Revolutionary Girl Utena, isn't a series about normal people, common emotions, and everyday life. Wakaba is hardly exempt from this, but she's nonetheless the closest thing Revolutionary Girl Utena gets to a stereotypically average person. In true schoolgirl fashion, Wakaba is an energetic, enthusiastic, gossip-loving, average C student. There isn't anything particularly exceptional about Wakaba, and in action she's no different than 90% of the students in the school. The only thing that makes her exceptional is her friendship with Utena. In her darkest hour (her Black Rose duel) she truly stands out, but even then the issue she takes to the arena is far from uncommon among normal teenage girls, though I dare say it's not often resolved in such ways. Otherwise, Wakaba can be said to represent the average, totally normal schoolgirl in both action and mentality.
This rings true even in her love for Saionji. Remember the scene in episode 9 ("The Castle Said to Hold Eternity") where Saionji and Touga duel in the kendo room, amongst a crowd of adoring fans? Here they both get equal amounts of support. Despite Saionji's rather dismal reputation among Revolutionary Girl Utena fans, this is actually no surprise. Touga and Saionji are often seen together by the students of Ohtori Academy, causing them to amass groups of their own in the fashion that bands do. The Beatles are a good example of this. The Beatles were a group of men that while usually attractive (Ringo got better with age), would not have amassed such a crowd if they were each individual musicians. However they were put together, and girls saw them all at once, and that made the whole more appealing than the parts. This applies to Touga and Saionji, both of whom would have amassed fans on their own, but as a pair they are as Gods among the school's blushing throngs.
Their status as a pair in the eyes of the school makes for greater publicity, and instead of simply having fans, Touga and Saionji become points of comparison among the girls. In the time of the Beatles a group of friends always had a Paul fan, a John fan, a Ringo fan, etc. Aside from lusting after them, it was actually a personality reference. John fans often had similar personality traits, as did Paul fans, so you came to know to what expect from the various groups. Similarly, when someone at Ohtori says they like Saionji, you can expect certain traits to be present in them that are altogether different from the traits of a Touga fan. Touga and Saionji are two extremes in personality that tend to hold an equal amount of appeal among girls. Touga is a Casanova. A seducer. Saionji is a strong, silent, angsty type. Though being a mate to either of them would make a girl the submissive party, being with Touga would satisfy the need to need, while being with Saionji would satisfy the need to be needed. They require two different but very widespread personality types, so that saying you like one over the other will give away something about who you are. In this way Touga and Saionji are the pop culture of the school, and though every girl on the campus knows which she likes better, the actual number of girls who pursue them is much less.
Wakaba is a member of the smaller group (if you can call it that) of girls that actively chases the man of her preference. This alone tells you one thing about Wakaba: she has balls of steel. Particularly to chase Saionji, who probably has a reputation for not taking his fans as cordially as Touga, and doesn't have as many active followers as a result.
of Saionji's fans are genuine submissive personalities. Some of these
girls will find an outlet for this in BDSM fetishism later in their
lives, but this is probably not the case for Wakaba, the reason being
that Wakaba has considerable maternal tendencies, and probably associates
being needed with wife roles like mothering, cooking, and cleaning.
(As opposed to sex, which is where BDSM takes it.) She gets sincere
pleasure out of caring for those around her, a good example being
the lunch she makes for Utena in episode 19 ("Song of the Fallen Kingdom").
In this scene, we see Wakaba practically cart-wheeling because she's
feeding her precious Utena. This need to nurture draws her to a man
like Saionji. He has, as the strong and silent type often does, a
visible measure of vulnerability and angst. It's not obvious so that
you could point it out on any one occasion, but it's there. A girl
like Wakaba, a nurturing "bride", would seek this vulnerability out
in a man, because THAT would be a man that needed her.
Wakaba's maternal nature leads her to noticing Saionji's angst most immediately. Because angst is never just angst, she then looks for what's right below his hostile surface. She sees Saionji as having a kinder, gentler side that he's for some reason unwilling to exhibit. This is in no way helped by his treatment of her in the Black Rose episodes. During his stay at Wakaba's place he behaves altogether different from what we see at any other point; he's affectionate, kind, concerned, and giving. Though his reasons for behaving this way are rather ambiguous, it is decent fuel for legitimizing Wakaba's view of him. Wakaba believes that Saionji needs someone who loves him. By being loved, he'll be able to break free of his hang-ups and be the loving, caring Saionji she fantasizes he is. (Whether or not this is actually true about Saionji is a whole other essay.)
