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Emma Turley

The purpose of the chapter is to present an understanding of the power dynamics involved in the erotic phenomenon of consensual bondage, discipline, dominance & submission, and sadism & masochism, also known as BDSM. Focusing on work that offers a nonpathological perspective on consensual BDSM, various demographics related to the psychology, identity, and activities of practitioners are explored with a view to understanding the relationship between those who adopt a leadership role and those who adopt a follower role in the BDSM activities, with reference to the wider leadership literature. It is assumed that the “dominant” partner, or the leader, has all of the power, while the “submissive” partner, or the follower, has none. The chapter argues, however, that during BDSM activities the concept of power exchange is multilayered, and therefore dominant and submissive partners have equal responsibilities and influence during BDSM, though these are enacted in different ways.