You are sitting in a trendy coffee shop with a colleague you are attracted to and would like to know a whole lot better. As the conversation progresses, you are feeling more and more attracted, and then the question is popped.
Why are we so shy about expressing our fantasies?
Not that question!
Out of the blue, your colleague asks: "How do you feel about power exchange?"
The first question that runs through your head is, is this a question that seeks to draw on my experience working for the electricity commission?
Taking into account the very low probability that your colleague, who is a taxation accountant, has any interest whatsoever in electricity, you conclude that this is probably a question about your sexual proclivities.
Another question pops into your head, should I answer outright, act dumb, or seek clarification? You decide to seek clarification and it is confirmed that it is your proclivities that are of interest to your colleague.
You ask yourself two further questions, almost simultaneously: Is it safe to admit that I know what the implications of the question are?; and can I afford to miss this opportunity to discuss a lifestyle I am not only interested in, but also keen to pursue?
You tentatively respond: "I don’t know much about it, but I would like to know more."
This is a lie, but engages your colleague without making yourself too vulnerable. It is a measured response that hardly reflects the hollow feeling in the pit of your stomach and the speed at which thoughts, or more accurately, past fantasies, are flashing through your head.
All of this occurs in seconds, underscoring the wonders of the human brain.
Your colleague, sensing your discomfort and the potential for both of you to step too far outside of your comfort zones, decides to retreat, for the time being at least, commenting: "Yes, it is an interesting subject isn’t it?" without any commitment to discuss it further in the future.
Wanting to pursue the conversation further, you want to venture, ‘why did you ask?’, but the little appetite for vulnerability you have dissolves and you allow the conversation to move on.
You are left thinking, as almost certainly is your colleague, about what may have been. Is this an opportunity lost? Will this subject return to the agenda one day? Did I look like a wimp? Should I have shown more interest? Should I do so now, knowing full well that you will not.
You will sit there and leave it to your colleague to move the conversation on, overlooking the enormous irony in that decision.
It may well be that this sequence of events never happened. Certainly, it is likely that few such conversations would have featured the term ‘power exchange’ as opposed to BDSM, despite the different meanings.
It is equally probable, however, that some variant of this conversation has occurred in the past and will occur in the future on innumerable occasions. Conversations approximating this one are surely as ubiquitous as the feelings that our two central characters experienced in this example.
But why is this so?
Why are human beings so frightened about articulating their sexual proclivities and fantasies? Why do we feel so vulnerable when we say it as we feel it? Why are we so prepared to talk about the food we like, the alcohol we like and even the drugs we like; but so reluctant to talk about the sex we like?
These are critical questions, not because power play is an important subject, but because the answer will provide an insight to how human beings are socialised and the impact that the thoughts and actions have on our own self-image. From the time we are children, we are told that sex is a taboo subject and more often than not, it is about procreation as opposed to self-actualisation.
The issue of power exchange is further complicated by the social conditioning suggesting that men should be in control, the fear of losing control experiences by many men and women, and the growing influence of political correctness.
Power, like control, is a complete illusion. No one has it and certainly no one has more than you are prepared to give them.
Political correctness at its heart involves intention, not words, and no matter what you know to be politically correct, it does not change how you feel.
Sex is a human drive, much like eating, sleeping and defecating, and as we develop, the relative importance of all four evolves.
Human beings like to think that our decisions are made in the logical cognitive neo-cortex and that this makes us more than animals, when the fact is that most decisions (80%) and most drivers of our nature emanate from the reptilian brain stem or the emotional limbic system.
We are animals and, as such, we have animal drives.
The sooner we can all embrace this and stop thinking of ourselves as somehow superior to our chimp cousins, the sooner we will feel free to talk about our proclivities and so many other subjects. And the sooner we all have these conversations, the sooner it will be that we can be ourselves.
Human beings live with the illusion that they determine what they believe and, more importantly, what they feel – when all empirical evidence is to the contrary.
The sooner we understand this, the less we will judge others and ourselves. When we understand that our beliefs and feelings are beyond our control, we can shift our attention to behaviour.