Role reversal is when the roles in the scene have reversed the normal or traditional power dynamic. In role reversal, the person who normally has the lower status takes a dominant approach and the person who normally has the higher status takes a submissive approach. This is not the same thing as switching unless the play partners usually have clearly defined D/s roles.
(The slash notation means "dominates", e.g. "punishes" or "spanks":)
- Younger sibling/older sibling
- Child/adult (particularly parent): girl/woman, girl/man, boy/woman, boy/man
In a traditional setting, the man has higher authority than the woman, and therefore all F/M has an element of role reversal attached to it, but less so in more modern relationships.
Role reversal in folklore
The theme of role reversal was commonplace in folk imagery and tales from Antiquity and the end of the Middle Ages through the first half of the nineteenth century. In many folkloristic traditions, a special day in the year was celebrated with role reversal elements. For example, the role of teacher and students was playfuly, symbolically, inverted. See also Carnival and Easter traditions.
The Romans had a festival in which boys would flog the schoolmaster.
Role reversal as a spanking art theme
Sometimes a spanking artist, author or film producer uses the role reversal concept in their works, for example here in Luc Lafnet's work — both from two different novels by A. W. Flogger, but clearly related: