The “looking for” lists and “Errare Humanum Est”

This got long, and at times rant-y. Still, I’m happy with what it says so I’m putting it out there:

I tend to reckon that, as potential boyfriends go, I have a lot going for me. Sure, I’m tubby and occasionally a bit clumsy, but my heart is in the right place (at least, the doctor with his stethoscope didn’t have trouble looking for it) and I’m actually quite handsome, if I do say so myself. Also, as a Dom, size can add to an imposing aura (that’s what my first partner told me, anyway).

But on dating sites (especially the BDSM community sites that serve in that role, like and the sadly now-defunct Informed Consent), there is a tendency for women to put huge lists of requirements that make it seem like they seek only someone with no faults, but he’s also humble and supposed to admit his faults. Except, if he measures up on the two dozen (slight exaggeration only) other requirements then he clearly HAS no faults. The thing is, they aren’t unreasonable requirements in themselves, a lot of the time. What seems unreasonable, or unachievable, is the absolutist way in which they seem to be presented. Even when some footnote is added to assuage that perception, those rarely achieve that.

I have my faults, there are things I do not do so well at or where, as a fallible human being, I fall short from time to time. People are like that. When I feel I can’t promise what the person is asking for, I tend not to present myself as someone who can (that is, I don’t send a message to express interest).

Will @ BDSM: Things You Need To Know has just such a list under the heading, What to Look For in a Dom/Master. I’m picking on Will because I like a lot of what he says, and because his list happens to be one that I read recently and reminded me of this particular irritation I feel about the dating market, it’s nothing personal about his list in particular (although I hang my comments on what he had to say).

Will lists no fewer than 16 factors that a Sub should look for in a lifestyle (long-term) D/s partner. Again, these aren’t unreasonable things to look at a person’s performance on. My difficulty is with seeing them presented as “look for this” rather than “see where they are on this”. The way these things are phrased sound like the former, in that they are described in binary terms (either he does it or he doesn’t, no middle ground), and it sounds as though you must be able to see them before you have any intimate interaction with the person. When they appear in dating profiles, so many of them describe them in superlative terms. Will concludes his article, “If you find a gent with all of the above qualities, and he’s into you, be willing to bend over backwards and forwards for him daily. He’s a rare find!”

So I want to talk about the ways I measure up, and in some ways or cases, fall short of perfection (I may possibly have fantasised about being Mary Poppins when I was younger, but I never quite achieved that ambition). Hey, at least that means I meet the modesty/humility requirement, eh? On one or two of Will’s points, I just flat disagree – not, generally, with the overall idea, but with the expression of it. There again, Will acknowledges that, “I run the risk of simply summarizing my own style as a dom here. I’ve tried to look beyond that, and solicited feedback from sub friends.” So this may just be down to a difference of style?

On with the ranting:

Has tried kink and craves more

I fundamentally disagree with this statement. Basically, in every experienced Dom’s life, there was a point at which they had never done it before, and had no open expression of their interest. To all intents and purposes, from the outside anyway, zie is a “vanilla boy/girl” in that state. Furthermore, there may be those with latent desires who simply haven’t explored or understood their tendency or aptitude for such. When Will requires, “He’s not conflicted about it. … and has kinky friends and/or mentors,” he’s excluding the people who have struggled with negative representations of kink in the past, and who can only work past that by experience and knowing it’s okay from that. I was that person originally, but now that I have some experience and it’s been good, I feel much more confident in my kink. As for “friends/mentors”, I’m a huge introvert. I don’t make friends easily, and as Will says in another post, the BDSM Scene is not everyone’s kink so how would a newbie Dom make such friends if zie isn’t inclined to mix in those circles, and perhaps needs a partner to draw them into it? It is evident from the population of BDSM dating/community sites versus the attendance of munches, that most BDSM-inclined people don’t circulate in those terms.

