I have been known to argue definitions a time or two. I ascribe to the traditional (often referred to as Old Guard) views. However, I am realistic and recognize that as the community grows, becomes more mainstream, and evolves, I am going to meet people who disagree with me.
I love it. I thrive on the intellectual debates and wider viewpoints that other people’s experiences have shaped.
That said, I have been in a debate for near a week now that I thought would interest you. Going forward, I will be discussing types of play that are extremely sensitive in nature and may be triggering to some individuals. Please proceed at your own risk.
The debate started because I was curious about several terms that are commonly used interchangeably. Consensual non-consent, 24/7, Total Power Exchange, and Total Authority Exchange are the terms we will be exploring.
I will revisit my thoughts on these after we lay some groundwork.
Let’s start with the basics: definitions.
Power Exchange: A dynamic between two (or more) individuals in which one (or some) take control of decisions and one (or some) give up control. These dynamics can be romantic, sexual, business like, mental, or even spiritual in nature. Outside of the exchange of control, each is unique to the persons involved.
24/7: This is a PE dynamic that is in effect at all times, even when the Dominant and submissive are not together (i.e. at work, running errands, etc).
- It is extremely common for 24/7 to be used interchangeably with Total Power Exchange (TPE).
- 24/7 is also commonly associated with High Protocol dynamics and the idea of a live-in slave.
While these are both viable examples of 24/7, the actual definition simply means the dynamic is “all the time.” It can be Daddy Dom/little girl, Master/slave, soft/hard Dom/submissive, Sadist/masochist, Handler/pet, and so forth.
Total Power Exchange: A TPE is a dynamic where the submissive has given up all decision-making abilities to the Dominant.
- Most often, a TPE is generally used to refer to an M/s dynamic. This is especially true with the online educational communities.
- There are debates that those in a TPE dynamic are only “real” if they do not have limits beyond their Masters’, do not use a safeword, and do not work outside the home.
- This is also often portrayed as a High Protocol only dynamic.
Total Authority Transfer: A TAT dynamic is one where it is consensually agreed that one person assumes authority and one person yields authority. “Total” signifies that it is a transfer of complete, or near-complete, authority. Although this could be for a predetermined time or indefinite, a “total authority transfer relationship” implies that it is ongoing until consent is withdrawn.
- This is a term I was less familiar with and had to research its inherent difference from a TPE. I found the above definition to be the most concise. It was found in the BDSM glossary on Fetlife.
- At first read, the two terms do seem very similar. Through research, the difference is the equality of power kept by each person involved. A TPE is a D/s or M/s dynamic where someone gives up their power to make their own decisions. A TAT is an agreement between two individuals where one yields to another’s decisions while still retaining the ability to make opposing decisions if they choose to.
- An example of this is what I have with my wife vs. Master. Master makes all the decisions in our relationship. We have a TPE. However, my wife and I have a different relationship.
- One example is with money. She has her own money and the power to spend it as she pleases. She is an adult. Through mutual agreement, however, I keep the money in my account, give her an allotment, and approve all non-necessary purchases. She has given me this right because she can be impulsive with money. Another example is medical decisions. She has the right to make her own appointments and keep track of her own meds. She has given me the rights to those decisions for her safety and due to prior trauma, which tends to impede her ability to initiate self-care. She can withdraw the consent at any time and in this, there is no punishment when her decisions do not align with mine. It revolves heavily around communication, understanding, and the ability to explain why I have made the decisions I have made when she does not understand them.
- Non-consensual Consent (NonCon/CNC): According to the BDSM Glossary on Fetlife.com, CNC is a “mutual agreement that within defined limits, or subject to a Safeword or other restrictions, and to common sense, consent to activities without foreknowledge of the exact actions planned.”
- That is a fancy way of saying “do what you want as long as I haven’t used my safeword and nobody is gravely injured.” At least, that’s how I read it. Essentially, CNC is any play that is not pre-negotiated and involves the illusion of non-consent.
- CNC is often tied to edge play. Knife play, gun play, kidnapping roleplay, rape roleplay, race play, home invasion roleplay, medical play and other type of play that has an element of resistance, coercion, or fear. For reactions to be more genuine, most of the scene may be left undiscussed.
- CNC in no way means that they do not have the right to Safeword at any time. As with any type of scene, anyone involved has the right to withdraw consent at any point before or during play. You also have the right to refuse aftercare, even if it was previously negotiated.
- Personally, I also add the term Dubious Consent (Dubcon). It involves coercion, blackmail, and/or abuse of power roleplay. It could be as simple as pursuing someone consistently, after they have said no, until they give in to your wants. I have this listed because it can be included in some fantasy play. Things like Headmaster/student, Boss/secretary, or Head of Household (HoH)/maid.
