Master's Words

Master's Words

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Total Power Exchange

The phrase "Total Power Exchange"

"Total Power Exchange" was coined in the newsgroup alt.sex.bondage during debates with Jon Jacobs and his opponents in the mid 1990's.

In 1997 Davis gave this definition, in bold, along with a lot of asides (in brackets):

A TPE (Total Power Exchange) relationship, sometimes described as an absolute lifestyle d&s relationship (that such relationships can actually be neither "total" or "absolute" is agreed; these are ideal states to be worked towards but which will not be achieved, which is why TPE may be better seen as a process or goal than as a state), is a relationship in which no impediment to the exercise of the owner's power is accepted (some may, of course, exist, and what prudent owners do is to avoid direct collisions with these impediments, while working to overcome those that can be overcome (since the laws of gravity can't be overcome, a sane owner isn't going to ask a slave to fly (w/o appropriate equipment, of course), nor will a sensible owner try push a slave into things that are hard limits for hir (but the owner might push a slave up against what the slave thinks are hard limits but which sie can in fact overcome)). Such things as safewords, contracts, negotiated limits, and anything else which recognizes / acknowledges / formalizes limits on the owner's power are inimical to TPE.
"Internal Enslavement" and "Total Power Exchange" cover much of the same ground. However, we feel that there are some marked problems with the term TPE.

First, "total" power over anything is never achievable due to the presence of external contraints and immutable attitudes (see Davis' example of the laws of gravity above.) This means that people talking about TPE relationships can find themselves continually qualifying the word "Total" in the face of "but what if he told you to shoot your children?" objections.

Secondly, the common thread in most of these relationships is that the dominant acquires authority not just "power". That is, the dominant's control of the submissive is acknowledged as being rightfully his. Furthermore, he may retain authority over some aspect of the submissive even when she is showing resistance and he does not have power over it at the time.

Finally, power or authority is not "exchanged". It is unilaterally taken by the dominant from the submissive. Even if we wish to say that the submissive does gain some form of "power", this does not come from the dominant (it is not part of his power) even if he enables the submissive to achieve it. For example: if the submissive acquires the power to accept his decisions gracefully. Consequently, power is transferred in one direction, rather than exchanged both ways.

However, terminological purity aside, people pursuing M/s relationships usually know what is meant by "Total Power Exchange" even if it's ambiguous when taken literally.


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