Role Play vs. D/s Relationships

If you’ve listened to the podcast, you’ve probably heard me say (a lot!) that I’m no fan of role play, while John Brownstone’s got some seriously steamy fantasies that he wishes I’d try with him. Role play is a legitimate way to explore sexual desires, try new things, and have more kinky fuckery together. It’s just not my thing.

Have you ever had someone throw your D/s dynamic back in your face as “some weird role play shit?” I have. (Damn those internet trolls.)

So let’s talk about the differences between role play and D/s.

Note: You can play with D/s as part of your role play, and you can absolutely incorporate role play into your D/s. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. But they’re also not the same thing, either.

Role Play

In role play, the definition is in the name — you and your partner play a role, a part. You pretend to be someone you’re not. Typically this is part of some fantasy you have or as a way to express a desire. The vast majority of role play is sexual, even if it doesn’t end in sex. I won’t say that all role play is sexual, because as soon as I do, someone will have an example saying otherwise. But when someone slips on their nurse’s outfit and hands a stethoscope to their partner, the end goal is often sex.

And like a role in a play, it’s something you can start and end at any given moment. Just like the costume that you may or may not wear comes off at the end, so does the part you played. You’re not the naughty schoolboy with the sexy head mistress all the time…are you?

Role play gives you the chance to try out different desires, to play pretend in a sexy way, and to explore new things in what can feel like a safer environment. It’s not you who begged to be ravished by multiple cocks on the deck of this pirate ship. Your character wanted it! (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge).

For the record, I might be distinctly turned off by role play, but I can see its benefits, too. And for the people who enjoy it, I know they have a lot of fun.

D/s Relationships

While outsiders may call the power exchange between a Dominant and a submissive “role play,” it’s not. I get why people might think it, of course. When we scene, we sometimes wear costumes and pull out props. Our props of choice are weapons of ass destruction while yours may be something different. We speak to each other in ways that don’t fit into everyday vanilla conversations. And yes, we talk about our “role” in the relationship.

More than anything, the difference between role play and D/s is the intent.

  • My “role” within the relationship is no different than my “role” as a parent. It’s not something I turn off and turn on. It’s a part of who I am, even when I’m not actively in that role.
  • The clothes and props may enhance a scene, but they’re not needed for me to know who’s in charge and who isn’t.
  • A scene can have elements of role play in it, but it’s (for us, at least) an expression of our D/s relationship. It’s typically a combination of the physical, mental, and emotional.

So yes, from the outside looking in, from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know any different, D/s might look like role play. But we know who and what we are, and that’s all that matters.

Some might argue that bedroom only D/s might be a form of role play. Maybe it is for some people, but I doubt that’s true for the majority. They’re still Dominant and submissive the rest of the time. They only express it in a specific place.

Transitioning From Role Play Into D/s

I’ve always thought that all role play had some element of a power exchange, even if only lightly. Think of the stereotypical scenes: student/teacher, cop/robber, nurse/doctor, patient/doctor, even plumber and hot wife. Who gets the power between you is up to you and your imagination, but most of the time someone has it.

So when people have asked me how they can try out D/s or see if their partner enjoys it, I’ve suggested trying role play. Not as a substitute for communication or consent, but to keep the moment light and easy. To take the pressure off both people and make it something playful. After you play, it’s time to talk. Did you like it? Does it feel good? Would you like more of it? What if it wasn’t just role play?

That’s not a good option for everyone. But if the sexy aspect of D/s is more appealing than the serious responsibility of power exchange, it’s one way to try it out and use it as a starting point.

You can also use role play as a way to try different kink identities or types of play in your power exchange.

When people decide  something is a part of their kink identity, they tend to place a lot of weight and expectations on what they do next. (It immediately becomes Very Serious.) But exploring a desire shouldn’t have to always be so serious. If role play takes the pressure off, try out a new thing that way first before making it part of your power exchange.

Bottomline: Role play and D/s aren’t the same thing. They’re two separate things to enjoy and explore. Can they be incorporated together? Of course they can! Do both have a place in a D/s relationship? Of course they do! But how you explore and what you do is between you and your partner.

13 Responses

  1. Jo says:

    I feel the same way about role play; it just doesn’t work for me. I do, however, love BDSM play! Definitely different things that can be integrated but don’t have to be! My partner enjoys role playing, so once in a while I’ll dress up and act out a scene for him, but it doesn’t do much for me.

  2. Cara Thereon says:

    Excellent explanation of the difference. I’ve never had someone say that to me, but I don’t talk to many people about my dynamic. It’s too much who I am to be a role.

    • Kayla Lords says:

      Yeah, we probably open ourselves up to stuff because we’re so out there online, and it’s not something I hear all the time, but it’s worth an eyeroll at least, lol.

  3. Molly says:

    That is an excellent idea to try out role play to see if you like D/s. That way you can even play with who has the power and hopefully help the people involved to see where their preference lay


    • Kayla Lords says:

      Agreed! I would imagine there’s a lot less pressure when it’s role play, so you can try all kinds of things out. 🙂

  4. Bee says:

    Oh we had the same idea, I had a D/s is not role play rant too 😀

  5. Rurga says:

    I’ve tried explaining this difference a couple of times to some of my friends, but I’m not sure they’ve understood the difference… I think I’ll just send them all here to read your post instead!

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