The Balance of Power

fetishism

Each person reacts differently to the stimuli they are given in a particular environment. At early ages we start to react to specific things different than our peers, what we like, and dislike varies completely. Often times, those learned behaviors or responses are done at such a young age, that changing them is hardly an option. These responses and behaviors will affect the foods we like, colors that are appealing to us, how we handle grief, anger, and even love. And in line with the topics of recent, it affects our pleasure centers and what may drive our desires.

Before we start to dive into this any further, I want to point out that kink/BDSM do not specifically fall under the Queer umbrella and as such do not specifically make it an LGBTQ issue. That being said, many LGBTQ people do partake in the kink lifestyle. As such, it isn’t all that different than someone who has red hair, green eyes, and being gay. It is all part of the package, not one specific trait that makes it. As often does, because they do not fit into a heteronormative situation, specifically, they are automatically called queer. Huckmag.com states why this could be an issue, “Considering being kinky as something similar to being queer ultimately means continuing to equate queerness to the sex you happen to enjoy having, which would be a mistake.” While queer is a huge umbrella term that can represent anyone going against a specific norm, it was also used for years as a means of vilifying anyone who was not part of the heteronormative culture. It is also good to remember that being kinky will not, specifically, put you on to any government sponsored census or even get your fired from a job, while being LGBTQ can. In some parts of the world, the assumption that you are gay can still get you murdered. We have people in our government wanting to sterilize transgender people before giving them the dignity they deserve by recognizing them for who they are. Being kinky may induce quiet whispers in conservative crowds, but rarely do they react as vehemently as they do to anyone LGBTQ.

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As previously, we are going to discuss kink as opposed to fetish. If you are unsure as to why, let me summarize the main differences between the two. Kink refers to a very diverse grouping of consensual and nontraditional sexual and sensual behaviors. Whereas, fetish focuses on an object to derive pleasure, like someone shoes, underwear, fabrics, smells, and so on. Kink can include fetishism and fetishism can be described as kinky, but they are different. According to PsychologyToday.com, there are five phases of kink identity development.

  1. Early EncountersBy age 10 the early signs of kink will start to show. They could be a simple as always wanting to the one who was captured when playing games like “Cops and Robbers” or “Cowboys and Indians.” This early stage is not attributed to any form of sexual desire.
  2. Exploration with SelfBetween the ages of 5 – 14, one starts to fantasize and start to search for kink media. This is where masturbation and exploring the physical feelings one obtains from their kink start to happen.
  3. EvaluationThis stage happens between 11-14 years of age and is when one would start to actualize how they feel about the kink identity. This is also when a person is already going through identity conflicts and this usually leads to isolation and feeling they are truly different than their peers.
  4. Finding OthersThis is much easier in modern times than it was in the past. After age 11, the individual will start to search out those that may have similar desires as they are having. This can also be the time when one starts to develop a more positive image of their kink identities, as they are meeting others and realizing they are not alone.
  5. Exploration With OthersIt is usually after the age of 18 that the kink person will start to seek out and engage in a kink relationship with another individual. However, many times one will experience these stages without realizing that it falls into any type of kink. It is only later that they realize their desires are of a different nature.

What drives people, when it comes to BDSM, can be very different. For some it is very sexually charged, while others are more of a power dynamic. They can overlap but are more often separate. In regard to the power dynamic, it can stem from a very early age. Usually found when one is very wrapped up in the imagery of being saved by the hero type, someone very powerful. Either they fantasize about doing the saving or being saved. All of which revolved around a power exchange. You can see the power exchange dynamic in a Dom/Sub relationship where the Dom(inant) may order the Sub(missive) around, leading them by leash, restraining them in some fashion, or by some form of punishment. As mentioned, a Dom/Sub relationship isn’t always about sex. Some may have very simple rules, such as asking about doing things on a specific day. Still others can have extremely complex sets of rules that guide every aspect and situation of any time frame.

When we talk about this power dynamic or the surrendering of power from one person to another, what does it actually mean? In the theory of it, it would refer to the submissive surrendering power to the dominant in an act of letting go of control of the situation. It varies person to person and group to group, for some it can be a change of attitude and for others it can go as far as being told what to wear and when to do things. Sure, you will have images of 50 Shade of Grey coming to your mind or any host of images that romanticize BDSM, but dress style isn’t what is important, it is the dominance asserted by the Dom. This assertion comes from implicit trust between the individuals. That trust also has boundaries that must be adhered to for a healthy relationship to exist.

  1. Revocable Consent– while the Sub willingly surrender control to their Dom, they also have the right to revoke that consent at any time and the Dom must agree.
  2. The Power to Submit– one cannot surrender power they do not have. Meaning the sub must have power over themselves first, in order to surrender.
  3. Rational Boundaries– while a dom may get extreme in the control exerted, it must not intercede into real life situations such as work and relationships outside of the dynamic.

Ultimately, it may seem that the dom has all of the power in this situation, the actuality is that power is shared in the means that subs have full control over how far things can go and just how much they are willing to give over. The dom is asserting control over the situation, reinforcing the power that the sub still holds, shaping it to the situation.

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How does one know if they are a dom or a sub? It may sound a bit cliched to say, but you usually know which you may fit into. You need to get rid of any preconceived ideas you may have about how doms/subs work. There are many people who function in highly stressful jobs, captains of industry, people managers, leaders, and so forth that you never see as being submissive. They are the ones that are controlling everything, but when it comes to their personal life, they want an escape. It is there moment to surrender their control they have over their worlds and to allow someone else to exert control over them. To bring them back to their center. And the opposite can be said for someone who has a life where they feel they have no control over what goes on around them, they, too, can become a dom to be able to exert that control on someone with implicit trust. It is about releasing your holds on your reality and accepting something different.

There are many variations of kink to consider, in the world. They may seem extreme to others, but a closer look at them opens up a dynamic that so many of us are already aware of in our lives. It is about a balance of power; the balance is achieved by one surrendering while the other accepts. Neither person, truly gives up or accepts full control. You may let others take control of the situations, but you still remain in full control over your experience. If you’re not in that balance of power, then you are probably in the wrong relationship. Each of you should sit down and outline your limits and your safe words and follow them to the letter. Be safe and be open, you may just have fun.

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