I did a radio show last month, and during our chat I kept using the term "power exchange" when the host was clearly more familiar with the term "BDSM." She seized on the idea of power exchange, commenting that it was a much more appropriate term in a lot of ways.
I have to agree. BDSM is a word with so many limiting assumptions. Bondage? Well, sure, but we don't all use that. Dominance and submission? Well, that's a little more common but again, there are those who bristle at the idea of submission to describe what it is that they do. Sado-masochism? A lot of people in the lifestyle will tell you "no thanks. I don't take pain with my BDSM."
Power exchange is somehow a less confining term. Power exchange can describe the dance of dominance and submission, but also the pleasure and playfulness of being a switch. Power exchange can hint at bondage but also the other types of restraint people use--protocols, restrictions, contracts and rituals. Power can mean bringing someone pain (as in sado-masochism) but also using other types of power. The power of pleasure, the power of manipulation, the power of control that has nothing to do with standing over someone with a whip.
One of the really great things about BDSM or power exchange or whatever it is that we do is that there are so many valid ways to do it, so many creative and connecting techniques people have developed in their quest to become closer to their partner(s) in the lifestyle. I think the term "power exchange" gives all of us a little more room to breathe.
I won't call for the end of our lifestyle's familiar acronym, but rather remind people that a lot of disparate things can seed and bloom under that canopy. Isn't that a wonderful thing?