A brief overview of Power Dynamic Relationships

This is an except take from a paper that I wrote during my Advanced Diploma in Integrative Humanistic Counselling (Full paper titled “Gender and Sexual Diversity”).  The paper was presented to fellow trainee counsellors and my tutors. Many of the audience had no knowledge of PDRs at all previously.  References to law are UK-centric.

The views in this paper are my own personal views and may not reflect those of others.

More than a sexual activity or identity, people living in a relationship of this nature see it as a paradigm of living and whilst it is often lumped under the same banner of sexual diversity as other BDSM or kink involvement I like to see it as something that may sit outside of this banner or under it depending on the individual relationship.

It is based upon a chosen, consensual, negotiated power dynamic. It can be fluid in balance and variable in intensity. Even within the community definitions and meaning vary greatly and how each relationship is defined will be unique to the relationship itself although usually one of the individuals in the relationship adopts a dominant role and the other(s) a submissive role. The roles are not gender specific. The dominant role is sometimes defined as the “Master”, “Sir” or “Mistress”, “Maam” and the submissive might be called the “slave”, “boy”, or “girl”.

These terms are controversial and indeed inflammatory to some cultures because of their similarity to human trafficking, historical or modern non-consensual forms of slavery. The two should not be confused – non-consensual forms of slavery are something quite different to the consensual Master/slave relationship. The key differentiating factor is consent. The Master/slave relationship is a consensual relationship between adults. Make no mistake – all parties in a PDR have equal value as individuals and within the relationship.

Another common misconception is that Master/slave relationships must involve some form of sadomasochism, however it is entirely possible to live in a Power Dynamic Relationship and it have nothing to do with kink, sex, sadism, masochism, pain, or suffering. A PDR is merely based upon a dominant and submissive dynamic which runs through various [agreed] aspects of the lives of those within it.

This type of relationship is described by some as an authoritative style rather than egalitarian style of relationship. Those who enter into a PDR or M/s relationship usually do so on the basis of a highly committed and long-term relationship and again, most importantly, always with consent.

It is not uncommon for this type of relationship to be branded an abusive one by onlookers based on preconceived notions and little understanding of what the relationship and terms mean for the individuals involved and/or the concept of informed consent.

“There is no reason to believe that these “slaves” need saving or freeing. There is no indication that they are more likely to be abused than in other relationships. It would appear that some of the shock from disclosing participation in this type of relationship relates to the terms used to describe the relationship, rather than the actual behaviour within the relationship.”

Dancer, Peter L., Kleinplatz, Peggy J. and Moser, Charles(2006)
’24/7 SM Slavery’,Journal of homosexuality,50:2,81 http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J082v50n02_05

Often a highly dedicated and structured relationship, those in a M/s or PD relationship may spend an extraordinary amount of time working to understand themselves, their partner, the needs and wants of each other and the relationship itself. It is often based upon a foundation of honesty, respect, trust and communication and built around transparency and authority. Each party will generally have specified and explicit agreed responsibilities within the relationship and these are usually taken very seriously.

This type of relationship may indeed seem to be an oddity in modern society and as such those that choose to live in this way can often feel isolated and misunderstood. With the development of the Modern Slavery Bill in 2014 and changes to the law regarding domestic abuse, simply using some of the terms and descriptions when talking about a relationship of this kind could lead to unwanted interest from the authorities.

It is widely considered within the kink community that D/s is a “part-time” version of “M/s” – that those choosing a “D/s relationship” do so perhaps in the bedroom only or for only certain activities, where those living in M/s relationships extend the dynamic to every part of their lives and relationship. However, there is no consensus on this definition so it is best to ask the individuals what it means to them in their relationship.

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