One of my favorite kinds of sex play is erotic role play: acting out a new role or character during sex or kink. Role play allows me to experience sex in new ways, even something as simple and light-hearted as being a superhero who really likes being tied up by villains.
When I make up a character to play, I take all kinds of things into consideration: dominance, personality (am I a brat? a gentle soul? a bully?), motivations. Gender is one of many traits I like to play with when role playing, bending and reshaping it to suit the kinds of fun I want to have.
Gender play is like any other kind of role play – how it’s done is up to the participants! Do you want to role play as a person of a different gender? Do you want to role play living in a world in which gender roles are smashed, or perhaps ‘reversed’? Maybe you just want to embody a role that mimics the stereotypes of another gender, or a character or occupation whose gender is part of the fun (like Magic Mike or a sexy lady nurse.)
Playing with gender during sex has allowed me to explore it to better understand and express myself as a nonbinary person. But playing with gender through role play sex can also be a temporary escape to a different headspace, or an opportunity to try something new. It doesn’t have to be a vehicle for self-discovery. It can just be playing to have fun.
So how does one “play” with gender during sex?
- Exploring sex acts and behaviors more broadly associated with another gender.
“Much of what people collectively consider “normal” (or at least common) when it comes to desire, sex, and sexual satisfaction, is socially mandated according to gender,” I pointed out in What Does It Mean to be Attracted to a Nonbinary Person?. “These expectations drastically limit what many folks are even willing to consider, let alone partake in.”
Penetration, nipple stimulation, butt stuff, moaning, gripping a partner’s arms or shoulders, giving or receiving spankings – there are countless things considered unusual for certain genders to do or enjoy, especially if you’re straight. While I hope we collectively stop gatekeeping pleasure, it can be super erotic to play with these stereotypes during sexual gender play.
This goes not just for what we do during sex, but how we do it. Culturally, men are expected to be openly possessive, objectifying, and sexually greedy; women are assumed to be passively receptive and subservient to a partner’s needs over their own. These expectations have dire consequences in the real world, but in the safety of pre-negotiated sex, they can be all part of the act.
What kinds of sex or ways of expressing desire might be considered traditionally “off limits” to you because of your gender? Are there things you’d like to try? You can make these explorations part of your play.
- Using gendered language during dirty talk.
Communication is the most effective way to keep illusions going when role playing. You can use gendered words to establish and maintain your gender play, such as taking the lead (or a more receptive/submissive role) in dirty talk, or calling a partner a gendered pet name.
You can also use dirty talk to explore if this type of play even interests you, starting slow by speaking (or listening to) sexy phrases you might not normally experience: “you’re so pretty,” “I want you to fuck me”, etc.
Pet names and kink honorifics often have feminizing or masculinizing implications (baby girl, daddy, goddess) that can set the tone for your scene. The casual words we use for body parts (cock, dick, pussy, cunt, tits) and the ways we describe them (hard, wet, supple) can also be considered gender-specific and thus useful for play, although – like all language – that depends on your individual relationship with each term.
Similarly, the ways people speak to one another can vary depending on the gender of the listener. You can murmur (or be told) sweet nothings, have your physical attributes talked up, lay out a detailed encounter over phone sex wherein you’re the aggressor or the recipient…
- Dressing the part.
Clothing, hair, and grooming are all potential gender signafiers, things we sometimes use to express ourselves and communicate our identities to others. For sex play, you can connect to your “character” by wearing fishnet stockings, boxer briefs, makeup, unkempt or slicked back hair, jewelry, etc. If you’re playing a particular role (like a maid, cowboy, or billionaire playboy philanthropist), a full costume can get you in the right headspace – and it’s fun to take back off, too.
To change your shape, there are products meant to emulate particular body types, such as silicone breast inserts for bras, chest binding tops, and packers. While these accessories are most often utilized by trans people to help with dysphoria and social safety, they’re also common purchases for cis drag queens/kings, queer people, and yes – people who play with gender for sex or kink! Purchasing these products keeps them in production so that trans people can find and afford them too.
- Using props (including sex toys) to enhance your play.
Ever wanted to be held down and forced to orgasm by having a powerful wand vibe held against your bits? Or to pin a partner down and fuck them silly with a big dick? Maybe you’ve wanted to wear a puppy tail so you can be a good boy, or don a school girl skirt just to get distracted from your homework…
“One of the most entertaining aspects of role playing is setting the scene,” I wrote in 5 Ways You Can Role Play in Bed. “What about your surroundings might need to be tweaked to make your fantasy easier to believe in? Props and costumes can make your role more tangible. As can starting your scene outside of the bedroom! If you’re just coming home from a long trip, maybe begin by coming through the front door with an empty suitcase. Improv gets the blood flowing!”
- Playing a role.
From dated archetypes like housewives and breadwinners, to exaggerated caricatures of gender or gendered roles like “sissies,” there are countless interpretations of gender that you can incorporate into your play. Maybe you just want to try being a Daddy instead of a domme, or a needy MILF seducing a hapless plumber… or maybe you just want to be the pretty one regardless of gender, letting a partner take control and shower you with possessive attention. What constitutes a role is up to you.
For some people, gender role play might be kink-oriented and can include other kinks like erotic humiliation. For example, “sissy maids” enjoy being forcibly feminized and made to do labor that is culturally considered “feminine.”
Role playing as a preexisting fictional character (or celebrity – I won’t tell anyone if you don’t!) can do wonders for maintaining a headspace, because who that person is (including their gender identity) and how they act is already established. You just have to imitate it! Describing how important gender role play is to my sex life as someone who experiences dysphoria, I wrote, “Slipping into a familiar male character’s headspace allows me to just… be a guy. I don’t have to feel anxious about my body and how my partner perceives my [gender] because the character is male.”
Outside of the bedroom, I have a complicated relationship with gender that I’m still exploring. But it makes a wonderfully fun tool for sex, inviting me to experiment and take advantage of the things I find sexy about various stereotypes, gender roles, and even my own apprehensions and confusion. Gender play is a safe space for me to unpack my thoughts – or ignore them completely.