Review of For Play: 150 Sex Games for Couples

By continuing to browse this web site you are certifying your agreement to its terms of use; please read them if you have not done so already.



For Play: 150 Sex Games for Couples
by Walter A. Shelburne
Waterfall Press, 1993
ISBN 0-9636943-0-8

One of the most sexually experienced (and intelligent) women I have ever met once gave me the following advice: "Just think of sex as how adults play." As adults, much of our daily activity serves some serious, or at least useful, purpose: work, sleep, eating, exercising, "bettering ourselves," etc. Sex play, with ourselves or with a partner, has the potential to be for us now what the sandbox or the treehouse or the cardboard-box-the-refrigerator-came-in was for us as children: something we do purely for pleasure and fun. In theory, what we lose as adults in terms of free time and fascination with simple toys could be offset by the fact that this one type of play we can now engage in without fear, sex, could be just like the sandbox except with the addition of extreme physical pleasure, orgasmic release, deep connection with someone we love, and possibly altered states of consciousness. In other words, what we lose in the diversity of our play options could be made up for by a greater depth in one particular option. However, as Dr. Walter A. Shelburne (the author of For Play: 150 Sex Games for Couples) points out, "Although it may seem natural to mount a defense in favor of sex as play, very little has ever been written in its behalf."

In For Play: 150 Sex Games for Couples, Dr. Shelburne tends to use the terms "play" and "game" interchangeably, discussing sex "games" on equal footing with simple little sex "play ideas," which don't have complicated rules or clear goals. He also makes an intriguing point: "In that painful transition known as adolescence, we learned a game known as Flirtation, another called Seduction, and a third called Making-Out; as adults though, this repertoire is simply too limiting." I would add that behind each of these adolescent "games" there are not only implicit rules, but also clear goals: capturing the object of your affection, or being "smooth" enough to get to the next "base." In this sense, even these youthful sex "games" were typically not "playful." It seems to me that only as sexually mature adults, with a partner or partners whom we have been "around the bases" with many times, can sex games easily be true "play." To me, this is one of the profound ironies of sexual development.

But aside from theorizing such as this, Dr. Shelburne's introductory chapter in For Play: 150 Sex Games for Couples brought out some good guidelines for his games. In particular, he recommended that you and your partner should feel free to stop or modify any of the games if they begin to make either of you uncomfortable; his recommendation was for both partners to have safewords (which he called "code words") - the word "red" to end the game, and the word "yellow" to pause for an alteration in the rules. After this little introductory chapter, the rest of his book was devoted to 150 different little sex games and sex play ideas. Here are four of my favorites:

Love Strategy Game #14

In "Love Strategy" you try to determine the most effective way to make your partner feel loved. For some people it is something you do for them that makes them feel loved like making them dinner, buying flowers, remembering anniversaries, and so forth. For other people it is something you say to them such as, "I love you." For many people it is some special way they like to be touched, a specific way of being hugged or kissed, for example.

Begin by remembering a time when you felt especially loved. If you can't recall a specific memory, imagine what it would be like to really be loved in the special way that works best for you. Be very specific in describing how you really like to feel loved after you have narrowed down which of the three modes of communication are most right for you. Then ask your partner to express love for you in just that special way. Each partner gets a turn in this game.

Car Wash Game #21

This is a game for the shower. One of the lovers puts lavish amounts of soap all over their body. Then standing together in the shower, the lathered person proceeds to "wash" the unlathered partner by rubbing bodies together. Be sure to include washing back to back and front to back, as well as front to front.

Love Braille Game #25

Both you and your partner begin by securely blindfolding yourselves so that neither of you can see anything. Start with all of your clothes on. Then one partner slowly begins to undress their lover. Take turns taking off one piece of clothing at a time from each other. During this game no spoken words are allowed but communicate freely with your partner through moans, sighs, groans, and hurrahs. Proceed to make wild, glorious love as you fully experience and celebrate your lover through the nonvisual senses.

Rain Game #33

Wait until a good rain comes to wherever you happen to be. Lie down together where you can hear the rain coming down and slowly and sensuously make love to your partner while listening to the sound of the rain. If it happens to be a warm summer night, you might want to chance making love outside.

One thing I've found I like about sex games is that they allow for boundaries without the emotional weight of "should." I've also found a common feature of sex games to be that they insure "everyone gets a turn," which removes the temptation for anyone to worry about whether they're being too generous or too selfish. I also like sex games because they can reduce some of the anxiety around sex; by providing a structure I and my partner can feel more free to explore things that we might have been too embarrassed to bring up otherwise, or which we would not even have thought to try but ultimately find we like.

If you and your partner find that you're having trouble choosing which game to play, or if you notice yourself skipping particular games because you're nervous about revealing you might like such a thing, then one possibility might be to simply select which game to play at random. You could make little marks by the ones you've tried, eventually covering the entire book, and probably learn a lot about each other in the process. One way to do this would be to take a calculator or computer which lets you generate a random number (between 0 and 1), multiply this number by 150, and round up. For games which have an initial giver and receiver, you could flip a coin. This may sound like a lot of effort, but don't knock it til you try it... The beauty of this approach is that you have agreed ahead of time on what you are going to try do, so there is quite a bit less nervousness or uncertainty when you actually go to do it.

It occurred to me that someone should write a book specifically on sex games for three or more partners; a simple little sex game of some kind is often just the thing to break the ice in group sex situations, and can help everyone feel more comfortable with each other. It also crossed my mind once or twice that it might be fun to have a BDSM version of this book; this could be especially helpful for people who want to explore BDSM play where there the "Top" and "bottom" roles are either blurred or subject to reversal throughout the scene.

The one thing I actually didn't like about this book was the cover art and (to a lesser extent) the typeface choice. It isn't that these were inherently BAD, but rather that an opportunity was missed to have them be lighthearted and playful, and hence aesthetically supportive of the author's position on sex being "play."

But in summary, this was a relatively good book. Not all of the games were to my liking, but many were. I would consider this book a good choice if I and my partner had already tried all the games in The Great Sex Weekend and wanted more ideas. I would also consider it a good choice if we simply wanted a wide variety of games to choose from, or (as I suggested above) if we wanted to be able to select games at random from a big pool of them.

This document is in the following section of this site: Main Documents > Contributing Authors > SHS Mailing List Reviews

If you're new to this site, we recommend you visit its home page for a better sense of all it has to offer.