A beginner’s guide to role play: How to choose a sexual fantasy—and actually play it out

If you’re looking to spice things in up in the bedroom, combining your fantasies with your unbridled imagination might be the perfect thing for you. Role playing, in which partners take on new identities to fulfill a naughty fantasy, is more than a “sexy secretary and mean boss” scenario.

“Role plays can take on many forms and they may reflect values and desires that are entirely oppositional to those you pride yourself on in real life,” Dr. Jessica O’Reilly, host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast, tells HelloGiggles. “Oftentimes, the most appealing roles are those that stray most significantly from our lived reality. If you manage great responsibility at work or in the home, you may derive great pleasure from indulging in a submissive role. And if you spend most of your days catering to everyone else’s needs, playing a selfish role may be the perfect escape from reality.”

Role playing is an amazing way to act out your deepest desires while exploring taboo subjects, and will help you to connect with your partner in a fun and loving way since it requires deep communication. Even for the biggest actors or lovers of make-believe among us, it’s not uncommon to feel self-conscious or even silly when you first try to take on a role. While sexual role play doesn’t have to include costumes and props, it certainly can. If you’re curious about role playing, from the types of roles you can experiment with to which sexual positions you might want to try, we talked with sexperts to help you ease into it.

Figure out your fantasy

Whether you opt to have a one-night stand with a total stranger, plan a tryst with a long-lost love, or hook up with a young lover to show him or her the ropes, Dr. Jess says the possibilities for role play are endless. Some common roles involve escorts, athletes, cheerleaders, cops, teachers, doctors, tradespeople, strippers, and dominatrixes. Scenarios might involve love affairs, casual hook-ups, threesomes, hitchhiking, rewards or punishment, blackmail, photo shoots, travel, humiliation, teasing, or dominance and submission.

“Don’t get hung up on mainstream ideas,” says Dr. Jess. “The pizza delivery guy and French maid can make for hot routines, but push your limits and engage in your real fantasies. Just be sure to talk about your needs and boundaries ahead of time and establish a safe word or signal that you can use if you feel uncomfortable at any point in time. This safety precaution signals to your lover that s/he should stop right away and check in to ensure your well-being.”

Something important to remember? “[Change] details [in your role-play scenarios] to ensure that you do not incite your lover’s insecurities,” says Dr. Jess.

Negotiate your boundaries

“Whatever parts you decide to play, discuss them with your sweetheart ahead of time to negotiate boundaries and offer reassurance as needed,” says Dr. Jess. “If there are words, scenarios, or phrases with which you are uncomfortable, steer clear of them.”

If you’re feeling a little self-conscious, Dr. Jess says that turning the lights down low and waiting until you’re highly aroused before slipping into character can help to temper your inhibitions. “Dressing the part and assuming a fake name may also help ease you into it. As you engage more intensely with your role, it will start to feel more natural and you can stay focused on your pleasure as opposed to remaining in character.”

Set the scene

Need some help deciding what to do? Dr. Laura Deitsch, resident sexologist at Vibrant, Planned Parenthood’s sex toy e-tailer, offers up these scenarios.

Example #1: Meet a “stranger” in a bar and pretend to be cheating on a spouse on a business trip. Deitsch says you can even orchestrate an elaborate plot to meet out at an actual hotel bar, choose fake names, and flirt obviously in front of patrons and the bartender. “It’s a great high with little risk.”

Example #2: Someone can pretend to be a naughty student caught cheating by a dean. Punishment can be a spanking over the knee and having to write out an apology in a composition notebook while “servicing” the dean.

Example #3: Employee/employer. In this scenario, either can be the aggressor and you can get really creative as to who is blackmailing or manipulating the other. The moment of “truth” happens while having sex on a desk.

There’s a reason these classic scenarios work for so many people. “These are fun because it allows for exploration of different roles with different power structures, locations, and personality traits that might not be your dominant or preferred ones,” says Dr. Deitsch. “This way, you can try something on for size and see what you like and don’t like about it. Be as creative and prop-driven as you like. Elaborate role plays can last weeks in different locations with all kinds of moving parts, and simple ones can be as easy as a few lines shared between you to set the tone.”

For beginners, Dr. Deitsch recommends testing out a simple scenario in which each participant has some level of comfort with their role. For those already comfortable with role playing, she recommends doing it in public, using lots of props or costumes, different locations, or different contingencies where the partner needs to ad-lib on the fly.

No matter what you end up role playing, both Dr. Jess and Dr. Deitsch say it’s important to have fun.

“Don’t get caught up in doing anything perfectly, but don’t hold back either,” says Dr. Deitsch. “Commit to a role and give it all you have. It’s supposed to be make-believe, so relax, trust, and let go!”

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