This goes for both Doms and Subs, of course. This is why I still use vanilla dating sites (of course, OKCupid helps out a lot in seeking the latent kinkster, with several of the match questions being kink-oriented – see the remarks in Will’s other post linked above). So I think that Will is just plain wrong that, “Vanilla boys cannot be converted to Doms.” Not because the statement is false, but because you can’t tell from the outside whether a vanilla boy is actually a vanilla boy, or an undeveloped Dom. Admittedly, in the last few years it has become easier than it was a decade or two back, when I was just coming into my sexual identity and acknowledging my Dom nature, to find and explore this stuff safely (thank you, internet!) But in general, there’s only one way to find out if a person is also kinky, and that’s to talk about it. Now, with all this objection, I should point out Clarisse Thorn’s Why I Pretend I Don’t Date Vanilla-But-Questioning Men. This explains rather more clearly the difficulties that a bottom may find in dating a “recently vanilla” person, and also highlights the part of Will’s comments that I do agree with, about education and communication. Wanting to do better, and learning how to handle BDSM communication, is pretty important.

It needs to be noted that Will does explain in the “What’s Irrelevant” section at the bottom of his post:

D/s experience. If a guy hasn’t “owned” a sub before, it doesn’t mean he’s not qualified. Talent and dedication to honing it are more crucial than experience.

This seems to contradict directly the points quoted/responded to above. But there’s a difference between “‘owned’ a sub” and “has tried kink”. So this doesn’t answer my objections outlined here, and it doesn’t contradict completely Will’s earlier statements. If you find your untapped “not-vanilla-after-all boy” Dom then yes, you want hir to want it too, and you want hir to want to get better at it – “learn the business”, as it were.

Honesty and transparency

Another one where I have some pretty strong disagreements with Will’s expression. Honesty and transparency sound like things that you should want, so I don’t have any problem with the inclusion of them on this list. I would argue somewhat with the things that Will groups under this:

He answers any question you pose, shares things you should know unprompted, and hides nothing about his life. He’s willing to discuss previous relationships in detail, and doesn’t blame breakups mostly on the ex-partners.

I’ll start with the point of agreement, the part that really does come “straight out of the best-practices manual for vanilla relationships”. If someone (male or female) is negative about former partners, sooner or later they will be negative about you, too. I happen to have remained friends with my former partners (although the connection with one has gradually slipped away in recent years, to my regret). I have quibbles or flat disagreements with most of the rest of the specifics given.

For starters, I will not discuss “in detail” past relationships, at least, not without talking to the person in question first about how much they are willing for me to share (so far, ex-partners have been very willing, but I won’t assume that). Frankly, I value discretion and resent the expectation that I should betray one person’s trust to win someone else’s.

Trust is at the heart of my objection to the rest, as well. Until I trust someone (see previous remarks here and here) I am not going to lay myself open in that way. Once I feel confident enough with someone, then yes – I will open up my life, but before then, I am going to be wary and suspicious of interest in some areas. If you expect me to respect your caution, I need you to respect mine. It’s actually a dealbreaker for me on some questions, if I have to answer before I am willing to.

As for “shares things you should know unprompted”, I feel that “things you should know” is very vague. There’s very little that I will share “unprompted” that I wouldn’t share in, say, small talk or on a dating profile to start with. But in a conversation, as I trust you more, the more I will be willing to mention without being specifically asked about it.

In summary, I don’t hide things as such, and my nature is to be honest and transparent. However, I have boundaries and I am choosy about who gets past them.

Vanilla chemistry
Compatible life patterns and goals

These two aren’t things you can negotiate. There’s no way to say they are wrong, because they’re not. There is more to life than kink alone, and for a relationship to flourish, it has to work on those levels too. I might quibble with some of Will’s assertions about what that involves (e.g. I think that, as a “homebody”, it is entirely possible for a “social butterfly” to be a good partner for me, as long as we are both flexible enough – it would even help me to be drawn out of my shell a bit, and I wouldn’t mind being on my own while my partner goes out socially). On the other hand, this is THE prime example when it comes to my problem with “look for this” rather than “take their measure on this”. Chemistry and life patterns/goals aren’t absolutes, in a binary “yes it’s there/no it’s not” way. People are complicated and analogue, on multiple dimensions. The question is not “is it there?” but “How easily do we fit?” Then there’s a decision to be made based on the indistinct and unclear result that that question necessarily brings. No one can tell you except you whether it’s enough of a fit to work.

