Bound and Shagged: What is Sexy about Power

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Hello, kinksters! Long time no talk. Have you missed me? I’ve most certainly missed you.

You’ve heard a lot about BDSM from the mouth of a submissive. A friend of mine has kindly agreed to answer some questions about the Dominant lifestyle, and – though this week’s column is going to be mostly her experiences and thoughts – she’ll be making appearances occasionally from hereon in. Let’s call her Leto – she has a particular affinity for the classics.

Leto and I sat side by side on her couch. I had one leg tucked under me, a notepad balanced on my other knee. She was unapologetic in her posture, stretched out over the cushions with a free hand casually brushing over my leg. One of her bites marked the side of my shoulder. I was about to ask her questions I’d usually be too shy to ask— it wasn’t my place. I chewed on my mouth, getting ready to speak. She smirked.

The first thing I was curious about, talking to Leto, was how she discovered her Dominant side— my submissive side came out when I was a kid in the type of games I liked playing. “I’m just naturally dominant and controlling. One day I used it in a sexual situation and it was like I’d found gold,” she told me. “Do you want more explicit details?” I blushed. I found myself doing that a lot while talking to Leto this way.

I wanted to know what about it appealed to her, specifically. Leto’s response, again, had me blushing. I’ve never understood the appeal of being the Dominant party. For Leto, it was about power. “It’s a rush that nothing else gives me, seeing the effect I can have on someone who is completely at my mercy, and … just the thrill. It’s so raw and intense. It’s primal in a way. At least that’s how it makes me feel. It makes me tingle just thinking about it.” She looked at me pointedly.

I swallowed hard. I knew I was going to regret this interview. Asking Leto questions put me in a position of power and she didn’t like it. Making me squirm was one way to undermine that. “How do you feel out if it’s appropriate to bring out that side of you? Is it something you think about? How do you approach sexual situations with a new partner?” I asked her.

“Yes, it is something I think about. I’m usually not interested in having sex with someone who I think will be boring in bed. But to be safe, I’ll just ask what my partner is comfortable with and things they’ve done in the past. If they haven’t [done BDSM] but are interested in experiencing it, I’ll start off with little things. Maybe being a little more forceful and so on. Giving them just verbal orders without enforcing it physically to see how they react. I make sure my partners know that I’m not at all submissive or a bottom, so that they know what they’re getting into. If they don’t want anything BDSM, that’s fine, but I’m still being on top.”

I smiled. No one in their right mind would ever see Leto as a bottom. And then I cringed, knowing I had to press her further. I wanted to get at both the philosophy and the practice here, but Leto was not going to like answering all these questions.

“How do you feel about punishment and reward?” I asked. I already knew the answer. She grinned. “I love punishment/reward. I like punishing someone who’s bad, and I like rewarding them when they’re good.” She looked at me pointedly. “Bad behavior is doing anything I don’t like or specifically said not to do. Or things that push teasing a little too far. Or things done to make me jealous.” Or too many questions from a sub, I finished in my head.

On furthering questioning, I found out that Leto loved both verbal and physical restraint, but for different reasons. Leto elaborated for me: “Verbal restraint is so easy and so strong. Makes me feel so powerful with such minimal effort. Physical restraints require a little more effort, but it also ensures more control without worry of having to repeat myself.” Worship really does it for her. Leto likes collars, but not pet play. She loves leaving marks. Anything that shows ownership.

Leto’s favorite impact toy is a wooden paddle. Hard. Unforgiving.

I came to the end of my questions and looked up at her. “What’s the end goal of sex?” I asked. She smiled at me. “The goal of sex is to be fully spent, satisfied, and blissful, and wonderfully delirious. As long as I have the control, I’ll enjoy it and I’ll make sure that my partner enjoys it just as much.”

I scratched down her words and looked up at her from under the fringe of my eyelashes, my face pink and my demeanor suddenly different.

“Are you done?” She asked. I nodded in response and closed my notebook around my pen. “Good girl.” She stood up and walked closer to me, wrapped her fingers around my arm. “Come,” she said. And I went.


  1. Knotty Girl, I seriously hope you work with CAPS or S2S to work through the serious emotional issues you already seen to be aware of. I hope one day you can feel strong and confident as an independent person. There’s no need for you to be so self-effacing. Just see your own value, it’s been there all along.

  2. There is nothing about finding pleasure in BDSM that warrants the need for professional psychological help. Finding pleasure in the realm of power play, bondage, et cetera… does not imply that one is suffering from a psychological or emotional turmoil. The beauty of sex lies in the fact that it can take a variety of forms through which individuals are able to discouver what brings them excitement, happiness, release. and gratification. Sex should not be bound by what society deems as “appropriate”. Where is the fun in that?

    To assume that roles in the bedroom are carried over into the everyday, that because someone is submissive they do not know their value, is illogical. I, for one, am very dominant in sexual situations; those who know me would never suspect that in the slightest. I don’t walk around barking orders and tying people up (although, that would be quite hilarious, no?). I’m sure that the author doesn’t go around giving into the demands of everyone she meets. I don’t think she would have gotten this far in life if she did.

    Just because someone’s sexual preferences do not align with yours does not mean that they have issues or are ill. It simply means that what they enjoy differs from what you do. You shouldn’t assume something about someone you don’t even know. It doesn’t seem like your comment was of malice intent, but it’s incredibly unfair to the author for you to pass such harsh a judgement on her. At least she knows what she likes and is happy doing it. And hey, at least she’s getting some. Good for her. We’d all be a lot happier if we just learned to embrace what made us feel good (okay, drugs maybe not so much but you know what I’m trying to say).

