“The element of play has an important role in my life, and I think that should be the case in the life of every artist. Our life is occupied with playing, whether we play an instrument or a role.” –Dietrich Fischer- Dieskau
Our popular culture as of late has been so thoroughly saturated with a certain kind of role-playing that it is hard to imagine any other kinds, or why anyone outside of hardcore kinksters would want to enjoy it… thanks a lot Fifty Shades. Yet the essential core of role-playing is not situated in the darkest, scariest dungeon for most, but is instead based upon a change in scenery or a change in the motions. Arguably, we has human beings are always playing roles, whether that be our gender or our professions, or perhaps as entertaining friend and supportive family member, these are all roles. Many believe these to be simply inherent in life and in a sense that is true, because we have established as a culture that that is how our social system works: you must have one gender, you must have one profession, and you must be one person at all times. Yet, these constraints on ourselves can be subverted and it is often through that subverting that we can find pleasure and sometimes find a place where we truly feel like ourselves.
There is immense power in being able to decide who and what you are. Whether for erotic purposes or not, role-playing is a wonderful exercise in the meaning and use of power. Some would understand power as inherently oppressive or problematic as the saying that power corrupts is common among our culture and popular in movie plotlines- power is simply the interaction between beings. This includes the power people have when they freely give their power to another or when that person accepts that power with respect and a humbling appreciating of that gift. You see this kind of loving exchange of power in fulfilling Dominant and Submissive relationships, where the submissive has a resounding amount of power because they have the ability to give it to their Dominant. Yet, the exchange of power within role-play goes beyond the dungeon and BDSM relationship; you can find it when people use the scenario of teacher/ students, employer/ employee, or doctor/ patient. While these kinds of dynamics can breed abuse and illegal activities in active life, within a safe and agreed upon circumstance the power dynamic can be heightened or completely changed for sexual arousal in a positive and fulfilling way.
There are many types of role-playing, really too many to list, and often mainstream society feels uncomfortable with some of them because they may seem deviant or problematic if practiced in active life. This may include Priest/ Choirboy, Mommy/ Child or the feminization of men for example. What must be stressed here is that those who participate in role-playing for erotic purposes (and many people do), they do not necessarily want to practice those roles outside in their active life and in fact the reasons why some enjoy the schoolgirl look (for example) is complicated and does not mean that that individual wants to have sexual relations with an underage girl. Remember that power dynamics are always in play in our lives and during role-playing, power can be even more relevant as for example- an individual may feel less powerful around a person dressed like a schoolgirl because it reminds them of the dynamics in highschool and this arouses them.
For some, they explore role-playing because they want to spice up their sex life and this can be achieved in many different ways. A scene can be set by using only one piece of clothing or an entire outfit, perhaps one toy or an entire stage of props. For some, they enjoy role-playing by pretending they do not know a partner but instead meet them for the “first time” in a bar. Essentially what I am saying is that role-playing can be a wonderfully creative expression of love and sexuality and that there is no one formula for everyone to follow. What I do caution for those interested in role-play is that you do it in a relationship with a partner you trust. While this may seem limiting, it is because role-playing successfully requires a lot of communication between people and without trust and respect already established the power dynamics could turn problematic and abusive. Consent is so important and if things are not discussed beforehand then there is no consent, which is illegal. The element of surprise should be sacrificed in this sense. An option is to have an agreed upon signal such as a certain necklace or pair of socks which indicates that your partner is interested in enacting a previously agreed upon scene, and that the other partner has signaled in their own way through an agreed upon statement that they are also interested. Communication is absolutely necessary with role-playing.
So why not try spicing it up? With communication and some planning, your night could turn into a fantasy which is titillating and erotic in a safe and positive environment. Open up to your partner about fantasies you have and be open to theirs as well. Being supportive and non-judgmental leads to better relationships, sex and role-playing for all involved. Start with an outfit or prop and experiment from there. Above all, remember that sex is supposed to be fun and fantasies are just an extension of that.
So may your fantasies come true.