Three's Company

Thanks to the gradual normalisation of the sexual wellness and health industry, more people are openly discussing their sexual experiences and embracing their own specific relationship to pleasure. Mainstream retailers are selling sex toys, and lube is finally being accepted as a sexual health essential - it’s a wonderful moment to be living in! Although, there are still some sexual subjects that most people are struggling to accept. Usually, when people start to talk about threesomes, they’re met with a lot of stunned looks. Although, as a society, we’re gradually becoming more sexually progressive, many people still see threesomes as a sexual fantasy that should never be fulfilled. Especially if you’re in a long-term relationship.

When I’ve asked people whether they’d have a threesome with their partner, I’ve consistently heard a sharp no. One person said they’d rather not do it because they’d see their partner having sex with someone else as a form of cheating, (even though they’re also supposed to be having sex with this other person), and someone else said they wouldn’t have a threesome because they’d be worried about their partner catching feelings for the third person and leaving them.

Yes, having a threesome can be daunting for a couple, but every threesome doesn’t end this way. Organising a threesome with your partner and a third doesn’t always result in a break-up, higher sexual expectations, or a newfound craving to only have group sex.

Sometimes it strengthens the bond you have and forces you to have confronting conversations you may not have had otherwise. So, let’s bloody talk about it!

Threesomes and ethical non-monogamy is something that every sexually active person should be considered at some point. Not because it’s an experience you absolutely have to have, but because at some point, you may have a partner who is interested in it, and you need to know how to handle that conversation. I’ve openly discussed threesomes and polyamory with FIGR co-founder Eloise and when we were chatting about the very nuanced topic of threesomes not too long ago, Eloise explained how having threesomes actually improved her relationship with her ex-partner. “I wanted to. I’m bi and we were having a good time. It was also during lockdown, so we were just bored and doing fantasy play. He was poly and I just don’t really have time to date other people, I also don’t really like doing it. I don’t like dating at all [laughs], but I told him ‘If you do it, it’s not going to be equal because I’m not going to seek anything out’. So that was when we thought, we should just have sex with other people, that’s something we should do.”

When most people think about having a threesome, they think about finding the third person at a bar, or in some other public place. They’re usually searching for someone both parties are attracted to, but don’t actually know. They have no idea about their sexual history, who they’re attracted to and in some cases, even their name! There’s a widespread assumption that if you’re having a threesome, you just need to pick someone and go for it - but that’s not actually the case.

As somatic sexologist and sex educator Alice Child recently explained in an article she wrote about threesomes, one of the best ways to find the perfect third these days is through a dating app specifically designed for ethical non-monogamy, such as Feeld, RedHotPie, or Fetlife. Eloise did this with her partner at the time when they were searching for their own third, and says the process is actually a lot more exciting than it sounds. “Feeld was the main app that we’d use…it’s such an interesting experience. Remember when you’d start dating your partner and the first couple of dates you’d feel giddy? When you’re going on a date and to meet someone as a possible third, you both are in that mindset and it’s super cute to see your partner act like that because you realise that’s how they would’ve been feeling when they were meeting you.”

When it comes to finding a good third, Eloise says going on dates with them makes the whole process a lot easier to digest. After all, you’re essentially starting a new sexual relationship with this person, so you want to feel safe when they’re around.

“I think [going on dates is] so important because that person’s giving you their time. It also just makes the other party feel safe going to meet a couple, because that’s more intimidating. I wouldn’t [want to] rock up to a couples house, if I hadn’t met them in a public space first.”

You also should be completely open and honest with a potential third about what kind of sex you like to have. You may have a kink or enjoy a bit of role play with your partner, but if your potential third isn’t as comfortable with what you find pleasurable, it could lead to a really disastrous experience where the third almost feels forced to adapt to your specific type of sex. “For me and my partner, we enjoyed really basic rough play – just a little slap – and it’s still something you have to talk about. We’re all here to have fun, we’re all here to get off. It’s not to benefit any one person, it’s an equal thing and everyone’s got to have a piece of the pie.”

Equality during a threesome is key to a good experience. Especially if you’ve never had one before. If you and your partner are searching for the ultimate third, you need to pay attention to how they treat the both of you, and how you treat them. If all three of you are showing each other an equal amount of attention, then, from what Eloise tells me, you’re in for a much more mutual threesome.

“It is really intimidating. You have to have really good manners, have a good social vibe. We I started seeing this woman, who I’m still really good friends with today. She was just the ultimate third!”

