I’m delighted to bring you a smashing interview today with the wonderful Richard Wagner, M.Div., Ph.D., ACS (also known affectionately as Dr. Dick). A psychotherapist and clinical sexologist in private practice in Seattle. Dr. Wagner has been a practitioner of sex therapy and relationship counseling for over 30 years. His online sex advice column, which he has written for well over 15 years, can be found at drdicksexadvice.com
So- here we go!!!
KJ: Welcome, Dr. Wagner – or should I say, Dr. Dick.
Congratulations on the publication of your new book, The Gospel of Kink. That’s a pretty provocative title. I guess you like being inflammatory.
DD: Thank you, Kay. I do respond very well to Dr. Dick.
Yes, I like being provocative. But that’s not why I chose The Gospel of Kink as this new book’s title. Rather, I wanted to make a good news declaration, and this title fit the bill.
Anyone with a lick of religious upbringing, at least in the Christian tradition, will know that the word gospel means good news or glad tidings. This book is the culmination of 30-plus years of preaching the good news of the sex-positive and kink-aware movements, especially as it applies to those of us on the sexual fringe.
KJ: You have quite a colourful past. Give us a thumbnail sketch of how you became Dr. Dick.
DD: I came to this work in a most unorthodox fashion. I was a Catholic priest for 20 years. I am the only Catholic priest in the world with a doctorate in clinical sexology. I completed my post-graduate work with the publication of my doctoral thesis concerning the sexual attitudes and behaviors of gay Catholic priests in the active ministry in 1981. This was unprecedented research back then (and still is now, for that matter).
Soon thereafter, there was a firestorm of international publicity. I became known as the “Gay Priest,” as if I was the only one. Needless to say, this notoriety (some say infamy) effectively ended my priesthood. Despite fighting the Vatican for the next 13 years, in an attempt to salvage my ministry, the deed was done. I was dismissed from my religious community, and while I am technically still a priest, I do not practice as such anymore.
My career as a therapist in San Francisco coincided with the advent of HIV/AIDS in the early ‘80s. Not surprisingly, my practice evolved into working primarily with sick and dying people. In the mid-‘90s I founded a nonprofit organization called PARADIGM, Enhancing Life Near Death. It was an outreach program for terminally ill, chronically ill, elder and dying people. This was brilliant, cutting-edge work, but alas, I couldn’t find the funding to continue. The end of that program precipitated a rather sudden move to Seattle in 1999.
KJ: Were you writing the Dr. Dick column before you moved to Seattle?
DD: I was. The column’s humble beginning was with gay.com, when that website was a hole-in-the wall outfit in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco.
I continued to work with the sick and dying after moving to Seattle. I developed programming for women who were newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer and men with prostate cancer. I wanted to create a video series for people experiencing life threatening and/or disfiguring illnesses to help them deal with reintegrating sex and intimacy into their lives post-diagnosis, and I soon realized that I would need to fund this project on my own because no mainstream, disease-based foundation would touch the issue of sex. Faced with how I might do that, friends prevailed on me to start by shooting porn. Thus my video production company, Daddy Oohhh! Productions, was born.
KJ: You went from priest to pornographer in one fell swoop?
DD: I’m not sure about the swoop part, but yeah. The lure of money to fund my greatest passion is what attracted me to the venture. Unfortunately, that load of money never materialized. But while I was shooting porn, my interest was to create projects that were different in style and tone from what ruled the marketplace at the time.
KJ: The tagline for your column is “Sex Advice with an Edge.” What gives your column its edge? How is it different from other sex advice columns?
DD: I focus on human sexuality particularly as it intersects with art, religion, popular culture, relationships, our health and wellbeing, entertainment, shopping and politics. None of my professional peers take so wide an aim.
As one would guess, I respond to questions submitted to me online, and I offer my advice in written form as well as via podcast. My site is peppered with provocative imagery. I do not shy away from sexually explicit photos. This is a big no-no for other professional advice sites.
I like to chat with interesting and controversial guests – authors (you for example), artists, sex workers, pundits and porn stars. I investigate the sexual underground and present interviews with fascinating people on the cutting edge of the sex-positive and kink-aware world. The Dr. Dick Review Crew and I also review adult products at drdicksextoyreviews.com
I offer tips to my audience on staying healthy, enriching their sex lives and growing their relationships, and I try to do it all with a sense of humor.
KJ: Your latest book, The Gospel of Kink, marks a significant departure from your earlier books. You’re entering a field that, some would say, is saturated with self-help books. What makes yours stand out?
DD: For starters, it’s a workbook. It’s actually a workshop in book form. You’re right that there are a lot of self-help books out there targeting kinksters, but I can safely say that The Gospel of Kink is fundamentally different in style and scope from everything else I’ve ever read on the topic.
My book offers readers an interactive way to access information, explore feelings and learn from their peers in the alt culture, as well as a safe and secure place to air their concerns without fear of being judged for their lifestyle choices. Readers get an opportunity to confront their relationship concerns in a really adventurous way. Basically, they become members of an on-the-page workshop.
KJ: So, practically, how does that work?
DD: Each of the book’s four chapters involves readers in the workshop process. They get to know and identify with the issues and concerns of the other workshop participants, who I write about in the book, and involve themselves in all the discussions and exercises.
This workshop-in-a-book format also gives readers access to a panel of skilled practitioners who offer valuable information on timely issues like communication, power exchange, polyamory, jealousy, sex and intimacy, relationship building and conflict resolution.
KJ: That sounds like a very cutting-edge approach.
DD: Yeah, I figured if I was going to add something to the existing body of work, some of which is amazingly good, I would need to make my contribution unique. It would need to stand out, or else I’d have to just forget about the whole thing.
The best part of The Gospel of Kink is that it’s not a one-size-fits-all sort of thing. Readers are encouraged to design their own practical solutions to the unique alt-cultural issues they face. The workbook will help them develop a strategy for navigating the relationship pitfalls and communication dead-ends that so often plague those of us on the sexual fringe.
KJ: The book is based on a face-to-face workshop that you provide in Seattle. Why the need for a book version?
DD: The face-to-face workshop only reaches a tiny fraction of the people I can serve with a book. It’s the same reason I have an online presence as Dr. Dick – that presence serves people all over the world, not just those who can connect with me in person through my private practice. I’m hoping The Gospel of Kink will enjoy the same kind of success and will reach those who need this information, but who are unable or hesitant to connect with their alt-culture peers.
KJ: I wish you the best of luck with the book – Will you be taking The Gospel of Kink on the road?
DD: I hope so. The many alt-culture conferences, retreats and workshops across the country and abroad are perfect opportunities for appearances and book signings, not to mention general proselytizing. I still have a way to go in spreading The Gospel of Kink.
If you want to buy a copy of this fab book- here’s the link to Amazon! http://tinyurl.com/khs6d7l
A huge THANK YOU to DD a.k.a. Richard, for coming by today, and taking so much time to take part in this interview!!
Happy Reading Everyone!