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Davis, California

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Column: Let’s play a game

We all know the cliché surrounding “role-playing.” The wife, at the suggestion of a certain brightly colored women’s magazine, surprises her hubby by wearing a cheerleader outfit. Hubby is pleased. But the outfit is something “special,” used only grudgingly for birthdays and moments when the marriage needs “spicing up.” As with so many sex clichés, this image gives an unfair spin to a wonderful activity.

Role-plays, or “games,” are an excellent way to add new elements to your sexy-times. A main reason they are useful is that they are a safe space to test out sexual activities that you are curious about but hesitant to try. For example, you, the mild mannered college student, may want to try spanking, but don’t want to somehow contradict your image. But you, the naughty secretary in need of discipline, may not feel such inhibitions. By putting on a different persona, you leave yourself open to new sexual adventures.

As with any fantasy, there is a conversation that needs to happen before a role-play can become reality. Let’s say that you have a Sherlock Holmes-based fantasy. Before you don your deerstalker, you need to feel out your partner’s thoughts on that scenario. Do this prior to being really in the mood, just so there is no pressure on you or them. Try a phrase like, “Honey, would you be willing to play Sherlock Holmes tonight?” If they say no, don’t pressure them. If they say maybe, talk about a way to do it that you’d both enjoy. If they say yes, then go for it.

There are two key aspects of a satisfying role-play: power dynamics and build-up (yes, costumes are important, but bear with me). Think of the classic games and count how many hinge upon an unequal balance of power. Some are obvious, such as secretary/boss or teacher/student. Others, such as cheerleader/rebel, rely on differentials of experience. Milder games rely on the interactions of very different personalities, such as Holmes/Watson. Regardless of the specifics, having an unequal dynamic makes the parts of the fantasy involving domination or submission feel more natural (not all fantasies involve those factors, but they tend to be the most popular).

The dom/sub aspects of role-play can be fun because they can offer release; if you are someone who has to maintain an image of control, it can be exceedingly pleasurable to let someone else take the reins. Just make sure to set clear guidelines for what kind of behaviors are or are not allowed.

Build-up in role-play is necessary because, in most cases, the appeal of the characters is not just attached to the clothing. Not to say that you in a hot outfit won’t get a lover going, but a large part of the fun is pretending to be someone you’re not. So change up your mannerisms, move with more or less confidence than normal, change the pitch of your voice. You can try an accent, but the scene may become Pythonesque rather quickly, so proceed with caution.

If your costume is not too outlandish, you can consider beginning the game while out on the town (something like boss/secretary would work). You may feel a little silly, but remember what I said about good sex and laughter? Of course, if you’re more self-conscious or your outfit is something overt like a maid costume, build the scene in your bedroom. You don’t need to construct a set or anything. A bed, a chair and your imagination is usually enough.

As far as selecting costumes go, you can buy whatever you/your partner likes. If you are going to splurge on something I recommend that it be either versatile, like a skirt that works for multiple games, or relate to something you play frequently. Since most of you reading this are college students (meaning broke), make your closet your first stop. Odds are there is something in there that’s close to a desired outfit. If something is missing, try a thrift store. You can also add stockings, lingerie (men’s or women’s) or high heels to make the ensemble scream “sex!” I suggest Aella Boutique here in Davis, which has a selection of stockings and shoes, plus a student discount.

So there it is, your role-play primer. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go clean my deerstalker and magnifying glass.

SAM WALL would like to apologize to the ghost of Arthur Conan Doyle and ask that you send sex questions to sewall@ucdavis.edu.


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