“On dates she would sit next to one of us, she’d go to the bathroom and then sit next to someone else, and no one ever really felt left out. It’s such an interesting thing because you don’t really think about it prior, but when it happens you’re really appreciating the equal attention.”

In a perfect world, every threesome would be like this. It would involve three people, who fully respect each other and are happy to respect each other’s sexual boundaries. They’d equally share each other’s attention and have amazing sex that concludes in three intensely exciting orgasms. Of course, the reality is that not every threesome will work out that way.

When we talked about the more uncomfortable ways a threesome could unfold, Eloise shared her first group sex experience with me. This shed a light on how awkward some threesomes can be, but also assured me that, as with anything, the first time is always the hardest.

“My first group sex experience was three or four years ago and looking back on it now, it probably wasn’t the best [experience], but I was seeing an older guy and it was sprung on me that a couple was coming around, the whole thing felt quite old-fashioned, but I ended up leaving! I went to bed in the other room [because] I felt sick, unprepared and was so nervous! I wasn’t into anyone.”

“Sex alone is really intimidating [when you’re] with someone for the first time and then when you have it with another person, it’s a lot.”

It makes you think then, if we all knew how to better approach threesomes and group sex, would we have a better first experience? As with many sexual topics, talking about threesomes is still considered off limits. You may feel comfortable to talk about threesomes openly with friends and maybe even your family (if they’re really open-minded), but if you bring up the subject in everyday conversation, you’ll no doubt still find a few people trying to change the subject.

In his book Tell Me What You Want, author Justin Lehmiller wrote that the most common sexual fantasy people have is having a threesome. In a study conducted with 4,175 participants for the book, only 5% of the cis-men and 13% of the cis-women surveyed said they’d never fantasised about having a threesome. This means 82% of the people surveyed had all fantasised about having a threesome at some stage. But that doesn’t mean that they’ve actually gone through with it, or even told their partners about it. Because threesomes are so rarely discussed, it does make you wonder where we get our initial ideas about threesomes and ethical non-monogamous sex from. If no one’s telling us the truth about threesomes, what they involve and why people have them, it can be very easy for us to develop a really skewed version of threesomes in our minds that really don’t have anything to do with reality.

When discussing this with Eloise, she reminded me of an episode of Sex and the City where Samantha decides to set up a threesome for her partner’s birthday.

“In Sex and The City, the only reason threesomes were mentioned was when Samantha and her partner had one with a younger girl. Threesomes were only for a birthday present to the man!

“I feel like a lot of people do that because they think, ‘oh, you possibly wouldn’t want to have a threesome’, or ‘what’s the occasion? Why are you giving this gift to him when it’s not his birthday or anything?’. So, it’s interesting, these preconceived notions that we have over it, when it’s just another form of sex and just getting off. It all has an impact.”

When Eloise reminded me of this scene, I instantly recalled the jealously Samantha felt when she saw her partner having sex with another woman. She started pushing her off the bed to kick her out of the picture and it made me wonder if scenes like this are what’s turned a lot of people off having threesomes? Did people watch Samantha struggle with sharing her partner and suddenly thought that if they had a threesome, they’d experience the same thing? 

Eloise explained that she has felt jealously during a threesome before, but luckily, the experience ended up leading to a really productive conversation with her partner and having a lot more mutually pleasurable group sex.

“You have to really be switched on and aware because there are time limits. I remember there was only one time where we were having sex with this person for the first time, and I had a break. I could tell he was about to cum, and I looked at him real dirty because I hadn’t even had an equal turn yet.”

“It felt shit, but all in all needed to happen to start a conversation and say, ‘remember there are three people and you just honed in on one person’. It wasn’t a jealously thing per se, but it was a thing of me not cumming yet!

As much as we think the world is becoming more sexually progressive, there’s still a lot of misinformation out there about sex. Threesomes and any other forms of ethical non- monogamy are still frowned upon and when we do find ourselves wanting to explore and learn more about these group sex situations, people are still unwilling to discuss them. To truly be open to new sexual experiences, we as a society need to be more open to discussing our sexual fantasies and boundaries openly and honestly. Not only will it allow us to explore our own sexuality, but it will also help to enhance our own sexual wellness, help educate other people about sex and their own sexuality, and also take away the shame attached to group sex.

As Eloise said, “we’re all here to get off”, so why don’t we just be honest about it so that other people who are curious about having threesomes of their own can approach it in a safe way? Let’s help them create an environment that allows everyone involved to have a great time, without unrealistic expectations of the perfect threesome getting in the way.

Written by Lauren Payne 

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