Power exchange is simply one partner giving power to another for a designated period of time. Power exchange happens within the BDSM lifestyle (including play partners) but it also happens in the vanilla world as well. The highly recommended book “Screw the Rose, Send Me the Thorns” by Philip Miller & Molly Devon describes power exchange the best with “[power exchange] is the empowerment of the Dominant BY the submissive’s surrender to His/Her control. The power exchange is consensual and should be well negotiated. The depth of power yielded by the submissive is equal to the level of responsibility assumed by the Dominant.” So basically the Dom/Top can’t expect their submission without taking equal responsibility for them. The same goes for the submissive/bottom; you can’t expect the Dom/Top to take responsibility if you aren’t giving them power (control).
Before I discuss the various types of power exchange, I want to address why the power exchange sometimes doesn’t work. First off, during the vetting process make sure you have things in common and have the same communication/love languages. So many are willing to get in a relationship with, invest in them emotionally or submit to them and you barely know them. I know it’s hard being single, with no partner to love or to play with, don’t make that your driving force. Know YOUR worth, and know what YOU bring to the table. Don’t settle for less. Don’t overlook red flags just to say you have a partner, girl/boyfriend or Dom/sub. It won’t work out and you are increasing your potential for getting hurt or worse.
Also, I have seen a lot of subs say their current partner or the potential Dom they are vetting are not a strong enough Dom. During the vetting process that potential partner might not be bringing their Dom/me game. There is a good reason for this, a Dom/me should only be a Dominant type to those under their command. They should not bark orders and be super “Domly” Dom (I also like to call them Master Thundercocks) to the waitress, your friends, people at the munch or dungeon or even YOU. Why is that? Because outside of our dynamic we are equal. Now some may take the lead in the group say if something is wrong with a food order, or organizing an event. Taking the lead is not dominating the group or an individual person (even subs will do it, I’m one of those sub). I’m a control freak, and will take the leading role, but I’m a submissive little to my Daddy/Dom and ONLY Him. Who I am in the vanilla world or in the BDSM community does not have to reflect my role in my relationship.
All power exchange dynamics in the BDSM community are like a dance, the Dom/me can not lead if the sub doesn’t not follow. If they are busy trying to show the Dom they are wrong, how to do it better (topping from the bottom) or refusing to dance at all (being a brat), the dynamic will fail because the s-type is not dancing. THIS does not mean that Dom/me is weak, or not a real Dom; it actually means they are NOT being a sub. So many are ready to point the finger and blame someone else. IF the sub is doing their part within the negotiated terms and the Dom/me is not taking the lead, this will also fail because as the quote states they have to take equal responsibility for the amount of power you have given them. The responsibilities should include but not limited to your well being, growth within the dynamic, community and lifestyle along with other things you both have negotiated within your dynamic. Make sure you are doing your part in the dynamic and it’s with someone you actually like, have similar kinks, relationship goals and have a connection with.
**LGBTQ+ disclaimer, I didn’t include all of the sexualities or identities below to keep it simple. Ignore the genders in this and see where you and your dynamic fit in.
The Vanilla side
Equal: both parties have a say so in decisions concerning where they live, big item purchases, chores, etc. They can “switch” it up by one handling certain jobs because it’s more convenient for them.
Male-led relationship: Domestic Disciple or 1950s household. The one in control makes the money, controls where and how it is spent. Chore list would be left for the partner that stayed home, dinner at a certain time. Much like the “1950s” household. Kink is not a driving force in this relationship.
Female-led relationship: A female empowering relationship. The female (or the one in charge if it’s a lesbian couple) makes all decisions, makes sure all chores are completed, bills paid, and the couples socializing with others. Kink is also not a driving force for this relationship.
BDSM or kink side
M/s: is TPE (Total power exchange). A Master or Mistress has control over their slave, within the negotiated terms. This is considered the more extreme dynamic within the BDSM lifestyle. I suggest a 9-12 month vetting/negotiating period before officially submitting. Kink is a large part of the relationship, but shouldn’t be the only thing bringing the couple together.
D/s: same as the Male led relationship but adds an erotic/non-vanilla kink to it.
Domme/sub: same as FLR but with kink.
CG/l: would fall under either the D/s or the Domme/sub, there is more of a nurturing caring side to this power exchange.
Absolute power exchange (APE): is not attainable unless you are together 24/7. Meaning no work, school, kids, or hanging out with friends without your partner. They make every decision for you. What to eat and drink, friends to hang around with and the topic of discussion, your outfit, hair color, length and style, EVERYTHING.
TPE but Kink only: This is the ones that are only into the kink. They can be in a dynamic with that person, but it’s usually a vanilla relationship. There really isn’t a “total power exchange” with this couple. More like a power exchange for a limited time during certain kinks, usually know as “bedroom only”