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Power Dynamics Kink

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"She treats him like dirt, but I think he likes it."
"When PJ had a job, he was sexy. He was guardian of the bathroom key. A hot guy telling you when you can and can't pee? That's the dream."
Robin Scherbatsky, How I Met Your Mother

Since romantic relationships frequently have a playful or thrill-seeking edge, aspects that have to do with power, subjugation, punishments, etc. have often been sexualized. The most extreme manifestations of this formed a subculture on its own, known as BDSMnote , but milder elements have found their way into mainstream culture.

The most common way to introduce this is an Unequal Pairing, for example, between an Emperor and a commoner, between a teacher and a student, between a mistress and her servant boy, or between a mortal and a powerful sorceress. For the trope to come into play, the inequality has to be lampshaded: for instance, the sorceress may jokingly tell her lover something like "If you upset me, I will put a curse on you". Formally equal pairings may also be subject to the trope, if, for example, a girl gives a Prank Punishment to her boyfriend or vice versa.

The trope only comes into play when non-sexual power dynamics are being sexualized; for kinky erotic games in bed, see Casual Kink, Safe, Sane, and Consensual, and Kinky Role-Playing. Compare and contrast Romanticized Abuse and Fetishized Abuser, for when the relationship is clearly abusive and usually not enjoyable for the party on the receiving end, but is still intended as Fanservice for the audience. Also compare Friendly Tickle Torture and Kinky Spanking. For the most extreme version of this, when one party is literally a slave to the other, see Property of Love.

If someone's fetish is powerful people in general (big bosses, politicians, etc.), it's Power is Sexy.

This may be one of the results of Belligerent Sexual Tension. Also related to Romantic Ribbing, Weakness Turns Her On, Mischief for Punishment, Amazon Chaser, Crazy in the Head, Crazy in the Bed, I Love You Because I Can't Control You, Authoritative in Public, Docile in Private, Powerful People Are Subs, A Match Made in Stockholm, All Girls Want Bad Boys, and Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?. Milder versions of this may also overlap with Trickster Girlfriend.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Sundome, the relationship between the protagonist Hideo Alba and his Love Interest Kurumi Sahana is of this kind. She becomes his "master", giving him orders and deciding when he can masturbate - and eventually, the desire to earn "rewards" from Kurumi drives Hideo to self-improvement.
  • Overlord (2012): After Shalltear is freed from mind-control she insists on being punished for her actions. Ainz eventually hits on using her as a seat, but has to stop when he hears her audibly getting off on it (and the other Guardians get jealous). It turns out that when her creator shoved every one of his multiple and digusting fetishes into her personality, being dominated was one of them.

    Comic Books 
  • The original Wonder Woman comics from the 1940s contain plenty of sub-dom undertones. This is a case of Real Life Writes the Plot: the comic's creator William Moulton Marston was in a submissive relationship with two women (his wife Elizabeth and their polyamorous partner Olive Byrne). He was also a believer in the superiority of women, and proposed the idea of submission to a "loving (female) authority" as a counterbalance to the "anarchic and violent" aspects of masculinity (as he put it, "give [men] an alluring woman stronger than themselves to submit to and they'll be proud to become her willing slaves").
  • Implied if not outright stated to be the case of Superman and Wonder Woman's relationship in the universe of The Dark Knight Returns. In The Dark Knight Strikes Again, her response to Superman feeling down about Batman beating him (again) is to punch him in the face and say, "Where is the man who threw me to the ground and made me his prize?". In All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder, she gets aroused and kisses Superman after he knocks her over by shouting and stomping the ground.

