How To Confidently Dip Your Toe In The World Of Role-Play

Talking about your sexual fantasies may not be the easiest thing in the world for everybody, but it's important to remember there's absolutely no shame in changing things up in the bedroom and making sure you're having a great time every time. One of the best ways to do that? Role-play!

Role-play usually involves creating a made-up scenario when you hit the bedroom with your partner (or partners, as long as they're all consenting). It can include everything from pretending to be someone else entirely to still being yourself, but with a (sexy!) new profession and a more adventurous approach to lovemaking. Role-play has become a go-to for many couples all over the world, particularly those who have been together for a while but want to keep things fresh between the sheets. "Sexual role play can bring elements of play and novelty to a relationship. This is especially rejuvenating when partners feel like they've hit a plateau in the relationship," therapist Wardeh C. Hattab explained to MBGRelationships.

But if you're looking to spice things up with your partner, how exactly do you approach the subject? And how do you keep the awkwardness to a minimum, while still making sure you're both getting what you deserve in the bedroom? To get expert insight on the subject, spoke exclusively to Lisa Lawless Ph.D., C.E.O. of Holistic Wisdom

Use a safe word

One of the most important parts of introducing role-play into your private time is ensuring you and your partner have a way to give clear consent. That way, you'll both know when it's time to stop or scale things back. Making sure you establish a safe word, or safe words, before you start will ensure nobody has to worry about getting involved in something they're not 100% comfortable with. Safe words can also help make sure everybody's boundaries are respected.

"A safe word is vital because, during role-play, you can act as though you are resisting or disliking something but not really mean it. A safe word lets your partner know you mean it and that you need to stop and check in with one another," Lisa Lawless Ph.D., C.E.O. of, exclusively told, noting you may also want to establish a physical sign that means stop. After all, as LELO Sex Expert Kate Moyle explained to Metro, "If it makes you feel uncomfortable then you aren't going to be able to let go and be in the moment and enjoy yourself."

A great tip Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Shadeen Francis suggested to Men's Health is using the traffic light system for safe words. Green means your partner is good to continue, yellow means you're unsure if you like something, and red is for when you want to stop immediately.

Start your role-play journey slow

When it comes to role-play, you don't always need to go big or go home — especially not in the beginning. For many people, starting small and then building up is probably the best way to go, so you can work out what you do and don't like. It's also a great way to learn your boundaries without feeling too overwhelmed, and it'll help you build up your confidence.

Lisa Lawless told that starting slower may involve more tantric techniques, like using a blindfold or tickling your partner, before then moving up to creating a fantasy role-play alter ego, when you're both feeling more comfortable. "Start sexually stimulating one another slowly and check in with your partner asking how things feel and if they want you to continue. Sometimes when you are new to role-playing, you may think something will be desirable, but when you do it, you realize it is not what you hoped," she shared, noting you should never feel shame about asking to stop or change something you don't like. In a Men's Health article, social worker Dr. Donna Oriowo suggested changing one thing at a time when you're starting out, like pretending you have a different job.

Lawless also recommended engaging in your first few role-playing sessions while completely sober. That way, you can work out what you do and don't like without being under the influence of anything that may alter your perceptions.

Don't wait until you're in the bedroom to bring role-play up

If you want to chat with your partner about bringing role-play into your sex life, it may be a good idea to raise the subject in the light of day rather than waiting until you're both in the mood. Mentioning the prospect outside the bedroom will let your partner know you're serious about it, and have given it some thought, while allowing you both a safe place to discuss things while you're thinking clearly. This way, you're more likely to get your partner's true thoughts on if it's something they'd like to partake in, rather than risking them saying yes in heat of the moment. 

"Bringing up role-playing during an invulnerable, non-sexual time can allow you to discuss it more openly," Lisa Lawless explained to Women. "Encourage your partner to share their fantasies and listen to them non-judgementally. Allow one another the space to speak freely about your sexual desires," she added. Kate Moyle agreed, explaining to Metro that it's rarely a good idea to spring something as intimate as role-play on someone.

Sexologist Dr. Carol Queen suggested to Well+Good that one way to handle this may be by making lists of what you'd both like to try, then giving each other's suggestions a yes, a no, or a maybe. This will help set boundaries and give you both a better idea of what you both like before you begin.

Be honest with your partner

When discussing potentially incorporating role-play into your sex life, it's important to be honest about your expectations — after all, you're doing this to feel good, right? "Consider describing how much you would love to explore new things with them and mention specific role-play that appeals to you," Lisa Lawless recommended to Women, noting that adult games (like card games with sexual ideas or sexy dice games) might be a fun and easy way to ease into things.

