Contrary to what the erotica burning up e-readers around the world will tell you, not all Dominants wear three-piece suits, own multi-billion dollar corporations, or turn their secretaries into their submissives from the first interview. Books like that are fun to read and certainly get me all steamed up, but trying to find a Dominant that fits that mold is nearly impossible.

Dominant people, because they can be male or female, cis or trans, come in every shape, size, color, sexual preference, income bracket, education level and career. There is no perfect picture of a Dominant. The men don't all wear suits. The women don't always wear leather or latex. Many Dominants I know are typically found in jeans and t-shirts.

So, what does a “real” Dominant look like? In my experience – as someone who loves a Dominant and is friends with others – they all have very similar traits. But here's the surprising thing: Not one of those traits is physical.

Common Traits of a Real Dominants

Patience

A good Dominant doesn't rush into giving you commands from the moment you meet. If they do, it's likely a test. Master M, a friend of mine and Domme (yes, she's female and yes, she uses the title “Master”), has said many times that if she's giving a new potential submissive an order, it's to see if they have a backbone and will stand up to her. Dominants are in no rush to have you bow and kneel before them. They want to get to know you as a person first. (Learn more in 5 Ways to Spot a Good Dominant.)

Integrity

The best Dominants do what they say they're going to do. They're consistent in thought, speech and action. You know where you stand with them. The reality is that you might not always like what you hear, but you know you're being told the truth as they see it or they're doing what they think is best.

Responsibility

Real Dominants, the kind you can trust with your mind and body, understand that they have a responsibility to their submissive. They take responsibility for their actions and their words. Sure, things can be said in anger, but a Dominant with a strong sense of responsibility will own up to their mistakes and work to repair a fractured situation.

Willingness to Learn

Dominants, even those in the lifestyle for many years, know they don't know everything. They also realize they're capable of making mistakes. Good Dominants are constantly seeking new information, whether it's about a new toy to try, a protocol to introduce, or simply a better way to handle the difficult situations that crop up in any relationship. (Want to try your hand at domination? Read So, You Want to Be a Dominant? for tips on how to get started.)

Communication

Any Dominant worth their salt knows the key to a successful D/s relationship is communication. They not only want to share information and details with you, they also want you to share your thoughts, feelings and needs with them. Based on your own relationship, how you communicate can vary wildly, but the ability is always there.

Consent

No conversation about D/s is ever complete unless we discuss consent. Consent is, according to a Master I know named Cade, not as simple as saying, “Yes.” Consent must be informed. Neither of you, Dominant or submissive, is truly giving clear consent if you don't know what you're saying yes to. Clear consent means understanding what's going to happen, what it will feel like, and what the result will be. (Read more in Yes! Why Consent is Totally Sexy.)

What Other Dominants Say

Every kinkster, Dominant, submissive, top, or bottom is different. None of us are alike, and we come from all walks of life. I reached out to three male Dominants that I trust (one of whom is my own partner) for their take on being a Dominant.

Tom Wolf is married to his submissive and lives in the northeastern United States. Sir Franco Bolli is dating his Princess and lives in Antwerp. Southern Sir shares a bed and home with me as the Daddy Dom to my babygirl self, after more than a year in a long-distance relationship. All three have very different ways of expressing their Dominance, but they also have very clear similarities.

What Makes You Feel Most Dominant?

Tom Wolf

“When I feel in control is when I feel most dominant. Sometimes you enter into a situation or scenario, and it just flows. When that happens, it's euphoric. My brain is abuzz with positive energy, and it's likely the time when I'm most relaxed. But Doms aren't perfect. When I don't get it right, I used to panic to try and get things even keeled. Now, age and wisdom prevail, and I will admit a momentary point of panic when the reality of not being in control presents itself.

What I've learned is that it's not the missteps or blunders that define you, but how you recover from them, including admitting an error. It's in that recovery that you garner respect for maintaining composure through being nimble on your feet with the right elixir to remedy the situation. It's in that moment that your presence, or how others feel about you, which defines your dominance, generates respect and produces that brain-buzz that drives me harder.”

Sir Franco Bolli

“On a date, Princess loves it when I am completely in charge, leaving her with hardly any responsibilities so she can completely let go and enjoy. I love being an old-school gentleman Dom.

Princess and I love rough sex. Choking, hair pulling, biting, and I often use all I’ve got to pin her down, force her down like I’m kind of raping her. That, too, is about Dominance.”

Southern Sir

"We have a number of rituals and protocols in our relationship. The one that stands out the most to me is in the evening after the boys are in bed, Kayla will make me a cup of coffee. She just won’t hand it to me, she kneels down and offers up the cup to me. That act fills me with so much love for her knowing that it is me she kneels for.”

What Gives You the Most Joy or Satisfaction as a Dominant?

Tom Wolf

“I get extreme pleasure from the smiles of those who are happy to have made their decision to follow. Oh, and from giving relentless sexual pleasure to my submissive, lol.”

Sir Franco Bolli

“The trust. And the love, passion and submission I receive from Princess. Taking care of Princess, protecting her, helping her grow. Being given the opportunity to take a part of her life in my hands.”

Southern Sir

“Watching my babygirl grow, and by this I mean reaching for her dreams. Everyone has dreams, but to watch her reaching for them and to see them coming to life for her gives me an overwhelming feeling of joy.”

What Advice Do You Have for Those New to the Lifestyle?

Tom Wolf

“Trust more, judge less. Love more and exercise patience, forgive mistakes. Open your mind, explore boundaries, free your soul. Beware of phonies and posers. They will suck the life out of you without you even knowing it.
Read and research a lot. And then do some more. Tools of the kink can be disfiguring or deadly in the wrong hands. Understand their intended purpose, predicted outcomes, and pleasure to both the giver and receiver. But whatever you do, do it in the name of respect. Your dignity and respect are the only things you will ever have that are nearly impossible to recover once lost.”

Sir Franco Bolli

“Every story is a different one and each has other players with their own pasts, wishes and so on. D/s is a lifestyle that can be implemented in so many different ways. There is no one size fits all.

I guess my most important advice would be: talk. Communication is everything and it means not only talking but, equally important, listening.”

Southern Sir

“Ask questions, find the local munch in your area, meet people that live the lifestyle. Find the people that have been a part of it for the last 25 - 30 years and ask them questions, watch them, learn and grow.”
Did you notice that no one advised ordering a total stranger to kneel, call them 'Sir' or otherwise act submissive from the first few moments? The people who do that aren't good Dominants. Some are simply posers and abusers looking for new victims. Others are uneducated or too arrogant for their own good, sometimes a combination of both. Avoid them at all costs."