Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Back to basics: Power transfers

Greetings all,

I was reviewing some of my older material and came across this gem from the early days of my web site. I wrote it with the help and contributions of my webslut, amber. As I read through it, I realized that it was still as meaningful today as when we first put it together. I have made some small edits, but it is pretty much the same document.

The Dominant-submissive relationship is based on power transfer. The dominant wields the power, and the submissive willingly submits to his control. She surrenders her power to him and is, in turn, fulfilled.

Perhaps the question we are asked most often is “why”? What makes people want to do this? The short answer is - it’s in our nature. The dominant is naturally strong and feels the need to express his power and control. The submissive is called to this power and naturally bows to serve it.

It is perhaps easier to understand why someone would want to dominate than to submit. After all, it’s power. Why wouldn’t someone want to control another? Wouldn’t it be an incredible rush to have a willing individual kneeling in adoration at your feet? Perhaps. But remember, control without power is pathetic posturing, and power without responsibility is at best bullying, and at worst criminal.

Control is essential to domination, but what comes first is control of the self. The hallmark of the responsible dominant is a high degree of self-control. This should be considered a prerequisite to entering a D/s lifestyle relationship. Without it, there is a substantial risk that the dominant might harm the submissive, with physically, emotionally, or both. She will trust him with her well-being, even her life. Even if she is unsure, he must be confident of his ability to control his power. Only once he can control himself should he consider extending his control (i.e. power) to another.

There are six basic ways this can be done:

1) Reward - do this for me and I will give you something you want.
2) Punishment - do this for me or I will give you something you don't want.
3) Formal/authority - do this for me because I am more important than you are.
4) Expert/knowledge - do this for me because I know more than you do.
5) Informational - do this for me and I will tell you something you really need to know.
6) Charismatic/referent - do this for me because I’m one hell of a nice guy.

Each of these power approaches has value. The first three are often referred to as KITA powers. They are predicated on the idea that people are basically lazy, and if left to their own devices, they will seek out ways to avoid work. Therefore, if you want someone to do something, you have to give them a Kick In The Ass. While this approach does work, the effects are transitory. Once you stop the kicking, the behaviour tends to stop as well. Of course, the role of punishment and reward are critical parts of the D/s relationship. (See also, On the Nature of Punishment.)

The bottom three approaches (expert, informational and charismatic) are often referred to as Theory Y powers. (Douglas McGregor, The Human Side of Enterprise, 1960) They are based on the idea that people can be self-motivating if they see an opportunity to gain a sense of achievement. The Theory Y powers have an added benefit in that once they are acquired, they cannot be taken away. This is another incentive.

While a dominant may use all of these power forms to manage the submissive, the Theory Y powers should be utilized whenever possible. A submissive who is managed using only KITA approaches will never really be able to develop to her full potential. The responsible dominant looks for ways to help the submissive improve her expertise (in service, in trade or craft, etc.), and also her charisma (presentation of self, comportment, self-esteem, etc.). As she sees an opportunity to improve, she will be motivated to better service.

In other words, the use of power is not simply a control mechanism within the D/s relationship. It is an integral component to the bonding that must naturally occur between the dominant and submissive.

With power comes responsibility. This is crucial. This is one of the primary ways we can differentiate the dominant from the bully. When a dominant takes control of another person, he assumes responsibility for her well-being, health, safety and development, even if only for the moment. Further, it must be recognized that simply having power does not qualify one as being prepared for the management of a submissive. Not everyone desires or is suited to this responsibility. However, once experienced, it is a rare dominant who does not find the idea to be attractive.

Understanding the motivation to dominate appears straightforward, but what of the motivation to submit? Why would someone want to give herself over to another? It is one thing to submit on a temporary basis as play in the bedroom, but what sort of individual would give away her power to another consistently, on a daily basis, in every thought, word and deed?

As the dominant is called to express power, the submissive is called to serve power. She finds her satisfaction in supporting and serving someone or something she deems worthy. This can be manifested in various ways. Some will devote their lives to religious endeavours, others may choose helping and supportive professions, still others prefer to simply marry and raise a family.

As the dominant is gratified by extending his control, the submissive yearns to give up her control. Even if she is extremely competent and able to make decisions for herself without problem, she may feel profoundly uncomfortable making them for other people. She will thrive under strict rules and disciplines.

This is such a natural and automatic response in a submissive, that she often does not even recognize this as her nature. Power simply attracts her and she finds it almost impossible to refuse requests from authority figures in her life. She will find herself falling in love with strong people, and when she does, she gives everything.

As with dominants, the submissive must be a powerful person in her own right. This is often expressed in the use of both expert and charismatic power. A fully realized submissive is a force of nature. Confident in her sensuality, secure in her abilities and her worth, she can be seen as intimidating by many. Why? Simply because she has learned to use her mind and body to express herself fully and completely. She is not embarrassed or shy. Rather, she is filled with self-esteem, and this translates into power.

Very often you will hear a submissive say she will only yield to a man strong enough to provoke her submissive response. This does not necessarily mean physical strength (although new submissives tend to seek this out). Instead, she requires a male whom she cannot control through her charisma or expertise. In other words, a dominant in control of himself.