Vision and clarity

This is one that just leaves me confused. Will writes:

He has a picture or plan for the future of the relationship. He sees possible paths from the present to that place, and makes the current path clear to his sub. The journey may well alter his vision of the destination, or the route to it.

You see, I don’t know how it is possible to have a “picture or plan” or “see possible paths” until you have a sense of the landscape. I like some certainty about things, and I have clear ideas about what I am seeking in the long-term, of course. But those are broad feelings, full of possibilities and potential directions. Only by understanding what and who I am working with can I have an idea of what is and isn’t a realistic destination within that field of possibilities. Will might lump that under, “The journey may well alter his vision of the destination, or the route to it,” but Will seems to think that the vision comes before knowing what transport is available to you. There is also a very strong point of philosophical difference: I can’t see a relationship as having a destination at all. The nature of life is change and we are always travelling, always changing, and however much may be resolved there will always be more to find, farther to travel, new experiences and ideas to assimilate and work through together, and that WILL change a relationship in small or large ways.

Inasmuch as I have a “vision” and “clarity” at the start, then it falls under my knowing what is or isn’t “good enough” under compatible life patterns and goals.

Emotional sophistication
Dedication to self-development
Curiosity and fascination
Appreciation and encouragement

These elements I generally agree with, and they seem to overlap. The first is described as, “He’s aware of his own feelings and issues, and able to discover and understand yours. He can ask for help when he needs it and lend help when you ask.” This is the core of any relationship. If I have an issue with it, then it is that to ask for help requires a certain amount of trust, and the type of help determines the level of trust involved. As noted, that is a dynamic situation and trust needs to be built before it can be extended. “Dedication to self-development”, Will references particularly “emotional and social skills”, and developing mine has been pretty much a lifelong project and the evidence suggests that I am probably better than I believe myself to be. If I have one issue under this category it is that Will says, “This trait can fill a lot of gaps if he learns quickly, but it’s not a substitute for missing abilities.” This reinforces my impression that this list is about a binary “yes/no” rather than looking at varying levels. Finally, under “Curiosity and fascination”, Will places, “He’s profoundly interested in you, and your dynamics together, and the aspects of himself that you enable him to explore.” Complete agreement, although I might have wanted “experience” rather than “explore” to finish the sentence there. Appreciation and encouragement seem to mean exactly what they say – appreciating and encouraging hir partner.

Intuition and empathy

Another one that sounds right, and yet there’s a nagging doubt.


He’s good at reading you, and eventually predicting your likely responses in key moments. He communicates his insights about you. He has a sense of how you feel, which impacts his own mind-state.

The key word in the first sentence is eventually. As noted above, my social/emotional skills are probably better than I give myself credit for. When I communicate a suspected insight, I find I am accurate fairly often, although sometimes I’ve read something between the lines that wasn’t actually there. But these things only improve with time spent with the other person, communicating (both verbally and non-verbally). It’s not something you can “look for”, but something that has to be built.

On the other hand, “He has a sense of how you feel, which impacts his own mind-state,” is pretty much the entirety of my Dom/sadist/top kink. Without it, what’s the point? But at the same time, when it comes to emotional states in the moment, I can’t rely on my intuition perfectly. I may have a sense, but is it accurate? The important parts of this point fall under the good bits of the previous three – a good partner may or may not have that sense, but I would certainly say that they want to have it. With time, yes, I believe it will come to anyone as long as the other partner wants it too.

