Credit: Indiana Joel/Xtra
Hard Labour
9 min

Why role-play is more complex than you think

From language, limits and safewords, each situation has its own set of unique challenges

He’s tiny. About five feet tall, maybe an inch shorter.

He’s perched on the edge of the plush hotel bed, his feet dangling above the floor. He’s bald with thick glasses. His arms are stick-thin but his belly is round. His chin seems to blend into his chest, as if he has no vertebrae in his neck, and his body seems even smaller, curving forward as if the pronounced buffalo hump on his upper back is weighing him down.

One glance at his ravaged body instantly tells me he’s a long-term survivor of HIV, one of the few who made it through the early ’80s alive, wearing the scars of his battle as if they were armour.

I remember growing up in the ’80s; AIDS was all over TV. Images of ailing bodies being held or comforted were inter-spliced with commentators talking about quarantines or shipping people off to an island somewhere.

Long before I was cognisant of my own sexuality, I remember bullies taunting me with AIDS jokes; my penchant for Madonna and friendship bracelets was a dead giveaway for my looming queerness.

I didn’t get the jokes. I didn’t understand that AIDS was supposed to be a gay thing, and therefore someone saying you had AIDS was akin to them calling you a faggot. It was only when I got into my teens in the late ’90s that I started to connect the dots. By then, I wasn’t thinking so much about the reality of AIDS or my own frailty; it was something that had just sort of slipped into the background.

But here, confronted by the physical reality of the disease’s long-term effects, I’m reminded that it was just a stroke of luck that I was born when I was. If I’d come into the world two decades earlier, there’s no doubt in my mind I could be wearing the same battle scars as my trick.

He called me more than a week in advance to plan our meeting, saying he would be at a hotel downtown, but wasn’t sure which one it would be. I had assumed he would be visiting from out of town, but after seeing his condition and the impaired mobility associated with it, I realize he’s probably local but booked a hotel for safety.

The door was ajar when I arrived at his hotel room a few minutes earlier. I knocked before letting myself in and closed it behind me. He gives me a quick nod from the bed and then stares at the floor. Not sure what else to do, I sit in the chair a few feet away from him.

“So,” he says, after a minute of silence. “I should have told you that I’m HIV-positive. I know I should have told you. But I didn’t. If you want to leave, I understand. But I promise you that for everything else, I’m totally clean.”

“Don’t worry,” I say. “It’s fine. I have lots of clients . . . in your . . . situation.”

He perks up a bit when he realizes he’s not going to get rejected.

“Have you had some bad experiences with escorts?” I ask.

“A few,” he says. “And some good ones too. That’s why I booked the hotel room. Just to be safe.”

“Well, don’t worry,” I smile. “I’m not going to hurt you. Except in the ways you want me to.”

HIV-positive clients are not uncommon in the sex business. Some folks disclose their status upfront. Others don’t mention it, but you can surmise from the physical markers left by the infection. What’s interesting is that, unlike my current trick, most guys who disclose don’t seem to expect rejection, perhaps assuming someone in my position will be knowledgeable enough that they won’t run screaming from the room. Contrast that with disclosure conversations I’ve had with lovers, which can involve shaking hands, tears, and (in one case) two trips to the washroom to throw up before he finally got the words out.

In our conversation leading up to this encounter, he’s told me he wants a rape scene — specifically, a prison rape scene. Looking around the swanky, sprawling room that probably costs at least $300 a night, it’s hard to imagine it featuring as a convincing backdrop for a prison fantasy. But it’s the place he’s chosen so presumably he’s got a way to make it work for him.

Besides the rape-specific dialogue, the scenario is pretty ho-hum. He wants me to leave him alone in the room for a few minutes and then come back in and fuck him. He’s specified he probably won’t come or even get hard, so there’s no reason to bother with his dick.

I head to the bathroom, strip off my clothes and jerk my cock until it’s hard. My erection comes fast but I decide to leave him alone for an extra few minutes. Bottoms love to be kept waiting. It keeps them on their toes.

We haven’t established the specifics of the relationship between our characters, whether we know each other, if it’s the first time this is happening, or if it’s an ongoing pattern. But usually with complicated fantasies the back-story comes out as you go along, enough of it at least so you know who you’re pretending to be and what you’re pretending to do.

I walk back into the room, my feet padding noiselessly on the plush carpet. He’s lying on the bed, curled up in the fetal position, facing away from me and fully clothed. I come up behind him and grab his ass.

“Oh baby,” he says. “You’re not going to rape me are you?”

Straight in. Okay, I can work with that. But his tone is a little off. You don’t tend to use a term of endearment for someone you think is about to assault you.

I slide my hand down the back of his shorts and rub my finger along his hole, which it seems he’s lubed up in advance.

“Yeah bitch,” I say. “I’m gonna rape that ass.”

“No, baby,” he says. “Please don’t rape me.”

Every role-play situation has its own unique set of challenges. Figuring out the specific language that turns someone on is key. A client might like being called a cocksucker but hate being called a faggot. He might not want you to talk that much, offering nothing more than the occasional barked order or satisfied grunt. Or he might want a steady monologue repeating whatever words and phrases turn him on.

While you can lay out the other specifics of a scene in advance, such as limits and safewords, figuring out the dialogue is almost always something you have to do in the moment.

Your client might have instinctive responses to certain terms or modes of speech. But even though these things are key to his ability to get off, that doesn’t mean he’s able to articulate them or that he even knows what they are.

In this case, my trick wants to play out a fantasy of being raped. But, at least based on what he’s said so far, it seems as if I’m supposed to be someone he’s in a romantic relationship with.

I pull his shorts down a bit, exposing his ass and give him a little slap.