Drawn to such strength, the submissive instinctively finds herself submitting her own power to him and opening herself to his control. In doing so, she learns to see herself honestly and is able to face her fears, which then allows her to become even more open and available to him in body, mind and spirit at all times. This exchange gives her the strength to be able to live in perfect trust and develop the patience and discipline required to serve without laziness or complaint, putting her own desires and priorities after his. The sense of completion and joy the submissive receives from serving a dominant fills her with energy and provides needed balance.

How does the submissive serve? In whatever way her dominant requires. She could be required to be the perfect hostess, or an accomplished domestic manager and housekeeper. Her mind and intellectual skills could be used to help him think through problems or implement solutions. She will always be the best she can be and accept correction when she fails to please completely. She is the geisha, the courtesan, the duchess in the drawing room and the whore in the bedroom. She serves.

This does sound an awful lot like traditional marriage, doesn’t it?

The feminist movement accomplished much to ensure that women in our society have the freedom to choose the kind of life they want. Girls are no longer married off as economic chattel against their will. Both men and women now have the freedom to express themselves in their lives as they see fit.


Sadly, it is the some of these feminists (mostly of the more radical kind, but whose stance is often adopted by the more moderate) who have the most difficult time understanding the concept of consensual submission. Since they refuse to allow others to dominate them, they have difficulty accepting that someone else might desire it. Unfortunately, their fanaticism ends up restricting the range of choices for women instead of expanding them. It’s very difficult for a naturally submissive woman growing up in today’s society to accept her desire to serve and surrender as a legitimate choice for a strong and competent woman. And it’s almost impossible to admit it to friends and family.

We have also heard the accusation that a D/s relationship somehow denigrates the status of women. Some feel a submissive woman is treated poorly and viewed as inferior by her dominant. This is simply not true. The roles of dominant and submissive do not map into superior/inferior. True D/s is a symbiotic relationship. Both the dominant and the submissive will be who they are no matter what the circumstances, but they cannot fully express their nature unless they are in a relationship with a resonating partner. The submissive is highly valued, perhaps even treasured, but firmly controlled, and she feels great comfort, joy and security in this.

Of course, submission is not for everyone. Even people who think submission is their ticket to hot sex, or who role-play at fantasies of master and slave, may not be suited to a continuous commitment to this lifestyle. This playtime submission can be fun and delightful, but when it comes to truly submitting to the desires and priorities of another, or accepting humiliating and fearful punishment, it’s not fun anymore.

Day to day submission can be boring, difficult, painful and scary. It’s hard work, always being mindful of the priorities of the dominant, always trying to anticipate his needs, being there for his comfort without intruding into his peace, but it is also immensely satisfying. The submissive will feel an amazing rush of warmth and pride when she has pleased him. She will live for his touch and his attention. When he focuses his power on her, she will open and serve. They live in balance.

So, then, why do we do it? Because it is in our nature, and we don’t want to live any other way.


yogajunkie said...

Mr Cross,

Perfectly expressed, in particular the portion about feminism in it's extreme form restricting the choices of women instead of expanding them. I choose submission because it brings me peace, and the feminist in me is ashamed of that choice in some moments.

But, it is my nature, and it brings me great joy :)


Mackenzie Cross said...

Greetings stephanie,

Thank you.

I do not think there is any reason for shame since I do not think that the aspirations of feminisim and the objectives of D/s are not far apart. The problem seems to be, at least imo, that somewhere along the way the message of feminisim was lost, hijacked, or morphed into something it should not have been.

Those females who proudly accept their nature are, imo, staying much truer to the real objectives of the liberation of the female.

Be seeing you,

cutesypah said...

Having completed my share of women's studies in college, I'm always dismayed by those who ignore or misrepresent the original purpose and meaning of feminism.

The suffragists, and the original mothers of feminism, were not out to prove women superior to men, but merely their equals. Why we in America are so darned focused on making everything a debate, or an outright argument and/or war, and "winning" rather than merely happily co-existing is beyond me.

We did it when we came to America, and couldn't co-exist with the Indians, but felt our need to outpower them, and overtake their land. We have done the same with those in other countries who did not believe in God as we did.

And when women wanted their existence recognized and acknowledge, many bastardized the term "feminism" to mean women who believed they were better than men.

Feminism began as a place to expand women's rights and choices, not as a way to overpower men. How quickly we forget or simply ignore our roots!

As a proud feminist, I believe I enjoy the right to be equal to men, and as such, enjoy my right to choose to be submissive to the man of my choosing.

It is when we forget that WE choose the man, rather than him choosing us, is when we lose our power.

YMMV. thanks for posting.

Mackenzie Cross said...

Greetings cutesy pah,

Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my post.

I trust I have been clearing saying that I am in no sense opposed to the original intent of the woman's movement, nor am I trying to frame this discussion in terms of some women saying that they are better than men.

I believe that the women's movement in general was very important and accomplished a great deal. Without it, I believe that women would not be where they are today.

That having been said, I also believe that sometime in the 70s and then forward, there was a radical element to this movement who began to suggest that women were the same as men, and therefore should be treated exactly in the same manner. Further, I believe that these same women promoted a world view that women could not satisfy their destiny unless they rejected the idea of being submissive to a man. To be submissive to a man was considered to be the worst sort of crime a woman could commit against her fellow women. She was branded a traitor.

Sadly, this world view became all to common and has led to many many problems.

As I said, I am not saying all women, but what I am saying is that these radical few created a situation to which the majority felt they had to conform.

Again, thank you for your post.

Be seeing you,


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