Humility and confidence

See? I told you in the preamble that this would come up:

He knows his weaknesses and vulnerabilities. He knows his strengths. He takes risks wisely. He doesn’t mistake authority for knowledge and understanding. He owns it when he’s at fault or has failed.

And, as I said in the preamble, if he measures up on the other criteria then he has no weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and he never fails or is at fault! This whole response to Will’s post is inspired by knowing my weaknesses. The linked posts about “trust” under “openness” are about knowing my vulnerabilities. That I am here at all is testament to my strengths.

I don’t believe anyone is capable in the moment of being 100% “owns their mistakes” – all of us have some need to protect the ego from it. But it is something we can strive for, and if not in the moment then soon after, acknowledge that we cocked it up. Again, this is a matter of degrees – not, “Is this person perfect?” but, “Is this person striving to be as good as they can at this?” I can’t be perfect, but I am always trying to be the best me I can be.

Sets limits and pushes limits

This is one where there seem to be many ways of reading the heading, and some of them I have more time for than others. Will’s explanation puts it more towards the negative end of that spectrum.

One point of D/s is redefining both partners’ boundaries, emotionally and physically.

Now, bearing in mind Will’s caveat that he, “run[s] the risk of simply summarizing my own style as a dom here,” I do feel that there is a difference of philosophy here. While I accept that sometimes and for some people (I would even count myself among those people, given the “sometimes” qualifier as well) that this is true. But to make it a closer to universal statement, and one backed up by, for example, Staci Newmahr’s research, I would replace “redefining” with “exploring” or “skirting”. This distinction makes a huge difference, because while both may require setting limits, there is no need for exploring or skirting to involve pushing. It seems to me to be natural that boundaries can be explored without needing to approach them; equally, one can skirt a boundary by coming close to it but not needing to push it directly (although perhaps taking a risk with the boundary).

A dom guides this process, both by setting beneficial restrictions on his partner, and working to dismantle barriers she may have towards him.

Now, the phrase “beneficial restrictions” needs some qualification here. Is this restrictions about play, or restrictions within play/relationship structure? What makes them “beneficial”? In my most recent relationship, I did indeed, “guide [a] process”, by taking things one step at a time when my partner, who was new to D/s relationships, wanted to go charging in and try everything at the deepest level possible straight away. She acknowledged later that this had, indeed, been the right thing for me to do and was beneficial to her. From context, I gather that this probably is Will’s intended meaning. However, in that case, it doesn’t seem accurate that it is an essential skill unless one is with a partner who has a need for them or who hasn’t explored their boundaries yet: some Subs are perfectly capable of knowing and setting their own limits in that sense.

I have to admit, I am slightly squicked by the phrasing, “working to dismantle barriers she may have towards him.” It’s worth examining why. For me, it comes down to the trust issues already referenced, and the idea that breaking down barriers is something that abusers tend to be good at: that’s how they get to do what they do. Inasmuch as breaking down barriers is a desirable thing – they are barriers that are identified as unhealthy and preventing happiness, rather than healthy barriers that are keeping a person safe – then “working” is just the wrong term. As the old joke goes, “Q. How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? A. Just one, but the lightbulb has to really want to change.” Or some versions have, “The lightbulb changes itself and the psychiatrist merely facilitates.” Similarly, if we have barriers that need to come down, then it is a collaborative effort with the Dom partner providing an environment that makes it easy for the Sub partner to bring them down.

Or, indeed, the other way around. Like I said, I have trust issues, and sometimes I need help bringing my barriers down, too – and then the ability to set up restrictions to keep from going too far.

Patience and flexibility

Certainly useful, although too much flexibility rather stuffs any chance of “setting limits”, perhaps? Let’s have a look:

He’s willing to invest the time and care necessary for a deep relationship.

Straight out of that “best-practices manual for vanilla relationships”. Indeed, a lot of dating advice for women (and indeed, my own “must-have” list of dating criteria) emphasise that if a partner hasn’t got space in hir life for a relationship, then you probably shouldn’t be trying to have one with hir.

