“Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power.”
– Oscar Wilde
TW: abuse, abuse of power, shitty Doms
I’ve always found the term “power exchange” – to describe a Dominant/submissive dynamic, relationship, or scene – fascinating. It’s not called a power over or a power from, but an exchange. I think there’s a reason for that. And I think that reason is as this title says: you need to have power before you can give it away.
Have you ever noticed how toxic and abusive Dominants (particularly cishet male Doms) try to get into relationships with the most powerless people they can find? Dominants who are insecure in their own masculinity and their own power chase submissives who are extremely young, extremely inexperienced and new to the scene, and whom they can groom into a relationship under the guise of “that’s what dominance is.”
It’s no surprise that those relationships tend to end up with, at best, a wildly uneven level of dependency. Often, they end up horrifyingly abusive.
Is it really consensual dominance if you take control over someone who has so little power, relative to you, that they can’t meaningfully push back or say no or leave? I don’t think it is. Are they truly giving power consensually if they can’t take it back? I believe not.
My first Dom was intimidated by me the moment I gained any real power. When we met, I was meek and quiet and obedient and so very, very young. A few years in, when I went to University and met my people and found my voice. He told me that he didn’t know what to do with me any more. “You don’t need me any longer,” he said. What he meant was, you can live without me now. And he didn’t like that.
Later, he told me that he couldn’t be my Dom any more because he was worried I was smarter than him. Because I was suddenly confident and outspoken. And what I realised is that he didn’t want to consensually dominate someone who was consensually subservient for fun. He wanted to domineer over someone who he could conceptualise as genuinely lesser.
Power is complicated and multi-faceted. You can have more power than someone along one axis, and less power along another. It’s not always an easy thing to quantify. That’s especially true when Dominant and submissive kink dynamics come into play.
But if you’re seeking out someone who doesn’t know any better due to age or inexperience, who won’t question you, who won’t leave because they need you or feel like nothing without you… ask yourself why.
If you feel threatened by someone who is a little older, has a modicum of experience, or is as smart or as successful or as confident as you (or perhaps even more so,) you need to interrogate that. Why do you need to feel like your partner is beneath you? Isn’t it more satisfying for someone who has a secure sense of their personal power to choose to give it away to you as their Dominant?
And if someone is chasing you who clearly has a hugely disproportionate level of power over you, ask questions. Do they fetishise your youth or your newness or your inexperience or your naïvety or the sense of security they get from feeling like they’re just kinda better than you? Do you feel the urge to put them on a pedastal or to do everything they say, even if it doesn’t feel right, because they say they know better?
Don’t give power over you to someone who doesn’t view your personal power as a beautiful thing that you alone own.
Learn yourself first. Explore with people who will make space for you to be curious, to try things out, to not know. Not with someone who treats you like an untouched lump of clay they can mold to their specifications.
Because you can only consensually give away your power, for a scene or a weekend or a few years or a lifetime, if you have that power to begin with.
I wrote this piece for Quote Quest, a new weekly meme by Little Switch Bitch. Click the button to see the other contributions or to take part. And if today’s piece resonated with you, you can always buy me a coffee to say thanks!