I spent a (small) chunk of the other day chatting with another domme about graciously receiving service of various types. Both of us are looking at potentially taking on someone new in addition to the submissive(s) already in our lives.

Something she said to me was that “domination is all about trading intangibles”. Which I thought was a neat way to put it.

I’ve typically thought of power-exchange as trading tangibles – A place at my feet, a clean floor, a list of steps to undertake, a well-cooked meal, a hand on her neck, her head resting on my knee… you get the idea. But there are intangibles underlying all of those things: security, focus, trust. See what I mean?

The trick comes when you can’t recognize the often-intangible things that you are giving your submissive in “exchange[1]” for – in the case of domestic service or sexual service or financial service, to give a couple of examples – the often very tangible things your submissive is giving you. A case in point, I suppose, is the “hand on her neck” example I mentioned, above. Yes, my hand on the back of her neck, or my fingers hooked into her collar, is grounding. But “grounding” is an intangible. If I didn’t know, or couldn’t pick up on, the emotional and energetic effect my hand has on her in that position, I’d probably be baffled over what it was I was doing, or what it was she was getting from this in “exchange” for the hours of hard work she puts into cleaning my kitchen. It’s an intangible.
Likewise, when I assign her a task, remind her to step it up if she’s slipping somewhere, or tell her to learn a new skill, I may be afraid that all I’m “giving” her is the presence of a nagging bitch in her life… but what I’m actually giving her[3] is focus, direction, and a charted course of action to follow. My needs and desires give her both a compass and a map with which to orient herself so she doesn’t end up wandering through the world feeling un-tethered and lost.
Or so she tells me.
Part of me still struggles with it in a “too good to be true” kind of way, reacting with a mixture of “So there’s no catch? (Does she know what I mean by ‘catch’?)” and “For me? You’re seriously giving all of this to me?? Ohmigod! :-D”

So, yeah. There’s still a bit of Boggled going on, but it’s slowly sinking in.

[1] I really don’t like talking about a personal relationship as something that’s “transactional”, even in a situation like financial servitude where, frequently, there’s literally money changing hands[2].

[2] How many of you have read Kushiel’s Dart? Remember Bryony House? 🙂 Kind of like that.

[3 Something about-which I need frequent reminders/confirmation too stave off feeling like that Nagging Bitch.