What should I look for in a submissive? A Dominant's point of view
(Original article from http://kinktoychest.com/index.php/castle-realm-archives/93)
"How do I find the submissive who is right for me?"
"How will I know if she is really what she claims to be?"
"How can I tell if he is truly a submissive or just trying to spice up his boring marriage with a little kink on the side?"
All very good questions that jade and I are often asked. It is an important concern, but one that's not easily answered. Many of us want to know how we can determine whether a submissive is suitable for us, but don't have a solid grasp on what attributes a successful submissive should possess. Understand that this concept is highly subjective; every dominant has a different set of values.
There are, however, some common characteristics that experienced, real-life dominants tend to agree upon. I certainly cannot list them all here, so I'll only present the more important ones.
What traits distinguish a great submissive from his/her run-of-the-mill sisters/brothers?
A Healthy Self-Image -- Submissives need to have a solid sense of self-worth, comfortable with what and who s/he is, able to communicate freely their needs and desires. Without this, the potential for unhealthy emotional dependency exists where the submissive's self-esteem is totally dependent on you. Submissives with low self esteem tend to demonstrate this in both words and action. They feel that they are worthless without a dominant, they cannot be submissive without someone to submit to. They are overly critical of themselves and others. They attach themselves much too quickly to others for emotional support. Submissives should first be able to love themselves and be comfortable with who they are before they attempt to enter into D/s relationships, since the level of emotion and frequent trips deep into the psyche are potentially troublesome for the insecure submissive.
Truthfulness -- The ability to be honest with oneself and others about feelings and motivations. If a sub is unwilling to be truthful, you're likely to end up being blamed for exceeding his/her limits, despite the fact that you were led to believe otherwise. Watch out for the "you should have known...." phrases--they're a dead giveaway that the sub wasn't truthful about something. A dominant has to rely on the sub's ability to be truthful, even when s/he fears it might offend. When asked a question, the dom needs a completely truthful answer in order to make a decision. If the sub isn't forthcoming or tries to bend the truth to meet what they think the dom wants to hear, the sub is very likely to end up in some very unhappy situations through their own fault.
Sincerity -- Often we find submissives who are only playing a role, who don't really believe or feel what they claim. The submissive must genuinely feel and believe in their own submissiveness. Their actions and words should accurately reflect what they are. Anything less is deceit.
Loyalty -- Within a relationship, a submissive demonstrates loyalty by doing nothing that could call into questions his/her devotion to their dominant. When looking for loyalty as a trait in a potential submissive, observe how s/he guards the confidence of friends, protector, or mentor.
Modesty -- As strange as this might sound, modesty is a trait highly prized by dominants. Immodest subs are viewed as untrustworthy, "slutty," little more than a sexual toy. An unclaimed submissive who all-too-readily parts her thighs, thrusts forth her breasts, grovels at the feet of any domme in the room, or draws attention to their sexuality with exaggerated gestures is a submissive trolling for whatever they can get sexually. This is typical behavior for "vanilla kinksters." That is, "submissives" who are only submissive in order to get sex. Their submission likely extends only to the point that you are giving them what they want. They will usually quickly end an encounter if it turns out you expect an effort from them in return.Modest submissives are aware that their behavior reflects on themselves and their dominant and, unless specifically instructed to, save their sexuality for their One.
Grace -- This is another trait prized by experienced dominants. We tend to think of it as a feminine trait, but it applies to male subs, too. Elegence or beauty of form, manner, motion, and action are all things to be cultivated in the successful submissive. Movement should not be abrupt, stilted, or unnatural. A graceful submissive evokes a strong sense of pride from his/her dominant and is always aware of how his/her body moves. Clumsy and abrupt behavior is a source of embarrassment. Where this trait is lacking, a willingness to develop it is essential.
