Power games: when they’re hot, and when they’re not

By Maya Khamala

I am no stranger to power struggles. I grew up at war with an abusive dictator of a father. Being a very confrontational oldest child, my particular brand of daddy issues were destined from the start. It wasn’t until many years later (after a number of long-term relationships and lovers had come and gone) that I realized I was very sexually submissive, and that I resented most of my past partners for having been submissive themselves. That even though my personality is oftentimes very extroverted, and my style of communication blunt and assertive, I seriously craved the feeling of simply giving in. After all, there had never been a father figure worthy of my respect. No man had ever inspired my passivity, submission, obedience, or giving in as a little girl. Today I seek a man deserving of my respect—someone who naturally inspires my submission rather than trying to force it out of me at any cost. People come to their uniquely configured sexualities in many ways; this is just a sliver of my path. 

Are you someone who craves submission, or domination in your sexual relationship? Consider the following 4 ways of doing away with potential negatives (read: actual power imbalances) and making it a positive experience for all:

1. Consent

This is the ticket, really. Consent. As dark, dramatic, and all-encompassing reputation the world of BDSM and/or kink seems to have (since sexual power games are most often associated with these), out of necessity, consent tends to be more of an emphasis here than it is with more vanilla-flavoured romps. Wanting something commonly considered out of the ordinary, or “dark,” necessitates more communication and therefore more opportunities to get consent right. So don’t fall into the category of power-players who gloss over discussing boundaries, asserting true desires, and ignore consent. That can get ugly fast. That’s the thing with power games. Just because one person has chosen a submissive role does not mean they have less power in deciding how things play out. Of course, whether you’re playing with power or not, consent should always be a focus.

2. Respect

Ok, this one may not be something that occurs to many people, as consent and communication often appear to be enough. This one is for those who care to go a little deeper, and perhaps not only develop a relationship of some kind with their power play partner. Do you believe me when I tell you that games or role-play scenarios involving domination and submission are so much better when there is mutual respect? Just because you are consensually giving up power, for example, does not mean your partner does not need to show you respect. I am fully aware that many power role-plays involve removing that element of decorum and respect, and that is all well and good, but I’m a firm believer that knowing the respect is there, underneath it all, is key to having fun and getting off without a weird, pseudo brand of stress lurking in the background. 

3. Trust

You should feel safe, even as you’re getting slapped, whipped, or choked. Really. This doesn’t mean you can’t have one night stands with strangers. I’m the last person to spell out any such rules. But again, have that discussion about boundaries—whether you know a person well, or not at all. Explore issues of consent. See how they react. Maybe they’re the one initiating these discussions, which is even better. You may have a safe word, you may have agreed upon parameters, and you may even respect this person and feel they respect you back. But do you trust them not to accidentally (or purposefully) fuck up somehow? There are many shades of grey (50 at the very least). Constant communication, as always, is key.

4. Acknowledge the power structures that be

Power games are no fun with someone who does not understand or refuses to acknowledge the power imbalances at work in the world today! Many people will disagree with me, or find this irrelevant. After all, you may not share my politics, or my preferences. However, I’m going to offer you this food for thought anyway.

Here’s an example: a guy with no understanding of his privilege or any analysis of how real-life power dynamics/structures play out in relation to gender and race might not be as much fun to submit to as, say, a guy who gets it, but still gets primally aroused by overpowering a woman, and wants to accomplish this in collusion with her. After all, there is always a psychological factor (or ten) to your pleasure. 

There is no denying that we are complex beings with often simple desires. But it can be hard to unravel your own mind and get at the root of what you seek in a sexual relationship, as well as why. I think there’s a reason so many people gravitate toward sexual power play. It is one of many ways of making sense of our lived experiences with power; of taking control where we normally have none; and of giving in when there is no real-life opportunity to do so. This looks different for every single person, of course. There is no formula for what works, and no one way people react to different power configurations. More than anything, this is about your relationship with yourself, and coming to understand what your body needs to satisfy your mind—and if you’re lucky, your heart too. Playtime can either reinforce your personal imbalances or empower you by actually restoring balance. And you’re the only expert here.

Happy exploring, adventurers. <3

Image Source: Tony Futura

Stay in the loop, bbOur top stories delivered to your inbox weekly