If you're one of the 89 percent of people who *want* to have a threesome, but don't know where to start, this guide can help.

By Gabrielle Kassel
June 23, 2020
Advertisement

Ménage à trois, threeway, triad, groupsex, threesome—whatever you call it, a whopping 87 (!) percent of American women and 95 (!) percent of American men fantasize about having sex with more than one partner, according to a 4,000 person survey conducted by internationally recognized sex researcher Justin Lehmiller, Ph.D., author Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life.

And yet, data suggests that only about 14 percent of people actually have had a threesome.

While, of course, there are things that you may fantasize about that you don't actually want to try IRL, these numbers suggest that the hurdle between wanting a threesome and actually having one feels insurmountable to many pleasure-seekers. Well, hurdles be gone! Read on to learn how to have a healthy, orgasmic, and safe threesome—plus, why you might want to in the first place.

What Is a Threesome, Exactly?

A threesome is any (consensual) sexual or erotic activity that includes three people, says Luna Matatas, sexuality, body, confidence, and kink educator and creator of Peg the Patriarchy (brand name goals, right?).

The two girls, one guy configuration is a TV-show fave (talking about you, Games of Throne and Easy). And, of course, there's the so-called devil's threesome: two guys, one girl. Of course, three people of any gender identity can have a threesome; three women can have a threesome, three men can have a threesome, three non-binary people can have a threesome, and any combination of three of those people can have a threesome. And if two people are having sex IRL while a third watches via video, or two people watch while a third masturbates, that totally count as a threesome, too!

"Depending on your definition of 'sex', what counts as a threesome can vary," says Matatas. "It's great to keep an open mind about what a threesome can look like because some types of threesomes might feel intimidating, unsafe, or undesirable to you." Think: A threesome could involve only hand stuff, but no P-in-V penetration. "Thinking about different ways to participate erotically can open up options that feel sexy for everyone involved," she says.

Who You Have Sex with ≠ Your Sexual Orientation

"There's an unfortunate misconception that sexual orientation and sexual behavior describe the same thing," says Caitlin V., M.P.H., clinical sexologist for Royal, a vegan-friendly condom and lubricant company. So before we go any further, let's make one thing very clear: Who you have sex with does not dictate sexual orientation. "Your 'sexual orientation' describes your attraction and arousal, whereas your behavior is what you do with your body and sexuality," she says.

A straight-identified, cisgender woman could engage in a sex act with another cisgender woman and still identify as straight. Just as a straight man could have a threesome and still identify as straight. And these both stand whether sexual contact or activity takes place between those folks. (Don't know what cisgender means? Learn more: What It Really Means to Be Gender Fluid or Non-Binary)

Why Might Someone Want to Have a Threesome?

"A threesome comes with some obvious benefits, like up to six hands on your body, but also with some less obvious benefits, too," says Caitlin V. As a single person, you get to enjoy the fulfillment of sex without the complexity of potential emotional attachment. "And if the other two lovers are dating/married, you get the joy of helping others spice up their sex life or helping them fulfill a fantasy." She goes on: If you are bicurious (a term for straight people looking to explore similar gender territory) a threesome can give you an opportunity to explore within the context of a different gender encounter. (P.S. Do you know the difference between bisexual and pansexual?)

As for couples? A threesome can bring your relationship increased pleasure, enhanced communication, and a chance to experiment, says Caitlin V. "Many people find watching their partner with another person reminds them of the attractiveness and desirability of their partner."

11 Tips for How to Have a Healthy Threesome

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Lehmiller's research also revealed that threesomes are the fantasy most likely to go awry when enacted IRL. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have a threesome, but it does mean you should be thoughtful AF before testing the "all good things come in threes" theory in bed.

1. Suss out why you want to have a threesome.

"The number one mistake I see from couples is them wanting to have them threesomes for the wrong reason," says Dirty Lola, sex educator and producer and host of the Sex Ed A-Go-Go live show and podcast, and co-host of New York Magazine's The Cut's "Sex Probz" web series. A threesome, for instance, is not going to fix your relationship, she says. On the contrary, "a threesome is going to hold a magnifying glass up to that relationship and highlight any communication and boundary issues you have." Likewise, if your partner refuses to go down on you (eye roll), sure, bringing in a third may give you the oral sex you want, but it's not going to change the fact that you don't feel like your partner prioritizes your pleasure.

Do you want to have a threesome to experience joy? To learn more about your body and its capacity for pleasure? To explore your sexuality within a safe, consensual context? Because you experience compersion (that's when you experience joy for your partner's joy)? These are all solid reasons to have a threesome, says Matatas.

2. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page.

Whether having a threesome is your idea or your boos, if a threesome is in the realm of possibilities, you better be prepared to communicate. In detail.

