Rfoj74 left some comments on one of my earlier posts that helped inspire the idea for this post.
A definite power play dynamic in any D/s relationship is when a sub is offered the illusion of choice. The illusion of choice occurs when a sub is given (or forced into) making a decision in place of said decision being made by the Domme.
The illusion of choice differs from actual choice in a few key ways:
-Actual choice encourages free will and freedom. The illusion of choice provides mental anguish and in most cases, increasing levels of subspace.
-Actual choice implies a position of power. The illusion of choice emphasizes power over the sub.
-Actual choice (usually) reflects the true feelings of the chooser. The illusion of choice may be manipulated or coerced regardless of the sub's feelings.
A few examples:
-A non-masochistic sub is forced to choose between being beaten with a paddle or a crop (if he doesn't choose, he will be beaten by both). He may make his choice based upon what he sees as the lesser of two evils, vying for what he believes will be the least painful option. However, if he knows the tendencies of his Mistress, she may beat him more severely if he chooses the less painful instrument so he may in fact go for the more painful option. In either case the outcome is unpleasant for him but at the same time the Domme can cite that "this is what he chose." Given actual choice he probably would have selected "not being beaten."
-A sub forced to choose between orgasm denial or a prostate milking when he really just wants an orgasm.
-A sub forced to choose between B-cup or C-cup breast forms when being feminized against his will.
In the past I have been given lose-lose choice situations such as choosing between a pink hat with white fur earmuffs or a white hat with pink fur earmuffs while we go for a drive and if I didn't choose I would receive a beating and she would choose (something worse) for me.
The illusion of choices between two bad things give the sub the feeling that they have some freedom yet do nothing to empower him in the slightest. A time limit placed upon the decision process (e.g. until the count of five) can give a Domme some enjoyment watching the sub fret and panic over which decision will end up being "better" than the other. This is definitely a tactic that also falls into the realm of the mindfuck.