    Fan Works 
  • In Pokémon: The Series fic "Ash's Adventure: Girls' Hunter Edition", a key element of society in this version of events is that various female characters from the anime are now PokeGirls, humans who can use Pokemon attacks. Most of the time this transformation occurs after the girls are defeated in battle and captured by their opponent in human balls, but human balls can be used in other situations, such as Ash catching Misty because she was injured and he had no other way to help her. Later scenes confirm that PokeGirls instinctively want to submit to their owners, as shown when Jessie is instinctively disappointed at Ash rejecting her even though he only caught her when he had no other way to stop her attack and neither wanted her to stay on his "team". It's also noted that most PokeGirls immediately acknowledge their trainers' superiority due to the initial capture, requiring Misty to take steps to encourage Ash to "make" her submit to him in later sexual encounters, such as helping him be on top during their first time. May speculates that part of the reason Misty is so willing to submit to Ash is that she's been disappointed by authority figures such as her parents, older sisters and the League basically all her life, whereas Ash (in his role as her trainer) is the only such figure who's shown that he genuinely cares about her. On a later occasion, May explicitly asks Ash to punish her for arguing with him as part of their dynamic, and while Ash recognises the benefits of this in his role as May's trainer he also takes time to talk with her about the argument as friends afterwards.
    • On top of Ash's existing dynamic with Misty, a flash-forward reveals that a similar power dynamic will be at least a part of Dawn and Serena's relationships with Ash; Dawn initially called Ash "Master" when she first joined him (and still does it to tease him) while Serena will occasionally call Ash her King.
  • In The Power of Seven, while all seven of the girls in Harry's "harem" recognise Harry's magical power, Demelza in particular is often shown fantasizing about how Harry could easily overpower her physically and with his magic but would only ever use that strength to protect her, reflecting more than once that she can surrender herself to let him take charge when they're having any kind of sexual encounter.
  • Different manor” makes the power dynamics between Harry Potter and Daphne Greengrass a key part of their relationship, as Daphne is particularly drawn to Harry’s power and what he could do if he wanted to overpower her even as she knows he never will.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • In Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, one basic pillar of Lancelot and Guinevere's relationship is that Guinevere can ask Lancelot to do anything she wants and he will do it. When she asks him to lose The Tourney—a completely arbitrary request that will embarrass him up in public—he obeys, "like one who is altogether hers."
  • Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms: In The Fairy Godmother, the titular fairy punishes a cruel prince by transforming him into a donkey and taking him into her custody, where he is constantly made fun of and has to do a lot of work. However, there is Belligerent Sexual Tension between them, and eventually they become a romantic couple once he's put aside his Jerkass ways.
  • The One Who Eats Monsters: Naomi is initially just scared spitless of Ryn's eyes, just like literally any human that looks into them, up until Ryn pins her down (at her request), which makes her both scared and aroused.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • The culture of Ebou Dar and other parts of Altara likely has a fair amount of this, since it's basically a sexualized form of Matriarchy. Every husband gives his wife a knife as a wedding gift, and the wife has the right to stab him if he displeases her (for this reason, in Ebou Dar "men walked small around women, and forced a smile at what they would kill another man for").
    • This is especially prominent in the relationship between Queen Tylin Quintara Mitsobar and Mat Cauthon. Tylin basically forces him to become her lover at knifepoint and constantly makes fun of him, calling him "little duckling", and treating him as her boytoy. Nonetheless, it is strongly implied that Mat did enjoy this at least to some extent, since he later admits some affection for Tylin, and is devastated when he accidentally allows the gholam to kill her.
    • Nynaeve and Lan marry in a culture where the higher-ranking member of an Unequal Pairing is expected to take an obedient role in private for balance's sake. Nynaeve's only word on being "outranked" on her wedding night is "glorious".
  • An oddly large number of the male heroes in Tolkien's Legendarium. Though perhaps the most well-known example is Celeborn. He's a renowned general in his own right, but Galadriel can and does kick Sauron's butt singlehandedly (at the end of The Hobbit she forcibly evicts him from Dol Guldur which the careful reader will note was not just his hideout. His spirit was actually connected to the tower). While they are presented as equals initially in The Lord of the Rings it soon becomes evident that Galadriel is the real boss in Lothlorien, when she chews Celeborn out for being racist in front of both diplomatic envoys, and his troops. Haldir seems oddly nonchalant about seeing his commander get publicly embarrassed, suggesting this happens frequently. She is also from a more highly regarded family than he is (and her other Big Damn Hero moment was attempting to defend his tribe, the Teleri, from her uncle Fëanor). But this also extends to the humans: most conspicuously, Faramir falling for Eowyn after learning that she took down the Witch King who had earlier defeated him and his men.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In The Alienist, Kreizler and his servant Mary have a very weird power dynamic in their relationship, where on the one hand, Kreizler is Mary's boss, but on the other hand, he is highly dependent upon her because of his bad arm. Mary seems to enjoy Laszlo's timidity whenever he needs her to do something for him.
  • Better Call Saul: Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have gone on record on having a female domination kink, and Jimmy and Kim's relationship is this all over. There's a season six joke that centres around him being willing to have something up his ass, they end up getting turned on by her as her boss bossing Jimmy as Kim around and they decide to have a shower, and she's slammed him into a wall to make out with him. It also has more of the emotional side, as she tells him there are lines they don't cross and she's not letting him serve her by feeding her when her arm is in a cast.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Jake is very into it when Amy (his girlfriend, fiancé, then wife) acts domineering, which increases when she's promoted to Sergeant. For instance, when she's twisting his thumb around during the Halloween Heist, he asks her to "do it harder".
  • Dietland: Implied with Kitty. She threatens to fire Dominic, then offers that he can stay if he kisses her foot. He's about to do it when she tells him she just wanted to see if he would.
  • In Doctor Who, the Doctor's relationship with River Song also has definite overtones of this. She openly revels in her superiority to him in many aspects, including being better at piloting the TARDIS or knowing things from the future that he doesn't (when he asks her about those, she playfully answers: "Spoilers"). In two of the episodes, she handcuffs him to prevent him from ruining her plans, and when he asks about her reasons for doing so, she again replies "Spoilers". Also there was that time she tried to kill him...
  • Forever: Henry is clearly into it when Iona takes command, stripping off clothing and ordering him to give her his hands to be put into cuffs.
    Henry: Suppose I'm afraid to relinquish control?
    Iona: I think you're afraid of a great many things, Doctor. That's not one of them.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: At the end of the episode "It Had to Be You", it is revealed that Janet has one, which causes her to not only choose Carlton over Will after he gives a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, but lose her controlling attitude in the process.
  • Played for Laughs in the How I Met Your Mother episode "Mosbius Designs", in which Ted hired a secretary to help him run an architectural firm out of his apartment. The new secretary is given the key to the bathroom and prevents Robin from using it without his permission. Robin finds this sexy and the two begin sleeping with each other. When Ted fires his secretary and he loses control of the bathroom key, Robin loses interest.
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Artemis mentions that she's slept with a lot of paraplegic guys because she "likes the power".
  • Played for Laughs in Love & Anarchy: a young IT employee Max takes a compromising picture of his boss Sofie and blackmails her into paying for his lunch, after which she steals his phone and in turn makes him do something embarassing at his work to get it back. As a result, forcing each other to do increasingly outlandish things becomes the cornerstone of their romantic relationship.
  • Scrubs: In her first appearance, Jordan was assigned to JD as a patient. Because she was a member of the hospital board, she largely ignored him and even planned to leave before he cleared her to go. This caused JD to snap at her and demand she follow his orders. Jordan becomes turned on by this and had sex with him.
  • Succession: Roman is treated as Ambiguously Gay in Season 1, as he never sleeps with either of his girlfriends but he has a lot of sexual tension with his (male) trainer, whose job it is to push him physically. Season 2 confirms that Roman has little interest in sex; he jerks off multiple times to Gerri humiliating him and verbally attacking him for being a loser and a dumbass, and he can only try to have sex with his girlfriend when she's pretending to be dead.
  • In Twin Peaks, the relationship between Benjamin Horne and Catherine Martell has a shade of this, involving him kissing her feet and her replying to his compliments with sarcastic quips. Then he's accused of murder and arrested, and she visits him in the jail. She takes off her shoe, and he kisses her foot, pleading her to confirm his alibi.
  • V.I.P.: Implied Trope in the episode Hard Val's Night. When Nikki starts bossing the members of Lit around and engages in some Malicious Misnaming towards the group, drummer Alan Shellenberger is shown loving the hell out of it and asking his band mates if any of them are turned on too.

