Elizabeth Anne Wood (Photo by Louis Shackleton)

Bound: A Daughter, a Domme and an End-of-Life Story by Elizabeth Anne Wood (c. 2019, She Writes Press) $16.95; 263 pages.

Hardy Haberman | Contributing Writer

When I first picked up my friend Elizabeth Anne Wood’s new memoir, Bound: A Daughter, a Domme, and an End-of-Life Story, I expected a much different story than I actually found. I knew Wood’s mother had something of a sexual awakening in her 60s. She discovered that there were men who enjoyed her attention in ways that involved being tied up and tortured, and Elizabeth’s mother liked doing it.

To most children this would be a shock, but since Wood is a sociology professor and teaches about sexuality and gender in the classroom, she understood the power dynamic of BDSM.

The book is far more than just a memoir of a daughter’s discovery about her mother. It is a story of a much deeper kind of bondage: the restraints and red tape of the healthcare system in our country. It is also about the complex issues of end-of-life care and the power dynamic of a mother/daughter relationship.

More importantly, there is a frank and refreshing exploration of the continued importance of sex and pleasure, even when facing a life-threatening illness.

Far from being a depressing read, Bound is a loving journey, and I found much of it resonated with me. I recently had to deal with the illness of close relatives and the byzantine workings of insurance and the health care system. Much of what this story details, is very similar to my own experience, I only wish I had the sociological training that would have helped me navigate things better.

I am well-versed in BDSM, and I found the relationship between Judy, Wood’s mother, and her submissive, Kenny, remarkably affirming. It really was testament to how strong their bond was that even as Judy’s health deteriorated, Kenny found ways to serve her and maintain the dynamic. It is a situation I feel sure people in the leather/kink community will find enlightening as many of us are moving into our senior years.

Those not familiar with kink will still find the book relatable. Though there is an unflinching look at the kinky side of her mother’s life, there is also a touching story of a mother/daughter relationship that changes and grows through the last days of Judy’s life. Wood brings her feminist and sex-positive perspective to this difficult subject with a very human touch. It is a rewarding read.

The take away from the story is best summed up by Elizabeth herself: “The U.S. health care system does a remarkably poor job dealing with sexuality and with death,” she writes. “Death is avoided often because it is seen as failure in a system focused on cures, and too often this system doesn’t see people as whole but rather as clusters of symptoms. We each — regardless of our age or the condition of our bodies — have unique sexualities and deserve to be seen as whole people, as people deserving of respect, pleasure, intimacy and affection.”