What is a Play Partner?

play partner

The BDSM community has many labels to choose from. Some are used to describe one’s sexual orientation, some for gender identity, D/s role, etc. One of these labels that is used to describe a certain type of relationship is “play partner”. But what does this mean exactly?

Yes, there is the simple answer. A play partner is someone you play with. Ok good. We’ve established it’s someone you play with. Let’s move on from there shall we?

If you are in a D/s dynamic with someone it is usually assumed that you are play partners within that relationship. However, this is not to say that all people in dynamics play. You can be both, however, for some it can be one or the other.

Let’s talk about those that are only play partners, without more of a D/s relationship between them. Are you play partners with everyone you happen to play with? Not in my opinion. I certainly wouldn’t list them on my profile that way just because we happened to do a “pick up scene” last weekend. Can you imagine some people’s wall if they did this!! Lol
So what takes someone from the level of “friend” to “play partner”?

In my opinion an official play partner is someone that you play with regularly and consistently. Someone who is also not “more than” a play partner. Because, like I mentioned, for most people if you are more than just play partners then the play partner status is usually assumed.

One thing you cannot assume, however, is that someone is physically intimate with a play partner. As I’ve discussed in previous articles, play does not always mean sexual acts are involved. Can you be play partners and lovers? Absolutely. Yet both can be independent of the other as well.

So why be “just” play partners? I keep putting quotations around “just” for a very good reason. I never want to come across as trivializing a play partner relationship. Taking everything else out – no sex, no D/s (except for perhaps role play during scenes). You have a friend and someone that you trust to play with. To explore your deep dark fetishes, to try new things with, to push the limits of pain and pleasure. This is priceless whether you are the Top or the bottom. People will usually think of how great this relationship is when it comes to the bottom, however, there are very similar benefits for the Top. The Top has a partner to try new things with and explore new skills with (hopefully with supervision if needed), and someone to help push their limits as a Top.

As with any other label, only make this one official if the other person agrees. Everyone’s definition is different and they may not feel comfortable making this relationship public. It is a relationship that deserves respect and care. So if you have a play partner consider yourself lucky – whether it’s within another dynamic or not!

Jennifer Masri is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in Alternative Lifestyles for individual and relationship issues. She also teaches the BDSM 101 class series at Sanctuary LAX in Los Angeles every Monday evening. Read more about Jennifer on her blog, A Kink Shrink.


  1. I hate the assumption that because we are play partners, wwe are having sex. i get why people think that but it is unfair. if you want to know then just ask!

    • Yup! It’s very rare that you can make assumptions in this world and be correct! 🙂

  2. Steve Schnobrich says:

    I know for myself that there can be separate between sex and play and play only. In my life within this lifestyle all my play scenes have been non sexual for me. I hope one day that I may have the combined experience of sex and play.

  3. I often find my Dom has issues with females he takes as a play partner when they can’t stay ‘a play partner’. Seems after a few sessions they want more. Even the best negotiations before play ever ensued seem to go out the window. I first thought it was terminology but we both now realize it’s bottoms not really knowing what they want. My best advice no matter what you call it if all the participants aren’t on the same page it won’t work.

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