Journalists trying to cover the subject are faced with various difficulties and complications - the most important being the complexity of the subject as well as the difficulty to find people who feel comfortable with talking about their most intimate emotions in mass media. Next to that, to an outsider it is not easy to understand the cultural differences within the group and the subject takes up quite a bit of research and/or pre-production time as well as space or air time to cover it in a more serious way.
"The scene" does not exist
Despite what general opinion would like people to believe, there is no such thing as "an EPE (or BDSM) scene". Instead there are different cultures, different sexual preferences and most of all individuals and couples practicing or just fantasizing about power dynamics in an erotic setting. One of the main difficulties is that - as a result of the very individual determination of sexual behavior in general and with that erotic power exchange - it is extremely hard, if not entirely impossible to find common denominators. Hence talking to one or two people will only sketch THEIR views. These may be significantly different from others and are most certainly not THE views or opinions.
First of all, there are very distinct differences in culture, based on sexual preference. Homosexual EPE is very different in many aspects from its heterosexual equivalent. Homosexual men are - in their EPE-emotions - very different from homosexual women and within the heterosexual world the first main difference should be made between the Maledom/femsub (dominant man/submissive woman) and the Femdom(me)/malesub (dominant woman/submissive man) cultures. When concentrating on the heterosexual "world" only, one of the major differences is the fact that the Femdom(me) culture is dominated by women, who have made a profession out of their nature; a phenomena that is almost non-existent in the Maledom/femsub culture (although there are professional submissive women).
Most of the literature available is about homosexual erotic power exchange, where power dynamics are different, the culture is much outward oriented and - although this a dangerous generalization - generally speaking, more rough. In addition, there are many technical differences between homosexual and heterosexual EPE. Another very important consideration is that sexuality between members of the same sex is entirely different from sexuality between members of the opposite sex. Beyond these major variances, there are many other heterosexual-specific concerns, such as the fact that a heterosexual couple will usually be confronted with having to raise children. It is, therefor, impossible to rely on available literature when it comes to form an undistorted opinion on heterosexual erotic power exchange.
The image of erotic power exchange is, to a large extent, generated by both pornography on one end and one-sided, dysfunction-oriented clinical and scientific research. Hence the picture the media paint - for understandable reasons - is a picture very few erotic power exchange people would recognize. One of the main reasons for this sullied view of EPE is the fact that it is difficult for media to get people to talk about their emotions. The majority of people interviewed - since they are usually the only ones available - are people who are commercially active in the erotic power exchange world - predominantly dominatrixes. These people usually and again understandable, have a one-sided image. Professional EPE-activity is a commercial enterprise with the aim to make profit, not to express the person's own feelings towards a partner. Since the vast majority of EPE-professionals are dominatrixes, they will attract a very specific type of person, in particular submissive men. Very few of the clients a professional dominatrix has, have an active erotic power exchange relationship with their partner. And, the professionals interviewed have an entirely different agenda. Their motive is not to give unprejudiced information about their subject. Their first objective is to attract (more) clients and the immediate second motive is to make sure they stand out from their collegues.
A picture based on alternate motives
Unfortunately, the EPE image is predominantly influenced by several elements all of which have ulterior motives. Non of them have had or currently have the objective to communicate unprejudiced information. Let's make an interesting list of the four most influential factors on the image of erotic power exchange:
The majority of scientific publications on the subject originate from the psychological/psychiatric field. Hardly any of the publications available deals with the power exchange between healthy, well-adjusted people, capable to make safe, sane, consentual, well-informed and concious decisions. Instead, nearly all such publications deal with people seeking help (usually from the author) and have been written primarily to advocate either one specific opinion or one specific treatment by one specific therapist. Unfortunately, there is no broad, large scale research available on the phenomena of EPE. It is estimated that as much as 30 percent of the adult population has erotic power exchange fantasies and is (potentially) active in this area. The largest group that has ever been the subject of research is a group from approximately twohundred people from one country. This can hardly be called representative for the world-wide group, hence all conclusions should not be projected on the entire population. Unfortunately, this happens all too frequently.
Furthermore, much of the available scientific research available and quoted, is extremely outdated. This is especially true of politicians, legislators and lawyers in many countries who will go back and cite research that is at least thirty or fourty years old. Whereas no court or scientific body in the world would accept other (semi)medical data that old as a basis for judgment, when it comes to erotic power exchange this is still generally accepted.
These two groups are mentioned in one header deliberately because pseudo-experts predominantly style themselves on the pictures painted by pornography, sometimes cleverly validating themselves and their views by misquoting scientists. Both pornography and pseudo-experts have only one objective: to sell as many books, articles, magazines or videos and CD's as they possibly can. Erotic power exchange-related pornography is mainly sold to people who are NOT active in erotic power exchange. Much of what is sold is - unfortunately - quite often mistaken for information, especially by people who are new to the subject. The picture painted is not meant to give information, but instead, is meant to indulge fantasy. In these situations fantasy does not have to become reality, and when it comes to erotic power exchange, hardly ever does fully.
Without making any judgments here, the media plays an important role in the image-building. Next to the difficulties sketched above - the fact that it is indeed extremely difficult to depict a clear image of EPE and the unintentional effect of dominatrixes - it is obvious that excess-oriented journalism does not help and, again, does not have the objective of communicating factual and independent information, but has the objective of selling copy as well as entertaining.
Even though the various support groups put a lot of effort in trying to inform and educate, their efforts show the average lack of experience in communication as well as the variety of opinions that even the EPE community itself holds. None of the support groups, not even larger national groups like the USA National Leather Association, have any critical sway in the EPE community, compared to the number of people interested in the subject. This is again the result of both the variety of opinions held as well as the different cultures. Individual subgroups are only just finding out they have a different identity from other like-minded people. This is new and somewhat disturbing to many and it is difficult for groups as well as individuals to find and identify with a "new" identity.
These support groups are small. They do not have one-tenth of the budget, that scientists and especially pornography producers can use. Therefor it is a very uneven battle, trying to fight the misinformation with little more than an old-fashioned duplicator when resources in the pornography industry are huge.
Finally, there are the well meant efforts of individuals, especially on the Internet, to try and build personal home pages that provide "information". Such information is usually highly individual (and as such useful for identification purposes) and of little or no relevance for a more general informational approach.
Additional Article from the Chairman of the POWERotics Foundation: Please see also Facts and Myths About BDSM Safety by Hans Meijer