There are a number of questions that people new to the BDSM lifestyle, both Dominant and submissive, would like to know about the scene. One of the most prevalent questions that submissives have is what we should do when we’re considering a Dominant to engage in a D/s relationship. Below, I’ve listed five ways to spot a good Dominant. If your Dominant is missing more than one of these things you should probably consider looking elsewhere.

They Must Be Willing to Negotiate the Parameters of the Relationship

Believe it or not, there are a number of Dominants that I find, both on Fetlife and out in the real world, that claim that if they’re in a relationship with a submissive, anything they say goes. This strips the submissive of their rights and bodily autonomy. Submission is a gift, one that should be cherished and honored within the context of the relationship. Find someone who honors and respects you, not just someone who dominates you.

Read: Dominance, Discipline and Abuse: Where to Draw the Line

They Honor the Needs and the Boundaries of Their Submissive

Just because someone is a Dominant doesn’t mean that they can do anything they want to a submissive. As stated above, many Dominants have a "my way or the highway" type of attitude that can lead to emotional or psychological damage. If they do push your boundaries physically, you could end up damaged and scarred for life. If they hurt you emotionally, you could end up in therapy for the rest of your life. If they seem more interested in what you can do for them (to a point this is completely normal) and never mention or continue to push your needs to the side, it’s time to find another relationship

They Get to Know Their Submissive

I’m not going to say that relationships that form quickly can't end in happily ever after. While this happens in both the vanilla and BDSM world, D/s relationships should be met with a degree of caution and should be approached very slowly. That’s to say, you guys each need to understand each other much like you would if you were dating. Keep in mind this is how relationships begin and deepen in the real world, but it goes much deeper than that in the lifestyle. Your Dominant shouldn’t only play with you twice and consider either of you long-term relationship material. Instead, they should be vetting you, grooming you, and testing you to determine if you’re a right fit for them. Anything less would indicate recklessness on their part. Recklessness isn’t a good trait to have in a Dominant.

They Should Be Studious and Always Willing to Hone Their Craft

This is exceedingly important. How else would a Dominant, especially a new one, learn their craft if they don’t do any reading, practice, or at least attempt to find a mentor for themselves? This leads to a number of problems for the submissive, including stagnation (you can’t grow if your Dominant refuses to grow), willful ignorance and, in the case of practicing with implements, the potential danger of harm to the submissive’s mind and body. If you sense that the Dominant isn’t attempting to progress in any capacity, both within and outside of the relationship, you should work on finding a new one.

They Consider Safety in All Things Within and Outside of the Relationship

A deep D/s relationship is more than your Dominant writing up a contract, spanking you every once and awhile, and ordering you around. In many ways a Dominant is a protector, and should be concerned about the submissive's safety both in the scene and outside of it. They should meet the new and old people you hang around with, and get to know other Dominants you go to play parties with. They should check in on you after a scene, and provide for you when you’re sick. This may seem self explanatory, but the Dominant has to be invested in caring for you, just like you take care of them, when you decide to deepen your relationship.

Hopefully, when you follow these guidelines, you’ll know what to look for when attempting to find a Dominant. D/s relationships are unique, but they're still relationships and should include all the care and respect you'd expect from anyone you spend time with.