Categories
Kink Reflection

Universal Needs and Power Exchange

I am fascinated with the mental aspects of power exchange. Rope and pain play are wonderful, and yet they only call to me as a physical manifestation of the mental control that power exchange offers. And I often wonder how needs play into power exchange relationships. Does one person give up their needs for another? Who really has a choice in the matter?

I have found that the best methodology to discuss needs in a meaningful way is Nonviolent Communication (NVC). For those unfamiliar, NVC is a communication methodology and philosophy of life that was pioneered in the 1960s by the late Marshall Rosenberg. NVC has flourished and is practiced all over the world, in interpersonal relationships and international crises.

A core principle of NVC is that there are a universal set of needs that humans share. You might relate this to a pyramid representing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs that you have seen. Everyone, across all time, geography, gender, race, and other separations share the same needs, yet strategies to meet those needs differ. For example, we all desire connection, yet while I might want to catch up over coffee, you might want to go to a dance party. (Ohh, to be in the days of coffee dates and dance parties once again!) 

As I am deeply interested in both NVC and power exchange, I often wonder what different needs are being met for various people in power exchange relationships. Perhaps a particular submissive craves safety, belonging, and demonstrating competence in their relationship, while their Dominant may desire pleasure, consistency, and ease. These roles are intentionally different, so the needs satisfied are also different. 

I can see that a power exchange relationship, and in fact every relationship, is made up of a series of strategies. In my article “What’s Choice Got to Do With It?: Thoughts on Choosing Submission,” I explored choice. I contradicted a common refrain about Master/slave relationships when I discussed choice in these relationships.

Even in a relationship with a blanket consent policy, we actively choose to view how we perceive the actions of those that control us. We chose who we gave that power, and we choose to stay with them every day. Our lives are full of choices, even a life filled with submission.

Yet, that’s not the full extent. 

In the past, when I was first taught the language of Nonviolent Communication, I believed that strategies that met someone else’s needs must be at the expense of my needs. If my partner wants to watch a movie, and I want to play a card game, when we watch a movie at the end of the day, aren’t I sacrificing for him? Thus, I have the moral high ground, and I can leverage that against him when we next have a conflict: “I watched a movie for you! Don’t you want to meet my needs?” I know now that this is using the language of NVC to contradict the intentions.

The intention I’ve been focusing on lately has been prioritizing connection. According to Miki Kashtan, this involves “…[focusing] on connecting open-heartedly with everyone’s needs before seeking solutions, even in challenging situations.” When I watch a movie with my partner, I am choosing to meet one need over another. Perhaps I wanted stimulation through the game, yet I chose peace by preventing a conflict with my partner. Again, this comes back to choice. Even when I’m in a dire situation, I choose how I view a situation and that impacts the needs it meets. If my initial strategy isn’t the one we do, I can choose to pick a fight, thus satisfying my need to be seen and express myself authenticly. However, by turning the mind, I can focus instead on empathy and companionship.

When I bring this to a power exchange context, I am reminded of a passage from Slavecraft:

…[S]laves with this point of view get to a place in our heads where every time we give something up for the Master, we feel that our slavery, our surrender, is renewed and reinforced. So i’ve lost the pleasure of seeing the building [that i wanted to see], but i’ve gained my slavery. i’ve lost the opportunity to make that phone call [that i wanted to make], but i’ve gained my slavery. And when slavery is the most important thing in the world, joy is the result in my life.

SlaveCraft: Roadmaps for Erotic Servitude by Guy Baldwin

The perspective of slavery, that intentionally cultivated frame of mind, deeply meets the needs that the author prioritizes. He chooses to see the denial of his personal strategies as a strategy in itself. It’s beautiful to me.

Perhaps I’m getting too heady here. Does this view of needs within power exchange resonate with you? Please let me know.

Categories
Kink

Knight & page, Vampire & thrall, and More: Archetypical Inspiration for Power Exchange

During the Master/slave Conference 2019, I met people in a variety of dynamics, all under the wide umbrella of Master/slave. While walking through the hotel, I met a woman and her companions. The woman had a strong presence and was dressed to the nines with a beautiful vintage updo and gown. Her companions, a man and a woman, both wore button-up shirts and slacks. After speaking with them, I discovered that this woman was Queen to her companions, her devoted knights.

Many years earlier, I was exposed to the word ‘archetype’ in a college-level psychology class, but I was familiar with archetypes before I had a word for them. For example, think of a thief. What are they wearing? What personality traits do they have? How do they move through a room? What motivates them? In this context, archetypes are characters that recur so often in movies and other storytelling that the word itself provokes detailed imagery in the reader’s mind. 