Respect -- We see this argument all the time in the D/s community, particularly online. "I don't call a dominant 'Sir/Ma'am' until they prove they are worthy of my respect." How very quaint. But it's a glaring sign of self-centeredness. A submissive should be expected to address dominants properly out of respect for the position, not necessarily the person. The opposite of what we often see should be the norm. Instead of not displaying proper respect until "they earn it," the submissive should demonstrate proper respect until the dominant "un-earns" it. That is, until they show that they are unworthy.This one attitude is a key barometer of his/her understanding of the most fundamental concepts of domination/submission. If they don't comprehend respect, you're in for a very embarrassing time.
Humility -- Haughty subs compensate for their own lack of self-esteem by trying to make themselves look better, more submissive than they really are. Submissives will need to be corrected from time to time and humility allows them to see this as an opportunity to improve themselves rather than an attack.Let's talk about "brattiness" here. While there may be a time and place for brattiness from the submissive, it is usually only within the very narrow context of a specific scene (naughty school boy/head mistress, for example). Dominants tire very quickly of having their authority challenged. It may seem cute at first and inexperienced dominants often mistake it for self-confidence. It's a deception. Brattiness as a basic trait in a sub is a sign that the sub has not accepted his/her own submission and is willfully refusing to be the very thing she claims to be: submissive. S/he is committing self-sabotage.If you wish to distinguish easily the "players" from those who are truly submissive, look for brattiness. The wannabes will be the brats, out for a weekend diversion or a night of role-playing. Brattiness is disrespectful, annoying, and will only attract other inexperienced, wannabe doms. Experienced doms will just shake their head in dismay at such atrocious behavior and move on.
Intelligence -- I'm not referring to "book smarts." What I mean by "intelligence" is the ability to learn what s/he needs to learn in order to fulfill the dominant's expectations and desires. If a sub is unable or unwilling to learn, there's little point in wasting your energy.
Courtesy -- Common courtesy is, unfortunately, not all that common. Since the birth of the D/s community, this has been the cornerstone of our interpersonal relationships. Yet it seems to have fallen by the wayside with the advent of the recent D/s "fad." It's now the thing to do and the huge influx of insincere participants has led to an "anything-ya-wanna-call-BDSM-is-BDSM" attitude. Rudeness seems actually to be encouraged since so many of these weekend submissive (and dominants, alike) have gotten their image of what their role is from bad fiction and cheap porn flicks. Our culture no longer seems to teach courtesy, and so it is often something new that the sub must learn. Don't tolerate discourteous submissives. Naturally, you should be courteous in your corrections.
This is quite a list, to be sure. I've described these traits because so very few submissives take the time to consider how their actions and attitudes are the fundamental reason for their inability to attract a "quality" dominant. They act like wannabes, so they attract wannabes. Likewise, novice dominants have few experienced submissives to observe and learn what graceful submission really is. They are easily led to believe that those who claim to be "the dom's gift to submission" are really nothing more than insecure and pretentious, usually with no idea what it is like in real life to be a submissive. Now, rather than trying to find someone who fits all the ideas of perfection that you have, take a moment to consider:
What traits must a submissive have in your relationship?
What traits must she not have?
What traits would be nice to have, but aren't a make-or-break requirement?
You'll never find someone who meets all your desires, but you can come pretty close if you've taken the time to decide clearly what those things are. One final reminder: be patient, persevere, and do not compromise your standards for the sake of convenience....your perfect submissive will be:
Someone who respects herself.
Someone who doesn't want real abuse.
Someone who has s good sense of reality versus fantasy.
Someone who is not looking for you to take over her life, but to enhance it.
Someone you can trust not to blame you later for dominating her....
Someone wise enough to let you learn who she is, what pleases her, and what she wants. Good communication is a critical factor in any relationship, but in SM a lack of it can be devastating.
Someone who does not make demands. Pushiness on the part of a submissive or dominant is a turn-off....
Screw the Roses, Send Me the ThornsMiller & Devon (1995), pp. 41-42