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Every heard the phrase Total Power Exchange in the context of BDSM and wondered what it meant? Or someone mentioning they have a ‘TPE kink’? What exactly does that mean, and why would someone want one?
That’s what I’m going to cover in this article.
- Total power exchange overview
- What is total power exchange?
- Is power control 24/7?
- How is TPE different to Dom/sub?
- How is TPE different to a Master/slave?
- Do I have to give up complete control?
- Are there any limits?
- Why would anyone want this?
- Consent & contracts
- Total power exchange relationship examples
- Total power exchange rules
- Finance/money control
- Sexual control
- Bathroom/toilet control
- Clothing control
- Food control
- Job and work control
- Social control
- Screentime control
- Time control
- Getting started with total power exchange
- 1. Pick a time
- 2. Choose the activities
- 3. Agree a protocol level
- 4. Write a contract
- 5. Do it!
- 6. Evaluate
Total power exchange overview
What is total power exchange?
Total power exchange is where one person willingly gives up complete control to another. They forfeit all their rights and responsibilities. This particular style of dynamic is also referred to as TPE.
I would classify it under the banner of BDSM, and in particular the Dominant and submissive subset of BDSM. The submissive is the one giving over all their power, and the Dom is the one in charge.
This type of Ds dynamic is for experienced practitioners only. It requires high levels of trust to have been built up between the partners. It’s not something you do after a few dates.
There’s no official definition of what total power exchange means (that’s the beauty of Dom sub dynamics – you get to design one that feels right to you). This is my interpretation of what this type of dynamic is.
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Is power control 24/7?
Not necessarily. You have a choice in how often you want to engage in total power exchange. Some partners might want to live the lifestyle all day every day, whereas others might just want to engage in a one-off TPE BDSM scene for a couple of hours.
In my experience the latter is more common – people want to experience complete power exchange on occasion, but not all the time. Only a small subset of the Dominant and submissive community live D/s 24/7, let alone D/s AND TPE 24/7.
You can engage in total power exchange infrequently, with it still being a valid form of BDSM. (Because again, around here we believe less about labels and more about empowering you to create the Dom sub relationship which suits you and your partner best. To hell with official definitions – they are just there as sign posts to help you figure out what direction you wish to go in).
How is TPE different to Dom/sub?
Dom/sub (also referred to as D/s or Ds) is a broad term covering any situation or mindset where the Dominant has some degree of control over the submissive. But that doesn’t stimulate how OFTEN you engage in the dynamic, how MUCH control is given away, under WHAT circumstances the D/s dynamic is entered in to, and how FORMAL the dynamic is.
Total power exchange refers primarily to the POWER elements of a D/s dynamic, as well as under what circumstances the dynamic is activated.
As the name suggests, it is at the extreme end – ALL power and control is given to the Dominant by the submissive. And generally speaking, the MAJORITY of activities are covered whilst the couple engages in TPE (although not always – everyone has their limits). The Dominant controls everything, his or her word is final, and the submissive defers to the Dom for all decisions.
But, that still leaves leeway regarding how OFTEN you engage in the dynamic, and the level of FORMALITY that is expect. A TPE Master/slave dynamic would look very different to a TPE Daddy/Little dynamic, the former being higher protocol (more formal and strict) than the latter (more relaxed).
Further reading: Dom sub Relationships: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners.
How is TPE different to a Master/slave?
It’s similar but there are subtle differences, mainly relating to the formality of the dynamic.
Master/slave tends to be higher protocol – meaning rules are strict, and breaking them means punishments, whereas total power exchange can be any protocol from low to high.
For example, one TPE relationship might be extremely loving and caring and breaking of rules means light punishment, and both partners interact with one another as a normal couple would. But in a Master/slave agreement the sub may not even have permission to speak without being spoken to, and must follow any rules given to the letter at all times.
Further reading: Master/slave guides.
Do I have to give up complete control?
Not necessarily. You should sit down with your partner and discuss what areas of your life you are happy for them to control and which areas you aren’t. Only in extreme examples of total power exchange does one person give up ALL power to their partner.
Purists will argue that it’s not really TOTAL power exchange if you still control parts of your life. Maybe, but I could also make the argument that TPE within a category is still TPE. For example, if someone controls what I eat and drink, then I could say I am doing total power exchange for nutrition.