He knows you’re not superhuman.

But he, apparently, is. “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” I made my feelings on this pretty clear already. Yes, it is absolutely accurate that in any relationship there should be tolerance of the other person’s fallibility, forgiveness and acceptance extended, and a tendency to understand and resolve rather than resent. But that goes both ways, surely? And so there also needs to be understanding that forgiveness and understanding may not be instantaneous; resentment sometimes needs a little while to dissipate and be replaced by those other things.

He can take “no” for an answer when necessary.

In D/s, this is a trickier balancing act than in vanilla relationships: vanillawise, “no means no” is a pretty good general rule. In D/s, however, there’s a lot of play or structures that muddy the waters on that. That means there needs to be a way of judging when it is necessary to take the “no” as a genuine answer and not a part of play. Safewords help with that, of course. Codes for “out-of-scene” communication also can change the mode. Sometimes, though, it comes down to realising that there is in fact some kind of issue that needs attention, or a limit that needs to be observed, rather than an instinctive behaviour that the Sub would prefer the Dom checked.

He can devise or embrace alternate routes to his objectives.

This has a lot of truth in it, but I can’t help but feel that sometimes the route is the objective (see above remark on whether there’s a destination or not); that means not so much a different route as a different experience and objective entirely.

I have a few words on my own interpretation of patience and flexibility, as desirable traits to have. Patience need not be “deep investment”, nor “accepting of failings”. It can be a shorter-term, in-the-moment understanding that for the best effect, sometimes timing and waiting is also required. Some tasks take time to perform (or to learn) them well, and in those instances then a calm Dom will be much less pressure on hir Sub who is trying to do the best job zie can.

Flexibility, I believe, is valuable because circumstances change. Perhaps “adaptable” would be a good synonym here. Being set in one’s ways can become disastrous when the basis for those ways starts to shift. People’s capacities change over time, both in the long term and the short term. Accidents happen. In many ways the thoughts here are perhaps about specific versions of “embrace alternative routes”, but rather than thinking about an objective, this is about responding and seeing what objectives are immediately available and following those paths.

Knowledge of the body

Some basic sexual anatomy (like, where the clitoris/prostate is, depending on whether one’s partner is female or male) certainly helps, and in SM play, knowing the safer and definitely not safe areas to use various implements on, is a pretty important step. But Will’s notes seem to be directed a different way:

He can touch you in an observant way, or a directive one. He learns how to play your body like an instrument.

Key word/phrase: “learns how to”. It’s not something you can “look for” but something that you grow together, that you find out once you’re in a deeper relationship. I’m not clear on what Will means by “observant” and “directive” here, although the natural meanings of those words seem to imply respectively, “in a way to discover or notice things about” and “in a way to give directions or instructions”. Now, in that case, “observant” could still mean “discovering the intricacies and unique points of your body” (in which case, it’s part of getting to know each other), or it could mean, “finding out what state you are in right now” (in which case it is a form of non-verbal communication during play). Both are useful, and better with than without, but verbal communication can surely substitute, and some general patterns can be learned even if there is no particular skill for this, if a partner teaches through verbal communication as well as tactile experience. Again, being able to communicate non-verbally one’s directions or instructions is very pleasant, but it doesn’t seem essential.

He is aware of his own body. He can sense when either of you needs rest.

A saying that has stuck with me for nearly 20 years after a teacher showed it to me for my self-development, is “Go out of your mind and into your senses”. This is advice that I still struggle to achieve today (remember: I overthink EVERYTHING). Point being that my body is not my natural site of awareness. Indeed, one benefit of my masochism is that it is a way to draw me into my senses and out of my thoughts (although even then, not entirely). Paying attention to what’s going on for me physically is a relatively new skill that I am learning. When it comes to specifically sexual/kink awareness as a Top, it’s only in the last couple of years really that I have learned more about my body, and partly that was because of a partner wanting to explore my body in an observant way. To observe myself, I sometimes need to watch someone else observing me. Was I a bad Dom before then? I certainly don’t feel I was deficient in this regard (though maybe in others).

