Do Dominants Have All the Power in BDSM?

hailthequeenOne of the most common questions in kink, particularly when you are trying to convey the concepts to newbies or people outside of kink, is who really has the power in a D/s relationship.

There’s differing opinions on that. The default people tend to go to is “The dom, duh, that’s their job!” but it’s matched by a now classic argument that the sub usually has all the power because they can withdraw consent at any time. One safeword or a serious no, and the dom is back to being Ms. Normalpants, right?

Some male subs argue femdoms have all the power by virtue of scarcity. On the other hand other, (clever) writers have pointed out a collective tendency to domism in kink society at large and in popular perception uninvolved vanillas, the idea that the more dominant you are the more weight and value your experience and opinions have. To a degree this is true- I have shiny dominant privilege that people tend to treat me like what makes me wriggle in me seat somehow comes with an extra helping of smart in my head. People generally believe that dominant sexuality is like an automatic mantle of leadership, or paradoxically expect that leader traits must match dominant leanings. This is something I can’t help bringing with me into all my relationships.

On the other hand, as I’ve complained about at length, femdom as a genre of porn is particularly weighted towards getting straight dudes off. There is very little stuff out there for femdoms, but a giant buffet of wank for male subs. It’s true that femdom is in such demand you can charge for it, but paradoxically professional dominants work hard for their money. If you are at all into identity politics, you can point out the big awkward sausage fingers of the patriarchy jammed up in my archetype expectations- indeed a lot of classic male sub requests are to hold up a twisted mirror of sexism- asking to be hurt by denying them or humiliating them with reminders of a code of conduct that penalizes femininity or failures to be conventionally masculine. And as Dee pointed out, there is a tendency to treat all dominants like our consent is set to “Yes”. Certainly stealth submission is offered more freely than anyone would suggest a dom should stealth take charge to get their jollies.

(At this point the non-gender equality obsessed persons eyeballs kinda crossed, while some MRA type is now posed with fingers over their keyboard to make sure I get told what I said wrong. Have at it- there’s a comment section for a reason. Oh yeah and if you just came here for the sexy femdom stories… sorry.)

We female dominants cope with it in different ways. Some, particularly the feminist professionals, point out they are doing what they want, and is probably pretty sexist to say there’s a right way to be female.  Others, like me, devote our scowly faces to being treated as a category niche fetish as opposed to being just a dominant, regardless of the contents of my pants. Meanwhile male subs often get all sad that a poor distinction is made between marketing copy of professional femdoms and the fact that male subs are just people like everyone else.

So nobody gets to go into their relationships without baggage, personal or otherwise. But what about power exchange?

The reality of asking who has the power is that you’re going to hit that age old frustrator of every duality ever, which is that it depends. While it’s true that subs can withdraw consent at any time, so can doms, who are just as capable of having limits. BDSM relationships don’t exist in a vacuum- as much as we like to imagine we all have sooper sekret chateaux where we host the most sophisticated sex parties, nobody stops being themselves just because they twig for something collectively presumed to fall under the kink umbrella.

Whatever power is the amount you bring into the relationship with you. It never really goes away- it just gets moved around. Doms, femdom or otherwise, are not all just filling the fantasy of the sub, but neither, to the protests of some, is submission diminished by considering the desires of the submissive. The power is just as much with the dom to indulge or not.

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1 Comment

  1. there is a tendency to treat all dominants like our consent is set to “Yes”.

    Yes! Thank you for saying that which my gonads distracted me from thinking about. It’s scary how much trouble I dodge because I fit so comfortably into the submissive female stereotype.

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