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You might think you're naughty 'cause you occasionally like to be tied up, say, on your anniversary or holiday weekends, but you can't hold a candle to the people for whom erotic power play is a way of life. We just watched the latest video on the subject from Dr. Gabrielle Hoff, the Dr. Ruth of BDSM (accent and all!), and once again, our minds have been blown a little bit. Not least because the people engaging in this stuff--and allowing themselves to be filmed--are so middle-American next door!...

We first met Gabrielle Hoff, Psy.D., at the 2006 Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality conference in Vegas (natch), where her petite stature and sweet demeanor belied her chosen topic of research. She and her website, LifestyleEducation.net, are "dedicated to removing the stigma and stereotypes surrounding erotic powerplay and those who engage in it." To help "dispel the misconceptions," she produces a series of educational videos entitled "Erotic Powerplay (TM)" (not quite sure how she gets to trademark that phrase...?), which you can watch on YouTube or her site.

But honestly, for a couple of sex-writing prudes like us, we're not sure it dispels the stereotypes so much as reaffirms them. Sure, everybody plays around with the power dynamics in their relationships and in the bedroom to some extent, but the ones who go whole-hog--we're talking 24/7 master/servant shit--can't help but make us wonder whether they've got the kind of serious baggage that would make a TSA employee cry.

Take the subjects of Hoff's last two videos, a lesbian couple engaged in total power exchange, or T.P.E. (a.k.a. absolute power exchange or complete irrevocable submission). It's a long-term BDSM relationship in which the submissive gives up all control to the "master," not just for the duration of an afternoon scene of eroticism, but indefinitely (or until their "contract" runs out) and regarding all aspects of their existence (when, where, and how you look, talk, eat, sleep, have sex, go potty...), which we guess somehow makes even doing the laundry ('cause your top told you to) erotic. Basically, the last choice the sub makes is to enter into the relationship and after that, whatever Master says goes: There are no safewords, negotiations, backtalk, or mentions of headaches. If Master says go play in traffic naked, you do it--trusting that Master has your best interests at heart.

True T.P.E. is rarer than a legitimate chupacabra sighting because it requires 24/7 diligence by both parties, the unwavering and unquestioning devotion of the sub, and the top's complete responsibility for the sub's finances, health, well-being...basically, their life. While both parties may have signed an actual contract to seal the deal, it won't hold up in court should the slave suffer from role fatigue, take off their collar, and hit the road. (Newsflash: Slavery is illegal in the U.S.) But then some hardcore sticklers would argue it wasn't a true T.P.E. to begin with.

If you think that's weird, we can top that (bad pun intended). There's something called "taken in hand"; it's a domesticated, almost suburban version of T.P.E.  A taken in hand relationship typically comprises a heterosexual couple, usually married, who have mutually agreed to let the man wear the pants in the family (which includes deciding when the woman's come off). The gal isn't necessarily submissive, but the guy is definitely dominant. Being taken in hand is not about role-playing or about following a community protocol, but about figuring out your own way to keep things spicy based on this basic, extremely retro power dynamic. Maybe the man always opens the car door and buckles the seatbelt for her, or he always dresses her, or he makes all the decisions of the house, or he spanks her. Kind of like a Southern Baptist wife who graciously submits to the leadership of their husband, but in this case that submission is always a turn-on for her. TakenInHand.com is a well-written, stylishly designed site dedicated to the topic, with articles such as "The Erotic Power of the Unshackled Man" and "When Rape Is a Gift" (we shit you not). It will make your inner feminist throw up a little in her mouth. Okay, a lot. And yet you might find yourself asking, "How can something so fucked up sound kind of sane?"

Hey, we try to live and work by the adage "to each his own" and we try to keep this a judgment-free zone, but if there weren't sexual practices and relationships out there that made you go "WTF!" then nothing you did on your anniversary or holiday weekends would feel naughty.


2 Comments

Jamie said:

I'm active in the local BDSM community (I know, given my posting history, that this will be a shock. A /shock/.), and have seen more than a few 24/7 D/s relationships, and often they seem stable and sane (Well, as much so as any other relationships).

I could never do 24/7 myself (in part because I'm a switch. :) ), but at the same time, I am not sure I could have a relationship that was completely devoid of D/s play to some extent.

Jamie said:

Y'know, I look back, and I'm not sure anyone even reads my comments. But oh, well, I like leaving them, lol.

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"Dating" is hard to define, but we'll do it: More than just sleeping with each other but less than a full-blown, meet-the-parents relationship. People used to think that "dating" meant you hadn't shown each other your assholes yet, but that was back in the eighties. Some assume that exclusivity is implied by the term "dating," but unless the words "Let's be exclusive" have been uttered, there's no guarantee.
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Em & Lo, more formally known as Emma Taylor and Lorelei Sharkey, are the self-proclaimed Emily Posts of the modern bedroom.
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