by Dragon


Those who pursue erotic or non-conformant lifestyles are not perverse. They simply share a view of the structure and conduct of interpersonal and/or sexual relationships contradictory to the mainstream ideology.

A few days ago I overheard one submissive lady say to another, "I really don't think that they (Dominants) understand the power they have over us." What caught my attention was that she used the words understand and power because whenever the exchange of power topic arises the discussion always turns on the word control. And, when power is mentioned itís always in dominant context. Seldom does anyone hear of the power of submission. We seem to be forgetting the essential fact that the exchange of power between the dominant and submissive is the heart that pumps the life-blood through all of BDSM. Without it, our activities become nothing more than parlor games and contact sports.

During the past decade multitudes of newcomers have entered the BDSM arena with genuine dominant and submissive desires. But, they have no real comprehension of what that means. They have the D/s relationship confused with the activities of BDSM. They say that theyíre looking for a relationship and then bounce from one play partner to another like theyíre trying on shoes to see if they fit. But, without at least a working knowledge and understanding of the exchange of power involved, the relationship is doomed to failure because the exchange of power IS the D/s relationship. Irrespective of any personal persuasion or activity, the power exchange is as essential to the Dominant/submissive relationship as math is to mathematics.


<<<<< I >>>>>

A power exchange occurs when opposite but compatible and attracting forces come together. Thereís a very good reason why opposites attract each other in nature. While each is a constant force in itís own right, neither can manifest their true power unless exposed to interact and feed from the other to create the greater power for which they were destined. The left cannot be the left unless there is a right for it to be left of and visa versa. Only by exchanging their respective powers to be left and right can they achieve their destiny - the relationship of left and right. In BDSM context the opposites are domination and submission and their destiny is to find each other and feed a D/s relationship by exchanging their powers.

Thereís a great deal of misinformation and confusion as to what the Lifestyle power exchange actually is. The most popular misconception is that itís the power to control. In D/s, control is an integral part of the relationship, but the power to control is not the exchange of power. Itís only a by-product resulting from the power exchange itself and this confuses many people because that control is what they can see. The actual power exchange is not something that can be seen with the naked eye. It occurs when a submissive submits to dominance concurrent with dominance being generated to that submission. While the two forces always exist separately, they are undeveloped until conjoined. The dominance cannot manifest itís potential without submission and submission cannot manifest itís potential without dominance. They are inter-dependent; drawing their power from each other. Only by interacting one simultaneous with the other does the transition (power exchange) occur and bring the Dominant/submissive relationship to life. A dominant and submissive couple must barter their respective powers to conjunctively create it. Like heads and tails, the opposite sides of the coin have some value, but must be joined to make "cents." Only by interacting with each other can they achieve their actual worth.

Before proceeding, I must caution the novice that there is great danger in playing at BDSM power exchange relationships without a full and complete understanding of why we do it. This applies to both sides in the power relationship. The submissive must understand that the power they possess is the ability to create dominance. The Dominant must understand their power to create submission and be prepared for the responsibility of the control that comes with it. Also, they both must be prepared for the pitfalls inherent within this type of relationship. The power exchange relationship contains two powerful forces that feed off of each other and that can be a very delicate balance at times. If it becomes unbalanced, circuits can overload and fuses can blow! Constant no-fault communication is essential. The power exchange is not a game that can be played at only a part of the time! It requires serious commitment and full time attention. Above all, it requires two people who understand what they do and why theyíre doing it!

This understanding begins with the language we use and defining this Lifestyle is as simple as opening any dictionary. Just because they are used in BDSM context does not alter or limit those definitions nor may they be selectively interpreted to fit ones prejudicial point of view, either. For example, the mainstream perceives that, when used in our lifestyle, words like dominance, submission, power, and control relate only to degradation and abuse. But, that isnít true where consent is present. There are many aspects to power and the utilization of it is determined by the spirit behind why and how it is acquired.

