Sexual role-playing is a way to bring a new energy of creativity and spontaneity to your sex life. You give yourself and your partner permission to try on a new skin and “be” someone else…someone else who you don’t know well and who therefore brings newness and excitement to your sexual interactions.
This is similar to the fantasy play of childhood, where we created fortresses or homes, battlefields or nights out at the dance club (in my household in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Barbie loved going to the disco). As kids, we created imaginary worlds that either we and our friends were characters in, or our dolls and action figures were. It was a practice in teamwork, exploration, and improv.
This is what sexual role-playing as an adult is about. What fantasy scenario do you want to create, so that you and your partner get to explore new aspects of yourselves, and surprise yourselves and each other? There is truly no right or wrong as long as everything is consensual. But it can be easy for one or both people to get caught up in their heads or feel blocked by embarrassment.
You can build this way of thinking outside the box as a new skill, and I have two suggested activities to do so:
1. Have you ever played that game where you’re out to eat with another person or a group, and you start making up stories about the people you see at other tables? “That couple must be on a first date,” or, “I think that’s a father and son, and it must be his weekend with his son.” You will probably never talk to these people to confirm your story but that’s not the point — the point is that you’re taking a few cues from what you see and feel, and you’re running with them to create a cogent story.
This activity can help you build that imaginative story-telling muscle in your brain, so start doing this for a few minutes every time you’re out! (But please don’t make it obvious because I don’t want others to feel stared at or judged.) If helpful, start with these five questions:
1. Where do they live?
2. Where did they grow up?
3. Why are they out at this restaurant with the other person/group right now?
4. What is their occupation/favorite class in school?
5. What’s their favorite hobby?
And as you tell your story to your table mate(s), elaborate on made-up details for each of these topic areas. Allow your table mate(s) to add details to your story so that it is a collaborative process. Have fun with it!
2. Have you ever read erotica out loud to yourself or a partner? This can feel particularly vulnerable and embarrassing…which is why it’s an excellent activity for building comfort around sexual communication and story-telling.
The easiest place to start is for each of you to find a short erotic story online — a story that feels sexy to you (but not necessarily something that you want to actually do). Once you’ve chosen your stories, print them out (which is much better than reading from an electronic device because technology is too distracting when building new skills in vulnerability, presence, and communication). Then schedule a time for about 15 minutes, to read your stories out loud to each other. Try to get into the characters and express the emotions and sensual energy.
It’s OK if you think this is silly. Labeling something as too silly or judging something as stupid can be a defense mechanism to protect yourself from feeling vulnerable and exposed to being judged. Choose to push yourself outside your comfort zone a bit, while also ensuring that you and your partner are being kind and nonjudgmental to each other.
Over time, if you continue to practice these short exercises outside of the bedroom, you’ll build skills that can translate into the bedroom. Role-playing allows you to step into new characters, new excitement, and endless sexual possibility.
~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus — San Diego Intimacy Speaker, Relationship Coach, & Sociologist