04/21/2013 11:00 EDT | Updated 06/22/2013 05:12 EDT

Fantasizing About Being Dominated By a Lover? You're Not Alone

Playing with power conjures up the image of leather-clad bodies in handcuffs and collars -- visuals seen mostly on Law and Order SVU. But that is only one side of power play. So why is power so popular in getting our erotic juices flowing?

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Young woman dominating a man sitting on a chair with a whip.

"Push me up against a wall and take me."

These are the words that men and women repeated again and again in a recent survey of sexual arousal. In fact when over 15,000 people described what most aroused them, no single fantasy was described more than "being pushed against a wall." The language was stunningly similar in all of these fantasies. (Unpublished Zebroff, 2013).

While people used slightly different words to describe the "wall" or the "pushing," the overwhelming theme that got their erotic juices flowing was...power!

Playing with power conjures up the image of leather-clad bodies in handcuffs and collars -- visuals seen mostly on Law and Order SVU. But that is only one side of power play.

Instead, sexual power play is often enjoyed as a subtle psychological game used to increase erotic tension through acting dominant or submissive. Remember when Robert Redford told Meryl Streep "Don't move" ... "But I want to move" ... "Don't. Move." in Out of Africa? Erotic tension shot from the screen, pumping all of us full of erotic fire.

So why is power so popular in getting our erotic juices flowing?

One reason is that it allows lovers to try roles they are not necessarily accustomed to outside of the bedroom. It is not uncommon, for example, for high-powered men and women to control every aspect of their work life, but get a boost of arousal when their lover ties them to a bedpost.

On the flip side, laid back folks who don't feel the need for power in their home/work lives can burst with erotic energy at the thought of taking control.

The newness of the role is one reason for the injection of passion. But both sub and dom roles have their own benefits.

What is the draw in being wall-pushed (submissive)?

One woman who preferred the submissive role explains, "It is like a vacation. I don't have to manage anything; I don't have to be in charge."

  • I don't know what is going to happen next.
  • I don't have to take responsibility for this erotic pleasure.
  • I get to feel my partner "want me."
  • I get a respite from always being in control.

What is the draw to doing the wall pushing (Dominant)?

A woman who is drawn to the dominant role explains, "When I take the reigns, I feel like

I connect with my partner more than at any other time. I 'get' him and he responds to

my demands. I feel powerful and sexy."

  • I get to direct the action .
  • I get to choose the action.
  • I have the power to please my partner.
  • I can connect with my partner on an emotional level.

Can't decide?

While most people have a preference for either the Top (dominant) or Bottom (submissive) role, some "Switch" from role to role. A particular disposition does not always remain static either. Generally, which one you find more arousing is dependent on personality, and can change with experience or partner.

So, how can you increase erotic tension through safe power-play?

Step 1: Get a sense of what role titillates you most.

Refer to your own fantasies. Are you the pusher or the pushee? If you are unsure, take the Sudo Scale Test to help to get started.

Check in with your partner to find out where they fall on the scale. There is nothing less arousing than having two people waiting to be pushed against a wall with no one to do the pushing.

Step 2: Negotiate your scene Power-play fans know that talking about what they want before the act inspires new ideas and helps both of them get exactly what they want out of the experience. Insufficient negotiation can cause role confusion, leading to disappointment and lack of action.

  • Know what you won't (and will) do.Unsure where to start? Use a contract in which you specify what you are willing to do and not do, for how long and with what toy. It also helps you to understand better your partner's pleasures and boundaries.
  • Establish safe words. And use them.

    Playing with power can bring up issues, which can make the scene more exciting...or not. Before you start, agree to words or signals that tell your partner to stop/slow down/or

    speed up. The "traffic lights" system is a popular one. Red=stop, yellow=slow down or

    caution, green=speed up or continue/all's good.

Step 3: Explore. Push your limits.

Experiment with different roles. Use this time to try on different sexual personas in a safe space. Researcher and therapist Peggy Kleinplatz has found that couples who have great sex often use power-play to push their limits and increase erotic intensity. (Kleinplatz, 2006)

Step 4: Use props that help you get into character.

Choose props that inspire your role. Floggers and handcuffs are great for some, but another popular starting point is vibrating panties, which give one person control over the other person's erotic experience. Whoever controls the remote can drive their lover's sensation from 20 feet away. Try a variety of toys to learn to expand your experiences.

Step 5: Have a plan for when things go wrong.

Plan for what you'll do if and when sensitive issues arise.

Enjoy and have fun experimenting with different roles. Remember it is just play -- play for consenting adults!

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