In Lee Harrington’s Sacred Kink, the chapter on ritual discusses archetypes that may inspire kink practices: “Perhaps you are drawn to roles inspired by literature or history such as Gorean/Kajira, Vampire/Thrall, Muse/Artist, or Lady/Knight/Vassal….[N]o matter the archetype chosen (if any is chosen at all), it is what one does with that archetype that matters.” Lee goes on to elaborate on ways that different archetypes can create unique rituals that shape a relationship. 

Let’s consider two relationships. Both are nominally Master/slave relationships, yet one is based on the roles of a Knight and his page, while the other is a Vampire and her thrall.

A Knight/page relationship might be very values-based. For example, feedback on the page’s demeanor may include aspects of representing the honor of his Knight while in public. Rituals may include actual or symbolic armor, swords, shields, or other items of close or mounted combat. If service is an aspect of the relationship, it might be framed as a training regime. The main goal of relationships may be mentorship in exchange for service, as with the idealized Knight.

In contrast, a Vampire/thrall relationship may be very hedonistic and focused on energy transfer from the thrall to the Vampire. Rituals could integrate actual or symbolic bloodletting, biting, or hypnotism. There also might be aspects of animals related to vampirism involved, such as bats and hounds. From a higher level, the purpose of the relationship could be sacrifice and devotion in the name of the Vampire’s pleasure.

Again, these are both Master/slave relationships, yet having an archetypical foundation provides so much imagery that the participants and their community can play with!

When I started talking with a friend about archetypes, they asked if there was a comprehensive list. Barring that, at least someplace to begin. I couldn’t find anything to that effect, so I decided to write down every archetype I could think of that might be useful as the foundation of a power exchange relationship. I’ve decided to keep them separate because they could be paired together in many ways. 

Before I start on the list though, I want to speak a little about a related project of mine. The Kinky Butler is focused on exploring and integrating the butler archetype in kinky service. If this archetype discussion has interested you, I ask that you read the landing page of the website and see what you think.