If your partner introduces the idea to you, Matatas recommends probing why they're interested. Not to shame them, but to make sure they actually want to have a threesome and aren't just trying to band-aid your relationship. If it's the latter, address that before bringing someone else into the mix/mess. Some questions you might ask:

  • What is it about a threesome that turns you on?
  • Are you hoping for threesomes to become a regular part of your sex life, or as a one-off?
  • Do you have a particular fantasy you want to play out?

You might be wondering: Well, what if only one of us wants to have a threesome? (And if you're wondering how to convince your girlfriend/wife/boyfriend/husband/partner to have a threesome, tread carefully.) The person who's desiring a threesome can outline their interest, but they should not try to convince the less-interested partner. "Neither partner should feel like they have to sacrifice their own emotional or physical safety or comfort for the sake of someone else," says Matatas. "Doing something you don't want to do because you feel obligated or guilted into doing it is just going to lead to confusion, resentment, and disappointment."

Good news: Depending on why the threesome-enthusiast wants to have one, there may be ways to fulfill the emotional, physical, or psychological thrill they're seeking without a threesome. For instance, if the turn-on is the idea of being watched having sex, maybe having sex in a one-stall lockable bathroom will do the trick. If the turn-on is the idea of double-penetration, maybe getting a double-ended dildo will do it. (Related: How I Learned to Ask for What I Want In Bed)

And what if a threesome is something one partner feels they need to have, but is an absolute no-go for the other? Hate to break it to you, but there this may be an insurmountable incompatibility.

3. Do research.

I know, I know, doing research may sound like a drab start to getting it on. But "having a threesome will alter your relationship with your partner," says Dirty Lola. Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but when a monogamous couple has a threesome, they're experimenting with what monogamy means for them, she says. And that's not something you want to take lightly.

To prepare yourselves for that potential shift, she recommends reading The Ethical Slut by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton. "Chapter 4 is one of my favorite resources out there for teaching folks to navigate jealousy." Love's Not Color Blind by Kevin Patterson is also an awesome resource speaking to how to navigate non-monogamy as a person of color and as a white person committed to making polyamorous communities anti-racist.

For people who already know they might be interested in adding an emotional component to the threesome, she recommends Tristan Taormino's Opening Up: A Guide to Creating and Sustaining Open Relationships, which covers many different styles of non-monogamy including triads and polyfidelity. (Related: What It's Like to Be In a Polyamorous Triad)

4. Find your threesome partner(s).

When it comes to threesomes, apps are your BFF. And that's true whether you're a single seeking out a couple, two FWBs seeking out a third, or a couple who's unicorn hunting (ICYDK: "unicorn hunting" is the term given to a heterosexual couple seeking out a bisexual single gal.)

Nowadays, most apps can be repurposed to help you find a threeway. For instance, Tinder allows you to set your gender as "Couple" (lol, I know), and Lex which is a text-first dating app (for womxn, trans, genderqueer, intersex, two-spirit, and non-binary people to meet lovers and friends) allows you and your partner to create a blurb stating exactly what you're seeking.

But, IMHO, Feeld, OkCupid, and #Open are the best. Each allows you to link separate profiles, which is beneficial if you and your partner are looking for a third together. Plus, they also allow you to identify if you're polyamorous, non-monogamous, monogamish, or not. (That said, if you're kinky, download #Open and ignore the rest.)

"Another option is to hire a sex worker to help you fulfill your fantasy," notes Matatas. "Bringing in a sex worker helps to create distinct lines between the threesome relationship, supports your fantasy the way you want it, and can feel safer as a way of containing the fantasy emotionally," she says. (Related: What It's Really Like to Be a Dominatrix)

If you think you'd prefer to have a threesome with someone you already know, that's cool too! But Matatas recommends considering the advantages and disadvantages. "The advantages are that you already know that your personality's vibe, have a sense of your chemistry, and likely have some level of trust established," she says. "The disadvantages are that your friendship might be at risk if things get awkward during the threesome and you might feel uncomfortable blurring the lines of intimacy within your relationships."

5. Accurately express what you're looking for in this experience.

"Many times people act coy or misrepresent what they're actually looking for in a threesome because they don't want to keep the potential threesome from happening," says Dirty Lola. Plz, do *not* do this!

Whether you're actively looking for a threesome on the apps, met a potential third or couple at a bar, or want to bone two of your besties, you need to be b-e-y-o-n-d clear about what you're looking for here. "If you can't be honest and upfront about your expectations and wants, you're probably not ready to be having a threesome," she says. (Related: This One Conversation Radically Changed My Sex Life for the Better)

If you're using the apps, use your bio to express what you (or you and your boo) are looking for in another partner(s). For example: "Sex writer and coach by day, rock climber and partier by night, seeks couple friends of all genders and sexualities... and if there's chemistry, one night of fun (read: sex)." Or "Carla (she/her) is an outgoing nurse who spends her free time penning erotica and taste-testing whiskey. Austin (they/them) is a full-time librarian, part-time bartender, and wanna-be comedian. You're a person of any gender who's interesting in being woo-ed and doted by a queer couple and open to both emotional and physical connection."

