Do you love your D/s relationship? Do you crave even more power (or to give up even more)? Total power exchange might be for you, but this kinky lifestyle isn’t something that works without knowledge and preparation.
What Is Total Power Exchange?
Total power exchange (TPE) is a specific type of power exchange, or D/s, relationship, that some couples practice. While most D/s exchanges happen within a scene, such people who practice total power exchange retain the power dynamic outside of the scenes in their everyday lives. Because of this, some people refer to TPE relationships using the label “24/7”.
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As far as kinky goes, total power exchange is pretty out there!
There are also different terms that go along with total power exchange. People use terms such as top, dominant, bottom, or submissive (discover how to be more submissive) in D/s. However, people who live TPE usually use the phrases “Master” (or Mistress) and “slave.” This denotes the intensity and permanence of the power exchange.
Of course, couples can choose nicknames or titles that suit their roles and personalities, so you don’t have to call your D/s partner “Master.” Couples may even use nicknames that indicate the dynamic in public without giving away their interest in total power exchange. In D/s where you may only use nicknames or titles during the scene to help get into the mindset. With 24/7 power exchange, those titles remain during any and every interaction.
If this all sounds a bit much, you might want to head back to this introduction to BDSM.
You might be wondering how exactly total power exchange works. Often in D/s, the pair discusses things such as limits and safewords before each scene. TPE is similar; although, the submissive gives up control for the duration of the relationship. Instead of having a conversation about safewords and such before every scene, a Master and slave can rely on a contract that outlines limits, safety, and interests.
Psst, check out our BDSM checklist if you want to expand your repertoire.
Creating the contract provides an opportunity to share important information. It also enables you to clarify what exactly it is that you want out of your TPE dynamic and helps you get on the same page.
A TPE contract may actually be less specific than other contracts used by BDSM practitioners, partially because what the Master says goes. It may include the following:
- The roles of each partner
- Conditions under which a slave can veto or disagree with the Master
- The means by which either party can leave the arrangement or relationship
- Discipline for those who break the contract.
Not only does a Master/Mistress have more control over their submissive, but they also have more responsibility. For example, if you agree in your contract that you will accept instructions at your Master’s discretion, then he must make sure that those activities won’t cause harm. He needs to understand what sub drop is (learn more about sub drop).
He needs intimate knowledge of your abilities and limitations as well as your interests to make the experience enjoyable and safe for you as well.
You might add information about injuries, conditions, and allergies to your contract to ensure that your Master knows. However, this doesn’t negate the responsibility for safety. For example, aftercare is still essential once a scene has ended.
Related: The Complete Guide to BDSM Aftercare
You can renegotiate your contract after time if you agree upon it. Desires and capabilities may change, for example, and you may want to update your contract to reflect that. You can even add a renegotiation date to your contract. For example, you might agree to discuss the contract every six months to ensure it’s still working for you.
Rules and Control in 24/7 Relationships
Once you get the initial negotiating out of the way, you might wonder how exactly one lives total power exchange. The truth is that it varies between couples. In the most rigid TPE situations, a Mistress might make every decision for her slave. Others allow their slaves to make some decisions because it’s more efficient, and they don’t enjoy micromanaging. You’ll need to see what works for you.
Below you’ll find a list of types of activities and control that can play into a TPE relationship.
- Collars: some slaves wear collars as accessories to denote ownership. A Master may give the collar during a collaring ceremony, either in private or in front of others in the lifestyle. The collar may be custom and include symbols or initials that represent the relationship or Master. Some people use less obvious jewelry or accessories in place of a collar or save more elaborate collars for special events and use plain jewelry for everyday use.
- Orgasm/masturbation control: the Master specifies when and perhaps how the slave can engage in sexual activity, including masturbation. He dictates when the slave can orgasm and may even force orgasm. You might even try out some of these orgasm denial games.
- Bathroom control: the slave may have to ask for permission to use the bathroom or even wear a diaper. Note that preventing bathroom use can lead to health concerns.
- Financial control: a Master may control the money that a slave makes and use it to pay bills, make purchases or save/invest. He may also not permit the slave to work outside of the home. A master may provide for the slave’s every need, making the slave dependent on the Master. Discover how domestic discipline is similar to TPE.
- Breakup control: in some TPE relationships, the slave’s ability to end the relationship is revoked.
- Sleep control: Masters may decide when a slave can sleep and how. Some slaves may sleep in cages or pet beds. They may need permission to join their Master in bed and might sleep at the end of the bed.
