I have been thinking about what we went over in class on Sunday. One of the things that came up in regards to negotiating is the idea of power dynamics in relationships. Not even just kinky power dynamics, but ordinary things that show up in even the most vanilla of relationships.
My theory: power dynamics follow privilege.
Think about it. Who has power in society, particularly American society? White, straight, cisgendered, able-bodied, rich, neurotypical men. Especially those who are older and pass as butch, but those aren’t such a huge predictor as the other factors.
In a vanilla relationship what gives a person power over another? Money (and the ability to generate it – which can be dependent on having a degree of both physical and mental ability, as well as not belonging to a sexual orientation or gender expression/identity that you can be fired for in the area you live in). The ability to pass through society as the “default” – the people in power look like you (see white, cisgendered, able-bodied, and mostly older men) – so you don’t have to worry about them taking away your rights. Age certainly does convey a certain amount of power because you have had time to accumulate resources and certain experiences can certainly convey power on one party or another.
Also there is the concept of gatekeeping. The person who desires something less has power over the person who desires something more, as they tend to be able to control access to it. The desire in question can take many forms: sex, time, resources, food, and medical care, just to name a few. Gatekeeping is the one place where I think that power does not necessarily follow privilege. Sex is considered one place in society where women always have power over men – men are considered to have the greater libido, and women the lesser, so they get to choose how to exercise this power – withholding sex when they wish for something else. But even this is not strictly true. Women can desire sex more, can be the higher libido partner. Throughout history, men have sought to control the seuxality of women, to exercise their power in other realms to control how others choose to gatekeep.
I probably have more to say on this, but I’ve run out of steam and have to go to class now, so I guess this will be it for the day.