There are so many myths about BDSM and/or Leather lifestyles, it’s important to sift through, dispel the lies and expose the truths behind what we do.
What is TPE?
A Power Exchange in BDSM or the Leather scene refers to the act of a submissive surrendering all or partial power to a Dominant, usually for a pre-determined period of time. A Total Power Exchange (TPE) usually means that those dynamics are extended out of scenes and into all other parts of a relationship — 24/7, or as close as one can get while living their lives outside of a stable. In the relationship, the submissive is usually but not always referred to as slave, while the Dominant is usually but not always referred to as Master.
Myth 1: TPE is abusive.
Abuse is endemic within society as a whole. The mainstream suffers from sometimes wilful confirmation bias to position non-consensual encounters within the context of minority and fringe communities. This prejudice becomes a loaded weapon with BDSM because of the risks involved in participation.
Non-consensual abuse is not intrinsic to any kink lifestyle. A Power Exchange can absolutely be abusive, any relationship can. To suggest that this is inherent to the dynamic disregards the safety practices we employ and the consent and trust we share with our play/life partners.
A hidden equality emerges, once obscured by ignorance: slave is fully consenting in its lack of choice, a life as property to a Master. Masters fully recognise that their slaves retain humanity enough to say no when it really matters and walk freely if they choose to do so. In a healthy TPE slave’s need and desire for submission is satisfied alongside Master’s desire for complete control.
Myth 2: But it’s still an unhealthy way to maintain a relationship, right?
Stifled by social constructs, however much we open our minds to the liberation that kink lifestyles can provide, we are taught very few ways to maintain a healthy relationship.
We take a more nuanced approach to power, not just eroticising the concept, also taking this dynamic out of the bedroom, where we can explore how an exchange can both enrich our lives together.
Myth 3: You need a small fortune to buy all the gear
Gear or no gear? You’re no less relevant because you’re not in it.
What about the muir caps, the gimp suits, latex bodices? Though there is a symbolic significance to the uniforms we wear to display our stripes, they are entirely optional.
Clothing fetishes run deep within kink communities, that’s true, but if it’s not your thing, then you don’t have to. You will find plenty of folk out there who don’t subscribe to gear.
Me? I’m somewhat on the fence. I mix it up and don the leather occasionally, while spending most of my days in civilian clothes. At home the house uniform I expect of the bois is sports/loungewear – a kink in itself, granted. I’m just lucky that my kink doesn’t cost the Earth, although I do appreciate a pair of designer trainers.
If it is your thing, don’t feel you have to spend a fortune. Let go of your falsely placed pride and wear your identity without breaking the bank. If you can afford that designer leather suit, have at it! If you can’t, there has been a growing movement recently for selling quality pre-loved gear. There are plenty of marketplaces doing just that.
Myth 4: It’s just a 24/7 sex party
Yes, the control I exert over my slaves lasts 24/7, but the majority of that power and control is exerted outside of the bedroom.
BDSM has more to do with sexuality than it does with sex, not only how we love, but who.
Be it sex or BDSM sessions, or a combination of both, I make time for about as much as anyone else. Just like you, we work, we come home, slave puts the telly on, I sit on the sofa. The bois may or may not be at my feet, depending on the protocol the night demands. We cook, we clean, we are just like you.
Myth 5: TPE is this. TPE is that.
It’s a lot more nuanced than it seems at first glance. No porn narrative here.
A small minority of ‘Masters’ will tell you that there’s a set of protocols that we ALL follow. Their dictates range from moderate – ‘slave is not slave unless slave is collared’ (that one has some merit, which we will discuss later), to very specific – ‘slave is not slave unless slave has spent seven days and nights locked in a cage 24/7.’ No one Master is the authority on the lifestyle as a whole.
Though the roots of TPE can be found within the Leather subculture, it can and is adapted beyond Master/slave dynamics, into other D/s pairings or groups. Just because I am a self-appointed Master doesn’t mean I expect every other Dom to identify the same.
Skimming the surface of this lifestyle, it’s an understandable assumption that our relationship styles are just as stifling as the dictates of a vanilla coupling. But it doesn’t have to be. Our lifestyle is based on protocol; yet there is not a bible of rules that we all swear by. Doing it right, you make your own rules, keeping what works for you and discarding what does not. The way in which we utilise the base concepts and physical symbols that lay the foundations of the TPE can and should differ wildly. We are all unique human beings, not two dimensional porn stereotypes.
We all operate with our own approach, which should at some point involve negotiating with a slave the rules of engagement, with a view to achieving mutual fulfilment. slave is largely powerless in the relationship, denied the luxury of choice, restrained mentally and/or physically. Before all that, slave has a voice, slave actively chooses to submit.
We all strive to be so alike we forget the joy of being unique and individual. And that’s the beauty of kink lifestyles. It’s not about jumping from the rigid trappings of vanilla and falling in line with an equally rigid dogma. It’s about eschewing rigidity for something truly liberating. It’s about cultivating a lifestyle that is truly your own. How do you want to express yourself within a relationship? What’s your relationship to power and control? Where do you sit on the spectrum of dominance and submission?
As we explore the concept of a Total Power Exchange, I want to make it clear that this can be for anyone who wants to explore it. I might use my own Master/slave as an example, but mine is not the only way. There are myriad ways to enjoy a TPE, and I hope that if you read widely, mix in with the community, you can adapt the tools available to create the lifestyle that satisfies everything you want and need in a relationship.
The myths foisted upon kink lifestyles are countless. These are but a few examples. Whether you’re within kink yourself or just interested in it from afar, what myths do you seek to bust? What’s the one thing you thought about kink lifestyles that proved to be untrue? Let us know in the comments below.
Thanks for listening,
The Boss and his bois