Power relates to: Ability, capacity, efficacy, efficiency, energy, force, might, potency, puissance, strength. One who is Powerful is defined as able, cogent, commanding, controlling, effective, effectual, efficacious, efficient, forceful, influential, mighty, potent, puissant, robust, strong, mighty, vigorous. Control is: To exercise a directing, restraining, or governing influence over.

Whenever power is arbitrarily taken or control is coerced through intimidation, fear, or by force - that is abuse! But, if the control results from a consensual exchange of powers and is then managed in a spirit of benefit for both parties - there is no abuse. The character and the quality of any control will be determined by the spirit within which it was conceived. I.e., why they do it!

The outsider "sees" only the visuals: The blatantly intimidating and, to them, shocking visuals. "How can they do that? Who would get on their knees to another person without being forced? Why would they want to be humiliated like that? Don't they have any self-respect? It must be a case of low self-esteem! (And in S&M context) How could anyone in their right mind administer or subject themselves to that kind of abuse?"The answer is quite simple:

We are compelled by an inborn need to experience and express our commitment, our trust, and our feelings to each other far beyond that of other couples. This need is propelled by an unquenchable thirst for adventure and the exploration of sexual eroticism. Weíre a classic study in Hedonics; attempting to derive all the pleasures of life. We seek the outer limits of ourselves. In our relationship nothing is withheld! We pursue the total expression of the essence of ourselves within our own individuality and morality and without regard of any societal conventions or the restrictive religious sacraments of others.

But, this is complex in the perceived reality of the outsider:

Primarily because Dominance and submission and the S&M practices feel different than they look. What walks like a duck and talks like a duck is not always the ugly duck. What you see is not always what you get. The submissive does not feel degraded by serving and pleasing the Master/Mistress. The paradox is that the submissive does not become less through the submission - they become more! They complete themselves by connecting with the other half of their predestined equation - the Dominant; then, together, they fulfill their mutual needs through psychodrama. And, what appears to be painful may, in reality, be erotically sensual. Pleasure is often the reward of pain.

The most significant reason the power exchange relationship is misunderstood involves equating power with rights. In the power exchange lifestyle they aren't synonymous. When the submissive grants the Dominant the power to control the relationship they donít give up their fundamental rights. Instead, they entrust them to the Dominantís care. When they turn over the responsibility for their well being they have every right to expect that all of their needs will be met in order of priority, within reason and the confines of their environment, and to the best of the controlling partyís ability. This includes emotional and psychological needs as well as the physical.

Also, the term "slave" misleads and, frankly, I donít like it because actual slavery by definition doesn't really exist in the power exchange Lifestyle. Actual slavery is nonconsensual and, therefore, abusive. Power exchange slavery is consensual non-consent and that is what is so difficult for outsiders and beginners to understand. The submissive consents to being controlled but they do not abdicate the inalienable rights to which everyone is entitled by default. The right to life - liberty Ė happiness - security - safety Ė and all other parts of the equitable human condition. They have the right not to be abused; the right to their feelings and thoughts. And yes, they have the right to make the choice whether to give up or retain any, all, or only certain rights. Submission is in no way an abdication of the basic human entitlements. Entering a power exchange relationship does not obliterate them. The submissive/slave only turns over to the Dominant the responsibility of administering, protecting, and caring for their rights -- they do not give them up!

One good example is parental right. Absent the condition of child abuse, no one may interfere with the natural/legal parents authority and control or interject themselves in any manner without the parent's permission. In the D/s or M/s relationship where children are present, the parent decides what the child is or is not exposed to, how the relationship is conducted in their presence, and how things are explained when the need arises - and it will. In relationships where both parties are the natural parents, each has equal right and responsibility regardless of their status within the relationship.

Another example: I have a very Dominant male friend in a long term M/s relationship. He doesn't smoke and is somewhat allergic to it. She smokes. He does not have the right to make her stop, however, he does have the right to prevent her from exposing him to it. That is fair and equitable. She never smokes in the house or in his presence in public. Their respect of each otherís fundamental rights is not negated because they are Master/slave.

