With DomCon Los Angeles coming up this week, I thought it enlightening to examine the basis of all D/s relationships – the “power exchange.” After all, if you are attending, you will see lots of Dommes – from professionals to lifestylers – in their fetish wear. Thus power exchanges will be front and center — in your face, so to speak. And likely a vanilla or newbie friend of yours will say something like, “D/s isn’t real, it is just role play.” Not so fast!
In our world of consensual power exchanges, there is always the argument as to whether there is an actual exchange of power and who, in fact, wields it. Those doubters always use the argument that, “Slavery is illegal in the United States” or, “You cannot legally consent to be someone’s slave.” Those statements might be true in a technical sense; but I always counter with, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” When I see a slave serving his/her Master or Mistress, it appears that they are in a Master/slave state. I haven’t yet seen a slave tell her Mistress “get your own fucking cup of coffee” — as I have with vanilla couples. Until I see Masters/Mistresses and their slaves bickering like vanilla couples, one can only conclude there is definitely an exchange of power.
As to who wields the power, that is a more complex question. I think the actual power exchange is a two stage process. The first one is the negotiation phase, which I have covered in previous Kink Weekly articles. Here, in my opinion, the submissive holds the power. The potential slave has the veto power and is the one generally stating his/her hard limits. This “veto power” is, by its very nature, un-submissive and, from the Dom/me’s point of view, can be a bit unsettling. But, as I have stated, “Until you actually negotiate a D/s agreement, no matter how rudimentary, you are not anyone’s submissive.” But once we get to the next stage – the actual power exchange – the dynamic changes.
After the hard limits and parameters are worked out, the submissive, duh, submits. Now the power is ceded to the Dom/me. The Dominant is given authority over a negotiated range of the submissive’s life – from sexual to lifestyle aspects. The degree of this power varies from couple to couple, but the power is clearly in the hands of the Dom/me. And the power is real.
So, if your vanilla or newbie friend says something like, “D/s isn’t real, it is just role play,” it is time to set them straight. Yes, there are role play aspects in all relationships. But once in a committed D/s union – either by slave contract or any other means – there is definitely a power exchange.
Those sexy Dommes at DomCon LA – or at any BDSM or Fetish Club — might put on a good show, but they do have real, negotiated power over their slave or slaves. And even if the power exchange is just for a scene or a play evening, the power that the Dom/me has over the slave is quite real. And can also be a lot of fun!
After a ten year run as head writer for the legendary bondage.com, and an equally long run as the host of the hit internet show “Baadmaster’s Dungeon,” we are pleased to welcome the one and only Baadmaster to KinkWeekly. His thoughts about all things BDSM will now appear regularly on these pages. From the mental aspects of D/s to the nuts and bolts of S&M play, Baadmaster will cover every facet of this ever expanding lifestyle.
I love D/s and would say I have a kink for very extreme power exchange. That said the dark side of TPE or even more moderate versions is rarely discussed. You can talk about a sub having the “real” power through safewords and negotiation, but the psychological weight of power that a dominant can have (and can misuse) shouldn’t be underestimated.
Abuses unfortunately happen. 20+ years ago I was a woefully ignorant and unconnected sub with a Dom almost twice my age. I was told that although I had a safeword “good” subs don’t use safewords. He used physical intimidation, haggling of limits and other negotiation while I was in bondage and/or in subspace, and shaming post scene to get me to do things that weren’t healthy or appropriate although technically consensual.
On the positive end of that same spectrum, my current Sir and I play serious headgames. We have worked together to do some fairly serious behavior modification and even brainwashing, all very consensual. But we discussed it ahead of time and are both aware of the fact that my ability to make decisions on my own behalf in some areas is seriously limited.
I take issue with the concept that the important power always remains with the submissive. It rarely does and believing in the infallibility of safewords, negotiation, and calmly given consent is both unrealistic and potentially dangerous.
What the h… does she have in her hand, please!?
The obvious thing you’re missing in saying “Until I see Masters/Mistresses and their slaves bickering like vanilla couples, one can only conclude there is definitely an exchange of power.”…of course you don’t see it, because THEY DO IT IN PRIVATE. Maintaining the facade of the power exchange at public events is a simple matter of social etiquette; a slave would defy a master publically under the same circumstances that a vanilla woman would take off her ring and fling it at hubby’s face, loudly demanding a divorce immediately. But when behind closed doors, does the power exchange remain? Probably not. The negotiated relationship is just a veneer dictating what sort of obvious things can happen; a slave is unlikely to outright defy the master, but may act out in all manner of subtle ways, partly to test whether the master notices (and, if so, whether he makes an issue of it). True power exchange, where one partner is willing to submit to ANY demand regardless of their wishes, is almost certainly a very rare thing, even in the short term, and quite possibly mentally unhealthy for either participant (not judging any persons in fact, just speculating about the theoretical philosophy of the field).
Don’t forget that in reality, the power exchange is usually very carefully negotiated. And in my experience, while some submissive’s dream of the feeling of complete and total unconditional submission, such submission is (in my opinion) reasonably rare in practise (it would also be a lot of work for the Dominant partner). One can neither assume that the Dom/sub couple abandon the role in private, and argue at home. In my experience, the creation of a designated defined authority path over each aspect of their lives is indeed an additional and strong attraction to this dynamic, because it reduces the possibility of argument, as both partners have their specific defined areas of control, even if one has alot more than the other.
Baadmaster was a leading writer on bondage.com for ten years? (I do remember the name) I must have missed that. (I was in the first 100 people signed up there and stayed there for the duration) Interesting writing though.
ROWDY OR JUST CALL ME DADDIE says
Slavegirls give me their gift of submission. Suppose several collared Slavegirls are sitting with me at slot machines and cocktail waitresses begin flirting with me, the collars on the Slavegirls give them girl code power to shut down any flirting my direction. I do not feel I have near the same power exchange as that of Femdom.
I feel fortunate Slavegirls want to serve me Femdom does not get ruled from the bottom like me ever. I agree the power of Femdoms and their slaves is very real. The things Femdom can take for Granted, are not afforded to me the same. Slavegirls hold me to high expectations I doubt male slaves can do that towards Femdom especially Pro Femdom. Slavegirls which I touch desire to be cherished. I get ruled from the bottom far more than most Dominants form either sex. I might be an anomolee.
You write fun stuff to read I am lucky I wandered into this site.
beatrice belle says
i think offering your depth and abilities to serve to a Master creates an outline for them to further pull your submission/slavery from. obviously safety and safe words should always be enforced (though that is also a debatable subject to some)