How to Spot a Dominant at Ten Paces



How to Spot a Dominant at Ten Paces

By Sensuous Sadie

I spotted Ronin at the munch. Tall with long black hair in a ponytail. Dark eyes with a faintly Asian cast. Buttery leather jacket with silver snakeskin boots. Despite myself, my hand trembled as I took my Kahlua from the bartender. Yes, Ronin looks exactly like the Dominant of my dreams. Confident, assertive, mysterious.

Ronin looks like the Dominant of my dreams, but may well not be. It?s easy to be fooled by beautiful hair, fabulous leathers, or a confident attitude. The bottom line is that there is no way to spot a Dominant at ten paces! Unfortunately many Submissives, and particularly novices, are impressed by these superficial things, making it easy for Dominant fakers. Anyone can learn to swing a flogger, talk in BDSM speak, and wear 13 pounds of leather; but these do not a Dominant make.

If you want a quality partner you?ll have to take some time and get to know them. In some ways, choosing a good Dominant is similar choosing a good partner in general. In others it’s quite different because of the unique style of our relationships. They key difference is that when we go into subspace, we make ourselves vulnerable in ways that we may never do with a vanilla partner. This makes the D/s relationship far riskier and we must take extra care when choosing partners. Here are some things to look for, to avoid, and to ignore in your search for a quality Dominant.

A Dominant Is?


A quality Dominant shows respect to Submissives, and to everyone. He or she asks questions about your life, listens to the answers, and doesn’t put you down. One man I spoke to recently referred to my writing (which I consider my best gift) as “your little columns.” If you hadn”t guessed already, I didn’t go out with him.


A quality Dominant keeps a balance between their vanilla and BDSM lives. They can talk about their family, pets, other things that have nothing to do with BDSM. They have a sense of humor about the lifestyle, and don?t take themselves too seriously. Avoid Dominants with a chip on their shoulder, or who cannot hold a job or keep friends. Especially avoid people who complain about their ex partners or about everyone else in the scene. One day you will be the ex and they will be bitching about you.


A quality Dominant needs to be able to access their emotions, and articulate them. If they are the stereotypical guy who can’t express their emotional side, they will not be able to support your emotional side when the time comes. If they can?t control their temper, or they make a big drama out of life, they will be too self-directed to take care of you. One Dominant I know changes the subject when I talk about sad or angry emotions. I don’t mind so much when it’s about small things, but this tells me that I couldn’t depend on him if I were really upset about something.


A quality Dominant is as good as their word. If they say they?ll show up at 6 PM, they show up. If you are going to trust this person with your body and possibly your heart, you need to know that they will come through. A sometime Dominant is not an effective Dominant.


A quality Dominant recognizes that D/s relationships have several dynamics that are very different, and sometimes far more complex than vanilla ones. Because of this, he or she should have a better understanding of human nature than the average Joe or Jane. Messing with subspace is a heavy experience. My friend Kim has commented that, ?to live a present life you have to understand human nature. But to be a successful Dominant, you have to really get it at a much deeper level.? Doing it with a shallow or superficial person makes for a shallow and superficial experience.


A quality Dominant does not need to know how to use every toy in the toy box, but they do need to be motivated to learn. A novice should not be doing high-end play like whipping, fire play, or knife play without a mentor to guide them. They should be knowledgeable about how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases, and have an awareness of first aid. They know that reading and fantasizing about BDSM is not the same thing as doing it. My friend Sarah adds that ?a good Dom acknowledges that he?s not the be-all end-all of information. He encourages you to find information about BDSM from many sources.?


A quality Dominant doesn?t hit on you during the first date, and doesn?t discourage you from dating other people until you are ready to make a commitment. They know that a good relationship takes time and that there?s no need to rush in or glom onto you. They also don?t try to ?make? you submit before you have given permission to go ahead.


A quality Dominant is known by someone. A novice may not have BDSM references, but everyone has friends and family. If they are totally in the closet and can?t even offer a vanilla reference then they might not be a good person to get involved with. Being ?known? in the scene doesn?t guarantee that a person is a good Dominant, but they will probably be a safe Dominant. I know plenty of Dominants who have great reputations because of their technical knowledge, but have little to offer when it comes to the complexities of a real relationship.

A Quality Dominant Isn?t?

