Who Really Has The Power?

When speaking of power exchange relationships in BDSM, such as Dominance/submission (“D/s”), you may occasionally hear some people claim, “it’s the sub who truly holds the power.” Often this is followed with the assertion that submission is a “gift”. While there is truth to this, it’s not the whole truth.

The first error is the implication that power is held by one person: the sub. Just like outside of our kinky play, everyone has power. It’s just up to you whether you’re going to exercise it or give it up.

So, while the submissive does in fact hold power, so does the Dominant. Both roles involve having and expressing power. The sub can be controlled only as much as they allow and the Domme will control only as much as they are willing.

This is a symbiotic relationship. It’s characterized by interdependence. One is defined by the existence of the other.

In other words: while it’s true that without a sub the Domme has no one to control, it’s also true that without a Domme the sub has no one to be controlled by. They are both receiving benefits from — and giving “gifts” to — one another.

10 thoughts on “Who Really Has The Power?”

  1. Interesting take to a long standing question.
    I feel in a normal D/sub relationship it’s 75/25% in the subs flavor because all they have to do is state their SafeWord and the scene is done. Now when the extreme relationship of owner/slave.
    If it’s true enslavement the Dom/me has ALL the power because it’s been surrendered by the slave.

    1. I’m not sure what you mean by “normal”, but the Domme can also “safeword” out of a scene. I’ve done it. It could be that the sub behaves in a way which makes me uncomfortable to the point where I’m no longer interested in continuing. If the sub has 50% more power than me, how could I do that?

      I think it’s important to remember that a scene is both fantasy and reality. Even when exploring a fantasy space in which the sub agrees to submit to the control of the Dominant, both parties always retain their actual power. This is why we play with safewords. They are codewords that anchor us to reality. The idea that anyone has less actual power, as in your “75%/25” model, is illusory.

      In M/s the psychology and thus intention of the interaction is different. Though each part wants a deeper level of control/loss of control, respectively, they both can still stop the exchange at any time. “Slavery” and “ownership” are exercises that exist in the mind.

  2. Thank you Mistress, appreciate the explanation. Very limited knowledge about any of this, but after reading Your definition, i have a much better understanding of this. i feel it is 50-50. It seems to me that the sub has more of the weight in trusting the Dom and thus, giving submission. The Dom, however, bears the weight of responsibility for the welfare and safety of the sub, through control and dominance. The sub has to choose responsibly and the Dom has to act responsibly. Equal risk on both sides of the coin. Both have the power to stop the exchange at any time. And each needs the other in order to satisfy their needs. So the power, pleasure and pain appear to be equal for both, to me. If i am understanding everything correctly, that is.

    1. I think trying to figure out percentages of power is not only unanswerable but a focus on the wrong thing.

      In fantasy, we negotiate parameters of power, not numbers. In reality, we never give up actual power. As you said, we can stop the scene when we’d like. In that sense, both (or more) parties have what could be thought of as 100% power.

      Yes, the Domme assumes responsibility to lead and make decisions in whatever capacity has been agreed upon. However, this does not mean the sub bears no responsibility for their well-being. The Domme cannot be expected to “read minds”.

      “So the power, pleasure and pain appear to be equal for both”

      Power exchange does not infer pain. Or pleasure, for that matter.

  3. I do agree agree with you that it is such in a session. You say that my concept is in my mind. I agree there also. I was completely controlled by a Dominant female when I turned twelve at risk of severe punishment and/or embarrassment to my family. She was 17 and she (and one of her friends) used me for their pleasure and enjoyment til she went to college three years later.
    I’ve been trying to get back to that all my life. I’ve served four Mistresses two of them I trained in bdsm.
    The other came to live with me for four months. I have a contract made up giving over my rights to a Mistress and will enter into a legal power of attorney to her. I’m an exception to the rule. And there areDom/es out there that practice this lifestyle. It’s more Owner/slave than your typical D/s relationship.

    1. “I’m an exception to the rule”

      I’m not sure what “rule” you’re referring to?

      “And there areDom/es out there that practice this lifestyle.”

      I know there are Dommes who practice this “lifestyle”. I’m one of them. However, because I’m a “lifestyle” Domme, it doesn’t mean I conduct my life like other Dommes. Some Dommes like something akin to a “24/7” kinkfest, and some do very little erotic or sexual play — if any at all. We all have different personalities. You know, like humans do.

      “It’s more Owner/slave than your typical D/s relationship.”

      If you’re writing up contracts with your Domme and making her your attorney in fact, that, as I hope you know, doesn’t mean you’re legally her slave or property. There is no way to make slavery legal. (Sorry if I rained on your parade.) I understand the emotional appeal of this for people, but this, as I hope you can again acknowledge, is still an exercise in the mind. Nothing wrong with that, of course.

      Also, if your relationship is one in which you are giving her control for all the decisions and you ostensibly exist to serve her, that is more accurately described as an M/s relationship, not D/s.

      1. Yes you are correct of course I know slavery in of itself is not legal. That is why I would give power of attorney over to her. It’s always been on my mind. Since my first Mistress. I was only allowed to go to school, but she had rules about that too. I had to come straight home and wait for her to arrive she’d then look over my homework have me do it and instruct me on specific tasks. After wards she’d use me, abuse me, humiliate me then I’d service her as she saw fit. Once all that was done I’d be locked down for the night.
        She had (within the first month knowing us) convinced my parents that I’d get a better education living with her. So I was completely controlled for over three years.

    2. This is like the constant fantasy I went thru during my teen years and beyond.I was always thinking of girls my age while in school and how they would dominate me or other cute girls.I hope your experience was not traumatic because it sounds HOT!

  4. I do agree thatt there is power on both sides but it changes at different times, at least for me. When I submit to my Domme I give up all power and I trust Her to keep me safe. She knows me well yet takes me to my limits when She feels i need them tested. When we are not in session we treat each other equally although I dof try to spoil Her in many ways.

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