The EDGE Blog

BDSM Power Exchange


True or false: you can dress like a dad, be totally monogamous, have only vanilla sex (or no sex at all) 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 come from one partner being 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 when it is 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. A certain solace is found when roles are clearly defined and agreed to.

Often when people get their first taste of negotiated power dynamics, 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 that 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 discussing ideas. Common roles are dominant and submissive, pup and handler, or daddy/mommy and little.

Dominant and Submissive: Submissives often take on service roles such as preparing meals for their dominant, or setting his slippers by the bed for him. 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 often 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 will make sure 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.

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

Being innocent and playful should not be confused with 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 cruellest sadists are Littles, who for example enjoy causing equal parts psychological and physical pain while topping scenes. Even the toughest of Littles however is known to like 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 fulfilment 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.

There’s an unfortunate conditioning in the overculture which leads most men to assume that they’re naturally dominant. Science does not support this. Oftentimes women and nonbinary folks are naturally inclined to create structure, call the shots, and guide the trajectory of a scene.

On the other hand, we have people who need to act dominant in the workplace, and who’d love nothing more than to give someone else the reigns when it comes to playtime.

See if you and your partner can create a sanctuary for your negotiations, a non judgmental 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 dynamics require 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. This is perhaps more common with relationships born out of the community, than between a couple who stumbles into D/S after being married for years.

There’s a tradition of the collaring ceremony coming 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 is sometimes given 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. It may be worn 24/7 or only during munches, scenes and dinner parties. Bottom line, it communicates to the submissive and the community that they are being seriously considered for a long term relationship with the dominant in question.

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 to see the dom being collared during the ceremony as well.

Sometimes collaring ceremonies are private, attended only by the dominant and their submissive. Other times the ceremony may be 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 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 can be 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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