The beautiful yet intimidating cat-woman was so close I could smell the leather of her suit. I was in mortal danger and I knew it. In the faint light, I could make out her face and the form of her breasts straining against her suit. In a flash, she had knocked me to the floor. Kneeling above me, she whispered in my ear, "Only one thing can save you from me. You have to take me right now!" With that, she began to strip off her suit.

Okay, this wasn't cat-woman. It was my girl, and 'the floor' was my bed. And we were role playing. Go ahead, laugh. I'll be laughing louder-the sex was phenomenal.

But it's weird, right? That's what I thought at first. It's not. Pretending to be someone else is fun. It's exciting. It's hot.

"Part of enjoying tantalizing sex is experiencing a level of escape," says Scott Haltzman, MD, the author of The Secrets of Happily Married Men. "Role playing interweaves well with the natural tendency to dissociate from the daily demands of life. It helps your woman experience more liberation under the covers, because she can put herself mentally in a different, more exciting place."

In other words, if role playing helps her find new excitement, do whatever makes her happy. Is that too much to ask for an endless string of wild nights?

It's common for couples to get to a point of mild desperation. Dr Haltzman says this is normal and probably because dopamine levels (in the brain) diminish as you're exposed to something repeatedly.

But we humans have imagination. "Exposure to anything novel stimulates feelings of excitement and attraction,". Try role playing. You have nothing to lose except your identity for a few hours and some inhibitions.

Starting out
Our adventure began when a friend of mine told me over lunch about a recent round of toe-curling sex, with him dressed as a pilot and his wife as a flight attendant. My buddy spoke freely. I couldn't possibly share my fantasies with my girl, much less act them out. What would she think? My basic ideas-professor and student-were embarrassing enough, but what about my darker ones?

But I was normal. Nearly everyone has fantasies, and most of us are reluctant to explore them, says Brian Zamboni, PhD, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist at the University of Minnesota medical school. "We're simply embarrassed to disclose information we don't normally share. We're afraid of being laughed at."

Some weeks after that fateful lunch, my girl and I were on my couch. We'd had a few drinks and I was in a courageous mood. I decided to bring up the idea of role playing. My heart raced, but the nervousness and adrenaline made me all the more excited.

After some hemming and hawing, I stammered something about playing a game. She said yes. "Can I blindfold you?" Again, yes. I found a scarf, tied it over her eyes, and we were off-we kissed and cuddled, laughed and nibbled. That was it. But it was a start.

We talked about it later and I was relieved that my girl was happy that I'd brought it up. That's because in a long distance relationship, role playing is often a natural extension. You may already have role-played without knowing it. Talking dirty or baby talk can be a type of role playing too.

The guidelines
According to Brian Mustabski, PhD, a sex researcher at the University of Illinois at Chicago and formerly at the Kinsey Institute, there are a few things that you must keep in mind when you're considering role playing with your wife, girlfriend or live-in partner.

Timing: Raise the idea in context. Play off a movie you've watched-say Mr India. Wonder aloud what it would be like to be invisible and free to touch. "The best thing is if you get her to see the scenario as her idea,". Lift a line from the movie, say it to her and see how she reacts. Remember, subtlety can be the best approach.

Flattery: Start with "something positive and complimentary, like "I think you're really sexy," Bhalla says. "Then say, maybe, 'I've been having this fantasy lately. How would you feel about trying it?' Never mention boredom!"

Pacing: Don't be in a hurry. Start off slowly, giving her permission to laugh. Pretend. You may not be dressing up like a doctor, but you can talk like a doctor and go in and out of the role. Be spontaneous. Explore. Remember, there's no right way to do it. Have fun and a sense of humour about the whole thing

Technology: "A few years ago," says Neha, a 26-year-old girl from Bangalore, "I wasn't quite ready to role-play in real life. So I started out by doing some online role playing. It was the perfect way to go, because I could explore my own preferences anonymously and without any pressure." My girl and I proceeded gradually too. Usually we'd begin with a story and only move into the role playing several sessions later. We took baby steps, and enjoyed every hurdle. Butterflies can be a good thing; being nervous makes the role playing even better. Not just that: the minute you exit a role, your real life will seem better, if not refreshing again.

The scenarios
What is your partner like? "If she's conservative, she may be more interested in a mild, better-accepted scenario," Bedi says. Some common ones are: victim and rescuer, teacher and student, nurse and patient. But keep this in mind: "Most people's fantasies aren't really safe. One of the biggest fallacies about sex is that it has to be fuzzy and comfortable. Sometimes it's important for the sex to be slightly uncomfortable," Dr Haltzman advises.

So say goodbye to yourself for one night, and let an alter ego have some fun. "Role playing is a comfortable way for couples to explore their sexuality from behind masks. The roles people enjoy most are the ones that are the most different from their normal lives," says Mustanki.

For example, my girl has a corporate job in a buttondown firm but is into playing a cop with me. She is equally excited with the idea: "I really liked the time I was a rough, rude cop who swore with every sentence and roughed up the criminal-my boyfriend. It was quite a turn-on."

A woman I know, Aarti, 29, from Mumbai, has tried many classic scenarios: voyeurism and exhibitionism among them. "I like exhibitionism, because I know guys check me out, and it feels powerful to rub it in sometimes. But you have to trust your partner if you want to try some basic rough stuff."

Rough sex is a common female fantasy. "That doesn't mean rape, but it does involve the man using a certain amount of force," says Bhalla. For you, a combination of assertiveness with tenderness is the best. And always have a code word that instantly means 'Stop. Too much'.

The payoff

A lot of women-including my girl-like role playing. In the right frame of mind, they see it as something enjoyable. Fulfilling a fantasy is not kinky; it's intimate. As you move ahead, you learn and rediscover your partner. So this can be an opportunity to build intimacy.

A warning: You may see each other in a different light, Mustanki warns. Tell her you won't be offended by anything her character does and ask for similar assurance from her. Consider a mild start: A Men's Health poll shows that both men and women would love to try the simple 'Strangers in a bar' scenario. And no costumes are necessary for this role.

For my part, we're having fun. Your girl will say that if role playing comes from a place of love and trust, there's really no downside to it. You end up with a better sex life and maybe even some cool new outfits. If nothing else, it will let you escape the humdrum sex life of your bedroom and expand your horizons. Know one thing: with sex, it never hurts to try.