All the World’s a Stage: A Brief Introduction to Role Playing Communities

“All the world’s a stage and we are merely players, performers and portrayers,” Canadian rockers Rush sang by way of Shakespeare, and it’s not an inappropriate starting point for this article. Erotic role playing has been around since the days of the Bard himself, if not longer. Simply put, sexual role playing is any kind of play that has a strong erotic element.  And from online forums to elaborate “real-life” social events, erotic role playing communities offer like-minded friends and lovers ways to explore their innermost fantasies in a safe and supportive way.

How elaborate are such fantasy enactments? The scenarios can be simple in design and execution – a classic college student / substitute teacher fantasy, for example. By the same token, a mutual role play fantasy can be extremely detailed – based on a specific event or era from history, or a favorite novel or film – and require costumes, props, a detailed location, and even a script! From a librarian or astronaut to a cowgirl or policewoman, nearly any scenario may serve as your basis for sexual exploration; the imaginative possibilities are limitless.

And it’s all about the imagination. Your particular fantasy may be “character” driven, and might require the use of ornate costumes, or it could be driven psychologically, requiring you and partner to take on differing attitudes of obedience or passivity.

Such “power differentials” are popular in many organized role playing communities, and allow couples to explore aspects of their sexual relationships they may not feel comfortable accessing otherwise. A popular example (based on its sheer size both in real-life and on the web) would be the “Gorean” communities inspired by John Norman’s epic Gor novels, in which an entire fantasy world is created where adventurous men and beautiful, lusty women explore differing “power positions.”

These relationships can take many forms – from the archetypal authority figure and misbehaving adult scenario to goddess worship in which the female participant is viewed and worshiped as a deity. As in any type of erotic play, communication is key – talk things out beforehand, establish your boundaries, and, if needed, select an agreed-upon safe word before the fun begins.

While role playing communities often flirt with “authority play,” such play itself is rarely limited to traditional master-and-slave relationships. For example, prison fantasies often subvert this paradigm to include relationships based on equality. Scenarios involving fellow inmates, fellow guards, or even fellow wardens allow lovers to practice co-equal authority and tailor it to the specific wants and needs of each participant. That’s ultimately the key to erotic success in a role playing community or relationship – giving voice to your fantasy while helping your lover to do the same.

If this is all new to you, you may want to start out slowly. Get involved in your local Renaissance Fair, dress up in costume and start hitting your friends with foam weapons. Once you begin meeting the people behind the subculture, don’t be surprised when you find the path that’s meant for you!

–Daniel M.

Slut Shaming Discussion at CatalystCon East

As I previously mentioned, I will be participating in the inaugural CatalystCon East sexuality conference in Washington D.C., March 15-17.

One of the sessions I will be presenting is titled, Slut Shaming in Sex Positive Communities.  I’ll be speaking alongside 4 amazing women: Carol Queen, Femcar, Serpent Libertine, and Crysta Heart.

Here’s a description of the session from CatalystCon’s website (

Does “sex positive” always mean acceptance of the sexual appetites of others or other communities we’re not involved in? Why is it acceptable for sex-positive individuals to bash or criticize the sexual proclivities of others while claiming to be supportive allies? Based on our collective experiences within the sex worker, BDSM, swinger, poly, and queer communities, our panel will lead a discussion that examines some of the ways we’ve witnessed slut-shaming from those we’ve expected it least. Additionally, we’ll discuss why initiating conversations about these incidents can be even more challenging than speaking with folks in the vanilla world. By confronting this issue, we hope to find better ways to stimulate conversations among sex-positive individuals and learn how our words and actions can have an impact on others who lack understanding of our communities.

I believe this is an extremely important issue to discuss, and I am looking forward to the conversations it helps inspire.