By Sarah Sloane
Last year in your column, you wrote about what a dominant should look for when screening potential submissives. As a submissive, I find that there are a lot of people out there that are looking for someone to be submissive for them, but I have trouble narrowing down the people who are serious about it from the people that aren’t. Can you give me some ideas for what to look for when looking for a dominant?
Signed – Single, searching submissive
Oy, the challenges with finding a dominant! Between the “Kneel now!” crowd and the “I am a true dominate!” folks, it’s hard to find the people who are looking for the same type of relationship that you are – and can deliver on it. Anyone can be whoever they want to be online; given enough time and copy editing, anyone can make themselves sound pretty impressive (and conversely, pretty awful), so reading between the lines and getting to know someone one-on-one are the primary skills to build.
First off – what do they say about themselves and their experience as a dominant? It’s far more positive for someone to say that they’re a novice dominant who is willing to learn than it is for them to say that they have experience but, when queried about it, avoid details. If they’ve been active in the community for any reasonable amount of time, someone must know them; in almost every case I can think of, a responsible person is happy to give you references. And while there are a number of people out there with over 20 years in the scene, claiming it without supporting information should be a red flag in your evaluations.
While there is no universal protocol on how a dominant should behave with others, there are some qualities that people who responsibly wield power will exhibit in their conversations and dealings with others. A sense of fairness is one; most dominants I know will allow for the fact that they may be wrong, and will be willing to be corrected on facts that they’ve misstated. They also avoid pulling “power plays” regardless of the level of power or social “importance” of the person with whom they’re speaking, and they are not big proponents of passive-aggressive behavior as a way to get what they want.
A dominant who’s looking for a submissive should know (or at least, be willing to talk through) what it is that they want, and how they envision a working D/s relationship. They should also be willing to give you the information that they ask from you while still maintaining appropriate boundaries (and encouraging you to maintain yours). They should be able to tell you how much time & energy that they have to invest in your relationship with them, so that you can make sure that you both are on the same page. Finally, they should be clear about other partners that they have in their lives, as well as what agreements they have with those people regarding new partners.
All of this, of course, presupposes that you know what YOU are looking for! Take some time before reaching out or responding to requests to determine what you want and need from a relationship; often, if we wait until we’re engaged in negotiation with someone enticing, we will alter our own goals and hopes in order to more fully match with theirs. By firming up what we desire before that, we can better make sure that we’re able to communicate them effectively (and make our decisions in a self-aware, conscientious manner).