I like to think I’m above it, of course: giving value to traditional power signifiers conveyed by social norms.
But I’m not.
Education, sophistication, success, intelligence, achievement, wealth are all ways that many of us ‘traditionally’ place people on the power spectrum. I know some of you are now going ‘not all of us!’ and I know that. I ALSO want to go ‘not me!’, but that’s not true. I’m pretty solidly middle class and grew up with those values.
I recently spied on some people I used to know at school and university using my friend Google, and my unconscious reaction to what I found was ‘Ooh, impressive’ or ‘Oh, not’.
So a friend who completed a PhD overseas, has travelled a lot, is the head of creative arts at a university, runs a successful consultancy, is involved in various community art projects is in the ‘ooh, impressive’ category.
One who works at McDonalds and who plays local cricket, falls into the ‘oh, not’ basket.
I don’t base my opinion of them as a *person* on those things, but I’m still impressed (or not) by it. I kind of hate that about myself but it’s still true.
My relationships have all been with men who were pretty much on par with me in terms of ‘traditional’ power, even if their power manifested in different domains. For example, I’ve been out with a man who was well respected and semi-famous in his niche area of expertise. He made zero money at it, but that was irrelevant. His achievements were impressive.
The only way I am outside of the ‘traditional power signifiers’ evaluation is when I see people who have a particular passion for something and run at it full tilt. Even if the thing they are passionate about doesn’t bestow any of those traditional power signifiers upon them, I’m still all ‘ooh, impressive’ over it.
Geez, so what, Ferns?! What has this got to do with D/s?!
Here’s the thing for me: It’s not enough for me to ‘agree a power dynamic’ with someone. I have to *feel* it. It has to be organic, genuine, and real.
It’s not easy to define why I feel it with some men and not with others. For the most part, I feel like my *will* is just stronger and submissive men with whom I fit feel that also and react to it in a way that works for me. In my logical brain, when we are pretty much ‘equal’, my ‘strength of will’ is the thing that tips it in my favour. And when we are actually pretty equal in terms of power, or I have stronger traditional power signifiers, that’s fine.
But there was one time when I had initial discussions with a submissive man who was *in all of those traditional ways* ‘better’ than me.
He was better educated, smarter, more sophisticated, more successful, wealthier than me… ALL OF THOSE THINGS. And not just a little bit: there was a serious and rather obvious gap in all of those things. He was, in all those traditional ways, much more powerful than me.
I was shocked to find myself struggling a bit to find my feet because for the first time, it didn’t feel like we started out as equals at all. I had never struck that before, and I was surprised and fascinated by my reaction.
Truth be told, I loved it in many ways, because learning new things about myself is so interesting. I felt off-kilter with him, even intimidated. It was new and strange and I felt like I was an observer watching myself navigate something foreign. I was trying to find that solid ‘organic’ power base that is the foundation of my relationships, and I had to work pretty hard not to go ‘uber Domme’ on him as a kind of short-cut power-grabbing manoeuvring, but that would have been play acting. I’m NOT ‘uber Domme’ and while that might have worked, it would have been a game of ‘pretend’, and not actually a step towards establishing any kind of strong foundation.
Things didn’t work out with him, which was a shame for me. I’d have loved to play with that power differential in different ways: there was so much potential exploration in it.
TL;DR: My relationship to D/s power is complicated, but there has to be an organic foundation for it to work for me.