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We are three adults living in a polyamorous triad family. The content here is intended for an adult audience. If you are not an adult, please leave now.


Slave? Power Exchange? What?

This comment, left on the Bricks post, needs some sort of response --

The question I have for you, and I also realize you may read this and delete this, is this:

BDSM exists on a delicate power structure. One person gives another person power over them. One person exerts power over another person. Tomato, tomato.

When the events of the fairly recent past transpired, you usurped his power. Clearly, you also demonstrated that if he goes to far over the line, you will do it again. For a relationship that exists on the perception that he has the power, how is it possible to repair that perception?

Please understand that I am not judging you. Him. T. You did what you felt was right for your safety and well-being at the time. I do not participate in the lifestyle nor polyamoury, but I think people are entitled to live however it makes them happy and as long as it is consensual.

And I will understand if you feel the need to delete this comment as I also feel you tend to romanticize your relationship, particularly since you share much of it here on the really, really big 'silver screen,' and may not want to deal with/believe in/agree with what I am suggesting.

However, you are too smart to not to have thought of this yourself...

Hmmmm....  It is a fair question.  I've spent time myself, trying to figure out what to say about the "state of our power exchange" in the aftermath of our recent upheavals.  I am not sure that I have a clear enough vision of all of the forces that acted on all of us to really explain this, but it won't hurt to start the discussion.  Perhaps, writing about it can help me gain some clarity in my own thinking.

I think the commenter puts forth an interesting set of propositions, however, I sense that the assumptions underlying this analysis of our dynamic are, at best, unsophisticated and naive (after all, our commenter makes it clear that he/she does "... not participate in the lifestyle nor polyamoury").  I'll deconstruct that thinking first, and then see if I can shed any light on the "what just happened here" feeling that I am experiencing (perhaps along with a few of our readers) at this point.

So -- to the fallacies and misconceptions:

1)  BDSM exists on a delicate power structure.  BDSM is, first of all, not a monolithic, one size fits all, thing.  The acronym points to a whole, wide range of behaviors and practices, and those who engage in the lifestyle tend to ascribe to some of those behaviors and practices, but rarely does anyone take part in everything that might be considered BDSM.  Too, the notion that a BDSM power exchange is, by definition,  "delicate," is just simply not factually true.  I've seen partners, playing together casually, on an occasional basis, negotiate very finely crafted agreements that define how, exactly, the power will flow between them -- but that is not what typically happens between long-term, life-partners like us.  Our power structure is not at all delicate.  It ebbs and flows with the day to day realities of our lives, and we have, on occasion, shifted the nominal control from Him to me when circumstances warranted it.  We live in the real world, after all -- not in the fantasy land of BDSM fiction.

2)  One person gives another person power over them. One person exerts power over another person.  Ummmm... maybe, but not necessarily.  I know I've talked about the nature of power-based relating in our lives before.  It is one of my recurring lectures in this space, so I apologize to those who've heard all of this before...  All relationships have a power dynamic.  We human animals jostle for power with one another in every single encounter.  I exert power in my classroom, choosing to share it in limited and controlled ways with my young charges -- to their benefit I hope.  Driving down the highway, commuting to work, I balance the power and energy flow with all those other drivers who share the road with me.  Standing in the checkout line at the grocery, I hold my space through a civilized, but very definite, insistence on my own power.  In relationships with other people, social, intimate, professional, political...there is ALWAYS a flow of power.  He and I deliberately and consciously choose to recognize our various power quotients, and we then work to balance that energy and resource between us in the service of our intimate connection.  I don't "give" Him my power.  He does not exert power over me.  We share the power in ways that we design and define.  We balance each other.  It isn't so much an exchange as it is a dynamic, living flow.

3)  When the events of the fairly recent past transpired, you usurped his power. "Usurped" is a strong word.  To usurp is to assume or seize and take control without authority and possibly with force.  To usurp is to take as one's right or possession.  To usurp is to seize power from another, usually by illegitimate means.  When "the events of the fairly recent past transpired," I did take control of the situation, and when it became clear that both T and I were at risk of imminent physical harm, I exerted physical force to ensure our safety.  I did not, however, seize control FROM Him, because, frankly, He was not in control in that moment.  The alcohol was in control.  The alcohol was calling the shots.  The alcohol was threatening our safety and our very lives.  I've no right to ever undermine His authority, and I did not take power from Him that night.  I worked to keep Him safe, to prevent Him from acting in ways that would forever destroy His capacity to take His rightful place inside our family.  And, yes, I would do it again if the need arose.  He knows it.  T knows it.  I know it. 

4)  For a relationship that exists on the perception that he has the power, how is it possible to repair that...  He exerts power within our relationship exactly as He chooses.  He is exactly who He is with me and with T.  Sometimes, He lays the power down; puts it aside while He works to tend to other things that press upon His energies.  That has been the case following major surgeries, during times of great stress and grieving, when life simply overwhelms Him.  The myth of the all powerful, never faltering, perfect Dominant is not one to which He or we subscribe.  I have picked up the reins of control before when He needed me to do that, and I may do so again.  When I do that, it is precisely because I am needed in that capacity.  It is a kind of service that is, in the longer view, an essential contribution to our lives together.