As for “sense when either of you needs rest” – the same points apply about needing to make an effort to go into my senses. And for a partner, the points above about not trusting my intuition come to mind. So I use check-ins or ask that my partner be aware enough to report (and I stay alert for if that might not be the case). Observation and communication, of course, mean it is possible to learn signs for one partner that maybe wouldn’t look the same in another, and I certainly believe that time and familiarity makes all these things easier to achieve.

Financial stability

Will’s notes make it clear that he’s not talking about having loads of cash or disposable income. This is just about being able to keep one’s head above water – or, as he puts it, “His debt to income ratio is manageable.” Which I suppose means just things like “can pay his bills on time”, “isn’t getting into a debt spiral on his credit cards”, and so on. Since for a while I was struggling with those things then yes, I can say with some confidence that being in a debt trap of that type is a dreadful thing. It’s an emotional drain, of course, and it also means that circumstances can change drastically for the worse making whatever foundation you establish for a relationship suddenly undermined.

Cares for himself

Unfortunately, this is one of those things that can come across as fatphobic.

While it is a sad fact that women on dating sites seem to need to specify that they want someone who bathes regularly, cleans their teeth every day and does the basic necessities like that (implying that too many men don’t), which may fall under the category “grooming”, Will’s focus isn’t on those basics:

He’s sensible about nutrition, sleep, exercise, grooming, clothes, car, etc.

Grooming, to me, means more than the basic care. It is something that I think one should look for in a partner, in that they have enough self-respect that when they go out in the world, they want to look at least passable – they don’t just do the basics, but they take care over how they present themselves. Some people are able to look amazing, others have to work at looking good, and of course, not everyone wants to look amazing, they just want to look like a presentable version of themselves. Even a casual, “accept-me-as-I-am” person, if they accept and care for themselves, will have an underlying level of grooming.

On the rest, it sounds good but feels off. “Nutrition” and “exercise” are the bits that set off my fatphobia metre, obviously. Too many people see a large waistline and assume they know all they need to know about that stuff. I have a history with comfort eating as an eating disorder, and I’ve come to accept that the weight I gained back then is not all going to come off. Nevertheless, I watch my portion sizes (although I eat like Toby Ziegler) and do a session of aerobic exercise at least every other morning and usually more often than that. I also happen to walk everywhere, which keeps me fit and active. None of that is obvious until you get to know me. Does my diet mean I am less worthy of being a Dom? I don’t happen to think so, because I enjoy my food and value that pleasure. I don’t count calories because I don’t value guilt as part of my life experience, I just make some effort to be aware of my body (see under “Knowledge of the body”) when I am eating. Is that “sensible” nutrition? Perhaps. But even then, I don’t know that it’s essential, except inasmuch as it can in some cases count as evidence for the other criteria.

On “sleep”, what does it mean to be “sensible”? Winston Churchill worked through the nights in WW2 (admittedly, that doesn’t make it sensible to do that, any more than his alcohol consumption was sensible). Some people seem to function well with little sleep, others (like me) tend to want a solid 8hrs a night in order to be at our best (and some people, like me, when there’s some event for which they need to be at their best, the previous night they spend most of it tossing and turning). Inasmuch as “sensible” can be assessed, it’s just part of knowing one’s own body again: being alert to when tiredness is affecting one’s abilities and capabilities.

