Who has the power?

This post is partly a question, actually.

I’ve heard that in BDSM domination and submission (which I haven’t engaged with much), ideally, the submissive has the power.

Does this mean the sub has the power because they consent, or because the dominant is orchestrating their needs being met, but it’s about their (the submissive’s) needs?

If the submissive has the power because they can say yes or no, I don’t really think that’s “the power”.

I find the ability to say no the most incredibly low bar for agency I’ve ever encountered.

I’ve lived with sexual encounters or relationships where the only power I had was to say yes or no to what was happening to me, with me, at me. My “no” was respected, but I could not ask for things, I could not express my needs, I could not express much nuance in how I was feeling.

I could accept or decline.

That isn’t agency to me, that isn’t sexual agency at all. That’s so basic, the ability to say “no” and have it respected, that should not count, in my opinion, as having the power.

I think the ability to say “no” being powerful only makes sense in a rape culture. We’re stripped of our ability to say “no” so often, so repeatedly and so brutally, that we find the ability to say “no”, ever, finally, empowering.

If the submissive has the power because their needs are centered…but the dominant’s needs are also being met, why is that about power at all?

So, this post is partly a question about what that means, when people in BDSM communities say “really the sub has the power”.

And it’s partly a statement that I do not believe that being allowed to say “no” is an acceptable maximum bar set for sexual agency.

What do you think?



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