by Eloise Pasteur
Finding a dominant can be hard work: just meeting one who might be available is hard enough. Of course hanging around in clubs and the like can help you with that, particularly clubs that have a BDSM slant, but of the dominants I've submitted to in SL I've met fewer than half of them that way. Sometimes, most times in my experience - just like dating, you meet them elsewhere and something attracts you to each other. The reason it can be tricky? Well there are more submissives than dominants around. Some proportion of dominants are happily in monogamous relationships too, so no matter how wonderful you think you would be with them, they're not interested. Others will be in stable, if poly, relationships and probably not interested in picking up another sub. I'm afraid, past the old story of getting out and looking I don't have any magic ways to suggest that will help you meet potentially suitable dominants.
What I can help you do, perhaps, is think about how to tell if you've got a good one or not.
The first thing to say is that whilst love at first sight is well and good (and has struck me in Second Life with my current and hopefully rest-of-our-lives Mistress) but that's not the same as diving into a full-blown incredibly in-depth BDSM relationship. And face it, full-blown BDSM relationships are incredibly intimate and deep and almost always quickly so thanks to their nature. In my opinion, you should both be happy thinking you will move in that direction and telling each other that you are thinking of moving that way, but you should both be willing to explore it slowly at first. Try thinking of it this way: at the point you swear your undying service to your dominant, you are, in many respects, marrying them. You can, of course, get out of a marriage, and out of a bad D/s relationship, but it's a big step. Even in SL, would you meet someone and marry them straight away? The direct parallel to that question is: would you agree to be their submissive for the long term on first meeting them? At some point of course, you will make that change. Humans being humans you will probably mark it with some sort of ceremony, private or public as suits you. This might be a collaring (although many subs, including me, wear collars from very early in the relationship without that implication of life-long relationship), or a formal locking of the collar, or an exchange of vows (whether including a marriage ceremony or not). It's that formal change from "we're dating" to "we're in a long-term relationship" that you're marking here, and the rest of this will help you think about the BDSM of the pair of you, to make sure you want it too.
So what is there to think about? Really you're looking for three things I think:
Can you happily submit to the dominant? This might seem very obvious, but people overlook it. I know a couple of highly respected dominants in Second Life, and respect them, but could never submit to them. Our personalities don't click that way. That's not something wrong with me, or with them, it's to do with personalities nothing more. Think of your friends who are happily in love with people you could never love, but do like. Does that mean your friend is wrong? The person they love is wrong? You're wrong? No. It's just that magic that makes for a relationship isn't there. I'm always tempted to say that I can't submit to someone I can't love. I can love people that won't take my submission, I have done, but I have yet to submit to someone where I didn't at least think I couldn't love them. So far where discovering more about the dominant means I fall out of love also means I fall out of being able to submit to them.
Are your interests and limits similar? If your dominant is into heavy pain and you aren't things aren't likely to be smooth in the long term. Equally, however, if you're into heavy pain and your dominant isn't, you'll get frustrated or they will as you don't get what you want, and they either can't give it to you or they make themselves do something they're not comfortable with for you too often. They don't have to be identical, but there needs to be a big enough common ground of common interest and level of intensity for you both to play often enough without feeling bored and feeling comfortable with what's going on to keep the relationship going. That's not to say, of course, that from time to time you won't have your boundaries pushed, or that your dominant won't push herself to do something for you that she's not sure about, but you can't do that every time, not and thrive as a couple. To some extent this also ties in with happily submitting too. You'll probably know quickly if just can't submit willingly to the person because they're the wrong person for you. But do the ways your dominant expects you to submit make you happy, at least most of the time? Do you get the right amount of attention, of time, of rules, of things you're told to do? Although the nature of these things will probably change over time, because the relationship will change over time, do you get enough of the right things to make you happy? That will, probably, start from having similar limits and interests.
Can you communicate with each other? This is very much on all levels. When you are in a scene together, do you understand what your dominant tells you? Do they understand your responses? Do the styles in which you write/talk work together? It can be massive frustrating to both sides if they don't, and whilst you might be willing and able to change, as the play gets more intense you are more likely to head back to your base styles and you may lose the scene that way. But it's not just there - can you talk to each other, in whatever way is permitted and desired between you, when you need to? Can you raise problems? Can your dominant drop out of role to ask how things are going and what's wrong when things do go wrong? My Mistress and I chat about work, our days and all sorts. That might not be for you, but if it is you have to both feel comfortable, and if it isn't you must both be comfortable without it.
These are the big three things to be on the look out for. If you find all three of these are going well, you could certainly consider a fuller, deeper commitment. However, I would also suggest it helps if at least one person in the relationship has at least a moderate amount of experience in their role. It can be either of you - a good but inexperienced dominant can learn from a good, experienced sub, although both of you have to be prepared for that as the power-dynamic in this case can flick back and forth within a scene - but despite saying it helps, it's not essential. You will both learn about the relationship as time passes - just like in a vanilla one you learn more about your partner over time - and if there is a willingness to explore, to forgive and to learn together then even the two most new to the scene people can form a successful relationship. Why, then, is there a benefit to having at least one person fairly experienced? BDSM has lots of toys, conventions, attitudes and the like. Whilst your relationship is about what works for the people within it, it can help to have someone who at least knows how to use the toys, what the conventions are and the like. If you decide to ignore the conventions (for example you call your dominant by name rather than by a title) there is nothing wrong with that - but it does help to know that it's considered unusual. Similarly, someone who is used to, for example, being tied up, or doing the tying up, can guide the other person to help them feel more confident about it. I know, for example, I prefer it when my Mistress goes around and fastens each shackle, tightens each rope and similar and it's not something that a new Dominant is likely to think of without prompting, nor that an inexperienced sub would necessarily think to ask for. (I sometimes like being thrown over a bench and quickly strapped down and have other things done too, but as a default setting, being securely and more slowly fastened in works better for me.) Having someone in the partnership with some experience so they can suggest "Maybe like this" at least in the early days can help you both learn and grow together.
Sadly there really aren't hard and fast rules. If it works for you, good luck to you. What works for you may creep me out, or may make me jealous, or anywhere in-between, but the main thing is that it works for you, and makes you happy. That's what it's all about.
Comments and suggestions for improvements to me please! :-)San Mauvaise