5)  You did what you felt was right for your safety and well-being at the time.  In the most simple terms this statement is true, but there is a deeper drive to this move toward personal safety.  I am His.  T is His.  I know that life is not always fun and games, and my role in His life is to serve Him to the best of my ability.  When the situation places His "property" at risk, then my clear duty and charge is to protect and preserve what belongs to Him.  So, yes, I acted to preserve my life, and to protect T and myself, and I likely would have done that even if there were no power dynamic between us -- but there is no conflict in my mind as I acted to protect His property when He was unable to do that Himself.

6)  I also feel you tend to romanticize your relationship.  I am sure that I DO tend to romanticize my life with Him.  I am human, after all.  I'm not the only one who, in corresponding with friends and far flung acquaintances, puts the best face on things.  I do that on a pretty regular basis.  Consider that writing a blog like this is a little like putting out a Christmas newsletter many times each week -- it is the Lake Wobegon effect:  all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.  I doubt very much that there is anyone else, writing as I do, who could honestly plead "not guilty" to this kind of charge.

And so, I am left with my own sense of personal disorientation and disquiet in the wake of the events of these last weeks.  I do know that I forcefully, and determinedly charted a course for us all through the storm that engulfed our family.  I have struggled, in the aftermath with a sense of uneasiness about that reality.  I have wished (because EVERYONE knows that we who claim the title of slave really just want to abdicate any sort of adult responsibility), that something magical would happen and everything would revert to its former, familiar, and largely comfortable pattern.  Except that I don't.  Because I know that as familiar and comfortable as things were "back then," they were also seriously dysfunctional and broken.  I believe that we have to go forward, all of us, together to something healthier and better.  We will never again be what we were before.  We will find our way through this process, and in time, we will re-establish our lives on a firmer ground and a stronger foundation.  I know that He maintains the capacity to direct our lives, and I believe that He will do that again in time.  I look forward to the day when He takes me back in His arms, puts the collar back around my neck, and guides me forward into the life that He envisions for us together.  Until that day, I serve in the best way I know.  I am His -- always and all ways.



  1. I love the sentence...."it is not so much an exchange, as a dynamic". YES! What a pearl of wisdom. Thank You

  2. "He is exactly who He is with me and with T."
    In a very simplistic way, this sentence sums up one of the things I love most about BDSM--the ability/freedom to be exactly who you are.
    Nicely put.

  3. wandering traveler9:13 AM

    "usurp" hmmmm

    if a Dominant had been having a heart attack and in a panic was unwilling to seek medical care, would you, as a submissive, calling an ambulance being usurping His power in your consensual sexual & relationship dynamic?

    at what point is an addict fully able and at what point is an addict not fully able to bring consensual?

    at what point do the dangers of addiction dysfunction override the authority of one lost in said dysfunction?

    what obligation do ANY of us have to step in and protect someone from addiction or poor choices or endangering themselves or endangering others? to whom are we obliged in those instances?

    i believe Sue and T did exactly the best they could in a very difficult situation. Only the 3 of them live in and know the wholeness of their situation. i am happy to cheer love and deeper understanding of ourselves on, whatever shape it takes.

  4. Impish19:31 AM

    I'm not in the life, either, but I suspect loving and serving him means many things that you each understand and that are not always each day spoken aloud. That you will always act in his best interests, and that he will not permanently harm you. What happens when either of you fail, on purpose or by misunderstanding? What happens if he is at risk, but is ill and cannot see it? Is the other required to stand by and do nothing?
    Or is doing something fulfilling that obligation even if it seems to be breaking the usual rules? I'm sure you will be figuring that out for a long time, but in the long run only you and He can decide that.

  5. Very well put I think.

    "The myth of the all powerful never faltering perfect Dominant..." Yeah. I guess it goes with the myth of the perfectly submissive sub. It's very hard sometimes when they can't be dominant, and they really can't be all the time. They get sick, they get tired. They have an off day. And nature abhors a vaccuum and something happens to fill it, but it can be damn hard to recover from that and to get back to where you all want the relationship to be, to where the balance point is.

    I love your reference to putting the best face on things and Lake Wobegon effect. Where all the women are strong and the men are good looking and the children above average. Yeah we all do that a bit.

    I'm glad to see you writing again Swan.


  6. Anonymous9:17 PM

    Thank you for answering me, even if it did rate a post instead of a response to my comment.

    It was a well-thought out, well-written response and I appreciate it very much.

  7. Anonymous1:27 AM

    "I think the commenter puts forth an interesting set of propositions, however, I sense that the assumptions underlying this analysis of our dynamic are, at best, unsophisticated and naive (after all, our commenter makes it clear that he/she does "... not participate in the lifestyle nor polyamoury")."

    And about this? I said I do not participate. I did not say that I never have.



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