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Power Exchange in Relationships: D/s Do or Don't?

Updated on January 11, 2011

Controlling BF or Guidance Provider

Dear Veronica,
… Here’s my situation. I’m gay, I’m 24, and my boyfriend is 48. We’ve been together 2 years and things are going really good. We get along great and I always feel safe and protected. The one problem we have is college. It's a new thing between us. He wants me to go to college and make something of myself and I just don’t want to. I have a decent construction job. I work hard and I like the work. He’s got a serious career and looks down on people that don’t have an education. He’s very controlling and in most ways I like that. He thinks people that work with their hands are beneath him. …

Please give me some insight? TYSVM!


Power Exchange

Dear Billy,

There’s a certain dynamic that you and your partner share that’s hard for a lot of people to understand. D/s or Dom/sub relationships are not all that uncommon. If you’re into being with someone 24 years older than you are that you’ve described as controlling, then there is definitely something submissive about you. And the same is true in reverse of him.

You’re of legal age and can certainly make decisions for yourself. No judgments here, I promise.

In general your situation is a type of power exchange one. Most relationships are, to some degree. Some are just more obvious or dramatic than others. I don’t know of anyone that is honestly in a full 50 – 50 relationship. Even if it’s just 51 – 49 and completely seamless to an outside eye, the person in the partnership with that tiny 1% more control knows it.

There is nothing at all wrong with a power exchange relationship.
There is however, everything in the world wrong with non-consentual powerexchange.

I want you to really take a deep breath and think about your relationship. You are the only one that knows the answers to these questions.

Who Knows Better

The issue you’re discussing in your email is college. It’s not like he wants you to turn tricks for him, or do something harmful to yourself. Wanting you have a college education is really a very thoughtful and wise thing for him to want for you.

On the other hand, there is a problem with judging people. If what you’re saying is true, and he looks down on people that didn’t go to college in a mean way, then that is a problem.

I’m not sure though, that what you’re interpreting is real. He may be wording things a certain way to guide you into making a decision he feels is the right one for you. That’s manipulative, but understandable.

On some level you are involved with this man because you like the dynamic. He may be some kind of father figure for you. He may be providing some kind of discipline and stability that you really crave. Maybe you like being taken care of and guided. D/s is often much more than a sexual turn-on for people: it can be a healthy symbiotic way of life.

Since that is the framework here, we have to consider the possibility that you do actually want to go to college, but are reluctant or afraid for some reason. Maybe you’re afraid you’ll fail, or afraid you can’t fit in socially. Maybe you’re afraid of taking on the responsibility and pressure. Maybe it’s a financial issue that concerns you. I really don’t know. But I do think you need to examine all those possibilities.

Billy, there is a chance that you are aware of your own sabotaging. You may be very cognizant that you don't always think things through, or that you don't always understand the big picture. That may be what attracted you to your power exchange relationship. Maybe you feel you're better off in the hands of someone else, who is trustable and wise, and who will make the right decisions for you.


There is a chance that college isn't the issue at all. Maybe you became involved with this Daddy-figure when you were at a different place emotionally. Maybe you liked being able to rely on an older, wiser partner to make decisions for you that you weren't ready to make.

And maybe now, you're just not in that same headspace any more. Maybe it doesn't matter that he's trying to encourage you to go to college. Maybe the point of your adversion is that you're just done being told what to do, no matter what it is.

Just as there was nothing wrong with entering into a power exchange relationship, there is also nothing wrong with getting out of one.

If this feels like it's ringing a bell for you, you need to have a long talk with your partner about your relationship changing in dynamic. For all you know, he may see your growth and change, and love you for who you are, and not want to control you anymore, but doesn't know that's what you want to.

Relationships take work. They involve compromise. They grow, and change, and transform. You don't have to grow and change alone, your relationship may do it right along with you.

If your partner isn't open to listening to your newer needs, then you need to consider that this relationship may be over.

More on Power Exchange

I can't stress this enough: CONSENT is the key here.

Of course it is not OK to let yourself be controlled by someone against your will. Many people, esepcially people coming from a place of abuse, can't understand why anyone would ever allow someone to control them.

Queer Theory teaches us much about this. Queer Theory is a psychology/understanding of psyche that falls under the large heading of Critical Theory.

Heavily influenced by the work of Michel Foucault, queer theory builds both upon feministgender is part of the essential self and upon gay/lesbian studies' close examination of the socially constructed nature of sexual acts and identities

Just as the Kinsey Scale demonstrates that all people fall somewhere in between Heterosexual and Homosexual on a scale of 1 - 6, Queer Theory shows us that people also fall someplace on several overlapping scales, not only between gay and straight, bisexuality, intersexuality, transexuality, asexuality, and but also between sexual identity as male or female, and also on ways we perceive pleasure and comfort with non-normative ideas like sadism and masochism, and as I'm discussing here: dominance and submission.

We've all heard that little personal ad phrase: "Safe, Sane, and Consentual." What consenting adults agree to do together, that harms no one including themselves, is really no body's business.

What's Right for You

Billy, only you know what's going on with your relationship. There is no judgment here. I've tried to outline the different things that could be at play. Trust your instincts, open a dialogue with your partner, and don't ever hesitate to make sure your life is what you want it to be.



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All text is original content by Veronica

All photos are used with permission.

All videos are courtesy of Youtube.


Submit a Comment

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 9 years ago from NY

    This is the HUB I was telling you about, cindyvine. It took me a week to get all the points I wanted to make thought out and written up. This is a gay couple, but I think the sentiments are sexless.

    thanks ;)

  • cindyvine profile image

    Cindy Vine 9 years ago from Cape Town

    I think that very rarely are old men with young girls equal partners in a relationship. I agree with the advice you gave here