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Playing the Part: Roleplay 101

By: Carol Queen, PhD

Role Play

Sometimes you just want to be somebody else for a while. And there may be no better place to explore that than during sex! Whether you're full-on kinky or vanilla with sprinkles, you can liven up your sex life and explore new kinds of erotic fun via role-play. It can be a way to act out (or more deeply engage with) fantasies; it can help you step up to new styles of play, like BDSM; it can even help if you tend to be introverted and shy. 

New to role-play?

Start by thinking about roles you feel drawn to or find erotic. You can actually do role-play by yourself, but it's extra-fun and sexy when you have partners who want to participate too. And if you're going to do that, you'll want to choose some compatible roles to take on. But before you even have the "do you want to paint yourself blue and play Avatar?" conversation, try the classic pretending to be strangers game. Meet at the park, introduce yourselves by new names, pick each other up! Big fun, and you don't even need to wear a costume. 

About costumes

They can unlock the delights of role-play, so you really might want to explore them. Halloween is on the way, wear something to the party that will erotically inspire you when you get home! The power of a costume is that the expectations we have of it (and the role it represents) help shape the logic of the erotic scene you can build while wearing it. You have very different expectations of a person wearing a delivery outfit versus a French maid's uniform, right? Costumes, leather, and lingerie can project gender (a fun thing to play with for many), power relationships (core to the thrill of much BDSM), and help guide your exploration of the role the costume is associated with. 

Power play and roles

Maybe you and your partner know you want to engage in some BDSM play... but where to get started? Role-play can help you get into character to explore dominance and submission, in so many different contexts. Are you a submissive secretary who flips the script on your bossy boss? The librarian who demands quiet by putting you in a ball gag? Let your imagination set the stage for whatever fantasy you enjoy!

Role-play for the shy

It can be challenging to engage in new kinds of erotic play if you're shy. You just don't see yourself as someone with the nerve to be that sexually outgoing! Role-play can be a way to sideline your shyness for a little while as you explore what it's like to be that character with all that power. I wrote Exhibitionism for the Shy to help people who feel stuck in nervousness, and the book is full of ideas, role-play being one. It is definitely a fantastic tool, because role-play is, let's face it, play. And best of all, it's free-form, but gives you inspiration and context. 

Speaking of inspiration

Honestly, you don't even have to do anything if you're not ready...just talk from the point of view of your chosen role! This is a sexy way to get into erotic talk, too, and it's fun to explore whether you want to put on an outfit or try a new sex act or dip your toe in power play. Just talk it out! Like a live fantasy. If you need inspiration, verbally act out erotic stories you've read and liked. It's so much fun and it can help you decide what kind of next steps you might feel ready for. Pro tip: Even if you are just talking, negotiate what's comfortable. Are there words and names you would rather not hear? Kinds of sex you don't even want to talk about? Your limits should be honored, so make sure your partner knows what to say/do, and what not to say or do! 

So... who do you want to be tonight?