That was quite a few definitions we just went through. I am going to give you a moment to breathe now.
Alright, time’s up.
Let’s get into the juicy part of this: the drama
For those of you who haven’t read my articles before, here is some background information. Master and I have been in a TPE for four years, He has collared me, and He has blanket consent from me. Blanket consent means that he can do as he pleases without prior consent, negotiation, or discussion with me. Unless I safeword, he has free reign. I do not claim to be up for anything. There are a minimal number of items on my hard limit list. These hard limits are ones that Master shares. I do not have a soft limit list. If Master chooses to try something, we are going to try it.
Blanket consent, by definition, depicts a CNC mindset. Therefore, I have been told that my relationship is CNC/TPE by several members of a “Traditional BDSM” group I am in. That was the first time I had seen those terms used interchangeably.
**On a side note, the “TNG” group told me the terms were different but that my dynamic was invalid because I do not negotiate nor do I safeword (even if I technically have one). But that’s a different story**
From there, I became extremely curious if this mixing of definitions was common. So, I started asking questions since the varying groups had members from across the United States and extending around the world.
There was a quick divide in opinions. The minority agreed with the statement above; CNC/TPE are the same. But the wider majority disagreed, loudly. The resounding opinion was that CNC applies only to scenes and not to the structure of a dynamic.
Which, honestly, surprised me.
There has always been an underlying teaching (especially in the last ten years or so) that BDSM is unique to each relationship. How it is defined, structured, and lived is up to those involved.
So, why does there continue to be the argument of definition?
It comes down to our experiences. All the definitions I have listed are different. 24/7 is a broad, umbrella term that separates part-time dynamics (weekend, bedroom only, pick-up play, or business transaction—pay for play) from full-time dynamics. The consensus seems to be that 24/7 dynamics must be a live-in dynamic. I do not have as strict a belief of that because there are times I am gone for weeks for work. Master’s rules do not change when I am gone. I work as a service to Him, to help our household thrive. My absence from the house, when necessary, does not put our dynamic on hold.
I was trained in the era listed above, under TPE. “[t]hat those in a TPE dynamic are only “real” if they do not have limits beyond their Masters’, do not use a safeword, are always in High Protocol, and do not work outside the home.” I have learned with Master that the defining factor of our dynamic is the submission to His will. That means that our TPE is not diminished because He requires a safeword. His power does not end when I go to work. The amount of protocol, at any time, is His choice, not mine. Trying to conform to the definitions of the masses undermines His authority. Above all, His word matters most.
By the definition, and examples, I have provided, CNC is typically scene related. I typically consider it an addition to our dynamic because of the blanket consent. If Master wants to lend me out to others, sexually or otherwise, that is his prerogative. If he wishes to enact a CNC style scene, it does not end until He is ready for it to conclude. It is my own thoughts on what submission means that drives these commitments to Him.
Each time these arguments happen, I can see the passion in their own beliefs. I can see the experiences laid bare for all to see. I can see the pain of their failures, the triumph in their growth, the confusion and reflection as they learned about themselves, and I can see their commitment to their lifestyle path.
No one experiences any of that the same way and our experiences create our definitions.
More than likely, the debate on these terms will continue to be a point of contention. The longer we have been involved in the lifestyle, the more rigid our definitions seem to be. But everyday more and more people discover the world of BDSM. With their enthusiasm, they bring their own experiences. With time, they will bring growth and evolution to the traditions we live by. If we fail to balance our traditions and our growth, we risk staying stagnate and losing our lifestyle through exclusivity.
I do not pretend to speak for anyone but myself. I am going to continue to get into discussions, and arguments, with others so I can learn. Master helps me grow in my submission and in my ability to self-reflect. My community (which extends across the world because of the internet) helps me expand my definitions, my thoughts, and, most importantly, my experiences.
My name is Joji. I am 29 years old currently and I have been in and around the kink community about 15 years.I am a collared submissive to Magick42. I am also a Daddy to a wonderful babygirl, and have been for more than three years now and I find it very fulfilling. I am being mentored in and being taught electroplay. I am a masochist at heart and thoroughly love impact play, especially caning. I enjoy reading anything I can get my hands on and am a die hard Harry Potter and Doctor Who fan. I am also the secretary for a group in Idaho called Moscow S.P.A.R.K.E (Simply Providing Another Route to Kink Education). It is our mission to teach safe practices to those new to the community and give them a safe haven to ask questions and learn without judgement. We accept all kinks and all we ask in return is respect between all our members.