If I have a query about what it means to be “sensible” on “sleep”, then I am completely baffled by what is meant by “clothes” and “car” in this context. I’m never going to be a fashion guru or personal style consultant or anything like that, and any time I go out somewhere special, I get a second opinion (in person where possible, by webcam if not) on my outfit before I leave. Does that make me a bad Dom? Or does “sensible” include being aware of the shortcomings and therefore relying on someone else’s judgement rather than my own? Inasmuch as “sensible” might have something to do with “clothes”, then I would suppose that it has to do with choosing an outfit that suits the occasion – I didn’t and wouldn’t wear the same things to see the opera at Glyndebourne as I wear when I’m relaxing at home, and wouldn’t wear my relaxing at home stuff to go on a date (or even up to the shops, my relaxing-at-home comfortable clothes are very slobby and I have more self-respect than to wear them in public). I wouldn’t wear my going-on-a-date outfit to go to a job interview (unless the invitation letter specified informal or smart-casual dress, perhaps). And so on. And I tend to get a second opinion on those decisions, too, just to be sure I pitch it right.

What does it mean to be sensible about “car”? Does a motorbike rider fail as a Dom? Heck, I don’t drive, and don’t particularly want or need to – does that disqualify me? Does having the “wrong” sort of car mean a person can’t be a good Dom? And if so, then what criteria determine the “right” or “wrong” type of car? Too big, too small, too flashy, not flashy enough? Inasmuch as I can make any sense of this at all (and, I guess, backed up by the heading of “cares for himself”), then it has to be not what the car is or if it exists, but rather assuming that the person is a car driver (or a motorbike rider) then do they drive safely and calmly? But that is just bringing the qualities from other aspects into the specific world of the car: someone who rants and raves at the slightest infraction or perceived slight by another driver will likely have difficulty with impulse and emotion control with you as well (see “patience” and “emotional sophistication” above). A person who drives recklessly or without regard for the speed limit, other road users, etc is someone who takes unwise risks (see “humility/confidence” above) and who does not care for those around them – the road users or their passenger (“emotional sophistication”, and “empathy”).


So after all that, how do I think I measure up on these criteria?

Has tried kink and craves more: Definitely true. 10/10.

Honesty and transparency: I believe that in the ways that matter, I am perfectly honest and when trust is there, and it’s appropriate, nothing is hidden any more. I respect the privacy of my former partners, and believe that this is part of being trustworthy. I am cautious, and respect others being cautious. 8/10, perhaps.

Vision and clarity: From the earlier remarks: I like some certainty about things, and I have clear ideas about what I am seeking in the long-term, of course … Inasmuch as I have a “vision” and “clarity” at the start, then it falls under my knowing what is or isn’t “good enough” under compatible life patterns and goals. To me, this seems like a good and proper position to take and a good foundation for building a relationship. About the same as above, 8/10.

Emotional sophistication: In terms of knowing my issues and being aware of where I’m at, I have had to learn these for my own sake, regardless of my relationships with other people. It makes me vulnerable if I show these things straight away, although I use them sometimes as material for this blog and my other writing, but I try to take good care of myself with it and hopefully not overshare. In terms of discovering a partner’s, I feel like I muddle through somewhat, but the “curiosity and fascination” point helps me a lot here. Between those two aspects, maybe 7/10.

Dedication to self-development: My whole adult life has been a story of working on my social and personal skills, learning about me, other people, and building my talents in other areas. It doesn’t stop, although sometimes I really struggle or have to put it on hold for a while. 9/10.

Curiosity and fascination: It’s impossible to talk specifically when I don’t have a specific partner to talk about, but I wouldn’t accept someone as my partner unless they fascinated me and I was eager to get to know them and about them. 10/10.

Appreciation and encouragement: Always part of my approach, to me it is as natural as the curiosity and fascination. 10/10.

Intuition and empathy: As discussed in the earlier notes, this is where I most doubt my ability. Curiosity and fascination coupled with muddling through on “emotional sophistication” seem to mean I do better than I expect. I have had good comments from partners on this but still doubt. I’ll give myself 6/10 but that improves with time to get to know a partner/hir getting to know me.

Humility and confidence: Slightly tongue-in-cheek, I said in the preamble that this post proves my humility, but it’s somewhat true: I know my flaws and failings (see “Emotional sophistication”) and I know what I can do well. Maybe my confidence is not always right up there, so I’ll mark this one at 8/10 (I could be more humble and more confident).

