What’s your fetish: Power dynamics

Shay Rego

Editor’s Note: The views expressed in the following column are those of the writer only and do not necessarily represent the views of The Collegian or its editorial board.

Fetishes may seem like a taboo subject, but they’re much more common than we may think. Fetishism is defined as a form of sexual behavior in which gratification is linked to an abnormal object, activity, part of the body, etc.


College students’ curiosity and sexual exploration can increase curiosity in fetishism. From a sample of college students in a study conducted by Harvard, 22% said they were interested in fetishes, and 43% said they have or believe they have a fetish.

There are many different categories that span the fetishism criteria, and each category has multiple subcategories within it. Many fetishes can overlap with other fetishes. For now, I will discuss the fetish of power dynamics and its various subcategories, from the familiar to the rare.

Using power dynamics in the bedroom means allowing one partner to have more control over the situation than the other partner. Even the most vanilla of relationships show some type of power play.

Being the one in control can feel empowering and can lead to even more of a turn on. Being the one out of control can also be a huge turn on, as this allows someone to not have to worry or think about what to do next — they can simply enjoy.


BDSM is the umbrella term used to describe relationships that use any single type of bondage, dominant, submissive, sadist or masochist scenario. These categories will be explored below.

Generally, BDSM can be anything from something as harmless as blindfolding your partner to having a full-blown sex chamber similar to Christian Grey’s in “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Partaking in BDSM doesn’t mean you and your partner have to specifically comply with one or more of the subcategories, but certain activities may lean more toward one.

Dominant and submissive

This is one of the most entry-level forms of BDSM. Basically, it’s an agreement between both partners where one pledges to be in charge of how everything in the bedroom is going to be, known as the dominant, and the other pledges to do everything that is asked of them by the dominant, known as the submissive.

Being submissive to the dominant can take place erotically in the bedroom, but it can also be carried into everyday lifestyles.

Bondage and discipline

Bondage is a subculture of BDSM. Bondage includes the practice of consensually restraining your partner for erotic purposes. Common restraint practices include handcuffing, gagging, blinding or shibari.

Shibari is a style of bondage developed by the Japanese and typically involves rope tying. This rope tying is also a form of art and, for some, a form of therapy or meditation.


Discipline falls directly in line with the dominant and submissive roles. If the submissive disobeys the rules or refuses to listen to the dominant, then the submissive is subjected to discipline. Punishments can include flogging, nipple clips, slapping and more. Punishments can carry on outside the bedroom as well.

Sadist and masochist

Sadism and masochism are on the more extreme end of the BDSM subcategories. A sadist is someone who directly derives sexual pleasure from inflicting pain onto their partner. A masochist is someone who receives sexual gratification from the pain inflicted on them from their partner. So naturally, sadists and masochists go hand-in-hand.

The idea is that the sadist, usually the dominant, enjoys carrying out punishment for something their partner may have done that was naughty. It’s not necessarily that the sadist enjoys inflicting long-term and significantly painful damage onto their partner. The masochists, usually the submissive, tend to feel like they deserve punishment for their naughty act and may feel better receiving their punishment.

Rape play

Rape fantasies are normal, despite how others might grimace in disgust and misunderstanding. It’s another form of a power dynamic. Usually, this type of power dynamic is done with a trusted individual or an already dominant/submissive relationship. This could be seen as an extremist form of sadism and masochism, but keep in mind that this fantasy is still consensual for both parties.   

The infliction of pain, feeling under ownership and loss of self for the “victim” incites sexual pleasure, whereas the simulation of violence can serve to show ownership or attachment to the “victim.” 

This is one article in many of a series dedicated to fetishisms.

Shay Rego can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @shay_rego.