Stigma & Truth
some dangerous myths exploded
There are all sorts of knockdowns on the subject of erotic power exchange around, all of them often used by legislators as well as others who oppose erotic power exchange. All of these are based on assumed psychological or psychiatric "knowledge" or "facts." The fact of the matter is that none of these are actually true or proven. We've collected the most common ones around and compared them with the real facts.
"Once you start, you will want more and more"
This is what pseudo-experts will introduce as the "stepping stone theory." In other words, once you have tasted the effects of, for example, pain, you will want more and more of it and it will end in excessive behavior and addiction. In fact there is no stepping stone theory (the term originates from research into the causes of drug-addiction in the late 1960's) as far as erotic power exchange is concerned. Fact number two is this. Like almost anything about erotic power exchange, there has never been serious and published scientific research on this subject. Next, all research commonly referred to as being about EPE has been research done in individual cases or extremely small groups. Any conclusions, based on this research, are not valid for the entire group. Research has predominantly been done by psychiatrists and psychologists - into cases that all relate to direct questions for help or significant health-related problems. And the objective of almost all these articles is to promote the therapy of that particular therapist. General sociological research in the area of erotic power exchange is rare and, if available, has been done predominantly in the gay community. Fact number three is that the reality of erotic power exchange shows an entirely different picture. People that are into erotic power exchange will usually start to experiment with it and in this experimental phase will usually want to explore all possibilities. As time progresses their emotions will settle down, pieces of the puzzle will fall into place and their wants and needs - once explored and identified - will settle down to the level that usually corresponds with the fantasies people originally had.
"The need to go into power exchange always hides a traumatic experience"
This knockdown is based on Freud who, as we all know, tried to explore the relationship between all sorts of human behavior - not only the sexual behavior - and (early) childhood experiences. His method is called psycho-analysis and in modern psychology is considered outdated. And it is becoming increasingly clear that Freud was predominantly using his "research" with the objective to find a partner, not with the goal to do any serious scientific research. Although it is a fact that some people who are into erotic power exchange have a history of abuse or childhood trauma, a general connection has never been established. What may be true in individual cases most certainly is not true as a general argument. What research did establish is that there are no significant differences between the number of people with a traumatic youth in the BDSM-community than there is in any other group. More recent research points to both genetic influences as well as to a creative and inquisitive mindset as factors that may be of influence to the development of erotic power exchange feelings and emotions. However, this research is far from finalized and in fact again is only limited to individual cases, like most of the scientific research done in this area. Another - relatively new - area that may play a role is the influence of endorphins. Endorphins are hormones, natural opiates, produced by the body and commonly known as "emotion" amino acids. Different mixtures of different types of endorphins will create different emotions. Some of these mixtures are created as a result of fear, stress and pain. What role they play when it comes to the development of erotic power exchange emotions is yet unknown.
"The need for power exchange points to a stern upbringing"
Again a "semi-Freudian" misconception and based on one case of one man, researched and published about by Freud. The fact of the matter is that most of the people that are into erotic power exchange have had a perfectly normal youth and upbringing and the majority come from families where sexuality was a subject that could be discussed freely and openly. Again there may be individual cases where people had a stern - or sometimes very religious - upbringing but whether or not there are any connections between upbringing and erotic power exchange emotions in general is yet to be determined and probably very unlikely as far as the development of the emotions as such is concerned.
"People into erotic power exchange can not find full sexual satisfaction in other ways"
People that are into erotic power exchange will usually consider their feelings and emotions important and will identify erotic power exchange as a lifestyle, but that does not mean they have a compulsive need. The lack of compulsive behavior in fact is what separates erotic power exchange from sadists and masochists. In fact in many cases people will identify their erotic power exchange emotions as entirely different than sexual emotions or - for example - an orgasm.
"Dominant men are just male chauvinists"
The fact of the matter is that the majority of dominant men are very caring, loving and open people. The position of the dominant man in erotic power exchange requires a lot of understanding, caring, trust and most of all a great interest in the wants and needs and emotions of his submissive partner. What to the outsider may seem a very strict, direct, powerful and maybe sometimes somewhat aggressive looking macho man in fact is only role play, using symbols and role behavior but underneath is a very caring person. The average submissive partner, when asked, will usually describe the dom as understanding - generally knowing more about his submissive partner than she does (or did) herself - supportive, careful, loving and protective.
"Submissive women betray the movement for womens' rights"
Being submissive and allowing these emotions to come out is a very self-confident statement and decision as well as a difficult and scary process. Submissive women are usually very self aware and are making very conscious decisions about their submissiveness. They are anything but "doormats" and have - generally speaking - gone through a long process of identifying and accepting themselves as well as their submissive feelings and emotions. Just as dominant erotic behavior is not an indication of general dominance, neither is submissiveness an indication that the women will display submissiveness in every day life. Usually they will be anything but submissive, although it is a fact that as long as submissive emotions have not settled down, submissive women sometimes may have trouble separating some of their submissive feelings from other things. The agurment itself originates from hardline feminist activists that - predominantly out of fear for unwanted influence - try to seperate women from other opinions than the ones such activists have.
"People who are dominant in every day life are submissive in bed and vice versa"
Sexual/erotic behavior is usually not an indication for any other form of social behavior, neither are there any proven links between the two. Dominants can have both dominant as well as non-dominant positions in every day life and the same goes for submissives. A female executive can be submissive in the bedroom, a male nurse can be dominant. The above statement is a classic example of stereotyping, mainly based on pornography and stories from prostitutes who - through indicating they have "socially important customers" - in fact try to market their profession and often use arguments like these in a rather naive effort to gain more social acceptance and respect for their trade.
"Erotic power exchange is dangerous"
There are all sorts of stories around about accidents, that happened during erotic power exchange sessions. The most "famous" one around is the story about the man who - after cuffing his wife to the bed - climbed the nearest cupboard in an effort to jump on her, broke his legs and the couple had to wait for two days before help arrived. This story - like many others - is around in almost all countries and - like all others - is a tall story. Of course, anything one does without sufficient knowledge can be risky or even dangerous. The truth of the matter is that safe, sane, voluntary and informed consentual erotic power exchange is perfectly safe, provided people know what they are doing.
Based on materials from the POWERotics Foundation
© 2000; republished here with their permission;
see the Contributors page for contact links.