Are there any limits?
Yes and no. Limits exist if you want them to exist. You negotiate and contract your power exchange agreement with your partner before starting. And you should always be able to change the agreement if you wish. This isn’t about slave labour – this is about building a D/s dynamic which works for you and your partner.
In some situations the submissive will feel uncomfortable doing something the Dominant has told them to. It could be because they are nervous about doing it, or they don’t like doing it. However, as long as the activity isn’t a hard limit, and is something they agreed to in the contract, then it is acceptable for the Dominant to enforce the act.
Once again, I would like to remind everyone that the Dominant should be acting in the best interests of his or her submissive, even if in the moment the experience is physically or psychologically painful. The benefit may not always be apparent to onlookers – it requires knowledge of the turn-ons, kinks, and objectives of the sub. As an example, if the Dom knows the sub enjoys humiliation and degradation play, then forcing a sub to lick the boots of the Dom, even though they don’t like doing it, ultimately benefits the submissive.
Why would anyone want this?
The reasons are similar to why anyone would want to be in a Ds relationship. They might include:
- Sexual arousal. The Dom is turned on by having the power, and the submissive is turned on because of the control the Dominant is portraying. It’s basically maximising the polarity between the Dom and the sub. This includes humiliation, degradation and objectification play.
- Personal development. Without control, the submissive is forced to do things which may have a positive impact on their life. That’s assuming the Dominant is a good Dominant and interested in helping the submissive. To ensure the submissive gets a benefit, this should be stated in the contract. For example ‘The purpose of screen-time control is to reduce consumption of social media in order to improve self-confidence’ might be a sentence in the contract.
- Anxiety reduction. Making decisions in life is a struggle for some, and causes anxiety. This stress is removed for the sub if they’re in a TPE relationship.
The primary risk is giving up complete control to someone who abuses it. To avoid this happening it is essential you know and trust the Dominant. You should also speak up if you start a TPE relationship but later decide it isn’t for you. Don’t tough it out for the sake of your partner. Regularly communicate to minimise the chances of things going wrong.
Consent & contracts
Total power exchange consent
It’s critical you understand that the submissive has CONSENTED to total power exchange. They do it because they benefit from it, not because the feel obligated.
If you are FORCING someone to engage in total power exchange then you are engaged in an abusive relationship. That is absolutely not what we mean.
Total power exchange should adhere to good principles of BDSM and follow R.A.C.K – Risk Aware Consensual Kink.
Total power exchange contracts
It is useful to create a total power exchange contract where you write down exactly what your TPE dynamic involves. This formalises consent in case you ever need to prove consent was given.
The contract covers:
- When the dynamic is effective
- What activities are covered
- Specific rules for those activities
- Consequences of breaking the rules (punishments)
- Hard limits and safewords
- Under what circumstances the total power exchange ends
- Emergency get out clauses
The contract effectively sets boundaries and safeguards in place to protect both parties.
Further reading: BDSM Contracts: A Beginner’s Guide.
Total power exchange relationship examples
First of all, there’s not such thing as a typical power exchange relationship. Each one is as unique as the people involved in them. Remember what I said at the start – there’s no real definition of total power exchange, it’s whatever you want it to be.
Here’s are some examples to illustrate what I mean.
Bob (Dom) and Alice (sub) are in a 24/7 total power exchange dynamic.
Alice has consented to Bob making any decision on behalf of her, and make her do things, even if she doesn’t particular enjoy doing them. Bob isn’t necessarily domineering or controlling, however. Alice still has the freedom to make her own decisions, unless the decision has already been made for them as part of the TPE contract.
As an example, Alice has agreed to let Bob dictate exactly what she eats, what she spends her money on, how she dresses, when she goes to bed, and how he gets to use her sexually. If she is out and wants to buy lunch, she would have to message Bob to ask him what she should get, or defer to their contract which might have a rule such as ‘when out, you may purchase whatever sandwich you like for lunch as long as it is vegetarian and costs less than £5’.
James (Dom) and David (sub) want to try total power exchange during sex.
