Where one person gives total control over their life, to another person, without limits.
Used within the BDSM community, this refers to the giving of absolute or total power to the Dominant member of the two. It is not just during sexual sessions, but is and/or can be over the entire lifestyle of the couple.
It includes the willing participation of the submissive, in their complete life, where the dominant provides all decisions, all directions, on what the submissive shall do, not do, and how to do it.
Early use of the term was noted on a February 3rd 1995 article by Jon Jacobs in a newsgroup, alt.sex.bondage (a USENET group)
In the ideal setting, one person is totally submissive to the wishes of the other, in all aspects. However this is not practical, given human nature, therefore is more of a goal to be achieved.
The concept being that one does not require safe words, or have any negotiated limits placed on the tasks they will perform, at the command of the dominant.
The philosophy is that the submissive willing hands over all control over their life, to the dominant, and essentially becomes the willing slave of the dominant.
Since it's conception, the term has been modernized to 'internal enslavement' in that the slave (submissive) willingly hands over their control to the dominant, and that the dominant will respect their physical and mental limitations, in the application of their dominance.
Given that nothing is 'absolute' or 'total' the term has gained popularity, as there are definite physical and mental constraints in any relationship. It is important that a real dominant will respect those 'limits' and work on changing those he can, while avoiding the areas of possible conflict, which can't be changed.
The relationship is generally considered more of a 24/7 type, rather than situational, however it should be noted, that some decisions are still left to the submissive. However this too, is based on the willingness of the dominant to allow, which in one sense is still exhibiting their control over the submissive.
While it is accepted that there are 'limits' it should be noted that in this type of relationship, the limits are those imposed by the dominant, not the submissive, either prior to or during the relationship. The choices are willingly given to the Dominant only.
Practice (Associated Acts): Power Exchange is not so much a 24/7 relationship as a Total Power Exchange. It is more of where a submissive will turn over control over themselves, but not outside the sexual session.
It can spill over into areas outside the particular session, but as an addition to the role playing or agreed upon session.
Generally, this refers to the granting of complete control, during a sexual session, from the submissive to the dominant.
Power Exchange is an agreed up, well stipulated arrangement, made prior to both parties entering into the session. It is a detailed negotiated outline of what can be done, what can't be done and under that outline, the submissive surrenders complete control to the dominant.
Noteworthy: BDSM play, role playing, sex sessions, etc. have a higher degree of dominance and power attributed to one person in the session. Roles are clearly defined in proper BDSM sessions, and within the actual community, when the sessions extend beyond just sex.
There can be legal ramifications to such a relationship, and in some areas of the world, are actually illegal, as this involves 'slavery'.