Sexual role play 101
Niki Davis-Fainbloom
March 15, 2022

As someone who studied acting in high school and was on the road to becoming a sex educator, I assumed role play would come easily to me. But as I walked out of the house in a bright red dress and matching lipstick, I found myself sweating through my coat, anxious about how the night would unfold. The plan was simple: Go to a classy bar, take on a new identity, and see if sparks fly with the hot stranger at the bar who just happens to look a lot like my partner. My initial plan was to be a sexy alien that only had one night on Earth and required sperm as sustenance. However, when I arrived, I found myself speaking with an Italian accent (think a sexed-up “Super Mario”) and going with the typical scenario of a married woman looking for fun in a strange land. How did I end up in such unfamiliar territory? Like many, I knew firsthand how easy it can be to sink into routines with our partners and lose that initial excitement and exploration of the honeymoon phase. Although connection and love often increase over time, the more you live with your partner leaving their dirty socks on the floor or eating the entire apple (including the core!), the less erotic the environment can become. Role play was my way of infusing some much-needed spice back into the relationship.Sexual routines can help provide consistent pleasure for both people involved, but part of the reason that sex is different with each new partner is that we have numerous sexual identities that surface during different experiences. Role play can be a fantastic way for you and your partner to break out of your bedroom routine and explore new ways of interacting.

Why role play?

Another benefit of sexual role play is the opportunity to explore fantasies in a safer, more controlled environment. For example, many folks may be into the idea of having sex with a stranger, but not comfortable with the risks of actually doing it. Some of our fantasies also involve taking on identities that are not our own. Yes, technically, you can marry your crush's dad to become their stepmom or go to the police academy to become a cop—but exploring these dynamics in roleplay is undoubtedly easier. Furthermore, some fantasies cannot be explored IRL (such as sex with mythical creatures or characters on your favorite show). Again, role play is the only way to explore these dynamics!

How do you start sexual role play with a partner?

Discuss your fantasies! Conduct an honest conversation with your partner about the sexual scenarios you are both excited to explore. Some of the most common fantasies include multi-partnered sex, power, BDSM, exploring novelty, and engaging in taboo sex. There are many iterations of each category. For example, power play can include the dominant one taking on the role of a teacher, police officer, doctor, masseuse, or anyone who by definition has more power.Sometimes role play can involve an element of compromise. For example, how likely is it that your partner always wanted to be a slutty schoolgirl, and you always wanted to be a teacher who has no boundaries? Both partners should only do what they are comfortable with while also staying open to exploring the other's fantasies. The important thing is that both partners' desires are considered—instead of one partner calling all the shots. If one partner chooses the first role play, the other person should choose the next one.Your race, gender, size, geographic location, sexual orientation may impact what you were taught about sex and the fantasies that feel socially appropriate to explore. Try to analyze any perceived restrictions and discover what truly excites you…without limitations! The possibilities are truly endless, and role play is an opportunity to explore what may feel taboo or unsafe to explore in the real world.

Exploring consent during roleplay

It is imperative to ensure sustained consent throughout sexual role play. There can be a fun way to do this without losing character. For example, you can say, "Oh, doctor, if you touch my leg one more time, I may have to get on my knees,'' or "Ms. Patient, if you keep rubbing your nipples like that, I may be forced to lick them." The nifty thing about this type of communication is that it keeps the scene going—but it also allows participants to communicate consent as the scene escalates. So, for example, if the patient didn't want her nipples licked in the second situation, they could stop rubbing them and engage in a different action.It would help to select a word that indicates that it’s time to pause the scene. It is essential to know which spoken words are within character and which ones are not, especially when any power play is involved. Pick a word at the beginning, like “cut” or “grapefruit,” and make sure both partners know to pause the scene when that word is spoken.

Settling on the specifics

Once you’ve decided what dynamic to explore, you and your partner can discuss the specifics. For example, say you decide that you are both aroused by the idea of exploring power, specifically the doctor-patient dynamic. Are there any hard noes or hard yeses? Are there any words you want to hear or don't want to hear? How do you envision the scene ending? Of course, you can always look for pop culture examples or discuss the specifics over text beforehand if jumping right in is too much.Role play is most successful when it occurs in a different environment than usual. The more you can change the setting, the easier it may be to get in the zone. This can be done by wearing costumes, going to a new place, or even leaving and entering the room in character. As with anything, when you are exploring new territory, I recommend starting slow and escalating. For example, perhaps your first role play takes place in your house, and then you build toward playing new characters in the real world.In order for sexual role play to work, both partners need to suspend disbelief and embrace the silliness. Don’t judge or self-censor; rather, be open to sounding funny or a bit ridiculous. If you giggle, that is fine—just get back into character. Role play is about pushing boundaries and exploring, but joy and connection should be at its core…even when you are a bad boy who is getting spanked for not completing his homework!