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What is this nonsense about the subs having all the power?

I'm no expert on BDSM. I'm really not. I've only been on this journey for a few years, and I got involved because Reuben Weston showed up in my head and I didn't want to be another E. L. James (*shudders*). But I've at least got a few things figured out.

This idea of "subs having all the power" has been going around the community for a while. From what I understand from others, it pops up every ten years or so and we have to smash it again.

That's fine. Let's smash.

There are many kinds of power exchanges but there are two major categories. In one of them, both parties have the same amount of power. In the other, one party has more power than the other.

D/s Dynamic - Equal exchange of power

Dominant and submissive share both their needs (priority) and their wants (secondary) and agree on what aspects the submissive will hand over control. The Dominant must agree to take control from the submissive, and the submissive must agree to hand over that control to the Dominant.

Now obviously this is extremely simplified and there is a lot more to it. But the key here is that both parties consent and negotiate on exactly what is given up and taken. The submissive can, at any time, safeword, renegotiate, or end a scene or dynamic... but so can the Dom.

Because think about it. If the Dom doesn't have power, and the sub has all of it, the sub is then just using the Dom. The Dom is dehumanized and made into a "kink dispenser" or a "vending machine." Doms have power because the submissive gives it... but also because they agree to take it.

That's why it's equal.

M/s Dynamic - Negotiated unequal power exchange*

(*Please don't freak out and jump down my throat until you get to the end)

Submissive sets aside their wants in order to serve their Master. M/s dynamics are highly debated because they are not quite as common, and tend to be highly unique. They key here is the slave has given consent for the Master to make all decisions and take as much power as they see fit. Generally speaking, slaves give up their limits, and sometimes their safewords. This is something that usually happens after years of a strong dynamic, good communication, and a lot of trust. M/s dynamics should never be jumped into.

Now a good Master will keep their slave's needs in mind, because breaking your most prized possession isn't just unethical, it's stupid.

But they key here is that in this dynamic, the power that the submissive has is to say "no," or "this isn't working," and exit or renegotiate the dynamic (because, just in case you forgot, slavery is illegal in most countries). So a slave still has that power... but that tends to be it. However, even though this is unequal, it is not total!

TLDR: Any dynamic where one party has all the power is an abusive one.

Unequal, total power, with one party having zero control, is called slavery. Not consensual slavery, but straight-up slavery. It is illegal in most countries, and is abusive and unethical, regardless of your religious beliefs.

That is all, goodbye.

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