The decision to give up all power to control their rights is the most serious decision one can ever make! However, in the power exchange, no slave should ever relinquish the right to retake their liberty. They must remember that their submission belongs to them and not the Master/Mistress. The reason for this is so that they have the power to protect themselves from an arbitrary and abusive condition should the need arise. We, in the Lifestyle, absolutely understand that power corrupts and that, because of the explosive dynamics involved, any power exchange relationship can get out of control.

In a power exchange relationship consensual non-consent is only granting the power to control. It is not giving up rights. Understanding this difference is imperative because thatís the line that separates the power exchange from degradation and abuse.

<<<<< II >>>>>

The psychology, the sexuality, and the activities we pursue to fill our needs are incomprehensible to mainstream folks because the driving need that compels us does not exist for them. [Or, perhaps theyíre unwilling to admit that it does.] The sight of what we do will be offensive to those who cannot or will not experience what it is that we are feeling. No one could possibly understand the depth or meaning of our lifestyle unless they became involved on an authentic level. But, for those who can make that "spiritual" connection, the difference and the contrast of other relationships becomes dramatically evident; embarking them on a journey from which there is no turning back.

However, we arenít nearly as unique as they (or we) would like to think, either. ALL interpersonal relationships contain some degree of power being exchanged. The only real difference between the BDSM and mainstream power exchange is the goals for the relationship and the activities pursued to achieve them. Our unique and sometimes outrageous activities are the tools that enable us to achieve our unique and outrageous goals. They enable us to effectively demonstrate our total commitment to each other and thereby experience an inner satisfaction of communicating the actual depth of our feelings and devotion. But, these activities carry great responsibilities and require a much higher degree of trust than other relationships. Therefore, we must have an emphatic spirit for understanding what we do and why we do it.

The initial stages of BDSM relationships are no different from any other relationship. The attracted parties endeavor to find out as much about each other as they can through conversation and spending time together. This is the discovery phase of any relationship where couples learn each other's perfunctory likes, dislikes, limits, and goals. At this point the mainstream couple can choose to jump right into emotional involvement and/or sex. If it doesn't work out, the damage is recoverable and the parties can return to their lives more or less as they were before, perhaps a little wiser.

But, the supercharged dynamics of the BDSM relationships require that, at this same point, we proceed much more carefully. Not only is there the risk of severe physical injury, there are, also, deep-rooted psychological ramifications and extreme emotional fallout resulting from failed BDSM relationships that may leave permanent scars and unrecoverable damage. The power relationship reaches the very root of the soul and the extremities of emotions. It has a better than average potential for deadly consequences.

Before any physical and emotional interaction begins it is imperative that BDSM couples proceed slowly and have open honest in-depth discussions of their most intimate needs and desires. Very often there is a trade off of wants through negotiation. A mutual understanding of each other's needs must be reached and consensually agreed to. The motivating spirit behind their desire and their goals for the relationship must coincide. Only then should physical and sexual activities be tested in order to discover if the two are, indeed, a compatible match. If so, trust begins to develop and the exchange of power can begin.

But, this is, also, when the relationship problems can begin because the power exchange relationship is misunderstood by so many that have come to this Lifestyle via the internet in the past decade or so. Due to the abundance of on line misinformation and their haste to get to the BDSM playground, too many have missed the simple basic understanding of the spiritual underpinnings of domination and submission in the power exchange.

Whether they realize it or not, they have carried over enough of the nurtured mainstream view to perceive the Total Power Exchange as abusive! We hear them deride those who wish to surrender themselves in a Master/slave relationship as "doormats" and they see "The dominant is in control" as "The dominant is controlling." But, simply because one wishes to allow another to have unbridled control of the relationship does not mean that they are helpless abused doormats and "in control" and "controlling" are two entirely different things. Thatís the difference between domination and domineering and it is peremptory that we all understand this difference.

Domineer: To rule arrogantly or insolently; tyrannize; bully.

