Welcome back to another Define This! episode from Submissive Guide. I’m lunaKM.

Today’s term comes from the comments section of a previous video. If you have a question about a BDSM term or some lingo you’ve come across, leave it in the comments and I’ll consider making it a Define This segment.

So, onto today’s term; what is power exchange?

A popular primer on BDSM written in 1995, “Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns” by Philip Miller and Molly Devon, defines Power Exchange as the empowerment of the dominant by the submissive’s surrender to his/her control. Power exchange is consensual and should be well negotiated. The depth of the power yielded by the submissive is equal to the level of responsibility assumed by the Dominant. Basically, it’s the way D/s relationships of any type work. A submissive surrenders power and a Dominant assumes power. Most vanilla relationships work on an equality in role system, where partners flow in and out of being in control depending on the situation or activity involved. This is also where a lot of “guy jobs” and “girl jobs” develop in a relationship.

A power exchange is more rigidly defined. Couples discuss and negotiate who has what role and what that role looks like to them. A submissive will tell the Dominant what they will and won’t submit to and a Dominant has to agree to those terms to make it work. It’s a consensual negotiation process and depending on the level of power exchange, could involve a little or a lot of control. Power exchange is also the basis of all BDSM play. One person agrees to submit to the activity and the other agrees to be in control.

Going back to the book, Screw the Roses, Philip and Molly break down Power Exchange into five levels and I’m going to cover each one in turn. Keep in mind that these levels are the way the authors were able to break up the differences in Power Exchange relationships and might not be the best way to describe them now.

Levels of Power Exchange from Screw the Roses:

1: Conditional Compliance - The SM one-nighter, a limited exchange of power negotiated by a dom and sub for a single scene or brief period of play, such as overnight, one day or one weekend.

2: Restricted ongoing acquiescence - An agreement, negotiated by a dom and sub, to play casually for an extended period of time without serious emotional involvement. The two only have power exchange for play and do not interact outside of that, often called play partners in today’s lingo.

3: Provisional submission - An ongoing relationship negotiated between a dom and a sub characterized by power exchange and emotional involvement, but lacking serious commitment. This level has evolved, in my opinion, to be the style of D/s relationship that I’d consider to be bedroom only. The couple may have a committed relationship but the power exchange isn’t an integrated part. They could agree to only express D/s when in the bedroom, or on weekends or when a babysitter can be found.

4: Covenant of Dominant and submission - A deeply committed symbiotic relationship between a dominant and submissive. Power Exchange relationships of this type have elements of D/s throughout their daily living and identify as Dominant and submissive outside the bedroom and often have rules, rituals or ways to interact within the relationship to express the power exchange to each other.

5: Absolute Ownership - Used to mean an ongoing d/s relationship often involving Total Power Exchange where the submissive has surrendered all decisions to the Dominant. This is often described as a Master and slave relationship.

So, in review, Power Exchange is a way to interact with your partner where your roles are defined, you’ve negotiated control where one submits and the other dominates for an agreed period of time and is the basis for all BDSM interactions.

And that’s it! Add your thoughts on power exchange in the comments below and if you have a suggestion for a future Define This episode let me know!

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