Can Role-Play Add to the Pleasure That Pain Brings?

What’s in your sadomasochist (S/m) repertoire? If you think of role-play as “I’m the stern headmaster and you’re the naughty student” then some people enjoy that kind of play and some people don’t find much in it. In this context we’re talking about role-play as making up fictional characters or putting ourselves as real characters in a fictional situation.

But if you think of role-play in a wider sense, then it’s integral to quite a lot of S/m play. Fear play, for example, usually involves a lot of it. Fear play works on suspension of disbelief, and the Sadist makes that happen through a form of role play. Even a simple spanking quite often has a narrative. In this context we’re talking about role-play as construction of context.

Sadomasochism involves a highly unbalanced power relationship established through role-playing, bondage, and/or the infliction of pain. The essential component is not the pain or bondage itself, but rather the knowledge that one person has complete control over the other, deciding what that person will hear, do, taste, touch, smell and feel. We hear about men pretending to be little girls, women being bound in a leather corset, people screaming in pain with each strike of a flogger or drip of hot wax. We hear about it because it is happening in bedrooms and dungeons across the country.
Psychology Today – The Pleasure of Pain


For many people,  sadomasochism and Dominant/submissive (D/s) or Master/slave roles have overlap and go hand-in-hand. For others, they’re two entirely different things. Those into D/s, quite often have a lot of ritual/protocol in their interaction, but S/m really doesn’t have that commonality. One person’s S/m can be substantially different to another’s.

I’m not making that point to split hairs. D/s and S/m come from different motivations and target different goals. So, it could be that role-play actually performs different functions in play. In D/s it probably emphasises power differential and power exchange. In S/m it’s probably a staging for physical/emotional pain play.


I think many people find that the pleasure of pain is not just physical and mechanical, but largely linked to headspace. Role-play is all about creating the environment for altered headspace. Narrative places the physical actions in a context and taking on a role frees us from ourselves and provides a new way to experience and process those actions.


If you’re someone who has problems suspending reality/disbelief then I think role-play could detract from the S/m experience, but for those who can relax into the experience I think it could be very additive.

If you like the idea of role-play as fictional characters or situations, here are some ideas from Wikipedia’s Sexual Role-play page:

Doctor/Nurse/Patient: medical fetishism where the participants play the roles of doctor, nurse, or patient.
Escort – Client: one partner assumes the role of paid escort for an encounter.
Executive – Secretary: one partner assumes the role of a business executive while the other takes the role of their secretary.
Handyman – Housewife: the tradesman enters the housewife’s home initially with the intent of carrying out plumbing/maintenance work.
Master – Slave: the slave is required to comply with all demands of the master.
Photographer – Model: this allows one partner to photograph the other as a precursor to sexual interaction.
Stripper – Client: one participant performs a striptease for the other.
Teacher – Student: the student dresses for the part and must do as he/she is told, or is punished.
Ageplay: where an individual acts and/or treats another as if they were a different age. The practice can be regressive, in which the goal is to re-experience childhood, or sexual, recreating a sexual relationship with people of the pretend and/or true ages. Generally this can involve someone pretending to be younger than they actually are, but more rarely can involve assuming an older role.
Animal-play: where a player is treated as a non-human animal such as a dog, pony, or cat.
Authority figure/Misbehaving Adult: where a player takes on the role of an authority figure and blackmails or humiliates his or her partner into sexual activity.
Gender-play: where one or more players take on roles of the opposite sex.
Incest fantasy: also known as incest play, where two or more play the role of family members.
Owner/Inanimate object: such as the bottom being human furniture.
Prison fetish: situational play set in a prison environment. Given real life prisons are same-sex communities, this fetish does lend itself to male on male or female on female activities and settings. Opposite gender play is also possible between inmates and guards or when the setting includes a co-ed facility / institution. Prison play is also an expansion of the uniform fetish by use of inmate, guard, and staff uniforms.
Torturer/Captive prisoner: where one player is a captor who abuses the other, can also include ravishment and kidnap scenarios.
Uniform fetish: one participant dresses in uniform (for instance as a student, cheerleader, French maid, etc.), while the other participant plays an authority figure (e.g., a parent, teacher, coach, police officer). Can also include scenarios with both participants in uniforms.

Of course there are unlimited potential role-play scenarios, so try some on for size and see if it adds to or detracts from the pleasure for you.


• Foxfire and Afira – Handbook to Role-Playing (gaming)
• Submissive Loving – Role-Playing Senarios
• Submissive Guide – Role Playing Adventures
• Queer Kink – Narrative and BDSM: Thoughts from Personal Experience
• International Journal of Role-Playing – Sadomasochist Role-Playing as Live-Action Role-Playing: A Trait-Descriptive Analysis

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