Organic power and d/s power

Not so long ago the creator of Submissive Guy Comics asked readers to ask him questions on Tumblr. Ferns asked an especially interesting question about organic power (the power someone has outside of a d/s relationship) vs d/s power (the power someone has over another person because they’ve talked it out and agreed to it). Ferns also has some interesting commentary on SGC’s answer, as well as a whole post of her own about traditional power signifiers and d/s, all of which you should probably skim if you want to make any sense of the rambling that’s coming 🙂

Balancing organic/societal power and d/s power in a relationship can be pretty tricky. Personally, I need someone to have a certain level of organic power before I’m even interested in dominating them. Submission is only meaningful to the extent that it’s freely chosen, so I really need someone who can say no when he needs to. I get that it can be really hard to say no sometimes (god knows I’m not always good at it myself) and that low self-esteem is a sadly common thing, but I personally find the inability to say (to quote Ferns’ delightful post about “protection” and big bad doms)  ‘No thank you’ or ‘I’m not interested, strange shouty lady who is ordering me about’ or ‘Are you insane?!’ or ‘Piss off’ an instant interest killer. I want someone who can say no and chooses not to because that makes me happy, not someone who just can’t say no.

On the other hand, too much of an imbalance of power in the sub’s favour would probably just make me all twitchy and insecure and that’s no fun for anyone. On a fantasy level I love the idea of dominating someone much more powerful than I am, but in practice I’d probably spend a lot of time being anxious about whether he sincerely respected me or whether he was just getting off on how humiliating it was to submit to someone he saw as lesser than he was. To be clear that second scenario would be totally humiliating for me and if someone did that to me I’d never acknowledge his existence ever again. Things would probably also get weird if I tried to have a d/s relationship with someone smarter than I was. Being a woman in a male-dominated field gives me a gigantic chip on my shoulder when it comes to men assuming they’re smarter than I am, plus I’m generally insecure about being smart enough, so to have a d/s relationship with a particularly academically clever man (I’d be fine with someone who was a genius painter or composer or anything that’s totally unrelated to my field, that most likely wouldn’t set me off) I’d have to absolutely trust him never ever to treat me like I was stupid or tell me how to do things.

Like SGC says in his answer, power imbalances can certainly be worked around, but they have to be understood first. I’d probably have an easier time having a d/s relationship with someone who had tremendous advantages but understood that the deck was stacked in his favour than the type of person described in the Barry Switzer quote “Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple” even if we were otherwise fairly equal in terms of organic power. If you’re just oblivious to the advantages you have, whether that’s access to education or physical beauty, then no amount of conversation is likely to make a d/s relationship work for me simply because we can’t talk about power if one of us sticks his fingers in his ears and yells “La la la I can’t hear you” whenever I bring it up.

Readers, how do you think differences in organic power affect d/s relationships?

3 thoughts on “Organic power and d/s power

  1. PS, if anyone is terribly confused by the term organic power, that’s likely because I misinterpreted what Ferns meant. to quote her tweet “Organic power = how the power differential feels between you (pre-negotiation)”, which is related to the societal power I was talking about but not the same thing.

    Elsewhere in that twitter conversation she made the point that part of the organic power dynamic between two people is based on the importance you personally place on any given traditional power signifier (for example a high powered job title), not necessarily how society views it. Using myself as an example, if I meet a project manager my first thought is not “that’s a tough job, good for them” but “ugh, spineless little weasel until proven innocent” (uh, not that I’m bitter). Other people may be more impressed by that title (and good project managers are amazing people, it’s just that they’re extremely rare), but with me and my experiences it totally backfires.

  2. *smile* Thanks for that: our twitter convo was fun!

    “part of the organic power dynamic between two people is based on the importance you personally place on any given traditional power signifier”

    YES! Not *just* traditional power signifiers either: Any personal attributes can influence the organic power balance depending on how you perceive or feel them. I chose the ‘traditional power signifiers’ because they are generally understood and they were what I struck with this guy.

    Your quite specific ‘smarter than me in my field’ thing is a really good example of something very personal to you, and your response to it is exactly what I mean by how something can impact the organic power balance. A couple of commenters on my post felt NO influence from traditional power signifiers, but identified other things that were markers for them.

    For me ‘force of will’ is normally enough to tip it in my favour if it’s fairly even, but the intricacies of how D/s can work (or not) when the organic power dynamic is very imbalanced is interesting to me (which is why it was such a shame that I didn’t get to explore further with the man I mentioned).


  3. This is really interesting – which is why I am diving in late.

    Xena was always the slightly more dominant partner, and we have had a mostly Femdom sexual relationship for years. What tipped us over into an FLR was when economics and practicalities handed her most of the organic power.

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