Domineering IS abuse! Either physical, mental, psychological, emotional, or (e) all of the above, abuse! Although many have consented to such relationships by remaining in them, that consent is acquired by deceit and manipulation and then coerced through fear, child custody, financial dependence, or other factors perceived inescapable. That is abuse and has nothing to do with the power exchange lifestyle! In the presence of the domineer the submissive will feel intimidated to submit compelled by a fear of incurring the Domineers displeasure/wrath. If the submissive gives into this they will lose their power - they will not be exchanging it. They will not be submitting Ė they will be permitting control. Without the consensual exchange of power that control is degrading and abusive. The Domineer does not give dominance. They only demand submission. There is no power exchange with a Domineer.

A Dominant will command respect from a submissive by their words and actions. They will not demand it. He/she will inspire you to WANT (that being the key) to please by your submission to his/her will. However, they will "bend" you to their will, not break yours. Nothing will be done by force or coercion, but by your wish to make him/her happy and pleased. In the presence of true dominance the submissive will feel magnetically drawn by the Dominant's inborn need for their submission and nurtured by the instinctive understanding of the submissive need that a true Dominant has. As he/she feeds their submission into that they can literally feel their own worth increase.

Dominate: To exercise control over; govern.

In the "BDSM" power exchange the spirit of the domination is nurturing care. The Dominant doesn't arbitrarily "control" the submissive's actions. Instead, they exercise control by governing the relationship. Of course, a power exchange Dominant must first and foremost be responsibly in control of themselves. How can one be trusted with the responsibility of caring for another if they don't have control of their own life?

Submissive: Willing or inclined to submit; yielding; obedient; docile.

The power exchange submissive does not aspire to be controlled, they wish to give control. They want acceptance and appreciation of their submission. They seek that one special person who, also, has enough self-control that they can be trusted with the responsibility of the submission they desire to give to them.

The Dominant does not "take" charge by "controlling," as the Domineer does. Instead, they accept the responsibility of being in charge and they nurture within the submissive their natural desire to submit. The Power Exchange Dominant thrives on the responsibility in these relationships and not on the buzz words -- 'control' and 'dominate.' He/she endeavors to nurture in the submissive a pride in their submission and the realization of the power of the submission that they give unto their Master/Mistress's charge rather than instilling weakness and dependence in the submissive by over controlling them.

<<<<< III >>>>>

"The more power a submissive has, the more power that can be exchanged."

"If one can't function without a Master/Mistress, what power can they give?"

The astute observer will find that many people who serve as and find fulfillment in submission or surrender to someone in a D/s or M/s relationship are otherwise, by nature, dominant personalities. Submissive does not mean weak and it doesn't mean passive. It means having made a conscious choice to let another lead and to help that person in every way possible.

Submission: a yielding to the power or authority of another; obedience.

There is nothing compelling any sub/slave to give their obedience except his/her own resolve to do so. They are, therefore, empowering the dominant by their decision to submit to them. Absent submission, there can be no domination. However, no power is exchanged unless the Dominant accepts responsibility for the submission with a full understanding of the type and amount of power that is given.

Dominance: Control; ascendancy, i.e., The quality, fact, or state of being dominant.

The fact of dominance, also, has to exist. The consent must be mutual in order for power to be exchanged. Dominance and submission in the Power Exchange relationship revolves around the dominant and submissive powers of the parties involved and not in the power of the control. That is why it is called an "exchange of power" instead of Ďgiving up control.í This is the spirit of giving to each otherís needs on both sides of the relationship and goes directly to why it is done.

Outside of institutions, there can be no such thing as a totally helpless person. Every Lifestyle submissive has the ability, in varying degrees, to control their own life. But, their inborn nature drives them to relinquish that control to their natural counterpart. This results in a joining of the power of both into one greater power that is entrusted to the more "in control" party which works to the benefit of both. By giving to each other that which the other needs, they complete themselves through an exchange of power becoming mirror images of one entity that is much greater than the separate individual parts. Each is like one-half of the wheel. Only by joining two matching halves together can they function as designed.

