The Weird Reason Why People With Dominant Partners Are Happier Than Everyone Else

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Eric Pride and his wife, Lady Christie, head a structured authority-based household in New York, which celebrates its 15-year anniversary in 2017. Eric enjoys consensual S&M, blogs on different aspects of the lifestyle, and gives presentations on alternative lifestyle relationships, structured authority-based living, S&M, ritual, and spirituality.

He is also the founder of NYC Kinky Living (NYCKL) and the producer of the hands-on, immersive, full-day events EdgePlay, KinkWorks, PlaySpace, ROPESCAPE, ROPESCAPE 2, and Unleashed. His presentation at AltSex NYC was "Peeking under the Hood of Authority-Based Relationships: Structure, Dynamics, and Lifestyle."

We sat down for an interview with him to get his thoughts on being a dominant partner and why couples who indulge in these fantasies are happier.

Q: Your presentation was on authority-based relationships. How would you define a relationship that is authority-based? Can you provide some examples?

I define an authority-based relationship as one in which the “leader” has been consensually granted authority by the “follower” to exercise control and power over them. A few examples of common authority-based relationships include “master/slave,” “dominant/submissive,” “daddy/boy,” “goddess/worm,” and “trainer/puppy.”

Q: What are some reasons that people may be drawn to such relationships? What do they get out of it?

There are many reasons people might be drawn to the authority-based relationship structure. In living life, most of us seek to be fulfilled or “whole.” Many of us may spend significant time seeking emotions and experiences to this end.

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One way in which we do this is by clearly defining and understanding our identities to reduce cognitive dissonance. Authority-based relationships can aid in this endeavor. In authority-based relationships, there is often great clarity about our roles, relationship, and expected behaviors. Values, beliefs, rules, and behavioral expectations need to be clearly defined for both leader and follower.

Many people in authority-based relationships often describe their experience as being able to be their “whole selves,” by integrating kink/sex/power — an important part of their identity, for them — into their daily lives.

Q: You've referred to these relationships as not just "play" or "another form of BDSM." What is the distinction you make between these authority-based dynamics and BDSM?

The term BDSM was first used in a Usenet posting in 1991 to mean a combination of the abbreviations B/D (bondage and discipline), D/s (dominance and submission), and S/M (Sadism and Masochism). BDSM can be a component of an authority-based relationship, but an authority-based relationship is not required to have any or all of these components as a part of it.

I like to refer to authority-based relationships as a subgroup of “designer relationships,” relationships that are directly and explicitly designed and created by everyone involved. So rather than residing in one category — polyamory, monogamy, 24/7, part-time, bondage, sexually intimate, service-based, etc. — authority-based relationships can and do encompass any or all of the above by design of the individuals in the relationship.

Q: What are some of the most common structural elements of authority-based relationships? How on earth does one go about creating this type of relationship structure?

Authority-based relationships are negotiated and consensual social constructs, just as any one of the more common forms of relationships with which we are more familiar. The most basic structural element of an authority-based relationship is that the “follower” has granted authority to the “leader.” There are agreed-upon rules for the leader and follower, and expectations are set for everyone involved.

Authority-based relationships often encompass many or all aspects of our lives, rather than selecting certain times or places to “act out” these roles. Rituals and symbols are frequently a part of authority-based relationships, such as a collar to symbolize belonging and commitment, and authority-based relationships regularly contain service components.

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While individual implementations of these relationships differ, most often healthy and functional authority-based relationships are based on transparent and honest communication. Building trust is an essential component in strengthening the bond between leader and follower and to make these relationships flourish.

Q: There was a question in the audience related to authority-based relationships and current-day issues around patriarchy, feminism, and gender roles. Also, the term slave in Master/slave dynamics has an inescapably troubling history. Can you comment on how you navigate authority-based relationship structures around these kinds of hot-button triggering issues?

The terms “Master” and “slave” do indeed have a multilayered and troublesome history. I navigate what could be a cumbersome issue by explaining that the historical contexts are not a whole or a part of what we do, either in name or in behavior.

The relationships we live have virtually nothing in common with the historical use of the terms Master and slave. In fact, I do not like using the term “Master/slave relationship” for this reason. Rather, I use the term “authority-based relationship.” This circumvents the inevitable connection people might draw from this language.

In addition, “authority-based” points to these relationships as being consensual, and most important, derived from free will and choice. Authority, in the context of these relationships, is not attached to any one sex or gender, nor does it reside in a specific race, class, or culture. The leader can be anyone, as can the follower.

It is important for me to say that this does not mean that I or members of the community ignore these current-day issues. Quite the opposite: the community actively works to seek awareness and to act in a responsible way concerning them — only that these issues are not inherently part of the definition of an authority-based relationship.

A topic that has recently drawn a great deal of attention to the community internally and externally is the revision of diagnostic codes in the American Psychiatric Association's manual, the DSM 5 (2013), for BDSM, fetishism, and transvestic fetishism (cross-dressing). In the DSM 5, consensual adults participating in BDSM is no longer considered pathology.

This change was announced after years of consistent effort by the National Collation for Sexual Freedom (NCSF). The change is significant to the community, because it supports and sustains the process of destigmatization of consensual BDSM.

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Michael Aaron, Ph.D., LCSW, CST, is a nationally certified sex therapist and clinical sexologist, specializing in working with sexual minorities, alternative/kink/polyamory lifestyles, sex workers, discordant desire and infidelity in couples, sexual dysfunction and anxiety, gender and orientation confusion, and sexual compulsivity.  You can read more about him at

This article was originally published at Psychology Today. Reprinted with permission from the author.