Screwing With Our Minds: Delilah Wood on Domination, Gender, and Integretation

Delilah Wood worked for years as a professional dominatrix, but she’s left conventional domination behind to focus on healing and integration with her clients.  I wondered how she made that transition and how she thinks about the educational and healing work she’s now doing.  In this interview she talks about why domination stopped working for her, and how working with people’s stories and desires does work.

Why did you decide to leave conventional domination work behind?

I’ve written pretty extensively about this, particularly here, but the short version was that it wasn’t truly my calling.  I believe that some people are meant to be sacred whores, people who help strangers fulfill their sexual needs in a safe, loving and highly skilled way.  What I discovered during my work is that I admire that kind of work deeply, but am not cut out for it myself.  Being that intimate with strangers was doing me subtle harm, and I needed to find another way to do the kind of healing I was interested in.

I was also seeing primarily married men, and many of them had a lot of shame around what they liked.  I felt like I was seeing people who needed healing, and I was only able to put a band-aid on and send them on their way.  I wanted a way to start moving people toward integration, rather than being a tool for them to continue compartmentalizing their lives.

I started reading Bitchy Jones’ blog right around the time I was getting really discontented, and she really tapped into another thing that was bothering me: I was participating in and contributing to a commercialized view of female sexuality that isn’t really healthy or accurate even for the majority of female dominants.  The image that is conjured up in the average person’s mind when they hear the word “dominatrix” is exaggerated, nearly comical: the 12-foot-tall Amazon clad head to toe in skintight leather, scowling and wielding a whip.  It’s a male fantasy figure, an image.  And submissive men tend to grab onto it as though it were a real expression of female sexuality: that totally removed, sadistic leatherbot whose only pleasures are to 1) make men suffer and 2) deny sexual access to her body.  This figure apparently never has any kind of conventional sex, only “worship” (code for oral sex performed upon her, preferably in a humiliating fashion) and strap-on play (meant only for the humiliation and pain of the submissive, to “feminize” him, not for the dominant’s pleasure).  It becomes a very problematic image, one that is bad for women and men, and limits the full expression of sexuality.

So given all of that, it was finally time for me to stop.

You have an entire page on your site about what you’re not and what you don’t do.  Do you find it difficult to communicate with potential clients about what it is that you’re now offering?

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that in spite of the detailed nature of my page, people still contact me asking for domination sessions.  I think it is hard for people to understand what I’m trying to do.  And I still do see a few people that way, people I’ve been seeing for years and whom I enjoy playing with.  But those people who do get it really seem to get it, and that’s exciting to me.

Are there other people offering the kind of kink counseling that you’re doing or are you really doing something new?  Do you have colleagues or peers?

I honestly don’t know of anyone else who is truly doing what I’m doing here.  I know there are psychotherapists who employ kink in their practices, though it’s incredibly taboo in that field, so they don’t advertise it.  There are plenty of folks who do workshops or offer various kinds of instruction in the modes and techniques of kink.  And there are kink-friendly therapists, people who won’t tell you you’re involved in something sick if you come to them and say that you have these desires.  But I haven’t seen anyone else advertising for counseling specifically around kink issues.  It surprises me, because it feels like a service that is really needed.

You’re offering 3 primary services now – kink consults, the ordeal path, and gender transformation.  Is one of these more popular than the others or do you get an equal call for all 3?

I probably get about equal calls for kink consults or education, and gender transformation.  The ordeal path hasn’t attracted many takers yet.  Of course, that service is the closest thing I’m offering to a traditional domination session, so I imagine that people who want something like that will call someone else.  That’s probably the service that people understand least, anyway, and it has the greatest potential to tip over into the old patterns of professional scening.

Why do you no longer do forced feminization?

I find it deeply problematic that there is such a rash of men who want to be turned into women because being a woman is somehow humiliating, less-than, shameful.  It’s one thing to want to experiment with gender; it’s another to do it in a way that implies that doing “girly” things makes you ridiculous, stupid, or unworthy.  It bothers me, and always has.  I don’t want to deny anyone their kinks, but I don’t have to participate in them.

I also note that you never hear about women being forced to be dressed up like men and then made fun of.  Somehow being female or feminine has gotten linked up with being submissive, and so a lot of men think that the most submissive thing you can possibly do is put on a bra and panties and get fucked with a strap-on.  I’m okay with that in some cases, but I want to do it in a loving way, not a shaming one.  A man giving himself to me wholeheartedly is a beautiful thing, and I have no interest in making it ugly.

I know how powerful humiliation can be, and how many taboos there are in our culture that you can tap into if you want to make someone feel that way.  Women in our culture get a lot less flack for dressing in men’s clothes than men get for dressing in women’s; thus the power of that taboo.  But I personally don’t enjoy perpetuating or eroticizing that taboo.  Besides, I’ve never been strongly into humiliation; I think it’s one of the more heavy-duty tools in the kink arsenal, and I reserve that kind of play for people I’m very close to.

Do you consider yourself to be a sex worker?

One of the first things I came to terms with when I chose to become a dominatrix was being a sex worker, so yes, for a time, I considered myself that.  These days, not so much; I don’t feel that I’m performing the same function that sex workers – of whatever stripe – perform: that is, to arouse and fulfill the sexual desires of paying clients.  These days, I think of what I do as closer to counseling and education.

You write for 2 blogs – Advice and Consent & Topologies.  What’s the relationship between your writing and the services you offer clients?

In my writing in those places, I really try to express who I am sexually, while commenting on the larger culture of sexuality.  It is always my goal to be congruent: I want my words and my actions to match.  And so I try to write in a way that expresses my truth, and that could possibly be a help to anyone who might come and see me.

What do you love best about your job?

I love the conversations I have with people.  I love that people come to me with their stories and desires, and that I can sit there and basically tell them, “you’re okay.”  In the end, that’s the thing that most people need to hear – to get a simple reassurance that they’re normal.

For another great conversation see the previous Screwing With Our Minds in which I interviewed Vinnie Tesla about The Erotofluidic Age and the moral duty of the pornographer. Watch for future interviews! And if you know or are someone who thinks too much about sex and might like to be interviewed about your work, please drop me a note.

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Sarah Whedon

Sarah W. Whedon earned her Ph.D. in Religious Studies with an emphasis in Women's Studies from UCSB. She teaches in the Department of Theology and Religious History at Cherry Hill Seminary and is the founding editor of Pagan Families: Resources for Pagan Pregnancy and Birth. Sarah's teaching, research, and advocacy work center around topics of spirituality, feminism, and reproduction.

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