<<<<< IV >>>>>

There are two types of Power Exchange relationships -- Dominant/submissive and Master/slave. They share a common foundation, however, they are, at the same time, very different. In the D/s relationship we have labeled the consensual empowerment a "power exchange" because both parties carry responsibility in the power and its conduct in the relationship. In D/s the amount of power exchanged has limits! The D/s submissive gives their consent to control equal only to the amount of trust that has been developed. Ergo, the power to control in a D/s relationship flows from the bottom up. Now, this does not mean that the submissive is ultimately in control, they are not. The Dominant is always in control within the parameters of the relationship. It simply means that the submissive, like the Dominant, may withdraw their consent. That, of course, would terminate the relationship and no one is in control if there is no relationship.

The slave, on the other hand, completely submits to the Dominant and retains no control of the relationship at all. There are no limits other than those set by the Dominant. I.e., consensual non-consent.

Slave: A person over whose life, liberty, and property someone has absolute control.

Submit: To place under or yield to the authority, will, or power of another; surrender.

In surrender, there is no power left to "exchange." It has been completed. The Dominant has proven to the submissive that they can be completely trusted to control the conduct of the relationship. The powers of both the dominance and the submission have achieved their maximum potential. They are, now, Master/Mistress and slave. This is the total exchange of power.

Master: One who has dominion, i.e., Sovereign authority; the right of absolute possession and use; ownership.

At this point, the slave exists only to serve and bring joy to the Master/Mistress. The slave has no thoughts of self-gratification. The slave seeks only the approval of the Master/Mistress who is charged with the total responsibility for care of the slave.

The amount of power exchanged determines the type of relationship and herein lies the difference between D/s and M/s. In the D/s relationship there is a constant exchange of power occurring because the trust is still evolving. But, in the M/s relationship there has already been a complete surrender and acceptance. This surrender and acceptance has been labeled the Total Power Exchange and there is a very distinct difference because the M/s relationship requires a profound level of trust in the Master/Mistress in order to exist. It, also, requires full time acceptance and care of the awesome responsibility of total control by the Dominant. There can be no such thing as a part time M/s relationship! The level of trust is less in the D/s relationship and the responsibility is shared. As long as any control is retained by the submissive, the relationship is D/s and not M/s. All Power Exchange Relationships begin as D/s and evolve to M/s only if and when enough trust has been developed for the submissive to feel confident in total surrender and for the Dominant to be comfortable with the total responsibility of full time ownership.

<<<<< V >>>>>

Arriving at the point of consensual non-consent (slavery) is a time consuming process of stages one must go through. In order for the submissive to buy this farm they must know in their very marrow that they can absolutely trust the Master/Mistress and that simply takes time. In the early stages of the D/s relationship the participants will set certain limits and safeguards until they are sure that they want to make commitments of ownership to one another. But, by then, there is supposed to be enough trust and intimacy and enough power exchanged between them that a commitment of control is possible. However, simply assigning the D/s or M/s prefix to a relationship is not a magic fix all. Making the commitment to control and ownership does not create a full and complete relationship in an instant; it is only the beginning of the process of creating it. Just like any other relationship, the power exchange requires commitment and hard work if it is to endure.

The people who make that commitment to one another and who then endeavor to make the relationship work are those living the reality of the power-exchange. They may or may not evolve to a total Master/slave relationship, but that's OK. There's no requirement to do so and no failure in not doing so. It's simply a matter of preference. The submissive's life may be anything from that of a cloistered house slave to that of an active and aggressive person of the world who is, privately, totally submissive to their owner. There are endless permutations and whatever works for them is right for them.

The power exchange is an endless journey of growth through learning and experiences. Desires, needs, wants, and fantasies may change often as the journey branches out along the many trails that surround all aspects of the Lifestyle. The learning and exploration of these trails through interaction with each other is always going to have it's own peculiar impact on the individuals. This is why it is imperative that open communication be maintained at all times. Relationships grow and adjustments must be made. There are emotions, attitudes, experiences, and difficulties that power exchange couples have in common. There is a shared understanding of why they do what they do and the spirit behind The Power Exchange that binds them together. But each and every relationship is, in the final analysis, unique unto itself and must stew in itís own juice. What ever works for you is right for you regardless of what anyone else thinks about it.
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