Why Is Role-Playing Hot To Some People? Experts Explain It All

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Nurses and firefighters and schoolgirls... oh, my! Role-playing can be a huge turn-on for some couples, while others just aren't into the idea. Maybe you want to try out a naughty maid meets master of the house fantasy with your partner, but they're much more hesitant to give it a chance. Why is role-playing hot to some people and not so sexy to others? To better understand the psychology behind acting out specific fantasies in the bedroom, I spoke to two experts. I asked both a clinical psychologist and an intimacy coach about the needs that role-playing can help fill, as well as what kind of person tends to be most inclined toward role-playing scenarios.

If you don't like the idea of role-playing in the bedroom, that's perfectly normal, too. These fascinating insights aren't intended to convince you otherwise, though it's possible that the information might make you a little more open to the idea. And if you're super into channeling your sexual fantasies through role-play, the below reasons could help explain why. Basically, if you're at all curious about why role-playing is such a big turn-on for some people and not for others, it's time to stop wondering. Here are four possible explanations.

1Role-play gives you a way to escape from reality, as long as you feel safe.

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"Role-play is simply an opportunity to escape our own reality. By labeling it in a formal way we are giving permission to act, speak, feel, and think in a ... way that may be dramatically different from our true selves," says Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. clinical psychologist and host of the Kurre and Klapow radio show. Whether or not you personally enjoy role-play is reliant on your own comfort level — how OK you are with stepping outside of your "normal" self — as well as the level of comfort you feel with your partner, he says.

If you believe that your partner will be supportive and engaged in the activity, and you're not anxious or embarrassed, then role-play can provide opportunities for intimacy that you may not normally experience. But if you're fearful or concerned that your partner won't be fully engaged or you might do something you regret, "the role-play goes from being an intimacy enhancer to a source of stress which can turn role-play into a complete turn off," Klapow explains.

2Role-play gets you out of your comfort zone, if you're into that.

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There are certain personality types that might indicate you're more comfortable playing a role. People who have experience transforming themselves into other characters, such as actors, singers, performers, and even athletes, tend to be turned on by role-play, according to Klapow. Also, "individuals who are more risk seeking, individuals with a stronger sense of self-esteem, and individuals who are sexually less inhibited all are more likely to be drawn towards role-playing," he says.

3Role-play can fulfill a variety of needs and desires, depending on the person.

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Popular roles to play tend to fall into two camps: people in power, like police officers, or people who are stereotyped as more inhibited, like librarians. However, giving the authority to the more "innocent" roles can create stronger fantasies. One reason a naughty librarian fantasy might be so appealing is because it shows a stereotypically reserved character in the opposite light. "Often it is the paradox that brings out the creative and intimate components of the role-play," says Klapow. Regardless of whether you tend to be shy or outspoken in real life, you can experiment with both submissive and dominant characters through role-play.

If you're in a monogamous relationship, role-play can also be a way to keep your sex life feeling brand new. With a few items of clothing and some topical dirty talk, you can easily fulfill the fantasy of hooking up with someone who isn't your usual type — without actually cheating on your partner. "If a woman sees role-play as an opportunity to enjoy lots of different sexual energies with the same partner, she will tend to love and value role-play as a way of getting her need for variety met without having to play the field with different partners," says Londin Angel Winters, intimacy coach and author of The Awakened Woman's Guide to Everlasting Love. It comes down to what is missing from your life or what you are craving.

4Role-play can actually be really intimate.

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"Role-play is a powerful tool for sustaining a thriving, juicy, monogamous relationship," says Winters. As long as both partners embrace it, role-playing can definitely enhance a long-term and/or committed relationship. However, while you may be comfortable with it, your partner might not be. "If you force, coerce, or manipulate your partner into a role-playing situation, the result is likely to be anxiety, distress and a very negative overall experience," says Klapow. "If you can find a starting point where both of you are reasonably comfortable, then you can have an enjoyable experience. As your experiences together continue to be enjoyable, the role of role-playing will increase." Enthusiastic consent is incredibly important. Plus, it's a huge turn-on when you and your partner are both super into what's happening.

If you've talked to your partner and you can both agree to test out a specific fantasy, the shared experience of pretending to be someone else is actually very likely to bring you closer together.

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