  • Played for Drama in A Strange Loop. Usher hooks up discreetly with a white man who fetishizes Usher's blackness, calling him degrading racial slurs in bed. This catches Usher off-guard and traumatizes him, especially since he already felt ashamed that he only ever hooked up with skinny white gay guys who don't understand his Black gay perspective.

    Video Games 
  • The Next Big Thing by Pendulo Studios has the protagonist spend a night of love with a beautiful living mummy called Krom-Ha. After that, he tells her: "Command me to kiss you, darling", to which she replies: "Ha ha ha, what a guy! Now do it, or I'll have you drawn and quartered".
  • In Paradise Killer, Doom Jazz suggests flirtatiously that Lady might want to "investigate" his body, which she can agree to depending on player choice. More serious conversations, however, make it clear that they fully understand the weight of her job.
  • In Quest for Glory IV, the scene in which the dark sorceress Katrina ties up and tortures the protagonist in her dungeon has some not-so-subtle erotic overtones. Lampshaded by her Dressed Like a Dominatrix outfit and whip.
  • Shows up briefly in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel III when the crew tries to pry some information from an informant. Turns out he is quite willing if the three ladies in the crew steps on him. Angelica quips that the informant would probably have been even more willing to give them the info had Claire been in her RMP uniform.

    Visual Novels 
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Implied during the third chapter, where the perpetually-lustful Steel Samurai director Sal Manella is a complete doormat for his producer, Dee Vasquez. Wendy Oldbag describes their relationship as, "She treats him like dirt, but I think he likes it." Official art depicts Dee sitting on Sal while he slobbers and sweats.

  • Homestuck: Equius Zahhak gets off on being ordered by other trolls, both highbloods and lowbloods.
  • Sabrina Online: Carli Chinchilla and her husband Spike (a massive wolf) paired with the sheer size difference between the two. Carli with her constant Motor Mouth is practically begging for Spike to show off his physical power to shut her up, and while the Sabrina Online depiction is fairly humorous the author's NSFW spin-off material plays with the couple's imbalance more explicitly.

    Western Animation 
  • BoJack Horseman: In a flashback, acclaimed television writer Cuddlywhiskers has a sexual relationship with his assistant Jill Filipowitz (later known as Jill Pill when she becomes a playwright). Jill disobeys his orders by throwing his bottled water on the floor, Cuddlywhiskers yells at her, and Jill boasts about how she's a "dirty girl" and implores Cuddlywhiskers to come to the bedroom and "punish" her.


Video Example(s):


Bathroom Key

Ted's new secretary tells Robin that she cannot use the bathroom without his permission. Robin finds this sexy.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

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Main / PowerDynamicsKink

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