Sex: Let’s Get Playful!
Playfulness in bed is crucial. Not just for fun, for consent as well.
Let’s try it like this.
Let’s try it over here.
Ever done it in an aeroplane? Ever done it on a pier?
Not sure if I like it but let’s give it a go.
Never had my ass licked, but you never kno —
– ooooooooo ooo, o
I write a lot about sexual violence and why we need to fight rape culture. A lot of it is very depressing, as much to write as to read, because the reality of sexual abuse is very depressing. Luckily, the solution isn’t. Because the fact is, fighting against rape means fighting for sex. Good sex. And for me, a big part of that is developing our playfulness in bed.
Far too often, sex is treated as a performance. Each person trying to impress the other, and generally, when it comes to hetero sex, we try to impress each other in very gendered ways. The guy by his action, his assertiveness, his ability to lead. The woman by her looks, and her passivity — what she “lets” a guy do to her. She’s “let him” do anal. She’ll “let him” come in her mouth. She’ll “let him” fuck her outdoors…
This performance mindset means that the two partners aren’t in it together. They’re not fully concentrated on having the best possible time with the other person in all their particularities. They are separate, each on their individual quest to prove something, to themselves and each other and through each other to the whole darn world.
The bed is not a stage. It is a play area.
It is one, two, or more people having fun together, inspiring each other, having new ideas, trying things out. It is an adventure, together. A collaborative project to experience and provide pleasure with others.
The first advantage of seeing sex like this is developing consent. Because when it comes to play, there is always the underlying assumption that if everyone isn’t enjoying it, it isn’t fun. Forcing someone to play monopoly until dawn is not going to be a good night for anyone. It’s weird to want to play a game with someone who doesn’t want to.
There is also the assumption that all players are supposed to get a similar amount of enjoyment from playing. Ie, not just the guy. Ie Orgasms for all.
Playfulness rehumanises the other person. You’re not playing with them as an object, they are not a toy. You are playing with them as a person, as a co-conspirator in your sexual adventures.
Since our society privileges an image of sex catering to what brings pleasure to men, some women don’t even know what they enjoy, and bringing playfulness back means testing things out, working out what everyone enjoys and wants.
So how to make sex more playful?
Basically, its about trying out new things. Bringing an innovative enthusiasm, playing around with ways to feel and give pleasure.
It means trying out new things, checking in with your partner to see if they are enthusiastic about trying them, too. You can try out something you or your partner have been imagining, or just improvise depending on how you feel in the moment.
The Pleasure Mechanics in their great podcast did an episode on Playful sex, and they suggested a few games to bring more play into your bedroom. All of them are pretty awesome :
1) Discover new ways of touching: without using your hands or mouth, touch your partner’s body. Discover new ways of creating sensations by rubbing parts of yourself on parts of the other. This can also be done using props — ice cubes or feathers… or by lighting blowing rather than touching… experiment with sensations, discover what feels good
2) Erotic strip tag: remove a piece of clothing and throw it at your partner, telling them they are it. Then run away. Let them chase you and throw a piece of clothing, keep going until naked, or horny.
3) Like this or like that: give your partner two options, demonstrating each: hard stroke or soft stroke. A flick on the nipple or a nibble. A tongue running along the cock or the balls. Say “like this?” “or like that” and let them decide which feels good for them at that moment. This is good because there is no pressure on the other person to ask for something, they don’t have to formulate a desire which can make some people feel like they’ve been shoved under the spotlight, but still they have a choice and they get to know what touch they want at a particular moment.
4) Say when: Start doing something very gently, gradually increasing speed or pressure, telling your partner to “say when” it feels perfect. This creates a lot of sexual tension, and, again, helps the receiver work out how much feels good.
5) The 5 minute game : set a timer for 5 minutes and ask your partner what they would like for that time. Good for people who have trouble receiving, because they know that it is just for five minutes. Respect the end of the timer — stop when it goes off. If the person is uncertain about what they want or uncomfortable, suggest options.
6) The story game: a good option for people who struggle with role play or dirty talk. Take it in turns to add a sentence to an increasingly dirty story…
What do you need to be playful?
There are preconditions for playful sex to work. It requires you to be with someone you trust, and who trusts you. This doesn’t necessarily mean a regular or long term partner. It can be the opposite — sometimes with someone you know well you can be more shy about breaking out of the usual script. But it needs to be someone with whom you know that you can laugh if things mess up a little bit.
The bed has to be a safe space, a space where everyone feels like they can express their desires, a space where everyone feels like they can express their limits and see them be respected. A place where no one will be humiliated, but encouraged.
When these conditions are met, being playful in bed boosts your confidence and your bond with your partner. It makes you feel like a team. It helps you get to know your body, and their’s.
Remember, communicate with your partner, ensure ongoing, enthusiastic consent, and have fun!