“Submissives have the real power”

I haven’t heard much of it lately, but for a while there it wasn’t at all unusual to hear that submissives have all the real power in a scene. That is, because they absolutely always have the power to end a scene that isn’t working for them, some people say this means submissives are the ones who are really in control. News flash: doms can safeword too. If you ignore my limits, I will end the scene. If you are a dick to me, I will end the scene. If you disrespect my partner or my relationship with him, I will end the scene. If you try to order me around, I will end the scene. If you call me mistress, I might very well end the scene because I fucking hate that shit.

No matter what kind of agreement you’ve made, s-types absolutely always have the right to end a scene. Say whatever you want about your no-safeword lifetime contract, but let me know what happens when your s-type says they’re going to faint/throw up/call their lawyer/call the cops/that this relationship is over. That’s right, you’ll fucking end the scene. However, that power isn’t special. I can end the scene too, and it’s much more convenient for me since if someone’s tied up, it’s not me.

Just being able to end the scene isn’t very much power, though. You only get to decide whether or not you stay on the ride, not where it goes. That is, while I would never ignore someone’s limits, I don’t take orders. If my play partner suggests something that sounds like fun odds are very good that I’ll do it, but it has to be an actual suggestion.The way I usually run scenes is pretty low key – we agree on which toys are on the table and a general intensity level, then I basically do what I feel like within those parameters. I can definitely be steered towards toys and actions that make my bottoms make fun noises, but if I’m not in a caning mood one night there’s no making me get one out.

So who’s really in control of my scenes? That would be me. Obviously I negotiate and I’m willing to do nice things for people I like, but come on. Only having the power to end the scene is not very much power at all, and someone who tells you that s-types have all the real power because they can end the scene whenever they need to is a) being hugely disrespectful of the d-types humanity (I have limits too, I can get triggered too, I can need to end a scene too) and b) sketchy as fuck.

While I feel very strongly that everyone in the scene should understand that s-types are powerful and awesome, the fact is that the s-type is not in control of the scene. If someone tries to tell you that you are, that makes me very worried that they’re trying to talk you into something that you wouldn’t be comfortable with if they were honest about who is actually in control. That’s creepy as shit. Informed consent is a thing, people. Don’t tell someone they’re in control when they’re not. I mean, if you’re willing to give them complete control over the scene then cool, but if they’re not going to be in control (which is very often the way the dom runs the scene, not to mention usually what the submissive person actually wants anyway), don’t fucking tell them they will be.

Submissive people absolutely do have power in the scene. What you bring to the scene can make it fly or fall flat, the dom is never ever the only one whose ideas and effort matters. If we’re going to talk about a submissive’s power in a scene, let’s talk about the power you actually have, not imaginary power you don’t have. Real communication is about honesty, after all.

5 thoughts on ““Submissives have the real power”

  1. “Submissives have the real power” has always made me twitch, and I think it’s very much for this reason. Doms have actual, measurable power and are in a lot of ways less vulnerable in scenes. (If only because they’re not the ones tied up, as you mention.)

    I think the reason this saying pisses me off so much is that it reminds me way too much of “Ooh, you see it is women who have the ~real power~, they have boobs and lead men around by their dicks, what do you mean fair hiring practices and the freedom from sexual harassment are important? Women get laid easily! They totes have all the power over us poor menz!!” Which is the kind of thing that makes me wish I had something pointy and sharp on hand.

    I mean, I think I know where it comes from. It’s an attempt to remind people that s-types are equal partners in this adventure with d-types, and should be treated with just as much respect and not steamrolled outside the bedroom just because they happen to fall on that side of the slash. But it’s never worked for me as a phrase, at all. No matter which side of the slash I’m playing on today.

    • ETA: And, yeah, it makes me feel undermined when I’m in a dom frame of mind. Oh, I’m supposed to let this dude boss me around and order kink from me like a restaurant menu? That’s okay because subs have all the power, you know! No, fuck off, I don’t need yet another reason to feel insecure about wanting to run the show, thank you kindly.

    • “Ooh, you see it is women who have the ~real power~, they have boobs and lead men around by their dicks, what do you mean fair hiring practices and the freedom from sexual harassment are important? Women get laid easily! They totes have all the power over us poor menz!!”

      That makes so much sense! Saying submissives have all the real power works really well as a dodge around the real problem of s-types being systematically disregarded and pushed around and treated like they’re less than. Tell yourself submissives have the real power and you have this oh-so-handy excuse not to think about whether you treat submissive people like people as a matter of course.

      There’s also a tremendously creepy parallel between those guys basically saying “women have more power than I think they should have” and doms saying “submissives have more power than I think they should have.” What kind of asshole thinks being able to end a scene makes someone all powerful?

  2. The way I see it as Adom is: one party The D is awake while the other party the S is in a dream like situation during the session, until they meet on common ground afterwards and share hopefully love and aftercare
    It isn’t power they share! its two different states of contiosness that combine into one at the conclusion

  3. I read your post a few days ago and i agreed wholeheartedly with it. i was thinking that perhaps the idea “submissives have all the power” is a gross misinterpretation of the D/s dynamic in the sense that submissives have an equal role in defining the very nature of the S/m dynamic. What i mean is that outside of the D/s dynamic, power over another person works in quite a different way. One person has absolute control while the other one is absolutely objectified. But just the fact that in the case of BDSM the dynamic is based on mutual agreement and consent suggests as has been mentioned that the sub is an equal player in the whole thing. As soon as that consent is violated (by crossing a hard limit, etc.) it is no longer D/s but sheer abuse and hence what defines the D/s dynamic is the consent of the submissive. It is perhaps in this sense that the statement “subs have all the power” is bandied about in a reductionist manner. or atleast this is the only sense in which it makes sense to me.

    A straightforward analogy would be that sex is only when both parties are consenting to and it immediately stops being sex and becomes rape as soon as one party withdraws consent (irrespective of who is the active and who the passive partner is, if at all).

    BUt even in this sense i d say that subs only have “half the power”. the rest is i think is for dramatic effect

    Hope I made sense 😛

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