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BDSM Power Exchange



True or false: you can dress like a dad, be totally monogamous, have only vanilla sex, and still be kinky AF...

True. Welcome to the alluring world of BDSM power exchange.

The difference between a resentful housewife who labours over the stove all day and a chipper submissive who delights in preparing her Dom’s coffee just the way he likes it, is negotiation. Whereas many relationship tensions occur when one partner is nonconsensually expected to do something, in a power dynamic, partners are only expected to do that which they’ve explicitly agreed to.

D/s (dominance and submission) really shines in the context of a negotiated dynamic. Typically one partner is Dominant and the other is submissive. This can be as subtle as serving your Dominant tea the way they like it, or as overt as learning a series of positions to assume on command.

For many, power exchange is the lubricant that keeps their partnership operating smoothly. When the people involved clearly define and agree to specific roles, they often experience a sense of solace and relief relative to relationship tensions of the past.

Often when people get their first taste of negotiated power exchange...

...they realize that previous relationships struggled due to a lack of agreement about who was in control, or who should be making the decisions. Muddied power struggles between two people arguing over decisions that they don’t really care about are a common expression of this unrest.

(Note: Total Power Exchange, commonly referred to as TPE, is outside the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that TPE is extremely advanced, less glamorous than it sounds, and a blog for another day. Try your hand at scene and bedroom power exchange first.)

Brainstorm with your partner

Creativity is key when it comes to designing a dynamic that works for your relationship. Both you and your partner should take time to discuss ideas. Dominant and submissive, pup and handler, or daddy/mommy and little are some of the most popular power exchange roles.

Dominant and Submissive:

Submissives take on service roles such as preparing meals for their Dominant, blacking his boots, and even giving him straight razor shaves. Training involves learning how to do pre-negotiated tasks exactly the way the Dom likes, as well as mastering etiquette and rituals.

For his part, the Dominant commits to being emotionally responsible, to listening to his submissive, and doing everything in his power to enrich his submissive’s life. The Dom tends to makes most of the decisions, except for tasks that he delegates because he’d rather not do them.

Pup and Handler:

Pups are playful! When not causing mischief or wagging their tails, they often sit at their Handler’s feet. Pups take it upon themselves to be cheerful and welcoming to all their Handler’s friends.

They can also be protective, especially in the case of Guard Dogs. As most pups are pack animals, the astute Handler ensures that their pup is well socialized by bringing him to moshes and leather events. The Handler will devise many an adventure for their playful pal. Besides training their Pup to sit, fetch, and shake paws, most Handlers delight in giving treats.

Caregiver and little:

Mommies, Daddies, and nonbinary Caregivers often seem to be in service to their little ones. They provide endless snuggles and lap time, as well as ample praise for a job well done.

Bigs assign tasks are little-sized, and punishments are gentle if they exist at all. For most littles, a disappointed look from their Caregiver is the worst punishment imaginable. Whether or not to tolerate bratty behavior is a personal choice.

Being “innocent” and playful is not the same as being weak! Some of the heaviest masochists around are littles, who put themselves through incredible tests to make their Daddies proud.

Also, some of the cruelest sadists are littles, who for example enjoy causing equal parts psychological and physical pain while topping scenes. Even the toughest of littles however likely has a tough spot for candy, cartoons, and blanket forts.

What do all these examples have in common?

  1. The Dominant/Handler/Caregiver calls the shots.

  2. But that’s only because it was agreed to in advance, under the presumption that both the Dominant and submissive experience a greater sense of fulfillment from having said agreements in place.

  3. Dynamics evolve and can be renegotiated at any point.

Negotiation can sound like this:

Sub: I’d like it if you just told me what you want for dinner, instead of having a long back and forth about it everyday.

Dom: Coming up with ideas for dinner stresses me out. How about you choose and I have to be okay with it?

Sub: Okay, but will you decide when it’s time to have sex? It’s a really big turn-on for me and would be a nice reward for a meal well done.

Dom: I like the sound of that. Promise you’ll tell me if you’re really not in the mood?

Sub: Promise.

The overculture conditions most men to assume that they’re naturally dominant. Science does not support this. Oftentimes women and nonbinary folks love – and are great at – creating structure, calling the shots, and guiding the trajectory of a scene.

On the other hand, many people who need to act dominant in the workplace would love nothing more than to give someone else the reins when it comes to playtime.

See if you and your partner can create a sanctuary for your negotiations, a nonjudgmental container in which either of you could be dominant or submissive without it having a negative impact on your self-image.

Be careful here not to laugh at your partner or to share this information with your friends. Power exchange requires a higher level of trust and respect than almost any other dynamic in our lives.

It’s okay to switch roles too, but that’s a blog for another day.

Ceremony: collaring

Ah, the legendary collaring ceremony.

Traditionally the collaring ceremony comes after several phases of training and testing. While the dominant narrative says that training and testing is for the submissive, any submissive will tell you that they’re training and testing their dominant as well. The submissive sometimes receives a training collar during this time.

It may be anything from a leather BDSM collar to a fine jewelry style chain, to chainmaille with a lock.

Some people wear their collars 24/7 while others wear them exclusively during munches, scenes, and dinner parties. The training collar communicates to the submissive and the community that they are being seriously considered for a long-term relationship with the Dominant in question. Collars also ward off unwanted advances at play parties by clearly stating, “I’m somebody else’s property.”

If the submissive (and Dominant) pass this period with flying colors, they often decide to move on to a formal collaring ceremony. Many liken this to a BDSM wedding, where the collar is the wedding ring. Traditionally only the sub would be collared, but these days it’s more and more common for the Dom be collared during the ceremony as well.

Sometimes collaring ceremonies are private, attended only by the dominant and their submissive. Other times the ceremony are officiated by a kinky minister, with other partners and friends present. As in a wedding or handfasting, vows are typically exchanged, followed by a kiss. Finally, trumpets blast and doves fill the sky as the ceremonial collar is fastened around the neck. Or something like that.

The choice of whether or not to wear a collar is a personal one. Some wear day collars as a low profile reminder of their special devotion. Day collars can look like regular necklaces, giving them the advantage of flying more easily under the radar of muggles and bosses. Some work the collaring into a daily ritual, kneeling before their dominant and reciting a vow as they are locked in.

While the tradition of collaring is validating and meaningful, it shouldn’t take the place of the heart of BDSM power exchange: two or more people having honest and open communication, deciding to try new things to make their relationship more fulfilling, agreeing to renegotiate at any time, and holding themselves to the highest standard of respect and service possible.

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