Let’s begin with an exploration of what it is that each of us means when we say we want a power exchange relationship.

In the gallery below, you’ll see all kinds of different images. I invite you to work separately, and have each partner look through the gallery and choose one picture to represent what power exchange means to you. It’s easiest to do this on separate screens, if you have them available. You can link to this page directly at www.consensualdominance.com/picture-your-desire.


You can click on any picture to enlarge it, and feel free to download the one you choose if that makes it easier to show to your partner, or if you just want to keep a copy.

There’s no right answer, and no secret meanings behind the pictures. The point is to project your own meanings onto them. So don’t overthink it! Choose an image based on whatever reasons feel most meaningful to you, and if you’re torn between two choices, flip a coin.

Once everyone has chosen their picture, look below the gallery for discussion instructions.

Once everyone has selected their picture, take turns sharing with one another why you chose the image you chose.

Give each partner a full two minutes to tell their story.

When it’s your turn to speak, try to fill that two minutes. If your answer is really short, see if you can dig deeper and come up with more detail about your drive toward power exchange. For example, if your answer is “I picked this because it’s structured and I like structure,” try thinking about what it is about structure that you like, or what kind of structure you like.

When it’s your turn to listen, please focus on listening. Don’t butt in with your reaction to what you’re hearing, or your own ideas or anything like that. Instead, encourage the speaker to speak more. “Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about that?” is a great thing to say if they go silent. As you hear about your partners’ desires, please listen deeply and see if you can learn something you hadn’t previously known about their relationship to power exchange.

Remember to thank your partners for sharing when they finish!

You may find that sharing a little bit about what power exchange means to each of you leaves you eager to talk about it more. Go ahead and do that right away if that’s what everyone is excited for, or make some note in your bike rack for a conversation to have later on. Remember that this is only the first activity and there’s lots more to do!

An Afterthought

Power exchange desire is individual and highly varied. When we do this activity in a group, it’s always interesting to see what different pictures people choose and what different meanings they have behind their choices. Some people are drawn to power exchange by a desire for structure and order in their lives. Others want to feel their cozy routine torn apart by the whims of a capricious dominant. Some are looking for someone to care for, others looking for someone to degrade, and some are looking for both at once.

The basic language of “I’m a dominant” or “I’m a submissive” can mask important differences in what desires drive us, and the first step toward a deep and intimate power relationship is to understand one another’s drives for power exchange deeply and intimately.

Were there differences in the stories that you and your partners told about the pictures you chose? That doesn’t mean you can’t create a great power dynamic! I don’t think any two people have exactly the same desire. The differences are important to look at, understand, and then translate between you. We can find creative ways to create scenes, protocols, rules and relationships that serve everyone’s desires, even if those desires are different.

This is also good to keep in mind when interacting with others outside your dynamic. Their power exchange might be very different from your power exchange, and that’s okay.

Through the rest of this chapter, we’ll expand on the theme of understanding your own power exchange desires, and communicating them with your partner or partners.