When a couple is involved in a power exchange relationship such as domination and submission, there is an assumption that the dominant partner is the one who is in control. After all, a submissive in a relationship is seeking a partner in which she can give her control up to...and a dominant is looking for a partner whom he may control.
This assumption, however, is misleading. The submissive is making decisions throughout the relationship. Her 1st decision is to actually enter into such a relationship with a person. She is not forced into the relationship. She makes a conscious decision based on the information she has given by the other person as to if the relationship will meet her needs.
The 2nd decision that the submissive makes is in regard to boundaries. In a good power exchange relationship, boundaries need to be discussed in the beginning. Both the dominant and the submissive have limits as to how far they will go in a relationship...certain areas in which they are not willing to explore. Some areas may be taboo, and the couple makes an agreement to not explore such areas. This could be anything from knife play to heavy bondage to sharing with other partners.
It is very important for a submissive to lay out her boundaries in the very beginning of the relationship. This way the dominant can make an informed decision as to if he wants to continue in the relationship. It is also important for the dominant to express his boundaries. If a dominant's favorite scene involves candle wax and the submissive has that listed as an absolute no-no in her book, then the relationship is will obviously not work.
Another reason why it is important for a submissive to express what her boundaries are in the beginning is so the dominant will have a feel for what he is working with. He is not going to want to have to second guess every scene wondering if she is going to get upset and refuse to submit. That would defeat the purpose of the power exchange process. Once boundaries have been set, the submissive gives her dominant permission to control her within those boundaries.
Even after the boundaries have been set, though...the submissive still has an area of control. In a safe dominant/submissive relationship, the dominant will allow the submissive the use of a safe word. This is a neutral word that she can use if a particular scene gets too intense for her. It will be understood that the word is to be used sparingly and as a last resort. But having the power to use a safe word allows the submissive to actually control the scene.
Another area of control that is in the hands of the submissive is the decision to obey or disobey. The decision is always hers when given an order from her dominant. She will make a decision knowing that there is a consequence for whatever decision she makes. If she obeys, the consequence is bound to be a pleasant one. If she disobeys, the consequence could be very unpleasant. The choice is always hers to make.
The final choice of the submissive is to ask her dominant for release from the relationship. This is done when the submissive makes the decision that the relationship is one that she no longer wants to be in. Most of the time the dominant will release the submissive, for most dominants do not want to force someone into such a relationship. Sometimes the dominant may urge that the submissive stay in the relationship for a determined length of time as a means to try and work out any issues there may be.
Remembering that the submissive is the one in the power exchange relationship who truly holds the most control is something that both the submissive and the dominant need to realize. It will keep the relationship safe and give it room in which to grow.