Lord This and Mistress That

In the days of the Old Guard, a Dominant had to ?earn? their leather vest. Anyone who wore it could be considered a safe and experienced player. Today, anyone can call themselves Lady Bigcheese or Master Bigshot. Author Jay Wiseman writes in his article ?Ten Tips for the Novice, Single, Heterosexual, Submissive Woman? of a submissive friend who ?has concluded that there is also a strong inverse relationship between how many titles a man awards himself and how good a dominant he is.? Similarly if they make an ?entrance? a la Scarlet O?Hara or claim relationships with many well-known scene personalities, they lose points on the respect-o-meter. Ignore the titles and look at the person.

Cheating on their Partner

A Dominant who will cheat on their partner, be it spouse or other relationship, will also cheat on you. I believe in Safe Sane and Consensual (SSC), and cheating on your partner is not consensual. A Dominant who lies is not a safe Dominant.

Toy Obsessions

Dominants who obsess about their toy collections send the message that BDSM is about the toys. It?s not. A quality Dominant does not need equipment to dominate, only a powerful and creative mind. Not to mention those who dangle multiple toys off their belt, especially when they aren?t playing.

Horndog on the Prowl

Many novice Dominants or vanilla horndogs view Submissives as a quick way to get some free nookie. Wiseman also comments about another Submissive friend who ?has come to believe that there is a strong inverse relationship between how good a dominant a man is and how quickly he brings up the subject of fellatio.? I?d laugh if I had not found this exact thing to be true.

Bullies & Manipulators

Some people think that being a bully means they?re being dominant. Bullies tell you how things are done and get upset when you disagree. Adults discuss the options respectfully. A real Dominant doesn?t have to force you to do anything. Dominants who try to manipulate you into doing what they want are losers.

A Good Dominant May or May Not Be?

There are lots of things that people think makes someone a good Dominant, but in fact they really don?t indicate much of anything. They include:

You Are Turned On

Just because someone makes you hot doesn?t mean they know a darn thing about dominating. It could be pheromones or maybe they remind you of an old flame. It doesn?t mean anything except that you are turned on.

Whether or Not They Initiate Contact

Some Dominants believe that initiating contact with Submissives is their nature and so they always take the lead. Others believe in allowing Submissives to be attracted to them. Neither is indicative of any innate ability to effectively dominate someone.

Their Ability To Write Well

Communication on the internet is predicated on being able to write and type well. Many intelligent people cannot do this, and many foolish people are unwilling to even run a spellcheck. I say foolish because writing riddled with wrongs makes a bad impression. This being said, being able to write well has nothing to do with being a good Dominant. It?s still important to me personally because I?m a writer, but that?s a different issue.

Privacy Issues

I never give out my real name or contact information to people I?ve only met online. And yet, I?ve found that Dominants, and particularly men who do the same thing get less respect. There are just as many unbalanced women online (Remember Fatal Attraction?) as there are unbalanced men. Don?t give out your personal information, and also don?t worry if they won?t either.

What They Do For a Living

Yes, a stable person will have a stable job. But they don?t need to be CEO of some corporation to be able to dominate. There is a stereotype of the female executive submitting in the bedroom, and the male househusband dominating, but neither are relevant. If ambition is important to you, fine. But it doesn?t in itself indicate an ability to either dominate or submit.

Great Clothes

Anyone can buy fabulous leather outfits. Let them know you appreciate their clothing sense, then move on to more substantial topics.

Assertive Mannerisms

There?s a huge difference between controlling situations, and controlling a person. Don?t be fooled by people who act assertive in public.

Charm & Flirtatiousness

It might be fun to flirt with a charming Dominant, but social skills have little to do with the ability to control.

Paying for the Date (or whatever)

I used to think that the Dominant should pay for the date because they were the Dominant. On the other hand, some Dominants expect the Submissives to pay as an homage. A person may well be a fabulous Dominant, but is unemployed, low on cash, or may believe in equality outside the BDSM relationship. Several people I dated had met several Submissives before me, and were frankly tired of paying for all these dates that never went anywhere. The bottom line is that the person who asks for the date should pay for it. Don?t play games like waiting for them to pick up the check – talk about it up front.

This being said, money is an important element in the BDSM relationship. My friend and author Master Alan adds that, ?the essential difference between D/s and vanilla is the degree to which we negotiate the relationship. For example, money is an essential part of any relationship and it has to be negotiated just as the ropes and toys… but don?t get caught up in the need for things to be egalitarian. There is nothing egalitarian about D/s relationships. They are about the exchange of power and in that, money is simply another dynamic for the equation.?