David consents to allow James to use him sexually in whatever way James wishes, but the scope of their power exchange is limited to the bedroom only. They agree that once the sex is over, they will drop the TPE dynamic and return to their regular relationship style, and if they want to try it again, consent must be re-negotiated. After this session, James does not have any control over any aspects of David’s life.
Rita (Dom) and Seb (sub) live together and enjoy total power exchange when at home on the weekends
Rita has a BDSM contract with Seb that stipulates total power control comes into effect every Saturday and Sunday, but only in the comfort of their own home. If they are in public, they revert to an everyday dynamic. There are also conditions in their total power exchange rules which stipulate that Seb what areas of life TPE covers and doesn’t cover. Their contract says Rita has complete power except when it comes to finances and food, over which Seb still has the final decision.
Total power exchange rules
Need some TPE ideas? Below are some of the areas of life where you might want to try power exchange.
The submissive relinquishes control of their money. The Dominant is responsible for what gets spent and when.
The submissive has no say in when and how the Dominant uses them sexually, apart from the hard limits they have negotiated up front. For example, if the Dominant wishes to have sex with the submissive when sleeping, or wants to perform a sex act they don’t enjoy, they must comply and go along with it.
The Dominant controls when the submissive uses the toilet. He or she must ask permission to go, unless there is an exception stated in the contract. An example exception to the rule might be when the Dominant is asleep or they are not together.
The Dominant decides how the submissive dresses. There could be a predefined set or rules which say ‘on Monday wear this, on Tuesday wear that’ etc. Or perhaps the sub has to ask the Dominant each day.
The submissive must follow rules outlining what he or she can eat and drink, and when. As with the other rules, the contract would state how much autonomy the submissive has if the Dominant is not present.
Job and work control
This is a more extreme example or power exchange, but the Dominant would control what type or job and when the sub works. A great use of this would be if the Dominant runs his own business – the sub would work for him and be told what to do. It’s not really unlike most jobs is it!
The Dominant controls what social activities the submissive engages in, including who they interact with.
The Dominant dictates how much screentime the submissive has. This includes watching TV, using their phone, and engaging with social media.
Deciding how and when the submissive uses her time.
Suggested reading: 7 Ways to Spot a Fake Dom (and Why You Should Avoid Them)
Getting started with total power exchange
If total power exchange relationships sound like heaven to you, then here are some practical steps to get started.
1. Pick a time
Pick a period of time – the length of which is up to you – and during that time agree to engage in total power exchange. It could be an hour, it could be a day, it could be a week. It doesn’t really matter. My point is it doesn’t have to be every single day of the year.
However, DURING that period of time the sub agrees to have all of his or her rights revoked and allow the Dominant full control.
2. Choose the activities
Pick one or more activities from the total power control examples above. These are the areas you wish to give up complete control. Initially you might pick just one area to get a taste for TPE, and expand it once you have experience.
3. Agree a protocol level
How strict and formal do you want this experience to be? Are you going for more of a Master/slave type of dynamic or a more casual laid-back Dom sub relationship? What will the consequences be if one party fails to follow the TPE rules?
4. Write a contract
Sit with your parter and discuss the first two steps. Agree on the above and ensure you are both happy with the arrangement. Write down what you have agreed and place the contract somewhere you both have easy access to it. You may need to remind yourself what was agreed at a later point.
Also remember to set up a break clause – under what circumstances does the contract get nullified.
5. Do it!
Try total power control out for the length of time you’ve agreed upon. Stick as closely to the rules in contract as you can for the full experience. If you ever feel out of your depth, or feel as though it isn’t for you, do speak up however.
Check-in with your partner to find out what you both enjoyed and didn’t enjoy about the experience on an agreed date. Then you can decide if you want to continue your TPE journey by adding more rules to your power play, or leave it as a more relaxed ‘every now and then’ thing.
The key takeaways from this article are:
- Total power exchange (TPE) is a Dominant and submissive dynamic where the submissive gives up power to the Dominant.
- What areas of life power is exchange depends on what has been agreed. It needn’t be every area, but often includes quite a few areas.
- TPE should be carried out in a risk aware consensual manner. Nobody should be forced into a power exchange they did not agree to. A written contract will help protect both parties.
- Power does not have to be exchange 24/7. You can choose to only engage at agreed upon times.
- Ultimately there is no formal definition of what total power exchange is. Make it what you want it to be.