The guy I talked about in this post once told me, when we were sharing fantasies, “The amount of power you want to give your partner – it’s unbelievably hot.” Oddly enough, I had never thought about it that way – I’d thought about my partner “taking charge” or ‘taking control.” Him taking. I hadn’t thought about me giving. And I hadn’t really thought too much about power exchange in an explicit way.
There’s no doubt that power imbalances turn me on like nothing else. Sure, there are many things that turn me on, but make me feel powerless sexually (in a consensual, fantasy kinda way, of course), and you’ve hit the jackpot. I think that’s where the “wanting what I don’t want” phenomenon comes from. In fact, my first memory of feeling aroused came during a game of “bad doctor” at the age of four, and by seven I was feeling tingly at the idea of being kidnapped.
And as an adult who identifies as a feminist, it seems obvious to me that sex and power were interrelated.
But in mainstream American society, the relationship between sex and power is really kinda Not OK to talk about. Bringing it up in mixed company gets you blank stares or snickers about Monica Lewinsky and leather-clad dominatrices. Or dismissed as a “humorless feminist.”
I think this is one of the things I like so much about BDSM (well, in addition to the fact that it turns me on, of course!). It’s ok to acknowledge, talk about and even play with power dynamics in an explicit way. Maymay might be correct that the community doesn’t deal with power as well as it could – but it certainly does so better than mainstream culture.
I’ve wondered occasionally whether this explicitness is the real source of mainstream discomfort with BDSM – it’s not just the actions and dynamics that make people uncomfortable, but the fact that these actions and dynamics are talked about and made explicit.
It’s one thing to play with power and sex, but to actually be honest, explicit, and unapologetic about it – that’s downright subversive.