would, too.


  • “The whole damn world is just as obsessed with who’s the best dressed and who’s having sex…”
    -Bowling for Soup “High School Never Ends”

  • May 10th, 2019

    Guiding Into Creativity

    I recall with certainty that when I was in grade school, A Wrinkle in Time was one of the books a teacher chose to read out loud to our class (a chapter a day). I don’t remember whether it was in fourth or fifth grade, but I remember that that book was read to me.

    In what seems to me both a strange and simultaneously typical circumstance, I have remembered exactly one specific scene and line from the book. That line I could quote almost verbatim. The rest of the book was entirely gone from my conscious memory, including the general plot, characters, beginning, and ending. I can say with confidence this is not likely due to anything about the book itself, since I have experienced such circumstances with numerous books and movies I know I read/saw as a child: frequently, I remember almost nothing about them except one specific line or several-second scene, which I can often quote exactly and/or describe in minute visual detail.

    Why has my memory worked this way? I have no idea. I mention it simply to introduce the fact that a few days ago, I found myself drawn to read A Wrinkle in Time again. Even though it is a children’s book, and even though I know I was exposed to it when I was at the age for which it was intended. (Perhaps, in fact, especially for those reasons.)

    In the back of this edition was a short interview with the author, Madeleine L’Engle. I noted that the two of us have in common that when we were kids, we wanted to be writers when we grew up; we started writing at a pretty young age (she at 5, I at 7); and English was our best subject in school. I also appreciated noting her response that A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 26 times, and she had just asked for it back from her agent when she was introduced to the publisher who ended up publishing it.

    L’Engle’s acceptance speech for the Newbery Medal for the referenced novel followed the interview in this edition. And there were things in this I truly found striking. (To be clear, I found the book itself striking and can easily see why it has become a classic and was so highly awarded.) The first quote I highlighted in the speech was,

    “Because of the very nature of the world as it is today, our children receive in school a heavy load of scientific and analytic subjects, so it is in their reading for fun, for pleasure, that they must be guided into creativity.”

    While she was speaking specifically about children and children’s books, of course, I immediately felt a parallel with the writing of erotic fiction.

    What I write is specifically not for children and instead exclusively for adults. However, similarly to the way that their “reading for fun, for pleasure” may “[guide chidren] into creativity,” as I experience L’Engle as so appropriately lauding and encouraging, I feel erotic fiction may “guide” adults into sexuality—not the superficial and often artificial “sexuality” that is so exploited and used in commercial culture, nor the tyrannical and puritanical oppression of it leveraged for political or social purposes, but a true appreciation of, respect for, and exploration around sexuality. An invitation to align with how we truly experience it uniquely and individually and what resonates with us about how we relate to this energy that is responsible for our being here.

    Harkening back to part of the plot of the very novel I had just read, L’Engle’s acceptance speech goes on to describe the “forces working in the world . . . for standardization, for the regimentation of us all. . . . [T]he drying, dissipating universe that we can help our children avoid” by providing them with writing that invokes and encourages both imagination and creativity.

    In the way that reading for fun and pleasure reminds kids to tap into these things, erotica may remind adults that sexuality is an intrinsic force in their lives and in our collective existence, not to be dismissed among the world of production/competition/frenzy our culture seems so oriented to at this time. That the connection, the awareness, the relaxation and pleasure that sexuality can espouse is as important and deserving of attention as such other things contemporary society seems to place so much emphasis on. L’Engle’s statement that, “Very few children have any problem with the world of the imagination . . . it’s our loss that so many of us grow out of it,” speaks to me of the importance of retaining the understanding of the significance of fun, relaxation, pleasure, play as we grow into our adult understanding of sexuality and its place in our lives.

    As most who have ever read this blog or my erotic fiction may have gathered, I truly consider sexuality and eros important subjects, both for literary exploration and also in our everyday existence. I do not choose to write about them frivolously or lightly. In L’Engle’s acceptance speech for one of the most hallowed children’s fiction awards in the US, her proclamation of why she finds writing for children important resonated deeply with me in relation to why I have found writing for adults important.

    And yes, in referencing erotica and my own writing I am speaking about actual sexual acts, but the sexual energy I have also referenced is far, far more than that. When L’Engle says, accurately as I see it, “A book, too, can be . . . ‘explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,'” I perceive sex as also literally this, but ultimately, I recognize an inextricable link between sexual energy and the creative impulse, and I also recognize that they represent far more than any specific acts or connections with any particular person(s). Sex, after all, is the impetus for creating life. Sexual energy, far from being only about sexual acts or personal connection, is the foundation that manifests all creation and creativity.

    In speaking specifically about A Wrinkle in Time, L’Engle states that, “it was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant.” I both include and close with that quote because it articulates something I find, simply, one of the most magical things about writing.


  • “Even the most straightforward tales say far more than they seem to mean on the surface.”
    -Madeleine L’Engle

    October 8th, 2018

    The Vote of White Women in America and the Intersection of “-isms”

    I wrote this post about a month ago. I didn’t post it then, as it seemed somewhat unrelated to immediate goings-on and to come a bit out of nowhere. That of course has now demonstrated itself to be a staggering irony.

    There are many people (largely women of color) who have recognized the manifestation of what I write about here for some time. Though a lifelong liberal who has always voted Democratic, I am late in realizing it, largely due to oblivious privilege and not having to recognize it. I had planned to publish this post closer to the November midterm elections in the United States. Given that recent events in the US have brought this phenomenon into stark relief, now certainly seems close enough….

    In contemporary human society, within every race, ethnicity, group, there have been female and male members. Obviously…that is how they reproduce. So within every group, however pitted these groups may be against each other, there has been (in modern society) the internal juxtaposition of a hierarchy between women and men. One of the most profound and pervasive distortions that has developed in the human species has purported to see the feminine, which we’ve generally (and superficially) perceived as represented by women, as inferior, subordinate, and weaker. The inaccuracy of this is stunning, but I’ll likely save the elucidation of that for another blog post. Continue reading