I?ve been getting to know Ronin, and it turns out that not only does he look like a fabulous Dominant, he also is one. But I didn?t know this from his snakeskin boots, I learned it from how he responded to me over time. When it comes to judging domliness, only fools rush in.


Sensuous Sadie is the author of It’s Not About the Whip: Love, Sex, and Spirituality in the BDSM Scene ( She is the founder and leader (1999 – 2001) of Rose & Thorn , Vermont ‘s first BDSM group. Comments, compliments and complaints, as well as requests for reprinting can be addressed to her at or visit her website at Sadie believes the universe is abundant, and that sharing information freely is part of this abundance, so she allows reprints of her writing in most venues.

Copyright 2003 Sadie Sez Publications


As I read, “How to Spot a Dominant at Ten Paces” It reminded me of a an old thing I was given, about interviewing a Dominant. I have spent many years in the D/s, BDSM, world online, and have met all sorts of men and women. Most of course didn’t even come close to being a Dom, but with proper guidance, and mentoring, had great potential.

I don’t consider the fakers as that. Most often these types are very charismatic, and know exactly what to say, to lure you in. There are signs of course. Red flags, like isolating you from your friends and family. They are deceptive, and very secretive. They are very insecure. They are disrespectful to you, your friends, and other members of the community, whether vanilla, or BDSM.

I find the ones that sprout their true colors are often the ones that demand a fast collaring. Where you just meet, and after two days, demand that you are theirs, or it will never happen. It is the same for submissives as well. The ones who tend to be in it for themselves, are the ones that demand to be collared immediately.

I am the type that has to get to know someone, in depth, and feel safe and that I can trust them, before I commit to anything so close to being collared, or owned. I am not even comfortable of sceneing with someone, if I do not trust them. I have endured past abuse at the hands of a Domineering man. I have learned hard lessons. I have even witnessed submissives, or well domineering submissives, since I do not know the term for them, telling Dominants, that if they don’t do certain things, like kinky sex, or doing perverse things, a Dominant is not comfortable doing, then they are not Doms.

To me…that is reverse rape!!!

It is all about consent, trust, respect. With these you can find a good relationship. D/s and BDSM relationships, are just the same when finding a vanilla one. The connection, the sparks, the trust, and respect, it all needs to mold together into one big ball of happiness. Discuss your needs, and your wants, and remember, wants can be negotiated, but needs…those are what you need to survive, and should never be negotiated on.


Dominant vs Domineering Red Flag List

Ok, so I found this while browsing some chat groups in Second life. In fact I find this to be very helpful when evaluating, not just a D/s relationship, but a regular one too. So please copy and pass the information, just make sure to give credit where it is due. A lovely person named Saikiji Kitalpha second life name wrote this. Do not say this work is your own, as it is plagiarism, and can result in a law suit.

The term “Red Flag” is used to describe a personal trait or behaviour that is common in people who are harmful to others. When getting to know someone new it is very important to look for these warning signs, as they may mean something is very wrong, even horribly wrong. Red flags can apply to any gender, or any role or relationship. Dom, sub, male, female, trans, switch, hetero, homo, bi, pan, friendships, d/s relationships, marriages, relatives, work relationships, etc. They are not specific to any gender, orientation, or relationship.

It is also important to understand that none of these red flags on their own are a sign of an abusive or dangerous situation or person, especially in isolated incidents. Anyone can make a mistake, have a bad day or simply misunderstand or misinterpret. Some red flags merely indicate a need for discussion, or discovery. Others indicate that it is time to get out of the relationship immediately.
What you are looking for are groups of repeating, negative behaviors. It is important to take your time in establishing new relationships as it may take time for these behaviors or patterns to emerge. When you see these red flags, slow down or even stop the relationship to assess your situation. Generally, the more red flag behaviors you observe in a person, the more often you see them and the quicker they emerge in a new relationship, the more at risk you are from being emotionally and/or physically harmed by this person.



• Tries to limit your access to others in your life friends, family, BDSM community.
• Forbids contact with others or undermines relationships or activities with others.
• Is negative and un-supportive of other relationships you have.
• Monitors your communications (emails, phone calls, chats) with others.
• Controls finances, the car, and the activities you partake in.
• May want you to quit your job, give up your car or telephone.
• Always asks where you’ve been and with whom in an accusatory manner.
• Calls and visits unexpectedly on a regular basis.
• Refuses to allow you a safe call.
• Becomes angry if you show signs of independence or strength.


