What is the Difference Between Power and Control?

If you have ever taken part in a online discussion, you have seen “the question” in some form or fashion. It crops up into discussions and the answers can range from variations on interpretation to downright frightening.

Who Has Power in a BDSM Dynamic?

When you think of Power Exchange and their dynamics, your first thought might be “well, the Dominant, duh.” It’s easy to come to that conclusion. In a Dominant/submissive relationship, the Dominant is the one on the receiving end of the Power Exchange, getting and wielding power over the submissive.

The truth is a bit different. Spoilers … the submissive has the power. 

Sometimes people get there very easily and discussion goes on. Sometimes people don’t get it. This is not just a case of overzealous Doms. I have seen submissives argue against the idea of the submissive as power-holder as well. They can put forth some pretty convincing arguments and sometimes, it can be very hard to point out the flaw (and inherent danger) in it.

Tonight, while browsing through an online group I am in, someone gave the simplest explanation that I have ever seen. Put simply, in a dynamic (or scene) the Dominant has Control and the submissive has Power.

Picking Up What He Put Down

So there is a difference between Power and Control. I can wax philosophical and give boring definitions or I can talk cars.

You get in your car and drive. Where is the power? With you the driver, or with the car and its engine? You don’t make the engine turn and the wheels go ’round. You hold onto the steering wheel and push pedals. The engine, and thus the car, has the power. You have the control, dictating where the vehicle goes, when it stops, and how fast it goes. You have speed limits (my husband calls those “soft limits”), stop lights, and directional signs. Your car has a red line for when you are pushing it too far (he calls that the “hard limit”) and yes, your car even has its own version of the Safe Word (warning lights, acting up if you don’t do maintenance, etc).

The car is the submissive. The power in the dynamic lies with them. They are the ones acted upon and their reactions to the Dominant, their obedience to commands, these are what make the dynamic go. The driver is the Dominant. In control, the Dominant directs the dynamic, taking the power given by the submissive and using it for whatever the two have consented to do.

We use Control and Power interchangeably in the lifestyle but they are not the same thing. Power is what the submissive gives to a Dominant. Control is the use of that power. While the Dominant has Control, make no mistake.

It is the submissive’s power.


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