"I wouldn't do it again"

What is it really like to have a threesome?

11th November 2018

It’s Saturday night and your parents are away for the weekend. What do you do? Well, if you’re 17 and from the UK, chances are you’ll spend a few hours outside the local off-license, asking everyone walking by who isn’t a police officer to buy you booze.

If you successfully manage to convince someone that you are 18 but “forgot your ID” (or you’re lucky enough to run into someone who couldn’t care less), you’ll take your bottle of vodka and crate of beers, and head home for what you assume will be the party of a lifetime.

More often than not, this will result in you and your equally underage friends standing around awkwardly until your untrained, low alcohol tolerance kicks in and you all start behaving like drunken idiots. After trying and failing to exert some control over your mates, you’ll give up on the idea that this might be the world’s best party. Instead, you’ll use your newly-increased sense of confidence to try your chances with that girl you like.

If you’re lucky enough, you might even find yourself in the bedroom with her. It’s a familiar narrative. However, this is where George’s story gets a little different.

Lots of people have sex at house parties. Some of them have probably been interrupted. But when George’s friend barged in, he didn’t apologise and immediately leave — he jokingly suggested a threesome.

After that experience, it certainly isn’t something I would do again

Looking back on it, George believes that both his and the girl’s willingness to participate was largely due to their intoxicated states.

“The alcohol gave me confidence,” he says, “and after that experience, it certainly isn’t something I would do again. I don’t think many people have threesomes sober.”

George is probably wrong. According to a 2016 survey published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, just under a quarter of heterosexual men aged 18-25 have had a threesome, and so have 8% of women. The study also shows that a whopping 82% of heterosexual men and 31% of women are at least interested in the idea.

And that’s just those who identify as straight. According to a recent YouGov poll, 49% of 18-24 year olds describe themselves as “sexually fluid”. With millennials and gen Z at the forefront of a world where sexual exploration is slightly more acceptable, those numbers may actually be a little higher — especially in 2018.

Threesomes have been around for as long as sex itself. References to threesomes date as far back as 400 BC, to the holy book of human sexuality, the Kama Sutra. However, depictions of threesomes in media are still rare in the grand scheme of things, and those that do exist are overtly subject to criticism.

Kama Sutra

In 2009, the third season of popular show Gossip Girl featured characters Dan Humphey (Penn Badgley), Vanessa Abrams (Jessica Szohr) and Olivia Burke (Hillary Duff) partaking in a drunken threesome. It wasn’t the first scene of this kind aired on TV, but rarely before had threesomes been depicted on a show with a large audience of impressionable teenagers.

US-based censorship group Parents Television Council called the episode “reckless and irresponsible” and parental advocacy groups called for it to be blocked. Despite this, the episode aired and attracted 2.37 million US viewers — a record for that season.

Enid Portuguez of the Los Angeles Times criticised the scene for being “purposefully cliché” and “just a futon bed and a passed-out guy away from being truly realistic”. However, the scene revealed cracks in the onscreen relationship between Dan and Olivia, similar to what happened in Rebecca’s* real-life relationship. 

Rebecca felt forced into a threesome involving her boyfriend and one of their female friends. The two women were lying in bed when her boyfriend suggested it, and Rebecca didn’t know how to react. 

I felt pressured because I obviously didn’t want my friend sleeping with my boyfriend

“I thought they were joking until my boyfriend started to kiss me whilst running his hand down my friend’s leg,” she says. “I felt pressured because I obviously didn’t want my friend sleeping with my boyfriend. But I was scared in case I said no and they slept together anyway. I wanted to be involved if it was going to happen.”

Rebecca eventually succumbed to pressure from both her boyfriend and their friend, and what followed was an uncomfortable experience filled with awkward silences. “It was less of a threesome and more of me having sex with my boyfriend while he had sex with my friend at the same time.

“It’s totally different to how they show it in porn. [Porn] is all scripted and planned, and everyone knows exactly what to do. In real life, there’s a lot of fumbling around.”

I didn’t want to be intimate with my friend

Despite being pressured into the threesome, Rebecca refused to do anything else physically that she didn’t want to. “My boyfriend kept making suggestions, but I would just laugh them off. I didn’t want to be intimate with my friend.”

The experience brought out a lot of insecurities within the relationship, and Rebecca began to question whether it had all been an excuse for her boyfriend to sleep with their friend. They split not long after, and Rebecca believes that the threesome was a “huge factor” in their relationship ending.

Despite her first experience being a negative one, Rebecca, unlike George, isn’t completely against giving it another go.

“It’s not something I’m ruling out,” she says, “But it would have to be with the right people. I would certainly have to feel comfortable with them.”

Just like Rebecca, without having experienced a threesome, many people’s perceptions of them are likely based on how they are presented on TV and in pornography. Rebecca is “put off” by the idea of a threesome involving two men and a woman (otherwise known as MMF) because of how the porn industry portrays these encounters.

