Janet Hardy suggested that if you are single and looking, it is worth trying to identify clearly exactly what you want. This sounds obvious, but actually, as I myself have found, it is not that easy to articulate, and even if you do write it down, misunderstandings are common. To illustrate this fact, read the following paragraph in which I say what I'd like, and before reading further, jot down or preferably write in the comments at the foot of this page what you think I mean in practice. Ask your friends to write their own interpretations of this paragraph too. Then compare all the different responses.
I'd like to be taken in hand by a man who loves me. I'd like to be brought to submission by an even-tempered, kind, gentle, but firm man of good character. I'd like to be controlled by a lovingly dominant man who wants me to be happy. I'd like a more traditional relationship in which the man is the head of the household. I'd like it to be with a man so quietly confident that he is the head of our household, that he does not feel the need to bellow and bawl, or cut the connection by withdrawing into angry silence.
Now, for fun, write in the comments below specifically what you think I mean in practice, before reading on. Whether you are yourself looking for a partner or not, this will be a very enlightening exercise and useful to you and others, I think.
Part of the reason that different individuals will interpret the above paragraph in different ways is that it is not very specific. What do you mean by being taken in hand? What does it mean in practice to be brought to submission? Given that the word “control” usually means something very bad, as in “control freak”, whatever do I mean by that? And when I say “dominant”, do I mean that I want a man who will call me “slave” or “bitch” and make me kneel naked on the floor in front of him while he watches TV, my mouth open to act as human toilet if he doesn't want to use the bathroom? Do I want him to issue commands, military officer style, and demand obedience to his every whim, no matter how onerous his whims may be? Do I want to be patronised and bossed about like a school child? Do I want BDSM scenes? Humiliation? Pain? To be spanked over the knee?
Different individuals, coming at this from different perspectives, with different ideas, will have different interpretations. So when seeking a new relationship, or trying to introduce these ideas in an existing one, how can you minimise potential misunderstandings?
It is well worth creating a document that states what you think you want. This document should be editable because, trust me, your first attempt at writing down precisely what you want will prove to be inadequate at best. You will want to improve it over time. This will increase your self-awareness and understanding, and that is bound to be useful. For fun, each time you do a major edit, you could save the document as a new version. That way you will be able to look back and see how your understanding of yourself and what you want has improved over time. You will probably laugh at your first draft when you look at it in a year's time. You may be interested in how your wants themselves evolve over time too.
But before you attempt to write such a document, first collect together in another document any ideas you read about that you like, excerpts from email messages that speak to you. In yet another document, gather any quotes, excerpts, etc., which you find yourself reacting against. These documents will tell you more about yourself. Continue adding to them over time, and every now and then, read the documents and notice whether you still feel the same about each item. You might well find that in a year's time, half the stuff in the document of quotes you hate should now be in the other document, and vise versa. You might also find that some of the quotes that spoke to you initially now leave you indifferent, and that some of what you liked now seems simplistic or lacking insight. Create a new version of each document, making any necessary changes, as and when you feel like it. Such documents could, in themselves, convey considerable information to the person to whom you want to communicate what you want.
Secondly, create a document in which you yourself write down what you want, perhaps as follows:
First, write a broad brush strokes picture of what you want, giving the general idea. Do you have fixed ideas of what you want, or do you want the relationship to be evolvable, with on-going exploration and experiments and a willingness to back-track in the event an idea turns out to have been a dud?
Do you want an old-fashioned, chivalrous, deeply respectful relationship in which there is high contrast between the sexes and in which the man is the head of your household? Or do you want daddy-girl dynamics? Or do you want to be owned, collared, and the slave of a BDSM Dom? Or do you want a straight-forward (ha! It is never that!) DD arrangement with rules and spankings? Or do you want different things in different moods? Or different things when you are playing?
Next, get specific. What does this mean in practice? What will your man be doing? What tone of voice will he be using? How will he be addressing you? Write down quickly as many really specific examples as you can.
To make it more clear, next, write down what you don't want. This is worth doing because it will bring to light inconsistencies between your general picture of what you want, and your specific wishes. For example, in general, my impression of myself is that BDSM leaves me completely cold. But plenty of specific ideas I have could easily be considered BDSM scene ideas, even though they do not feel remotely like that to me.
If certain words evoke strong reactions from you, whether negative or positive, write those words down and describe the reaction each evokes, or at least write a list of words you hate. Does the word “sub” make you cringe? If your man were to say “I command you to…” would you find that rude and unacceptable, or would you experience it positively, like Petrucio's Kate did in the production of The Taming of the Shrew that I enthused about in this article? Whenever you notice a strong reaction to a particular word or tone of voice, add a note of it to your list.
Next, you could show your documents to selected friends and ask them to discuss your documents. This is bound to bring out many areas where clarification is needed, so will help you when you are editing it later.
Finally, consider submitting the document you have written yourself to Taken In Hand—I think such descriptions are absolutely fascinating and it would be interesting to read them. I think it is possible to learn a lot about what you want, by reading other people's ideas about what they themselves want, don't you? Oh, all right then, so I'm curious! :-)