Also, Wakaba's source of self-esteem is her kindness to others. People pay attention to her because she's so nice. Though this makes her easy to walk all over (a subject Revolutionary Girl Utena doesn't really deal with), in Ohtori it also stands to be the only thing that draws attention to her aside from sitting next to Utena. For Wakaba, beyond just being a nice girl, acting this way helps her feel like an individual, and it distinguishes her from the crowd she is otherwise lumped in with. This makes Saionji also represent the ultimate ego boost in her mind.
So Wakaba adores Saionji. That brings up an important issue for her: how much abuse can she take? This is something even the most nurturing person can expect to deal with from Saionji, he's a hostile person and makes little to no effort to publicly conceal it. Wakaba is not submissive in a way that she would garner pleasure from physical (or mental) abuse. (A genuine fondness for physical abuse is rare even among BDSM submissives.) However, Wakaba is quite a determined individual, and won't be fazed by much of anything in light of her goals. While ideally she would pass on the abuse, Wakaba is the type of person willing to take a few hits for a greater cause. She does, however, have a breaking point, and no doubt would eventually leave Saionji if she thought she was just taking abuse and making no progress with him. She is NOT a person who will stay in an abusive relationship out of love. She will take abuse only if she thinks she can 'save' him, so to speak.
One remark made by Wakaba begs explanation, because it expresses a differing opinion of Saionji from what I've described.
Utena: So, is Saionji going out with that Himemiya girl?
Wakaba: Not even! Tough old Saionji-sama could never have any feelings
for a girl like her.
Now, there are a couple layers to this statement. The first of which is denial. Wakaba doesn't want to believe they're dating, because that would destroy her chances with him. Using "tough" to describe him is simply an elaboration of this.
Second, it indicates a deeper down assessment of her romantic superiority to Anthy. Anthy shows no emotion when around Saionji. Because of this, Wakaba is under the (correct) impression that while Anthy is very much playing the role of the housewife to him, she's denying Saionji of emotional support of any kind, or any of the affection Saionji tries so hard to beat out of her. Wakaba views herself as much better for Saionji, because she would bring out the best in him, instead of the worst—and that is indeed Anthy's shining talent. Her use of the word "tough" in this line, has much less to do with Saionji and much more to do with Wakaba's denial of him being any way but the way she wants him to be. As though to identify him as something different from how she sees him will distance his behavior around Anthy from what she visualizes his behavior around her would be. She wants to believe that he NEEDS her, that no one else can do for him what she can.
The wording also suggests a level of secrecy, because she doesn't actually mention her crush on Saionji, and dodges answering when Utena brings it up. She only admits to the crush when she can't deny it. This is because in a way, she's ashamed of her attraction to Saionji. Not, as you would think, because he's abusive, but because he's popular. She's a little person. A normal girl. Nothing special about her. And deep down, she knows that because of this, she'll never win Saionji, so she feels silly even dreaming about it. This is why when describing him to Utena, she deliberately pushes him away from what she wants him to be. As if saying 'he's hurting inside' would give away that she has feelings for him, despite her being fully aware of her slim chances of having him. Which was a correct assessment, however, she gives herself away anyway, being the classic example of the lady who "doth protest too much".
Wakaba finally gets what she wants in the Black Rose Arc. For just a while, Saionji is totally dependant on her, to the degree she's paying for his lunch. (Which raises questions about Saionji's income, but that's another subject.) Saionji, in turn, was highly appreciative, kind to the degree one would expect from a person sponging off another. Though Saionji probably saw this is just being courteous to someone who was giving him a hand, Wakaba interpreted this kindness as the manifestation of her suspicions about him. Saionji was showing his sweet sensitive side under Wakaba's guiding hand. This period of time was probably the happiest in Wakaba's life, because she was reveling in the all-consuming joy of actually having her crush. Of course, she soon finds herself betrayed. When her belief that she could help Saionji is crushed, it opens the floodgates for her to dig up an otherwise buried part of her psyche. That's the power of the crush; she flew high and fell hard. However, in true Wakaba fashion, she gets up and on her feet abnormally fast and moves on—to crushing on Akio. Fine taste this girl has.