The person suggesting the path forward wears a leader hat. While at first it might seem as if it is only the dominant who wears the hat, the submissive often gets to wear it too, and I find the shifting of the leader hat throughout a session to be healthy – and a way to keep things exciting. Submissives grab hold of the leader hat, for example, when given the task of pleasing the dominant via an elaborate ritual of service. Or by being a naughty brat and looking for ‘punishment’, nudging the dominant towards greater intensity.
A stop button also exists, and even has two forms. The hard one comes in the form of a safe word, and the soft one is expressed by body language. These work in conjunction with the leader hat. Usually, the hat suggests and the stop button either follows along or halts things. However, for this dynamic to work, the two must be worn by different people. Or should I say that so far, I have not yet seen an effective example where a person is responsible for both. In the least damaging cases, I’ve witnessed people in the dominant role receiving a blow job they were not enjoying, or pushing themselves to make overly complicated suspensions. In these examples, it was the submissive in charge of both the hat and the button. When the dominant controls them both, however, that is a time bomb waiting to explode.
But What If Everyone Wants One Person to Hold Both?
One needs to proceed with caution whenever either person in a power dynamic either tries to take away or gain control of both. A classic example of this is when the submissive says, “I can no longer say stop when I’m deep into surrender and high on endorphins (or other substances).”
My suggestion to deal with this situation is to move the leader hat to the submissive and let them describe in detail how the dominant should act out the scene. I see this happening a lot. But then the dominant needs to take on the stop button as well…and, well, you see where this is going.
It can be a shared sadomasochistic fantasy between an owner, mistress or master and their slave, inside of which the hat and button are moving around. But the tendency is strong within the sadomasochistic subculture to keep both with one person for longer and longer periods. This even has a term to describe it: Total Power Exchange (TPE). But I would describe this as continuously increasing risk-taking. Hopefully regular conscious check-ins can mediate any risk. I suspect that the reason for playing like this is the connection between risk and desire with a longing for permanence.