“When I am good, I am very good. But when I am bad, I’m better.”-Mae West
Power exchange is a relationship between a BDSM Master and slave, where the slave serves the Master’s authority. This is not the same thing as a Dominant/submissive relationship which are typically based on love. The power exchange relationship is about power and authority. They can often be mostly sexual fantasy and roleplay, though there are relationships in which the power exchange is a 24/7 lifestyle, meaning they are always in the power exchange dynamic. A well-known early depiction of a 24/7 power exchange relationship is in the book “Venus in Furs”, written by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose last name inspired the word “masochism”.
Symbols of Power Exchange
Because the power exchange dynamic runs so deep, there are many symbols that exist to convey it to the outside world. One such symbol is a collar. Collaring is a commitment of the Master and slave to one another for servitude and protection. The slave is pledging their obedience to their Master and in turn the Master pledges to take care of and protect the slave. For many power exchange relationships collaring is more significant than marriage and requires more trust. Some power exchange relationships also create contracts to define their relationship, especially if they are engaging in a 24/7 lifestyle. The use of such a contract was popularized by ‘Venus in Furs”, which in turn was inspired by Sacher-Masoch’s real contract with a Mistress.
When a Master and slave enter into a power exchange relationship there is often a period of slave training. There is no time limit for this training and it can last for years. If a Master has multiple slaves they will often have levels of initiation or training to award their slaves. The slaves have to work their way through the different levels and each level affords different privileges. It is possible to be a slave to more than one Master, but that is uncommon and if a slave has more than one Master there is typically a hierarchy. Slaves can also be Masters to their own slaves.