Roleplay During Sex Takes the Pressure Off Performing
When I roleplay with my partner, we often take on the roles of specific characters to create fantasies for ourselves. I feel like I can become someone else and explore myself and my partner in ways that don't tie either of us to a single identity or self. We're both queer and nonbinary, and roleplay has helped both of us explore those identities in our own unique ways. Roleplay doesn't have to get that deep for everyone, but for us, it encourages a feeling of safety that we don't always feel in the real world.
Much like an actor slips into a different persona in front of the camera, roleplay shifts the focus from performance anxiety to playing a part within the moment. For many people, roleplay during sex means taking the spotlight off orgasming or doing it "right" and putting it on fulfilling other needs, such as exploring fantasies in a safe, comfortable way.
"Fantasizing is the most natural thing in the world," said William Gilcoine, a licensed mental health counselor in Brockton, Massachusetts, who specializes in relationships. "[Roleplay] is an act of sharing your deep fantasies and wanting to enjoy them with your partner. If your partner's always fantasized about having sex with Han Solo, your partner wants you to be their Han Solo."
When partners listen to each other's fantasies and communicate how they want those fantasies to play out, they can take the pressure off performing while making it easier to enjoy sex.
Changing the meaning of performance
Roleplay can create a lens through which to view your partner or yourself. When it takes your mind away from the thought of finishing, roleplay allows both partners the freedom to focus on each other. It opens the doors for more exploration and interest from all parties involved while encouraging communication about each person's preferences and boundaries.
"In essence, roleplay adds elements of novelty, curiosity and fun to any relationship," said Aliyah Moore, Ph.D., a certified sex therapist at Latvian-based sex toy website SexualAlpha. "It can bring back the good ol' days when you were still discovering new things about each other. It can especially reintroduce fun into a sex life that's starting to feel like getting stuck in a rut."
Even though roleplay is a kind of performance in itself, it engages partners in sex with different expectations. A study published in 2019 in Sexual Medicine Reviews indicated up to 25 percent of men and up to 16 percent of women have anxiety about sexual performance. Roleplay encourages communication and creativity, which can lower stress and even make it easier to orgasm, according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
"Many times, things like stress and drama in our day-to-day lives can cause some struggles in the bedroom," Gilcoine said. "However, when you are able to step into a different role, that can help with changing that headspace at times and better both one's performance and enjoyment."
Healthy sex comes with communication
While roleplay can take you out of real life for a short time, it can also bring you closer to your partner and help both of you communicate more effectively once you return to reality. After all, without clear communication, your partner won't know what you need or prefer during sex, leading to a lack of pleasure for all partners. Talking about scenarios and boundaries allows both people to feel safe. These conversations can benefit all partners outside the bedroom, too.
"As much as possible, you should explain why you want to act out your fantasy and share as many details of the scenario that you might be into," Moore said. "The more you go into details, the more likely your fantasy will play out the way you want it to, without making you feel weird or embarrassed in any way. Also, the outcome will be more pleasurable and intimate for you and your partner."
Moore also emphasized the importance of responding gently and respectfully to each partner's fantasies and preferences, as well as continuously communicating throughout the roleplay to ensure everyone's consent, safety and enjoyment. You should prepare for both positive and negative reactions and create an open dialogue for exploring those feelings, too.
"Sharing accurate information and advocating for better sex education create a safe space for individuals and couples to explore their sexuality and desires," Moore said. "We're helping them recognize that kinks are not inherently risky."
Exploring and communicating about playing out a fantasy can feel intimidating. However, kinks, including and beyond roleplay, can allow you and your partner(s) to enjoy intimacy with the added bonus of communication for more enjoyable and safer sex.