4 Tips For Role-Playing Without Making It Weird

In all honesty, I think the most successful example of role-play I’ve ever seen was on Sex and the City, when Samantha takes advantage of her boyfriend’s acting talent as an excuse to never learn his actual name (inspirational, truly). Beyond the fact that this is performed between professional actors, I feel like the reason the scene works so well is because Samantha has the precise attitude of “what is this emotion you call shame” required to make any potentially embarrassing sex stuff fun—and role-play is by far at the top of that list. After all, there’s something inherently weird about pretending NOT to be yourself while literally baring your naked self to the world (or in my case, baring my French maid-clad self to my high school boyfriend, who proceeded to sigh and tell me I was really annoying when I smoked pot).

But, since I’m not one to let the ghosts of 17-year-old asshats deter me, I’ve recently been getting back into the idea of making this work—beyond the opportunity to wear something as useless as it is hot, I love the idea that adopting certain roles gives you and your partner permission to try something you might never do in real life, like a trial run at a felony offense a new personality. As I inch closer to springing this idea on my poor, unsuspecting boyfriend, here are some tips I’ve gathered to make your first role-play experience less traumatizing better than mine.

1. Pick A Fantasy Together

For starters, if you’re the kind of person who’s deeply curious about what porn your boyfriend watches but feel you can’t ask (relationships with “boundaries” are so cute), any discussion about role-play should give you a good starting hint. If you want to take this further, watching some porn together and learning more about what you’re both into is your best bet for finding a scenario that turns both of you on—and it’s all in the name of research, so you should basically get college credit here. If neither of you watch porn, one of you is lying you can toss around preferred sex scenes from non-pornographic movies, or just go straight to your favorite nonspecific masturbating material. Nonspecific is key here; your boyfriend is not going to role-play “hot stranger from the subway” with you if you start describing the hair color, eye color, and book choice of a clearly real person you saw and wanted to have sex with.

2. Dress The Part

I’m not saying your boyfriend needs to roll up in a fully authentic fireman’s uniform—in fact, I kind of discourage that level of commitment. But you know how just dressing up for a night out can make you feel 75% sexier/more likely to do something out of character? You want whatever you’re wearing to give you that effect, on steroids. If you think you look ridiculous in your outfit, chances are you won’t be alone in that opinion. But if you catch sight of yourself in a blond wig and fishnets and feel the urge to introduce yourself as your seductress alter ego, you’ve probably stumbled upon a good fit.

3. Choose The Setting Wisely

Particularly if you live together, it’s going to be very difficult for you two to peel off to respective rooms, change, and meet back in a common space—but now as two totally different people. If possible (aka, if your respective outfits are more than lingerie/leather straps), meet somewhere sexy and public, like a hotel bar. That way, you get to plan your entrance, practice being your role-play character in the minds of the strangers around you, and not be thinking about how two hours from now, you’ll be watching TV and eating Cheetos with each other on the same couch you’re currently pretending is the floating door from Titanic (what? People totally do this).


4. Figure Out What’s Turning You On

This is a more general piece of advice, but it’s also the most useful and will help simplify the rest of this process. Typically, role-play is not hot because you finally get to live the life of Sadie, the 35-year-old librarian who grew up in Wisconsin and once dreamed of being a ballerina. It’s always some underlying feeling to the character or situation that makes it sexy, like the feeling of having more or less power, the thrill of doing something dangerous or taboo, or inhabiting whatever persona you’ve always viewed as being desirable. If you know going in that the turn-on is about doing something that’s forbidden, have your boyfriend focus the dialogue on how Jughead could walk in any minute, and spend less time fuming about the fact that he refused to dye his hair Archie-red (people DEFINITELY, DEFINITELY do this).

All in all, I think people who have given role-play a bad name are people who do what I did: go into a situation where one person is far more invested/on board than the other, and inevitably end up feeling humiliated and exposed. If this is a fun thing planned between you and your partner, there shouldn’t be that fear (and if there is, dump them). If you can do karaoke in front of someone, you should be able to get past the fact that both of you ended up hating it when you put on a schoolgirl skirt—and if role-play starts going wrong, giving up the game and just stripping down to your same old naked self should be enough of a distraction to gracefully move on.