• Is reluctant to give you personal and factual information about themselves.
• Refuses to give their marital status before a meeting.
• Gives inconsistent or conflicting information or details about themselves or past events.
• When you ask personal questions, gets angry, changes the topic, ends the conversation or answers questions with questions.
• Gets mad if you ask for references or want ask others about them.
• Has very limited times/places/methods where you are able to contact them and gets angry if you try to contact them outside of those conditions.
• Does not give you their home and work phone number at the appropriate time.
• Has multiple online identities for interacting with the same communities.
• Cheats on you.
• Gives the impression of being very successful without any evidence of real success.
• Disappears from communication for days or weeks at a time without explanation.
• Are evasive about their activities, especialy unexplained absences.
• Only interacts with you in a kinky or sexual manner as if role-playing.
• Will not have normal everyday vanilla conversations.


• Critical of the BDSM community.
• Critical of multiple respected members of the BDSM community.
• Has multiple interpersonal conflicts within the BDSM community.
• Refuses to participate in the BDSM community.
• Has bad relationships with most or all of their family members.
• Has no BDSM references or friends you can talk to, and becomes angry if you ask for them.
• Has no friendships or refuses contact with their family.


• Is always exaggerating.
• Always puts blame on others for things going wrong.
• They resort to extreme measures to prove that they are not at fault.
• Does not take personal responsibility, or acknowledge their own mistakes.
• Their apologies feels insincere, phony, or is insulting in nature.
• Puts you down in front of other people.
• Is constantly comparing themselves to others.
• Brags excessively about their experience, scene credentials, mastery, training, scene name dropping.
• Will not discuss what your possible future relationship could be like, Tries to keep you in the dark about what might happen next in the relationship.
• Never shows you their human side. Hides their vulnerabilities or behave in an emotionless manner.
• Hides behind their D/s authority, says that their authority should not be questioned.


• Does not respect your feelings, rights, or opinions.
• Is rude to public servants such as waitresses, cashiers and janitors.
• Displays little concern or awareness of the feelings or needs of others.
• Never says thank you, excuse me or I am sorry to anyone.
• Obvious and excessive displays of impatience.
• Believe that they are deserving of some particular reward or benefit even at the expense of others.


• Tries to make you feel guilty for not being “good enough”.
• Says that you are not a true sub/slave/dom.
• Belittles your ideas.
• Blames you for your hurt feelings.
• Tries to make you think that relationship problems are your fault.
• Yells or by threatens to withdraw their love/leave you if you do not do as he/she wishes?


• Consistently breaks promises.
• Makes plans then makes excuses for not meeting.
• Treats you lovingly and respectfully one day and then harshly and accusingly the next.
• Goes through extreme highs (behaving with great kindness) and pronounced lows (behaving with cruelty), almost as though they are two distinctly different people.


• Pressures you into doing things you do not want to do.
• Does not respect your limits, negotiations or contracts.
• Pushes you into a D/s relationship too fast.
• Pushes you into a sexual relationship too fast.
• Pushes you into a poly relationship too fast.
• Overly demanding of your time and must be the center of your attention.
• Insists a safe word is not necessary.


• Conspicuous consumption: spending largely and inappropriately on luxury items.
• Abuses alcohol or other drugs.
• Gambles excessively.
• Is constantly asking for money or material goods from you or others.
• Falls in love with you way too fast and swears undying love before even meeting you.
• Begins saying things like, “I can’t live without you.”
• Deliberately saying or doing things that result in getting themselves seriously hurt.


• Loses control of their emotions in arguments. Raises their voice, yelling, name-calling and blame.
• Uses force or violence to solve problems?
• Punch walls or throw things when they’re upset.
• Turns on their peers, going quickly from “best friend” to “arch enemy”, often for trivial or imagined reasons.
• Displays a disproportionately negative reaction to being told “no”.
• Holds excessive grudges against others and goes to great lengths to get revenge on people.
• Threatens suicide or other forms of self-harm.
• Hypersensitive and easily upset by annoyances that are part of daily life.


• Were an abuse victim themselves, and may be abusive as a learned behavior.
• May exhibit cruel behavior towards animals.
• Might admit to hitting a partner in the past, but claims the partner “made” him/her do it.


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