Not only will getting specific give you and your partner the opportunity to start getting excited from the get-go, you'll also be on the same page about what you could be getting up to when you hit the bedroom. This will give you both the best opportunity to ensure you get the pleasure you're seeking, while also making sure neither of you agrees to anything you're not comfortable with because it was communicated unclearly. Likewise, you're both more likely to feel less shy and self-conscious about the whole thing if you have a safe space to be open with one another — and neither of you will be in for any last-minute surprises!

A few things you may want to discuss here are the things you never want to do, as well as how far you feel comfortable with things going. For example, some people may feel comfortable trying a different accent, but may not want you to call them by a different name.

Do your role-play research

While many people may go into a conversation about role-play knowing exactly what they want out of it, other people may not — particularly if you're not the one who brought up the conversation. Doing your research on the subject is one of the very best ways to make sure you know what you're getting into before you agree to it, and it's also useful to learn new things you or your partner might like.

If you're stuck on what kind of character you might want to play, Lisa Lawless recommended looking at books and websites and noted that discussion groups are also a great place to chat openly (and anonymously!) with others. Research can also be something much more personal. Taking time to think about your own fantasies and what turns you on is a great way to learn more about yourself. 

Also, the more informed you are about the subject, the more likely you are to be able to have safe, consensual fun. Research may also be useful if you and your partner have differing opinions when it comes to role-play, as Wardeh C. Hattab told MBGRelationships, "A partner who is less interested in role-play may be open to it with some more understanding of why their partner has this fantasy."

Be open-minded

Open-mindedness is a necessity when it comes to changing things up in the bedroom, and it's extra important when it comes to role-play. First of all, if it's your partner suggesting role-play, you need to decide if this is something you're willing to try or not. You always have the right to say no to anything you don't want to do in a relationship, particularly when it comes to sex. If you do say yes, though, try not to get too caught up in what you think should happen and instead allow things to unfold spontaneously. 

As Kate Moyle explained to Metro, having things not go specifically the way you intended can sometimes be a mood killer, so if you keep things a little looser, you're allowing things to happen more naturally. "If you are wedded to an exact plan then as soon as it starts not happening you will get stuck in your head and thoughts, and this can be a real circuit breaker for sexual pleasure and desire," she shared.

Equally, as sex educator Searah Deysach told Well+Good, some people find that role-playing is a way to unlock sexual desires they may never even know they had, so keeping things more open will allow you to fully explore that (with your partner's permission, of course). As long as you've got that safe word handy, you may even find yourself enjoying something you never thought you'd like!

Keep your early forays into role-playing familiar

We know familiarity may sound a little counterintuitive when you're looking to spice things up, but hear us out. When you're first starting out, trying too much too fast can be a little daunting and, if you find yourself feeling a little uncomfortable, it can make it almost impossible to work out what exactly it is you're not loving.

Lisa Lawless recommended starting off your role-play escapades in a familiar environment, which could be anything from your own bedroom to a hotel you've stayed in before, in order to bring a sense of ease to things. Familiarity with your surroundings can sometimes make having fun a little easier, as you'll have less to think about and will likely feel more comfortable.

That familiarity can also extend to what exactly it is you do together your first few times. "If you role-play with characters or themes, consider using ones from a favorite book or movie to help you feel more confident in your role-playing experience," Lawless shared. "Think through what story you and your partner want to act out and discuss it with one another before you begin so you have a general idea of where you want things to go."

Boost each other's confidence

Communicate! In addition to making your role-play expectations and boundaries clear, it's also super important to praise and let your partner know when they're doing something you like — particularly if your or your partner's love languages include words of affirmation. Making sure you're vocal in your praise will ensure your partner knows to do more of that thing you like, which, in turn, means you'll get more of what you like and they'll get a confidence boost. Win-win, right? "Making them feel appreciated is an excellent way to open up a conversation about adding things to your sex life," Lisa Lawless told Women.

But it's also just as important to make sure you're delivering your feedback the right way. When bringing something up you didn't like so much, or even approaching the subject for the very first time, always focus on the positive. "Let them know what you love about your current sex life, and use proactive language demonstrating that you want to have many kinds of fun adventures with them," Lawless shared.

Communication is key after role-playing too, as checking in is imperative for understanding what you both liked and disliked. "Give space for hugs, cuddles, or anything else needed, so all parties involved feel cared for after the fact. This can often determine if someone remembers a sexual experience favorably or not, so make sure to get into that aftercare," Dr. Oriowo told Men's Health.