Archetypes for Higher Hierarchical Relationships

Abbess/Abbot

Agent

Alien

Alpha

Angel

Animal

Archbishop

Artisan

Artist

Authority

Babysitter

Bad Boy

Bard

Beast

Benefactor

Big Brother/Big Sister/Big Sibling

Boss

Brat-tamer

Bully

Captain

Captor

Caregiver

Celebrity

Chef

Chief

Chosen One

Christ Figure

Coach

Commanding Officer

Controller

Corrupter

Craftsman/Crafter

Creator

Creature

Criminal

Cult Leader

Dad/Mom

Daddy/Mommy

Dark Lord

Deacon

Demon

Designer

Devil

Disciplinarian

Doctor

Dog

Dollmaker

Dragon

Druid/Druidess

Elder

Empath

Engineer

Executive

Executor

Fairy

Father/Mother

Femme Fatale

Gardener

God/Goddess/Deity

Governess

Guardian

Guide

Guide

Guru

Handler

Healer

Hero/Heroine

Husband/Wife/Spouse

Invader

Jailer

Jock

Judge

Killer

King/Queen/Monarch

Knight

Leader

Legend

Lich

Lord/Lady/Noble

Mad Scientist

Madam

Madman

Magician

Manager

Master of the House/Mistress of the House

Matron

Mentor

Messiah

Mindfucker

Minister

Monster

Muscle

Nurturer

Owner

Patriarch/Matriarch

Patron

Pet

Pimp

Pope

Predator

President

Priest/Priestess

Prince/Princess

Principal

Professor

Puppeteer

Puppy

Rabbi

Rider

Ringleader

Sage

Saint

Satan

Savior

Seducer/Seductress

Sensei

Shadow

Shapeshifter

Sheikh

Sheriff

Slasher

Soldier

Sorcerer

Spoiled Boy/Spoiled Girl/Spoiler Child

Stepfather/Stepmother/Stepparent

Succubus/Incubus

Sultan

Superior

Supervisor

Tamer

Teacher

Thief

Toymaker

Trainer

Trickster

Tyrant

Uncle/Aunt

Vampire/Vampiress

Villain

Warlock

Warrior

Werewolf

Witch

Wizard

Wolf

Wrangler

Yogi

Zookeeper

Archetypes for Lower Hierarchical Relationships

Advisor

Angel

Animal

Apprentice

Artist

Assistant

Athlete

Babyboy/Babygirl/Baby

Beta

Bimbo

Bloodbag

Bodyguard

Boy/Girl/Kid

Brat

Butler

Captive

Caretaker

Cat

Chosen One

Clown

Creation

Criminal

Crony

Cult Follower

Cult Victim

Dancer

Demigod

Demon

Deputy

Devil

Devote

Dog

Doll

Employee

Enabler

Executor

Experiment

Fan

Femme Fatale

First Mate

Fixer

Flower

Follower

Footman

Freakshow

Head of Staff

Henchmen

Horse

Innocent

Jester

Joker

King’s Guard

Knight

Lady-in-waiting

Little Brother/Little Sister/Little Sibling

Major Domo

Manservant

Monk/Nun

Muse

Nurse

Omega

Page

Patient

Performer

Permissive Daddy/Permissive Mommy/Permissive Parent

Pirate

Plushie

Prey

Priest/Priestess

Prince/Princess

Prized Possession

Property

Pup

Robot

Sacrifice

Saint

Seductress

Servant

Sidekick

Slut

Soldier

Squire

Student

Stuffed Animal

Tamer

Thrall

Toy

Trainee

Vice President

Victim

Warrior

Whore

Wolf

Worshipper

Youngin’

Youngling

Roles for Roughly Equal Hierarchical Relationships

Accomplice

Aid

Ally

Associate

Brother/Sister/Sibling

Buddy

Co-conspirator

Companion

Compatriot

Comrade

Equal

Husband/Wife/Spouse

Mate

Neighbor

Packmate

Partner

Partner-in-crime

Peer

Playmate

Rival

Categories
Personal Journey Reflection

What’s Choice Got to Do With It?: Thoughts on Choosing Submission

Due to a recent dissolution of a long-running dynamic, I’m re-reading what I consider the central texts of kink. It’s a time to work on myself by reconsidering these books, and the ways my understanding of them has changed. As I read, I had a thought that while an outsider may see choice and submission as opposites, choice is vital to power exchange relationships. I know that the more self-understanding I have, the more powerful my choice to submit becomes.

My guiding philosophy is Nonviolent Communication (NVC). One foundational principle of NVC is that we always have choices, even when we feel disempowered: “Regardless of the circumstances, we can meet our need for autonomy by making conscious choices based on awareness of needs; at the very least in terms of the choice of the meaning we assign to the circumstances.” Here Inbal and Miki Kashtan explain that the bare minimum of choice can be found in how we decide to perceive our circumstances. I also believe this is the basis of choice.

If you think you can’t do anything but argue with your partner, that will happen. Once you turn your mind to the possibility that other strategies exist, you have more choices. Ultimately, deciding to see alternatives in a difficult situation opens up so many more choices. As Oren Jay Sofer has written in Say What You Mean, “The more aware we are, the more choice we have.”

From a logical standpoint though, why would anyone choose to submit to another person’s will? ? Dr. Rosenberg admonishes us when he writes in Nonviolent Communication, “With every choice you make, be conscious of what need it serves.” In NVC, needs are described as universal aspects of the human experience that everyone shares despite any differences in time, geography, and culture. What universal need does the desire to submit satisfy? For me, safety and stability come to mind when I consider how I feel when other the control of another. After experiencing the intense vulnerability that a life of submission offers, I believe that being owned by someone allows me to be known, seen, and understood in one of the most profound ways possible. 

According to Oren Jay Sofer, “One of the benefits of identifying our needs is that it gives us more choice. It gives us access to more creative options.” My understanding is that submission satisfies any number of needs for different people, and understanding how those needs differ allows us to find greater satisfaction. For example, the ideal rules, rituals, and lifestyle of someone who desires submission to challenge them would vary from someone who submits purely as an aspect of sexual expression. Or, perhaps their lives would look the same, but the intentionality behind every action would differ.

Ultimately, we make choices every day when we submit. Even in a relationship with a blanket consent policy, we actively choose to view how we perceive the actions of those that control us. We chose who we gave that power, and we choose to stay with them every day. Our lives are full of choices, even a life filled with submission. 

I truly believe that the more information we have, the more choice we have. I’m always learning from my life experiences. That’s why I’m dedicating the next three months to deeply understanding myself and what I desire out of submission.

What needs do you meet with submission? Do you have a different perspective on choice? Please share your thoughts with me and continue the discussion in the comments.