Power Exchange is not topping. Power exchange is not domming. Power exchange is not mastery. Yet it gets conflated with all of these in our community. That's because along with the love, the trust, the caring and wish fulfillment, we are in love with imagery and symbolism. We love the archetypes of power: the powerful dominant man, the meek submissive, the cruel dominatrix, the feisty prey, the obedient servant, the rebellious brat, the devoted slave, and so on. We identify with these characters and try to embody them- but underlying them is something deeper and more lovely than any single symbol or icon can represent- trust.
As a child, I lost trust. I lost trust in my parents to care for me. I lost trust in the other children to play fair and be nice. I lost trust in knowing if knowing if today would be a good day or bad day. I lost trust in myself in handling the bad days, and I lost trust that the good days wouldn't turn bad in an instant. When I learned that adults lied, I lost trust in authority and in established institutions.
The first time I began thinking of my House, I was five years old. I was sat in my room, sent away by my parents for being in the way. As I sat on the floor on that worn yellow carpet, I imagined a family, and myself at the head of it. I imagined my wife and I together. Unlike my own parents, we would not fight, not argue, not openly display disgust at each other. I imagined a child too, and this child would not be burdened with the trauma that I'd had. They'd know a loving family that welcomed them into the world. I imagined my wife asking me a question and saw myself answering it with calm assuredness.
As I grew older, before I knew I was kinky, I would tell people that I believed in "traditional gender roles". As a child of a European and an artist, I told them, it made sense that I'd absorbed the more traditional values, for good or ill. But once I realized I was kinky, I knew immediately that what I wanted was not traditional gender roles, but something else, something far deeper. I was striving for a relationship in which love and trust are so present that my partner can hand over power to me, and I can in turn make a safe place for her.
Power exchange is the trust. To give power is to trust in another person, and to receive power is to accept the responsibility that goes along with that trust. Power exchange is not reciprocal in the sense that any particular outcome is expected, but within a romantic relationship, it is the most loving act I can think of.
Loving, trusting, caring power exchange does not imply easy. Trusting is not easy, especially when times are difficult. Power exchange can be a challenge to the sub to give when feeling at their most afraid. To the dom, it's a call to action on all their best attributes- to know when to push, when to support, when to let go.
Power exchange is about challenge and growth, vulnerability and safety, about love and romance.