NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Thursday, May 4, 2023

Relationships: Exploring Different Aspects of Yourself Through Sexual Role Play

I began a discussion about sexual role play in a prior article, What Are the Benefits of Sexual Role Play?.  

Exploring Different Parts of Yourself Through Role Play

In the current article I'm focusing on one of the benefits of role play, which is exploring the many different aspects of yourself and how this exploration can free you and your partner to talk about your sexual fantasies and, possibly, act out some of these fantasies (see my article: Understanding the Different Aspects of Yourself Who Make You Who You Are).

(As a reminder:  This article and other similar articles about sex is not meant as clinical advice.)

Exploring Different Parts of Yourself Through Sexual Role Play
  • Think About Your Sexual Fantasies and Write Them Down on Your Own: This is something that each of you can do on your own privately. If you feel unsure about your fantasies, reframe it for yourself by thinking about what you might be sexually curious about.  Writing them down in an erotic journal helps you to get clear about what you're curious about. Thinking in terms of sexual curiosity instead of labeling your thoughts as fantasies can help to open you up to this type of sexual self exploration (see my article: Exploring and Normalizing Sexual Fantasies Without Guilt or Shame).
Write Down Your Role Play Fantasies in Your Erotic Journal
  • Think About What Aspects of Yourself You Might Want to Explore: People who have difficulty talking about sex with their partner about role play often find it easier to talk when they're thinking about themselves as someone else (instead of being oneself) like a character from a movie or a novel.  It's like being an actor who is stepping into a role in a script.  This character might be an aspect of yourself that you've never explored but that you're curious about.
  • Talk About Sexual Role Play With Your Partner Before You Try ItBefore you actually get into a role play, it's a good idea for you and your partner to talk first.  You want to make sure that you're both on the same page and consenting to whatever you decide to do.  When you're in the talking phase, you can explore your sexual fantasies and get clear on which ones you want to explore and which ones you want to remain as only fantasies.  Just talking about fantasies can be a sexual turn-on.  Be patient if either of you feels shy.  Think of it as a process and go slow if necessary (see my article: How to Talk to Your Partner About Sex - Part 1 and Part 2).
  • Choose Which Fantasies You Both Want to Role Play: If you and your partner come up with mutual fantasies that you would like to explore, make a plan as to which fantasies you want to role play and which ones you just want to talk about.  Make sure that both of you are comfortable with whatever you have mutually chosen especially if you're both new to role playing.  If either of you isn't interested, you can say so without being judgmental or critical (see my article: Don't Yuk Anybody's Yum). You can also take turns at different times role playing what each of you would like as long as you're both somewhat interested in the other's fantasy role play.
  • Keep It Simple At First: If you've never done a sexual role play, start with something simple so you can give yourself a chance to ease into it and get comfortable.  Role playing is on a spectrum. You don't need to start with elaborate costumes or sexual props. You can start with something as simple as using different names.  
  • Approach Role Playing With an Attitude of Curiosity and Playfulness: Even though you might be anxious if this is your first time, remember that role playing is meant to be fun, so approach it with an attitude of curiosity and playfulness.  
Be Sexually Curious and Playful
  • Be Kind With Yourself and Your Partner: If role playing is new to you, be aware that things might not go as planned, but if you're being curious, playful and kind, you can get through any awkward moments and you might even laugh about it.
  • Know You Can Stop the Role Play at Any Time: In addition to allowing you to explore different aspects of yourself, sexual role play is meant to be fun and one way to expand your sexual repertoire and sex script.  But once you're into a role play, if either of you feels you don't want to do it, you can stop.  Make sure you have this agreement beforehand so neither person is taken by surprise.  
  • Talk About the Role Play Afterwards: It's a good idea to talk afterwards about what each of you found fun, awkward, uncomfortable, what you might want to do again or not, and so on.
Vignette: Sexual Role Play as a Way to Explore Different Aspects of Yourself
The following vignette is one example of many as to how a couple can explore the different parts of themselves through role play:

Ida and Joe
After five years of marriage, although they had a healthy sex life, Ida and Joe were eager to explore sexual role play. 

They decided to each explore on their own what they were sexually curious about, so they took time to each think about and write down their ideas.

When Ida thought about what she might want to explore, she realized she was often uncomfortable trying new things sexually and, as she thought about it, she realized that if she played another character, she might feel more empowered to do it.  

So, she came up with a character who was a high powered woman who was sexually forward.  The more she thought about what this character would be like, the more Ida got excited about it.

When Joe thought about what he might want to explore sexually, he realized he was excited about being in a more passive role because during the day he had a lot of responsibilities for the financial well-being of his company.  He had to make important decisions and oversee key employees and the financial operation, so he would welcome a chance to allow Ida to be in charge.

So, he came up with a character who was more sexually passive than he would normally be with Ida.  He wanted her to tell him what to do for a change.  

When Ida and Joe shared their ideas, they were thrilled to discover that the characters they had chosen fit together so well.  

They worked together to come up with a scenario they could play at home where Ida comes into a bar as a successful businesswoman who is on a business trip, sees Joe sitting at the bar having a drink and she picks him up.  In this scenario, he is a somewhat shy and passive man and he's hesitant at first, but she's relentless in pursuing him and she eventually takes him back to her hotel room.

Since it was their first time doing a sexual role play, they decided to keep it simple without costumes and props.  

They were both a little uncomfortable at first, but they were mostly excited.  At first, they each stumbled a little until they got into it and then they forgot their self consciousness.  

After they had de-roled from their characters and they were resting in each other's arms, they agreed it was the most exciting sex they had experienced in a long time.  

Over the next several days, they talked about what they liked and what they wanted to change.  

Joe enjoyed being in a passive role for a change and allowing himself to be seduced. And Ida felt powerful and sexy being in the role as the woman who seduced Joe.  They also talked about what other roles they might want to explore.

Both of them agreed that doing that role play allowed them to explore different aspects of themselves.

Sexual role play can be fun and freeing because it provides an opportunity to use your imagination and explore different parts of yourself.  

Sometimes these aspects are different from your everyday personality.  Other times they might be aspects you didn't even realize were part of you.

If you're new to sexual role play, going slowly and taking a step-by-step approach allows you explore your sexuality in a way that feels safe and comfortable.

Getting Help in Sex Therapy
Sex therapy is a form of talk therapy (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?)

There is no physical exam, nudity or sex during sex therapy sessions (see my article: What Are the Most Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy?).

Getting Help in Sex Therapy

Individual adults and couples seek help in sex therapy for a variety of reasons (see my article:  What Are the Most Common Misconceptions About Sex Therapy?).

If you're having sexual problems, rather than struggling on your own, get help from a skilled sex therapist so you can have a more fulfilling sex life.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.