- Posture and position: in TPE, a Master might demand that a slave takes a certain position when the Master enters a room and that the slave must kneel before the Master. Slaves may have to back away from the Master so as not to turn their backs on them.
- Appearance: a slave may defer to his Mistress when it comes to what he wears or how he styles his appearance. Makeup, shoes, and accessories may all be decided at the Master’s discretion.
- Service: when a slave serves a Master, she may provide him with food and drink, his favorite book, a massage, oral sex, or any other service at his command. Masters will specify the way that service should be performed, such as kneeling
- Eye contact: In some TPE relationships, Masters expect their slaves to keep their eyes trained on the ground unless otherwise directed.
- Time: a Master can dictate how the slave uses her time and what she must prioritize.
- Safeword removal: Many people who believe in total power exchange do not use a safeword because it goes against the idea of surrendering all control. Not every M/s couple agrees with doing away with safewords, however.
While topping from the bottom (read more) might be a negative in a D/s scene, it’s absolutely not allowed in the TPE lifestyle.
This list touches on a few of the things that total power exchange may involve. All of these things are described as protocols, which can include everything from how you speak to your Master to duties in your household to when you can bathe to postures you must take when in his presence. Your contract may outline protocols in a way that makes it easy for both you and your partner to succeed at a 24/7 lifestyle.
There are three general protocols: high, relaxed, and low. High protocol is the most formal. Honorifics and kneeling may be required of the slave in these situations. Slaves may only be permitted to speak in third-person and must kneel in front of their Masters/Mistresses.
You may need to make decisions together as parents, homeowners, or other partners. These situations call for a different protocol. Relaxed protocol is useful for daily interactions that do not require as much formality. There may be instances when Masters or Mistresses ask for input from their slaves, and relaxed protocol facilitates those conversations.
There are also situations such as when attending a PTA meeting, dining out, or visiting family for holidays where it may not be appropriate to call someone “Mistress” or “slave.” Many couples use low or public protocol for use in these situations. A pet name stands in for titles, and power exchange becomes more subtle. Slaves do not need permission, have to kneel or speak in third-person when it comes to public protocol.
Misconceptions About Total Power Exchange
Does total power exchange excite you? If you’ve been taking notes and thinking of protocols you could add to your own TPE relationship, hold up. One thing that some couples find is that rules ultimately go out the window because the Master or Mistress has the ultimate say, and the slave must respect that authority. You might realize that a list of rules isn’t as useful as the simple understanding that whoever is in charge is in charge.
There are those people who think the person who will be in charge wields a lot of power in the rest of their life, but this isn’t always true. Find out whether you’re more dominant or submissive.
To someone outside of the lifestyle, total power exchange could potentially look abusive. Some abusers might take on the mantle of Master/Mistress and use TPE as a way to abuse an unsuspecting person. However, the key difference is in consent and negotiation. An abuser ultimately doesn’t care about the safety or needs of a slave the way a Master would.
One misconception is that total power exchange is all for the master. Yes, it sounds nice to have someone who will serve you in every way and always be at your beck and call. But the responsibility for another person that we touched on before is great for many people. Furthermore, many slaves relish the ability to give up control and be protected and cared for by their Masters/Mistresses. They find freedom in this arrangement that they cannot get in other ways.
Some couples attempt total power exchange only to find that it’s not a good fit. It’s exhausting and difficult to maintain 24/7, especially in public or with children in the home. There are high expectations for both people, and it’s hard to fully surrender to another person to become their slave or to take care of another person’s needs so fully.
The Realities of TPE
If you’re struggling with TPE, even if you’re the master, you’re not alone. It’s not for everyone. Some fans of power exchange or BDSM struggle to see the appeal of total power exchange for these reasons, among others.
This is why it’s important to set realistic expectations and discuss with your partner what to do if TPE isn’t for you. Can you backtrack and still have a relationship? Will stepping away from a 24/7 lifestyle mean that you also break up? These are things you can consider when creating your contract.
Perhaps you start total power exchange just for a week to try it on for size. Jumping into it feet first might be the very reason why TPE doesn’t work for you.
You may still “fail” at total power exchange even if you enter into it with realistic expectations. But having a plan of action if this lifestyle isn’t a good fit for your relationship helps preserve your relationship.
Finding a local or online community where other people practice total power exchange can be incredibly helpful. They can provide guidance, you can see how it’s done, and you can discuss the lifestyle with likeminded people.
For couples who are capable of permanent power exchange, TPE presents a solution. But it’s a serious commitment that doesn’t work for everyone, and you need to be absolutely honest with yourself and your partner to make it work.
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