    And seriously, don’t knock it ’til you try it 😉 There’s a whole, big, sexual world out there waiting to be explored, my friend.

    • Re: “To assume that roles in the bedroom are carried over into the everyday, that because someone is submissive they do not know their value, is illogical.”

      Ok, maybe that is true for some or many people.
      But if you look at the second story here: http://daily.swarthmore.edu/2012/11/09/bound-and-shagged-degradation-deprivation-and-humiliation/ you can see that the author has in fact carried her role of submission outside of the bedroom (i.e. meeting her Dom’s parents)

      Also, a quote from one of Knotty Girl’s early columns: “D/s can be sexual or not. If it’s not, it’s usually referred to as “lifestyle,” meaning that the D/s mentality extends past the bedroom and into other aspects of a couple’s life.”

      So, just something to think about.

  3. Hello, lovelies!
    Knotty Girl here, just chiming in. (Though really, can I just say that it’s exciting to have people commenting and talking about the things I write? Let’s do this more. Okay?)
    Concerned Swattie – I am strong and confident as an independent person. The choices I make make me stronger, not weaker. I am a beautiful and capable woman. I would not be capable of doing everything I do if I doubted my own value. A smaller note, you may want to check the definition of self-effacing. It generally means resisting drawing attention to oneself, but seeing as I write this column of my own free will and blatantly draw attention to myself (albeit semi-anonymously) it’s fairly clear that I’m not self-effacing at all. I think you may have meant self-deprecating, though that’s unrealistic as well.
    Lulu – I appreciate the defense. You make good points. 🙂
    Clarification (Concerned, again, perhaps?) – The story about meeting my Dominant’s parents is from roughly eight years ago. Are you exactly the same person you were at 16? Additionally, there’s nothing wrong with lifestyle D/s. In all forms, D/s is not a mental illness. Submission is power to the same extent that Dominance is power. It is simply manifested differently. There’s nothing weak or bad about submission and viewing BDSM in that light is incredibly damaging and perpetuates a culture of shame that I think we need to grow past as an increasingly sexually liberated society. A standard vanilla relationship would make me feel weak and powerless. My position as a submissive, however, allows me to know I can do anything in the world.

    • Hi KG,
      I’m not the same person as Concerned Swattie, I just thought it was strange that Lulu’s defense centered around BDSM being a “role in the bedroom” rather than something “everyday” when you’ve already discussed the ways in which BDSM can be part of a lifestyle.

      I think my major discomfort with the practice itself as a lifestyle are that it seems to undermine my sensibility that people are equals and should be treated as such. For example, in one of your previous columns, you refer to being the “prized possession” of a Dom. For me, this type of language brings to mind a whole bunch of bad things from history (slavery, objectification of women, etc.). Of course, I realize that you say you have given consent to this treatment, whereas that was not the case in those historical examples. However, I wonder if there are things we ought not to or can’t consent to? Can anyone actually consent to being owned by another person? If they can, is that right? On the flip side (so as not to only address s lifestyles), is it ever right to “possess” another human, even if consent is given? I’m not asking you supply answers to these questions, but they are things I’ve been wondering as I’ve read your columns. I think a discussion of issues like this could be beneficial to those reading.

      I also want clarify that I’m neither “for” or “against” BDSM as a lifestyle…I’m just trying to figure out how exactly I feel about it.

  4. Knotty Girl, I believe that you derive pleasure and feelings of power from your submissive role in BDSM. But emotions are complex and multifaceted, and you also say that you’re blushing, cringing, swallowing hard, and feeling regret. In another story, you talk about feeling degraded, humiliated, and deprived. These emotions are inherently negative. They may be accompanied by positive emotions, such as empowerment and a feeling that you have gotten what you deserve. But aren’t there ways to feel those positive emotions that do not involve negative ones? In pro-anorexia or pro-bulimia blogs, people often say that they are making their own choices and that they feel empowered, but most of us think the people saying those things need help. In the case of eating disorders, though feeling efficacious, beautiful, and in control are positive things, it is a problem when people do harmful things to achieve those emotions, and also feel plenty of awful emotions along the way. In the case of BDSM, aren’t there ways to feel powerful and sexy without feeling degraded, humiliated, and deprived? Without giving the world and yourself the message that you don’t deserve respect?

  5. My main concern with this article is the way it reads. This is ostensibly an article about the appeal of being a dominant and what it’s like to be a dominant, written to inform people who are interested. Why does it read like erotica?

    Passages like, “I swallowed hard. I knew I was going to regret this interview.” and, “I blushed.” seem not only irrelevant to the main focus of the article, but also uncomfortably personal and a tad voyeuristic.

    I don’t believe anyone who has commented on this article (or any other KG article) with the opinion that the D/s lifestyle is unhealthy is qualified or informed enough to make that assertion, but I also think the debate could have been mitigated if this article were written in a more appropriate way. Writing things like, “‘Come,’ she said. And I went.” is just opening yourself up for psychoanalysis.

    • Well – it reads that way because I chose to write it that way. Bound&Shagged is a sex column. My editor has on several occasions requested I up the smut in these pieces and, to be honest, it’s sort of fun making them more erotic. I thought it was more fun this way than as an interview transcript.

      Also – I’m a writer. I take joy in making things sound like stories. This one simply led itself to this sort of article, I felt. I apologize for making you feel uncomfortable, but it’s my column and it’s appropriate in whichever way I choose to write it.


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