Power exchange is one of those terms which is classified under kink, but often carries no clear visible representation. Impact leaves marks, and is something you can see someone perform. Needles, rope, knives, even exhibitionism, these are all things the eye can see. Power exchange, in contrast, is a quiet kink, and one which does not leave visible reminders of its presence in a relationship.
Once you delve into the world of power exchange, there are a myriad of ways it can be incorporated into a relationship, whether casual or more intense. On the less invasive side of things, it can be reserved for scene or bedroom time, and can be present without involving other things typically thought of as “kink.” It doesn’t require sadism to be present, and doesn’t have to interfere with outside life. On the other end of things, a relationship can be fully immersed in power exchange, to the point of Total Power Exchange, or TPE. It is also completely possible to achieve something in the middle which is a negotiation of which situations will include some type of agreed-upon power exchange between individuals. I have seen these referred to as levels, and more specifically, broken down into five levels: conditional compliance; restricted ongoing acquiescence; provisional submission; the covenant of dominance and submission; and absolute ownership.
Starting at power level one (I jest), it isn’t difficult to incorporate some power exchange into individual scenes. Conditional compliance is associated with a single session or brief period of time and would only include negotiated activities within the scope of the exchange. It could include everything from following commands to kneel, stay still, or even to ask permission for boons such as orgasms, or be limited to specifically negotiated areas.
With restricted ongoing acquiescence, power exchange negotiations may be put into effect as with conditional compliance, but only be in play during specified sessions, such as with ongoing play partners who have power exchange elements in their regular time together. Those elements may be in effect during scene time only without requiring renegotiation, due to an agreement that those elements be in effect during their scene time together.
Provisional submission involves one partner giving greater control to the other, well, provisionally. This may be the stage wherein partners experiment with different aspects of control over various areas in order to determine what is working for them and what is not. These areas may have time limits, such as “we’ll try me choosing all of your clothing for the next two weeks to see if that is something we’d like to incorporate into our permanent relationship negotiations.” It may also refer to a longer term power exchange which exists outside of scene time, and yet remains fundamentally a play partner arrangement at its core.
A covenant of dominance and submission may involve a contract or may be a verbal agreement. It generally refers to a long-term agreement which exists outside of scene time, and involves other aspects of daily life, as negotiated. It could be control in areas of finance, social relationships, or daily activities, in addition to agreements surrounding any scenes which may occur. The participants may want a 1950’s style household and be disinclined to participate in other forms of kink play, or they may have a female-led relationship with an entire trunk full of kink implements, or whatever relationship format works for the participants.
Absolute ownership may also be referred to as a TPE. While the title generally speaks for itself and includes truly invested participants, it does not necessarily mean one party has to actively be in control over every aspect of their partner. Even TPE relationships often include negotiated areas which do not require permissions be granted, mostly because to be required every time another human needs to make a decision would be a full-time occupation, not practical for working humans who may not be available to make those at the drop of a hat. Some of it is about convenience. If you want to negotiate a power exchange with a partner which includes always being required to have permission for certain activities, say bathroom usage since everyone has to do that, then unless you are available every time they need to, such as in the middle of a work day, or even in the middle of the night if they drank too much tea at dinner, then you may need to reserve certain times which do not require permission. For example, the rule may be “I am available at all times to grant permission to use the bathroom, other than between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am. You will request and wait for the request to be granted at any other time of day,” or whatnot. Most of the power exchanges I have encountered, both my own and that of others, rarely want to deal with that sort of micromanagement, and only require that permission be granted if it interrupts an in-progress activity or conversation, as that is considered a matter of courtesy rather than a rule about requiring permission for bathroom usage. A better way to think of it may be as having underlying functions which occur quietly in the background. A rule has been established, and in the absence of a change to that rule, it will continue to run just as lungs continue to breathe in the absence of efforts to resist their regular behavior.
To reiterate, absolutely none of the above requires that the participants delve into other aspects of kink. While many we see in our local organizations do participate in things like impact or bondage in addition to their power exchange, one does not require the other to function. It is completely possible to negotiate kink scenes in which power exchange does not occur, all the way up to having kink relationships without the inclusion of PE. However, I will say, as a power exchange aficionado, seeing two individuals attempt to impose their will upon one another in the context of a relationship seems messy, as it often becomes some type of power struggle with no clear winner in any given battle. I personally prefer the reassurance that having those things clearly outlined gives me, while also understanding that it isn’t for everyone.
About the Author
Christmas bunny has been exploring kink since she was legal to do so. Her serious writing started in college, where she accidently got some of her papers published in educational journals. She has recently expanded her writing to include her kink journey. She began writing in the physical realm, but shed some of her inhibitions and began sharing those entries with others. She now keeps an active blog of her personal growth and her relationship with her Master / Daddy Dominant and writes helpful educational posts on a variety of subjects.