“I’m gonna fuck that ass . . . baby. And then if you’re good, I’m gonna share you with a few of the other guys.”

“No baby,” he says again. “Don’t let the other guys rape me.”

“Let me see that ass a little better,” I say.

I grab his hips and try to pull him to the edge of the bed, to make it easier for me to fuck him, but he doesn’t move. After trying to shift him a few times, I break character.

“I just need you to move a little closer to the edge,” I say, softly.

“Oh?” he says, lifting his head, straining to look over his shoulder at me.

“Yeah, if you can just bring your ass right to the edge of the bed, that would be great.”

He tries to shift his weight, but the mobility in his hips is highly impaired, making it hard to move around on the plush surface. Finally, I wrap my arm around his waist and heave his whole body towards me, leaving him to rest with his ass just hanging off the mattress.

“Alright bitch,” I say. “That’s better. Time to fuck that ass.”

“Please baby, don’t rape me,” he says.

By now my erection has subsided, so I start fingering his ass with one hand while stroking myself with the other, closing my eyes and flipping through my mental porn Rolodex for stimulation. When I’m hard again, I grab a condom from the pile he’s left on the side table, squirt some more lube over my dick and start to penetrate him. His body doesn’t flinch, but he lets out a little cry.

“Oh baby, please don’t rape me.”

“No bitch. I’m gonna rape you.”

“Baby, please don’t rape me.”

If I’m going to stay hard I need to zone out and ignore his mumblings. I close my eyes, grab his ass, and start thrusting in and out, muttering a continuous monologue to drown out his chatter.

My rhythm picks up and I start to fuck him harder, pulling almost all the way out before thrusting back in.

“Oh, ” he moans, his voice shuddering. “This is real rape. You’re really raping me. Why are you raping me? Please stop raping me.”

As I keep fucking him, his tone gradually escalates, getting louder and louder. If we were in a cheaper place, I might flip on the TV to cover the noise. But with higher-end hotels, the walls tend to be more solid. If you’re paying $300 for a bed, you don’t want to hear someone getting fucked in the next room.

I ease up my rhythm slightly and reach around to grab his cock. It’s tiny, probably an inch or two, and totally flaccid.

“I won’t get hard,” he blurts out, as I take it in my fingers.

“That’s okay . . . baby,” I say. “As long as I can fuck your ass.”

“Oh yes baby, fuck me,” he says.

I drop his cock, grab a hold of his hip again and keep fucking him. Despite what he said about his ability to get erect or ejaculate, he reaches down and starts playing with himself.

“That’s good baby,” I say. “Play with your cock while I rape you. That’s how I know you like it.”

“Oh yes baby,” he says. “I love it when you rape me like that.”

I continue to fuck him, but more gently, as his hand vibrates against his dick. He’s not hard at all but suddenly, without warning, he lets out a deep moan and a tiny trickle of white semen appears on the head of his cock.

I pull out and walk naked to the bathroom, roll the condom off and fold it into some toilet paper before tossing it in the garbage. I wash my dick in the sink, pat myself dry with a towel, pull on my underwear and grab my clothes.

I find him seated in his original position, perched on the end of the bed, his legs dangling, though now he’s looking up. I drop my clothes in a heap on the floor and begin to dress.

“Was that okay for you?” I ask.

“Oh yes,” he says, smiling. “Very good.”

Usually after a role-play scene, or any kind of BDSM really, I allot a little time for processing in case the person needs to talk about anything. After I’m dressed, I return to my seat in the chair and look up at him.

“So . . . do you do this kind of thing a lot?” I ask.

“I’ve tried it a few times,” he says. “It’s hard to find guys who are really good at the role-play part.”

He pauses.

“And it’s also hard to find guys who will be with you. When you look . . . like this.”

I nod, indicating understanding even though I don’t.

“Yeah,” I say. “I guess it must be difficult. And you —”

I pause, not knowing how much I should infer.

“You’ve been positive for a long time, I guess.”

“Yes,” he says softly. “But I survived.”

He smiles, momentarily, then sighs and looks back at the floor.

Questions flash through my mind. Is he the only one of his friends who survived? Does he feel lucky? Does he feel guilty? Is the rape fantasy connected to his diagnosis? To how he may have been infected? To a desire for intimacy he can’t have because of how he looks? Or am I looking for connections that don’t exist?

Rape fantasies are exceedingly common — in sex work, in porn, in real life. Despite my persistent tendency toward armchair psychoanalysis, there may be no deeper need being fulfilled here. This might just be what gets him off. The oddly romantic language he was using could suggest a desperate need for connection. But, like many clients who ask for roleplay, it could be something much more basic — he wants to live out a specific fantasy but lacks the “acting” skills needed to convincingly pull it off.

There are so many things I want to ask him. But I don’t. I’m not his therapist. Or his friend. And even though my dick has been inside of him, his life leading up to this moment isn’t actually any of my business. Instead we just sit together, wordlessly staring at the same spot on the floor. Finally, he breaks the silence.

“So, do you have any other clients today?”

“No,” I say. “Just heading home and then I’ll probably meet some friends later.”

“Okay,” he says. “Well, I’ll let you get going.”

“Right,” I say, realizing that he’s gently telling me to leave.

“Oh,” he says. “And your money is in the desk.”

I turn and open the drawer to find a fat white envelope, which I can tell just by feel has more than our agreed rate in it.

“Is this okay?” I say. “It’s not too much? I mean, it’s a lot.”

“It’s okay,” he says. “You did a good job.”

I walk over to him and plant a kiss on his forehead. He smiles and I give his shoulder a squeeze, before walking out the door and into the hallway.