Sets limits and pushes limits: I had problems and disagreements that these were necessarily good things in the way they were framed in Will’s post. But I gave an example of how I set limits, and I also acknowledged that sometimes I meet the “pushes” element as well at least on one dimension. I bring the skills I have learned to helping others navigate their course, so I feel confident in scoring myself at around 7/10.

Patience and flexibility: In the terms introduced above, I had my own ideas about these things. I think finding the right balance is important with flexibility, and patience is a natural response to most things. It’s something I prefer to let others judge me on rather than judging myself, but feel like I do well on this. I’ll go for 8/10.

Knowledge of the body: I’m no doctor, nurse or other medical professional. In my mid to late teens, I read a lot about the female sexual anatomy, and eventually I got to try some of it in practical situations, so I know some. I talked above about needing a partner to look at me before I saw myself, I’ve worked to be more aware of my body and my senses, so there’s something there. I’m not brilliant, but I reckon I am somewhat better than average on both, better on partner’s than my own. 7/10.

Financial stability: I have no debt at the moment. I have a room of my own (although shared kitchen and contributing to household bills). I am out of work, alas, but determined and ambitious. My situation is stable and reliable, so 6/10.

Cares for himself: Probably my weakest area. I try to keep myself healthy and I exercise. I refuse to diet (it’s always “eat what you want with a bad conscience” – and guilt doesn’t help when stress/bad feeling is a trigger for comfort eating!) but try to watch my portion sizes. I do the basics, and take care over how I present myself. I don’t feel I fall down here, but it’s not a priority for me. Can I claim a 6/10? I think I will.

On the grounds explained in the notes above, it’s impossible to score “Vanilla chemistry” or “Compatible life patterns and goals”.


My average score, on this self-assessment, is actually 7.86 (mean), 8 (median). The lowest score was a 6, although sometimes I felt like giving myself a 5 – but focussed on the things that make me feel good instead of the things that my depression/anxiety whisper to me. I think I am above average, or at least, a passing grade, on all factors. The problem is when lists like these appear, they look like they want a 9 or 10 in every box, otherwise it’s a big fat zero.

What do I do with this? Part of me is saying, “People shouldn’t make these lists all perfectionist like that, so they should change” – or at least, “I don’t want them anyway!” Practically, though, a better option might be to remind myself of this list and the points where I scored myself highly or the points that made me not score myself a 5 or lower. And then say that I will contact them. I struggle with that sort of thing on job adverts, too, so there you go. And when it comes to getting my novel published, hopefully I can overcome that with a similar list.


About ValeryNorth

I overthink everything.
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7 Responses to The “looking for” lists and “Errare Humanum Est”

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  5. jemima2016 says:

    Good lord what a complete pile of bollocks from that Will bloke, its like a cosmo article without the glossy pages. To speak from the “I” which of course is all anyone knows, I think carter and i broke every single one of his rules….working instead from…erm we are grown ups, we respect each other, and oh yeah, full informed consent. Seriously, “has a fully worked out plan for the relationship” what is this bdsm advice or how to be christian grey in 5 easy steps! As for all the classist, fatshaming bullshit…this isnt how to look for a DOm, this is how to look for someone your gran would approve of!

    • ValeryNorth says:

      The saddest thing for me is just how common this kind of piece is around BDSM community websites (or used to be – I don’t even go on FL more than once or twice a month these days). As I noted above, it seemed like I couldn’t move for people telling me how perfect I must be as a Dom to be worth even considering!

      “Hi, Gran. This is the guy I’d like to spank me, tie me up and fuck me in the arse. Can I get your approval of him?” 😛

      • jemima2016 says:

        Every time i wonder if its worth rejoining fetlife, cos i did have some fun there, helpful stuff like this reminds me, naw, dont bother 😀

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