To think that so many men hate women to the degree that they can get aroused by such vile images is quite profound

In 2010, the Guardian published an article titled The truth about the porn industry, in which journalist and activist Julie Bindel criticised MMF porn as being misogynistic and degrading to women, citing the normalisation of extreme acts depicted in internet porn such as vaginal, oral and anal penetration by multiple men at the same time, and women gagging on penises.

“To think that so many men hate women to the degree that they can get aroused by such vile images is quite profound,” Bindel wrote. “Pornography is the perfect propaganda piece for patriarchy. In nothing else is their hatred of us quite as clear.”

Despite this criticism, threesomes remain one of the most popular categories on the world’s most popular porn website, Pornhub.

According to it’s 2014-2017 yearly review of statistics, “threesome” was the 11th most searched category in 2014, rising to fifth in 2015, and as of the last two years, it is the ninth most searched.

Threesomes in porn are particularly popular among women. In fact, in the last few years, it has been the third most-viewed category among female viewers.

Threesome graph

Jake* has been lucky enough to partake in three threesomes and, somewhat of an expert, he argues that women enjoy MMFs just as much as threesomes with two women (MFF).

“If it’s a woman and two men, the woman has to be confident. If she isn’t, there’s a chance she might feel very uncomfortable. But if she is, she will enjoy it.”

Nobody was pressured or felt uncomfortable

The first of his two MMF experiences happened after a drunken night out, when his friend suggested they go back to the house of their female friend. Jake believes all three involved saw the experience as a bit of fun and insists everyone involved was comfortable.

“Nobody was pressured or felt uncomfortable. We were all high-fiving.”

He says the woman performed oral sex on him while being penetrated from behind by the other man, describing what is commonly known as the “Eiffel Tower”. Jake says the men “took control”, but insists it didn’t make the woman feel uncomfortable or degraded.

His second experience happened when he walked in on his roommate and a woman having sex. He doesn’t remember which of them asked him to join in — it “just happened”. Where some people believe sex to be an important part of a romantic relationship, Jake sees all three of his experiences as something to laugh about.

It was all just a bit of fun between friends

When asked if he would ever consider being a part of ménage a trois (an arrangement between a married couple having sex or living together with a third-party) or get involved with a couple looking for a third member, he wasn’t too keen.

“It was all just a bit of fun between friends. I wouldn’t like it if it was organised or if my girlfriend wanted to set one up,” he says.

“That’s too much. It has to be heat of the moment.”

Planned threesomes are something that seem to carry an embarrassing stigma and need for secrecy. However, apps like Feeld have created a place where people who are looking for a planned threesome can feel comfortable.

Launched in 2014 as an app specifically for couples to find someone for a threesome and vice versa, Feeld re-branded last year as a dating app for open-minded people to find whatever romantic or sexual situation they fancy. The app is similar to Tinder but caters to a much bigger demographic of sexualities and fantasies.

Although he’s never used the app, Kieran* is someone who would be up for a threesome involving him and a partner. Having one threesome experience, he believes this sexual adventure is done best when properly planned.

“In some ways, it could probably heighten the emotional connection of your relationship if you did it right,” he says.

Kieran’s first and only threesome was with his girlfriend and a woman he had previously slept with.

“We were at a party. I mentioned it to her jokingly before and she said maybe. We were drunk, it came up in conversation and we agreed to go back to hers and do it.”

I’d always wanted to have one, but I knew I probably wouldn’t be comfortable seeing my girlfriend with someone else

He reveals that this was the full extent of the “planning”, and wishes they could have organised a way to make it the best possible experience for everyone.

“I’d always wanted to have one, but I knew I probably wouldn’t be comfortable seeing my girlfriend with someone else. But I was drunk and figured, ‘How likely am I to get this experience again?’ so I just ignored that.”

It turns out, Kieran struggled to enjoy the experience and felt a bit like an outsider.

“I said a couple times that I wasn’t comfortable with how it was going, which they noticed and made an effort to make me feel more included. But I always felt like I had to make sure I was involved.”

It took me a while to be able to look at her in that way without getting upset

Some guys probably wouldn’t mind seeing their girlfriend kiss another woman, but Kieran “hated” seeing his girlfriend with someone else and, like Rebecca, says it was extremely damaging to their relationship.

“It actually nearly killed our relationship. When we got back home in the morning, I told my girlfriend just how much I hated it. It took me a week to be able to look at her in that way without getting upset.”

I’d definitely do it again

“I’m still friends with the other person, although I feel less keen on seeing her now than I used to, as it brings back how insecure that night made me feel,” he adds.

Despite bringing some personal issues to the surface, Kieran’s experience isn’t deterring him from trying it again. “Physically, it was a fun experience. Sex with just one person now does seem mundane at times.  

“I’d definitely do it again; just make sure to plan it properly first, as I underestimated what the consequences could be.

“An extra person just adds loads of new possibilities for positions and things to try together.”

*names have been changed

11th November 2018