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Not just pain - The Pleasure in Power Exchange

"Power is intoxicating"

  • Amelia Danver 

When you hear terms such as Kink, BDSM, Fetish, Dominant or submissive, you quite possibly think of the pain connotation related to it. You imagine the spanking, the whips, the chains, the copious implements a purveyor of pain and humiliation may use…and you wouldn't be wrong, but it's not just about the pain. At its core, the D/s relationship, (whether professional, lifestyle or sexual), is about Power Exchange. We all have power and we can all give that power to others. The submissive partner is giving the Dominant partner power over them in a consensual, discussed and agreed manner and format. The level of power exchange depends on the relationship and dynamic of those involved. 

So what is power exchange? It is not 'power over' another person, it is an exchange. It is the conscious choice to give one's personal autonomy, power over themselves or certain aspects of their lives, to someone else. To someone they consider Dominant. This could be a professional Dominant or a life partner. Within the realms of BDSM, the submissive gives that power to the Dominant. This could be financial, sexual or even full control depending on the individual needs and limits of those involved. 

At the lower end of the spectrum that could include being tied up, giving the Dominant person the power over when/how they can move. It could involve power over one's orgasms or how they are addressed. At the more extreme end it could be a total power exchange in which the submissive person has given all power to the Dominant, meaning they will be 'controlled' at all times. This could include when to speak, how to dress, when they can eat…all aspects of life could be given over to the Dominant. 

Giving away your power can be invigorating for the submissive, it can be comforting knowing someone else is making decisions for you or it could be a sexual turn on. People who enjoy power exchange are actually strong individuals, some who may be dominant in their daily lives. Giving away that control and power, even for short periods of time, can be a way of relaxing, a form of self care. 

At all times the submissive has the right to remove their consent and retract the power. There should always be a discussion prior to any exchange, play times, sessions etc… to establish limits for both parties involved to ensure that both are comfortable and happy with the arrangement. Safe words are also important as a way to stop play. 

Some people feel that a power exchange relationship is more fulfilling if it is with a loved one as there is a stronger link and the necessary trust is already established. However, others feel that experiencing it with someone outside of your everyday life gives you more opportunity to release the power and step out of your regular personality. Whichever works best for you is best, explore your options and do your research. 

There is a deeper, psychological aspect to BDSM and the related sessions or lifestyle. A great place to start is to look into Social Exchange Theory. Although this generally applies to economics it is still a valid theory which will help you both better understand the psychological and sociological aspects and behaviours. 

Tips for power exchange relationships

  • Do your research 

  • Establish trust

  • Set limits and boundaries 

  • Have a structure/establish rituals 

  • Don't fear it

  • Relax and enjoy 

However you choose to use power exchange in your lifestyle or play times, do so with respect for each other, with safety precautions in place and with all limits set out. Most of all, enjoy it! 

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