BDSM Basics: 5 Things About Power Exchange

Power exchange is the big term we use for Dominance and submission, Master/slave, Caregiver/little, and even top and bottom. The definition is in the phrase: power and control are exchanged between partners with one person taking control and having the power, while the other partner gives up control.

It’s easy to think that each specific dynamic (D/s, M/s, Cg/l, etc) are all completely different from each other. But ultimately, they’re all power exchange relationships. And as such, all fall under certain common “rules” or best practices. Every dynamic is unique, but if it’s a power exchange, these things remain true no matter what.

(Prefer to watch and learn? Scroll to the end for the video version of this post.)

There is no single way.

Hopefully this is already clear, but there is no single “correct” power exchange. Dominance and submission is not “better” than Master/slave. Playing as top and bottom isn’t “inferior” to a D/s relationship. Whatever way works for you and your partner is the right way. And however you configure your power exchange is the right way. All that matters is that both partners communicate their needs, listen to each other, find common ground, and only act with full, enthusiastic, and informed consent.

You choose your labels.

Call yourself whatever you want: Sir, Ma’am, Lady, Duke, Duchess, Daddy, Mommy, Papi, Lord, King, Queen, babygirl, pet, kitten, pup, WHATEVER. The labels are yours to choose in your relationship. Regardless of the specific power exchange dynamic you choose, what you call yourself can be anything that works for you. Plenty of Caregiver/little dynamics don’t use terms like “Daddy” or “Mommy.” Master/slave relationships don’t always refer to each other as Master/Mistress or slave. The label doesn’t define your power exchange — you do.

Sex is not required.

Power exchange exists separately from sex. Can sex be integrated into your power exchange? Abso-fucking-lutely! Is it required? Abso-fucking-lutely NOT! Some of us can’t imagine D/s or M/s without sex. Some of us can’t imagine power exchange WITH sex. It’s all about personal preference, and what you and your partner decide works for you.

It can be casual or serious.

If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “It’s not ‘real’ D/s unless you’re in love” OR “It’s not a real power exchange once you fall in love” I’d be a rich bitch, y’all. Power exchange can be EITHER. They can be both. Sometimes you begin as friends, and end up lovers. Maybe you start as lovers and become casual play partners. Maybe all you want is a play partner you can trust when you’re in the mood to play. And maybe you can only handle a power exchange in a committed relationship. It’s ALL valid.

24/7 is not required.

I’d also like a dollar for every “It’s not real unless it’s 24/7. Bedroom only doesn’t count.” AHHHHHHHHHHH! Nope, nope, triple nope. Power exchange is about giving up or receiving control and power. If that happens for five minutes once every six months, it’s just as valid as the person who lives a micromanaged M/s dynamic and can’t go to the bathroom without permission. Even 24/7 power exchange isn’t always 24/7. Try telling your vanilla boss you can’t go to that afternoon meeting without your Dominant’s permission. That’s not how real life works, and we all know it.

More resources to help you learn more:

D/s Isn’t About Sex, It’s About Power

Getting Your Needs Met

Where to Go To Learn More About BDSM, Kink, and D/s

5 Things You Should Know About New D/s Relationships

5 Things You Should Know About BDSM Titles and Labels

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