We are empowered only through others’ consent

Giving others power over us is an immense act of trust. How do people handle issues of power and consent in relationships? Sinclair Sexsmith for Autostraddle. 


Excerpt of Sinclair Sexsmith’s article, “Power In Theory, Power In Practice

The thing most people don’t understand about Sarah’s submission — and that of many submissives, I think — is that I couldn’t actually “make” her do anything that she didn’t want to do. She was a strong-willed, stubborn, brilliant, opinionated person, full of agency and desire, and if she didn’t want to do something, she wouldn’t. Full stop.

But I constantly worried about my own power. I worried that I would “make” her do something she didn’t want to do, that she would hold it against me, that I would go too far. I over-negotiated. I begged her to tell me what she wanted. I service topped anything she desired. “I want what you want,” she would tell me. I would whisper it back.

We played out such a fantasy. She wants what I want, but I want what she wants. And does she really want anything I want, or does she only want the things that line up with what she wants? Luckily, we were so compatible sexually at first that almost everything we desired overlapped, and I rarely came up with scenarios that pushed her edges.

Except for that one scene in that hotel room. It was primarily about sensation. She had been teasing me all day, whispering things in my ear in mixed company, sliding my hand up her skirt under the table. I was worked up and full of energy, that mean growl coiled up in my belly and ready to pounce, and she gave me those eyes one too many times, and I just wanted to devour her. I tackled her onto the bed and held her down with my body as she giggled and bit at my upper arms. I had her kneeling on the floor and begging to suck my dick. A while later, after using some of the impact toys she had picked out, she whispered her safeword, then started repeating it louder: “Mercy! Mercy, mercy, mercy.” And I stopped.

I hadn’t heard her safeword before. I was high and mean and loving the bite of the whip against her, but that word switched everything off and concern kicked in immediately. Are you okay, what do you need, here’s some water, let me get you a blanket, want to cuddle on the bed, is there anything your body would like right now? I overwhelmed her with questions. She asked for a snack and a break, then some sweet connected sex, and to talk about it tomorrow. We figured it out. I trusted her more because she asked me to stop. She trusted me more because I had.

It took me a while to trust Sarah’s agency, and to trust myself not to go too far, while still holding us both through these intense, intimate and precarious scenarios where I took power over her.

But thinking of it as “power” — the shorthand for this kind of play, what the kink community often calls power exchange — doesn’t capture the right meaning. The opposite of feeling powerful is feeling disempowered, and people frequently assume that if the dominant is “taking power over” the submissive, the submissive must be “giving up power” and disempowered. But this isn’t the case at all. Sarah told me that submission was where she felt her most powerful, where she felt like she could swallow the world and vibrate with its energy. Many other submissives express similar things — that submission is a place of great strength and power.


Read the full article at Autostraddle.

This post is part of the larger series, View From The Top, authored by Sinclair Sexsmith.

Original article published on 5th July 2016.

Featured image from Medium.

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