Lindsay Goldwert’s book, much like her career, veers away from the typical formula for self-help guides. In exploring the dominatrix mentality as a solution for our most fundamental woes, she delivers unique and fresh takes for reframing our opinions of ourselves and the world around us.
Most self-help gurus today will center their advice on self-acceptance rather than reinvention. They claim the answers come from being true to ourselves or that they were right in front of us the whole time. Whether finance, fitness, or family, the solutions always seem to center on the reader's empowerment. In Bow Down, Goldwert turns this formula inside out. She doesn’t invite the reader to embrace the common advice, fraught with shortcuts and platitudes, but forces us to confront our beliefs. To come away with a sense of agency for our lives.
Review: Lindsay Goldwert's Bow Down
A journalist, podcaster, stand-up comedian, and filmmaker, Lindsay Goldwert has achieved expert status in sex and money across mediums. Working as a journalist for over fifteen years, she has reported Glamour, ABC News, and CBS News. She has also written for publications of equal prestige, such as Fast Company. Now she adds another credential to an impressive resume, authoring a novel that will help women dominate their lives and tip power dynamics in their favor.
Goldwert first dispels the mainstream beliefs regarding the dominatrix profession. She explains that there are layers to the role and that calling them sex workers is an oversimplification. Through the help of experts such as Simone Justice, among the most renowned professionals in the trade, the reader discovers that to be a dominatrix is to abide by a strict code. One where they must manifest their client’s kinky fantasies but do so in a safe, kind, and ethical manner. She connects this insight to the fact that female-identifying must walk a fine line, whether it be between work and social life, family and friendships, or any one of the many dichotomies that exist.
The book admittedly spends too much time defining overly basic concepts. Going through explaining what negotiation and consent are, even if important to the central message, creates a bridge between us and this story's meat. What takes several chapters can be explained in but a couple of pages. Still, Goldwert manages to tie these items to her message of reclaiming power effectively. Whether the concept of kink related to being free and true to ourselves or asserting ourselves through our speech as a dominatrix might, I appreciate the finesse it takes to explain these lessons in a palatable way to most.
Aside from the occasional slow teachings, I could not find other knocks on Bow Down. In fact, the book continued to fascinate me the more I read, and differing lessons are effectively weaved in as well as tied to one another. It reads as if a weekly series following a common theme and one that we can go back and reference over and over.
The lessons on sex are especially entertaining as Goldwert blends the mundane—such as asking a partner to simply move their leg—to the more nuanced elements involved in being a dominant partner in the bedroom. The book even features a playful quiz to help the reader gauge whether or not they are kinky.
What separates this book from other self-help books after—aside from the focus on BDSM—is that Goldwert doesn’t suggest the reader behave a certain way but demands it. In one of the final sections of this book, the reader is walked through the importance of having a personal code. How each dominatrix conducts themselves in a manner consistent with their beliefs, so too must we, she explains.
This is an effective example of what Bow Down consistently does, which is to make itself a study on branding and a guide on life philosophy. To say that I didn’t immediately apply many of the lessons regarding assertiveness would be untrue. So too, would it be untrue to say that I did not come away with a sense of heightened confidence that, if I lived in a way consistent with the book’s teachings, I could move the needle on my own personal goals.
In the end, the book was as fun a read as it was enlightening. By shining a spotlight on this clearly misunderstood subculture, Goldwert achieves something almost impossible for self-help books and provides a genuinely fresh perspective through which we can examine the world. While she begins by noting this is not an empowerment book, I certainly came away with the belief that I could face whatever obstacles lie ahead. My recommendation is that you check out Bow Down. I guarantee that, at the very least, you will find it thoroughly entertaining.
George Jreije is the Lebanese-American author of Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria (HarperCollins, 2022) as well as short stories published in collaboration with UNICEF. George also works as a professional editor with Angelella Editorial. When not working, he can be found doing yoga or reading.