by Lord Unicron
In my last post, I wrote about power and force as they equate to a sensual spanking, and in a broader sense to ALL forms of impact play. We can even broaden these definitions further and say that in some respect, they apply to just about any kind of BDSM play. From a pure physics standpoint, power is defined as the amount of potential energy available, whereas force is the transmission of power to and its action upon an object. (The object, in this case, is naturally the s-type who is receiving the action.) Therefore when we hear about “stopping power” when discussing firearms, this is actually a misnomer. We are actually talking about stopping FORCE, because stopping power is relatively useless except in the theoretical realm.
When a trigger is squeezed, the person performing the action is not interested in the theoretical. It comes down to two simple questions: Will this weapon fire? And if so, will it stop the person or thing I’m shooting at from doing what it’s doing? Force is what gets the job done. Thus, stopping power in this case must surely be the despair of anyone who knows more than nothing whatsoever about high school physics.
But wait…there’s more.
Consider that just about any human relationship can be reduced to patterns of power and force. Whether it’s with family, friends, a lover or an s-type, these patterns assert and reassert themselves over and over again. In the kink world, power dynamics tend to be more rigidly stratified and enforced than in a vanilla relationship, but even there, if you look hard enough, you’ll notice a tidal flow of power to and from each party.
So what’s the difference?
From a relationship perspective, I like to use this example.
In the aftermath of a transgression, I order my s-type to kneel and place her nose against a point I’ve marked on the wall or the floor and to stay there until and unless I tell her otherwise. She does so without fuss or having to be told twice. I wait what I consider an appropriate amount of time and then I grab her by the hair, haul her to her feet, drag her across my knee and proceed to spank her.
In both situations I am demonstrating dominance over the s-type. In neither case is my dominance or my right to do these things, which have been negotiated and consented to previously, being gainsaid. The difference in these things is deceptively simple, because if you think about it for a moment, a lot of different things are happening all at once.
By issuing a series of verbal commands with which the s-type complies without question or hesitation, I am asserting power over her. Power is given by the s-type to the D-type to do with as he will, under the assumption that he will not abuse it or use “his” power as an excuse to violate the s-type’s consent. Nevertheless, once given, it is unquestionably his power and so long as he uses it responsibly and within the negotiated parameters of the relationship, he will likely retain that power. Power does not rely on external factors; it is purely internal, within the minds of the people in the scene. Their physical compliance is an outward symbolic representation of their internal agreement as to who wields the power.
However, when instead of commanding the s-type to get across my knee, I drag her bodily from the position in which I placed her and then across my knee, I am using force. Force is purely physical in this situation*, and while it is my right to do so because this is what we have mutually agreed to, it is not the same as power. True power does not require shows of force for its validation, although I am by no means saying that there aren’t times and circumstances where force can be mutually pleasurable all on its own. Sometimes the implicit loss of control that force brings to the table is exactly what both sides need. The D-type needs a reason, and the s-type craves that kind of attention. However, force is and has always been a poor substitute for real power in the long term. Therefore, the s-type kneeling where, when and how she is told is a much truer representation of power than the spanking that follows.
*Note: Yes, mental force, or coercion, is a thing. For example, while it is comparatively rare for males to be physically, overtly raped by women, being coerced into an unwanted or undesired act is by far the more common method. This is why negotiation is SO crucial and why any unclarities should be ironed out before the first command is given or the first prop brought into play. Coercion is not dominance, and those who engage in it for nefarious purposes do not deserve to consider themselves D-types. Of course, the problem with this definition is that just like #MKINYK, your definition of “nefarious” and mine may not even inhabit the same solar system. As with all human behavior, definitions can be a VERY slippery slope. Please keep this in mind.
So, if we want to produce a useful, simple definition of power in the BDSM dynamic, let us understand “power” to mean the following:
Power is negotiated between the D-type and s-type and employed in a consensual manner in ways that require minimal or no physical or overt contact to be valid. Power defines the overall hierarchy of the relationship and the responsibilities each has to the other.
If this is our working definition of power, then we may say of “force” that:
Force is negotiated between the D-type and s-type and employed in a consensual manner in ways that demand some or a great deal of physical or overt contact. Force defines how and to what degree physical expressions of power may be employed and the limiting factors upon same.
Power is the heart and soul of a BDSM relationship. When true power is freely given, responsibly wielded and properly acknowledged on both sides, the relationship is far more likely to be healthy and of merit to both parties. True dominance flows from a constant awareness of one’s power and the responsibility the D-type has to both his s-type and himself to use that power wisely. A D-type with true power doesn’t need to bang a gong, send up a flare or hold a ticker-tape parade to show just how much power he has. He understands his power, the s-type understands his power and within the confines of the dynamic, this remains satisfactory so long as neither party chooses to renegotiate the dynamic.
Force is not properly an expression of dominance at all. A D-type may choose to employ force in specific situations, but a reliance upon force rather than choosing shadings of tone, facial expression, stance and posture calculated to reassert power and thereby convey approval or disapproval as needed walks a razor-thin line between dominance and abuse. “Do X or I’ll kick your ass” can be cathartic in the moment, and it may well get results…but the raised eyebrow and soft tone with which a D-type lets the s-type know her behavior is not acceptable, and how quickly she moves to correct her behavior or make amends for same, is a far better measure of just how much dominance he really has.
Does this mean that dominance with force or the threat of force behind it is invalid?
As with so many other things, it is largely up to the people in a given dynamic. Some s-types may negotiate a certain threshold level of bratty behavior, after which the D-type has more or less free rein to employ force if power isn’t getting the point across. Some D-types may negotiate the use of force only during play scenes, not during discipline or correction, or vice versa. And of course, there is the question of “consensual non-consent,” wherein the s-type surrenders power and the right to use force completely to the D-type and then proceeds to play the role of hapless victim.
A fascinating test of this is going to dungeons and watching where the power in any given dynamic lies. You can even perform the same experiment right on the street. It’s generally pretty easy to tell who has the power in a relationship at any given time and to gauge how that power ebbs and flows. An s-type calling RED at a dungeon is asserting her inherent power to end the scene in which the D-type is nominally in command, rendering the D-type’s power moot, and the D-type will (typically) reassert power by rendering aftercare. You can observe similar psychodramas play out, generally in a less dramatic fashion, at work, at the mall, the park or the bus stop. Some people will be naturally submissive, while others will be naturally dominant. However, even the hardest D-type cannot be “on” all the time, so the tidal shift of dominance becomes an observable phenomenon.
The truest test of a D-type’s power is whether he can assert it at his will and whim, and achieve the outcome he desires. A D-type who must resort to force to enforce his will is not, in my opinion, a Dominant at all, but an abuser.
Thank you for stopping by today! Be sure to check back to hear more from Sparrow and Kitten about their side of the slash. If you have a comment, question or concern, we’d love to hear about it! Just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment in the box below. See you on Tasty Tuesday, where I’ll be talking about…well, come back and find out!
Power is an aphrodisiac. The ultimate power comes with absolute trust. Does your s-type trust you enough to deprive her of sight and motion while you have your way with her? Cuffs and blindfolds can be a very erotic way to build trust and prove that the power you have over her is not misplaced…