How to Have a Successful Threesome, According to Queer Women

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Threesomes are definitely up there as one of the most common sexual fantasies. According to research carried out by Dr Justin Lehmiller of the Kinsey Institute, 95% of men and 87% of women said they had fantasized about sex with multiple partners. It’s such a common fantasy, in fact, that chances are you’re among that vast majority of people who have wondered what it would be like to have sex with more than one person at once (or perhaps you’ve already done it).

Dr. Ryan Scoats is often considered the first person to have a PhD in threesomes. According to his book Understanding Threesomes: Gender, Sex and Consensual Non-Monogamy, interest in threesomes and in other forms of consensual non-monogamy has risen over the past decade along with other sexual practices that were once thought of as extreme or taboo but now are commonplace, such as sex before marriage or living with a partner. Greater visibility of threesomes in the media has also lead to an increase in interest, though these representations are often limited or skewed by heteronormative biases.

A lack of proper understanding of threesome dynamics means that not everyone is going about having them in the healthiest ways. “People should try to be aware of the preconceptions they have when going into threesomes,” explains Scoats. “For example, assuming that the women will want to be sexual with each other, or that the men won’t, and consider whether that matches with what they themselves are looking for.”

Why do people who are new to threesomes, or perhaps have no direct experience of them at all, bring so many preconceptions to the situation? “It’s difficult to know where these ideas come from,” says Scoats, “but it is likely through the same places that people are exposed to and learn about sex: talking to friends, pornography, sex education, media pieces.”

A lot of the porn out there (not all, but a lot) shows threesomes through the male gaze, and so reinforces unhelpful heteronormative views that could lead to a threesome IRL going wrong. Almost exclusively FFM (which refers to a threesome dynamic in which two women and one man all interact with each other sexually) with the man’s pleasure — and penetrative sex — taking center stage, these representations reinforce unhelpful patriarchal views about sex that figure male pleasure as more important than female pleasure. As is true of all kinds of  sex, porn is not usually an accurate representation, but when it comes to threesomes, people do seem to be taking their cues from porn a little too much.

Porn isn’t real sex, especially when it comes to threesomes

Leanne Yau is a bisexual woman whose blog and Instagram account Poly Philia is dedicated to educating people on ethical non-monogany, which can include threesomes. She says that although porn is a chicken and egg situation (which came first, the porn, or the culture that made the porn?) there are certain traps that watching a threesome in porn can lead us into. 

“Someone once told me, porn is to sex what The Fast and The Furious is to driving,” she laughs. “And when it comes to threesomes, in particular, porn is often basically straight sex with a bit of lesbian kissing thrown in for spice.”

What’s more, real-life threesomes can be awkward. There can be funny moments, or things that go a bit wrong: someone farts, someone rolls off the bed. These are all things that most porn films would edit out, but they happen in real life. And here’s the bottom line: the more people in the room, the more chance of something awkwardly human happening. Have a laugh about it and just move on. 

“Just have fun, don’t try to make it performative,” says Leanne. “You’ll probably want to take breaks, you’ll probably have ridiculous or hilarious moments.”

A threesome is not a birthday present

Scroll through apps like Feeld or 3Fun, and it won’t be long until you’ll find a creepy profile of someone trying to set up a threesome for their partner’s birthday.

This can sometimes, very occasionally, be ok, as long as the person getting involved is into it and genuinely excited about helping a couple fulfill this specific fantasy. There’s a phrase in the sex-positive world, “If you can think it, you can kink it.” It may be that you’ll find that person who has a fantasy about being a birthday present, but the only way to find this out is through a lot of open and honest communication. When setting up a threesome, never make assumptions about what somebody is into. Your desires might not be the same as theirs. If you’ve talked about it and they’re really into it, great, have fun!

But 99.9% of the time this won’t be the case and you’ll just come across as a walking red flag. A golden rule about threesomes (probably THE golden rule) is that everyone needs to get something out of it. If you’re seeing one person in the dynamic in an objectified way, as something to be “given” or as a special treat for your partner, then chances are the balance of power is hugely slanted. You’re seeing them as disposable and their desires and boundaries as secondary to yours. It’s just kind of gross; don’t do this. 

Speaking of which…

Beware of being a “unicorn hunter” 

A lot of people who go looking for a threesome (in particular cis heterosexual couples) will proudly say they’re “hunting for a unicorn.” A “unicorn” is a person (usually a bisexual woman) looking to get involved with a couple. And while some people self-identify as a unicorn and are comfortable with this term, the general consensus is that it  very much does not pass the vibe check. The term is being called out more and more, with sex-positive educators pointing out that it objectifies the third person in the dynamic and reinforces couple privilege.

Yau explains she’s been on both sides of threesome dynamics (as a woman in a couple and a third person) many times and knows a thing or two about so-called ‘unicorn hunters’. Yau explains that approaching a potential third in an honest and respectful way is key. “Don’t treat it like you’re shopping on Amazon,” she says. “Involve that third person and don’t be too prescriptive.”

And definitely don’t lie. Dating apps are awash with people who will pull the ‘bait and switch’ — pretending they’re looking for one thing, and then surprising someone by asking for something completely different. 

“The very worst thing you can do, if you’re in a couple already, is use your girlfriend like some kind of bait,” says Yau. “Be open and clear about what you want. And if you’re new to this, be honest about that, too. Some people who are looking to be a third are into showing newbies the ropes, others wouldn’t touch that with a bargepole, but lying from the outset is never a good idea.”

Think about it beforehand… like, really think about it

It’s important to consider all the different things a threesome can be. Do you want to watch, or be watched? Do you want to team up with your partner to pleasure another person, or have them team up and focus on you? It’s also important to think about how much the threesome is for you, and how much it’s for your partner — and if you realize the balance is uneven there, to think carefully about why that is and if you’re both ok with it. 

“For those new to threesomes, I think it’s great to make a list (either physically or in your head) about what you feel you are and aren’t comfortable with, and what you do and do not want to try,” says Zoe Stoller, a queer writer, educator and social worker. “Of course, you might not know all the answers right away, and it’s totally valid to be open to exploring during the threesome — but it’s also a good idea to figure out what your boundaries are, if there are any, to ensure that the experience isn’t negative or too much for you right off the bat.”

Don’t forget about aftercare

Even with casual experiences, aftercare is important. This doesn’t need to be complicated — it could be as simple as getting everyone a glass of water, or sending a text the following day. If you’re in a relationship and you embarked upon a threesome with your partner, make sure to communicate afterwards. Talk about what you liked and didn’t like, and try to think about why, too.

And if you’re single, check in with yourself. “It’s a great idea to tune in to your emotions and see how you felt about the experience,” says Stoller. “What you did and did not like, whether you want to do this again, how you felt before, during and after, etc.”

Threesomes do take some organization, and quite a lot of emotional labor, (if you’re going about it in the right way) but don’t let that put you off. Obviously, the reason threesomes are so popular is because they’re a hell of a lot of fun. When three people are involved there are lots of opportunities to get creative in the bedroom. Embrace this and do what works for you and the people you’re with, rather than leaning on outside ideas about what the experience “should” be like. 

How to Have a Successful Threesome, According to Queer Women

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