NSFW: 7 People Share Their Experiences With Sexual Role Play – For Better Or Worse

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Sexual role play is arguably something that every sexually active person has tried at some point. Whether premeditated or not, sex can be so painfully awkward at times that one can accidentally slip into a performance. It might be a desperate attempt to plaster over the sound of balls thwacking on your gooch, the rickety creak of your parents' bed, or the fact that an image of your nana in the bath just popped into your head.

Of course, there are people who engage more professionally in the world of role play – people who take it much more seriously than the odd porny moan or accent. Introducing a multiplicity of roles into your sex life – whether the dom and the sub, or the check-out girl and the detective – is often about finding a less emotionally confrontational way to access your desires and fantasies, without having to be dead serious about the reasons why you want someone to treat you like Lauren who works at the local Lidl.

When I was nineteen for example, I was obsessed with the Oscar-robbed detective movie Taking Lives – Angelina’s best work. I was dating a much older guy and when he asked me what I wanted to try in bed I told him I wanted to "watch Taking Lives and let me be Angelina, just for one night." The sex was drying up, and our foray into the sex lives of a Box Office flop was enough to keep us going for another two weeks. It was also a vehicle for me to really express just how submissive I wanted to feel during sex at that time, and the Jolie-cum-serial-killer setup made it much easier to do that.

Role play takes endless forms, from gender play to kink to "real life"’ recreations and acting out extreme fantasies. It must be practiced with caution, however and the most integral parts of practicing role play and kink are trust and consent. When you’re engaging in sexual activity, as anti-sexual violence organisation Rainn explains, communication, agreement and physical cues are key for making sure everyone knows what's going down, and that they're happy with it.

To find out more about role play, I asked seven adults what kind they practice in the bedroom, why they think they do it and what it’s taught them: from a doctor and nurse, to a busty German secretary and a macho business man... turns out people get up to all sorts. Scroll on for more...
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Laurence, 33, Theatre Producer

This was our first foray. Probably very tame compared to most hardcore role players. It was accidental. I was looking for some baggy shorts to sleep in in my boyfriend's wardrobe and I came across his old scrubs. I knew he'd been a nurse but knowing he had the uniform spiked my curiosity.

I made a joke about it. "Put it on... It will be a laugh etc…" A few weeks later we did it in a more choreographed way; the first 10 minutes flipped between hilarious and sexy, but after a while the irony and faux awkwardness settled as we found a better balance. I played the patient being assessed, using his medical vocabulary as innuendo and delicately checking my areas. Quite Carry On film. Half way through, the dynamic shifted (with consent) into something more hierarchical: I was then the doctor, training a nurse. It finished this way.

Role play works if you don't think too hard and keep a sense of humour because obviously the boundaries of reality need to be stretched.

I think the 'role' aspect – distancing yourself from personal identity – makes things more interesting by allowing greater freedom to assume a submissive or dominant role. The paradox is that it is also safer because you're always a hair's breadth from reality. It could be just a look or a word to make things 'normal' again.

It takes the fun out of it to explain it. It was really fucking hot. It can definitely bring something new and interesting to a sex life. The next step might be going public. Strangers meet on the tube... Rugby coach and trainee...
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Audrey, 26, Sex Worker

Without a doubt the most commonly requested role play I get is the 'sexy secretary' who is caught doing something compromising and has to prove just how much she wants to keep her job. Sometimes she'll get a bit of spanking too, a la [the film] Secretary. I think it's a very familiar framework for most people that have worked in an office, and probably a site of a fair few unrealised colleague crushes and daydreams. It's therefore pretty easy to get straight into and doesn't feel too 'am dram'.

I think with this one customers enjoy the gentle power dynamic of being in charge and also the suggestion that a 'colleague' is actually a secret nymphomaniac. I'd imagine they probably also like the notion of sex in a forbidden space like the office. They enjoy the outfit too: sexy lingerie under tight work attire. It's a pretty straightforward role play, and one I'm always happy to deliver.

Role plays rarely surprise me to be honest – role plays are, by their nature, populated by stock scenarios. Regardless of the specific setting, they pretty much always boil down to familiar key components. Although sometimes, mid-role play, a client will start dropping hints about new, unexpected elements that they've been too shy to mention in advance. You'll suddenly realise that they're hinting about something else, and you have to adapt it as you go.

Sometimes it has gone wrong, especially if the scenario is overly complicated. Once I did a role play set on a pirate ship with a client that wanted to play both the dastardly Captain and the Captain's twin brother, who gives his wife – me –to the pirate to teach her a lesson. He'd do different accents to signify which one he was meant to be, but he was German, so this was already quite confusing. I lost the plot and had to keep breaking character to ask who he was. Not very sexy.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Meredith, 27, Advertising

I came out of – what I thought at the time was – a serious, long term relationship around six months ago. OK, I didn't come out of it. I got dumped. And it was the first time in my life that had happened. It was a real blow to the ego; I don't think this guy was necessarily the guy I should be with forever, but I definitely felt that things had ended prematurely.

Anyway, since the break up, my attitude towards casual sex with men has been very different to how it used to be; I've never had a problem with sex on the first date, although I'd never had a one night stand either. But lately, my openness to these kind of encounters seems to have ramped up a notch. The last few times I've slept with a guy, I have taken a much more dominant role and even instigated role play in public.

I met one guy, Joseph, at a bar. I was out with some friends who were in a couple and they were having an argument. So I looked around, spotted the hottest guy in the room, walked over to him, and started making conversation. A few drinks later, we were kissing in a corner, and went home together. It was exciting to be having a one night stand again after such a bullshit breakup, and the sex was surprisingly good. That said, we didn't have a great deal in common and I think that was plainly apparent to us both.

Probably for that reason, the next time he asked if I wanted to "hang out" he cut to the chase and invited me straight round to his house. I told him I had a better idea. I asked him to meet me in the same bar where we had first become acquainted. When I got there, I introduced myself as someone else. He immediately read my signals and cottoned on. He played along, making up a fake name, career and even acting a little differently – less brazen and more coy, understanding that I wanted to be in charge. After a while he said, politely, "I'd like to see you again". I replied: "why don't you see in the bathroom in five minutes." He headed there and waited for me.

I can't say I'd ever had sex in a public toilet before, or that I would again (not the most sexy environment), but hey – it wasn't technically me doing it. I like to think my alter ego would try everything... once.

I mention this experience because I think of it as a turning point – it gave me a taste of being in control, and made me realise that I want to experiment with being more dominant or playing a role in future. I've been watching a lot more BDSM porn since, and although I'm yet to act out any of these fantasies in my own life, I see that as simply waiting for the right person.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Gemma, 28, Fashion Buyer

My ex-girlfriend got really turned on by the idea of me having sex with an until-then "straight" girl, and used to ask me to tell her stories about all the times I had taken a girl's "gay virginity". One day, this evolved into a sexual role play, whereby she was the straight girl discovering her true sexuality, and I was, well, me.

After a few unoriginal scenarios like "two best friends realise they have feelings for each other and accidentally make out at sleepover" she wanted to up the ante. Soon, we had moved onto "gay mum meets straight mum at the school gates", or "closeted intern sleeps with power lesbian boss". It was always fun – if not sexually, because someone would always break character by laughing. However, it eventually became clear that we had to draw the line when we started discussing period drama ideas... her fantasy of "straight nurse sleeps with gay nurse in hospital bed during Crimean war" was just too... niche.

I think it turned us both on because; a) it played on the idea of something taboo, which we had always found sexy in other ways: e.g. fucking in public or sleeping with people you're not supposed to. And b) because it created a sense of novelty, each time was, in a make believe way, someone's first time. And that was strangely cute and special.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
AJ, 26, Photographer

At the moment I'm seeing this guy and... we have amazing "fighting sex". I'm not sure what the proper term is. We met at a sportswear-themed sex night. He is huge and muscly with big winged tattoos across his chest. I was wearing boxing shorts and hand wraps when we met. We just looked at each other and didn't drop eye-line. He came over, we smiled at one another, and then he threw me onto a bed that was next to me in the club and we started to play fight.

At the end, we swapped numbers and the next time we met I went to his place. He opened the door and grunted hello. He told me to take my T-shirt off and then flipped me onto the bed. I told him to bring what he had and we fought again.

As a gay man, when I'm in a place where there's a huge choice of guys, whether that's in a sex club, dark room, club, park or even online, I've found that I get much more success when I'm not just another body in the room: getting into role play and playing a character does that. I'm just a skinny, white boy but when I take on a character, whether that's wearing football kit, boxing kit, leather police uniform or whatever, someone there might be into it. It immediately makes them double take and gets them excited. I think it's all about confidence and standing out from the crowd. If you have a better fetish attitude than the guy standing next to you, you're gonna have more experimental and exciting sex that people wouldn't usually try.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Jonathan, 24, Researcher

The role play I have engaged in has been more based on gender than hierarchy: although I guess "hierarchy" comes into it in that me and my partner often switch into a very normative gendered scenario when we are role playing.

I am a red head vixen called "Wanda Klingelman" with beautiful big breasts. I wear dresses, make up, underwear, and I tuck my penis so I have what tacky sex-lit books would call a "mound". My parter, who is usually very effeminate, becomes a suit-wearing machismo ass-hole, and I become his "trophy". We have entire conversations where he demands me to come over to the office at midnight and release the "tension" from brokering deals all day.

Some odd dynamics do arise from the scenarios – with regards to power play and possible misogyny – that politically we both disagree with completely. Often we both think that we become these characters that society says we aren’t allowed to be: he is a femme gay man and, and because of this, has been shamed out of any masculine privilege (which he’s not desperate for anyway) and so takes on a hyper ‘masculine’ role; and for me as a queer man, it allows me to explore parts of my gender identity I wouldn’t feel comfortable or safe exploring anywhere else. We share a fantasy, a closeness and a real dialogue about consent and safety.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Lara, 30, Civil Servant

In the eighteen months before I came out as queer, I embarked on a mammoth quest to sleep with every man on the internet (almost as if my subconscious thought this was the final chance!) The resulting role plays, some of which occurred on multiple levels simultaneously, offered me insights into my sexuality which I never would have accessed through staying "in reality", and I think were instrumental in the realisation of my sexuality.

A few memorable examples: my German – the only person I’ve ever felt truly submissive to, and deeply personal – we’d engage in extended role plays in galleries, on the train, in cafes, anywhere he was able to exert control over my sexual conduct, inevitably leading to moments of absolute hedonism on the Tate members’ balcony. "Forced Fem Man" – did what he said on the tin, and was really into forced feminisation. This required me to take on a dual role; one as a sadistic, cruel dominant – that was my outward role – on the inside I was challenging myself to buy into a concept which undermined my view of womanhood, but clearly meant so much to him. My role was the antidote to his sterile marriage, and involved simultaneously controlling him sexually, whilst allowing my sexual conduct to be controlled by his desires, without him realising. Not typical role play perhaps, but they kept me on my toes and brought me to a lot of realisations about my sexuality, and my values about sex, gender, and relationships.
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