This info will (obviously) need to be communicated differently if you met IRL. (But I'll say it again for the people in the back: it needs to be communicated!).

Some lines to try:

  • "My partner and I both think you're incredibly sexy and would love to worship your body in bed, either as a one-time or occasional thing. Take some time to think about it and if you're interested or have follow-up questions, you have my number."
  • "I've noticed that you've both been eying my lips. I don't want to do anything to ruin our friendship but I just want to let you know that I would be open to a threesome with you, if you're interested."
  • "I can tell that we're all vibing, but before we take this further, I just want to make sure we're all on the same page. I'm down for a night of fun but just FYI I'm ultimately looking for something more emotional."

6. Get to know each other.

Relax, you don't have to be three peas in a pod! But you do need to know each other well enough to be able to communicate like the adults you are! "Threesomes are more than just a collection of bodies; they're also a collection of desires, personalities, emotions, and needs," says Matatas. "Slowing down will give you more time to communicate, build-up, tease, and learn about someone's desires."

If you're meeting someone from a dating app, she recommends setting up a phone call or video chat beforehand. "This sets the tone for open and respectful communication," she says. (See: I Went On First Dates Via Video Chat—Here's How It Went)

7. Talk boundaries all together.

Attention couples seeking a third: Talking about your boundaries as a couple doesn't mean the conversations stop there, says Matatas. Once you find a (potential) third, you need to loop them into the boundaries conversation.

She suggests asking questions like:

  • What sex acts are on or off limits to you?
  • What fantasies are you hoping to act out?
  • How do you imagine the night unfolding?
  • Are you looking for a one-time threeway or an ongoing sexual relationship?
  • Are you open to an emotional relationship?
  • How are you envisioning the end of the evening? Are you hoping to sleep-over?

If you and your partner have established rules around who can and cannot do things (for instance, a common rule is "X cannot penetrate X"), be sure to communicate that in that conversation.

8. Remember: Boundaries includes safer-sex practices.

Discussing safer-sex practices is important before you get down with one other person, and it's important to discuss before you get down with more than one person. "Safer-sex can't just be the responsibility of just one person," says Matatas. "You need to decide all together what barriers (e.g. condoms, gloves, dental dams) are important and what sexual activities they'll be used for and between whom."

For instance, will condoms be used for giving blow jobs on penises? How about on strap-ons? Will gloves be used for fingering? Will dental dams be used for oral sex on vulvas and anuses? How will you clean toys between partners?

"Have conversations that include talking about recent sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and read up on what sexual activities have the potential for transmission of STIs so you can make informed choices about the levels of risk you're assuming," she says. "Remember that fingers, toys, mouths, and genitals are all places where fluids and bacteria can be exchanged."

To learn more about STI transmission check out this guide on how to have safer sex and this guide on how two (or more) vulva-owners can have safer sex. Oh, and here's what you need to know about oral STDs.

9. Pick a safe word.

"I really believe setting safe words ahead of time is incredibly important," says Dirty Lola. "It gives you all the opportunity to say 'time out' if something that you're not fully comfortable with starts." Ditto goes if you start to feel overwhelming jealousy (hey, it happens). "It's amazing how quickly we can work through jealousy when we name it and state our needs."

The stoplight method is a classic (green means go, yellow means slow down, and red means stop). The 1-10 method works well when impact play (a practice in which one partner strikes another with their hands or a toy) is involved, especially as you're learning a new person(s) pain tolerance. One partner might ask: "I'm going to spank you, and I want you to tell me what it feels like on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most painful. Okay?" While the other partner might respond, "That was a 6 and I'd like to stay under a 7 today." (Related: The Beginner's Guide to BDSM)

Of course, just because you have a one-word or one-number cue, doesn't mean you *can't* communicate in full sentences. In fact, Caitlin V. recommends it if jealousy comes up. She says saying something like: "Pause! I'm experiencing jealousy right now watching you two make out, I'm struck by how passionate it seems, I want to experience that passion too. I also feel left out because I'm just watching. It would feel good for me to be touched and reassured right now." Or, "Can we take a water break for a minute so I can take some space to process my feelings?" is totally valid! "You'll be amazed how quickly you can work through jealousy when you name it and state your needs," she says.

10. Come prepared.

That means having plenty of condoms, dental dams, and gloves on hand if you're planning to use them. Caitlin V. also recommends bringing up lube. "A drop or two of lube between the genitals and the barrier can increase sensation and pleasure for both people," she says. "Lube also cuts down on unpleasant friction and risk of (micro)tearing the delicate internal vaginal or anal skin."

And, of course, if you want to use toys, you'll need to bring them. (Thinking about purchasing a sex toy just for the event? Here's what you need to know about buying a sex safe toy.)

11. After, talk about it!

Or even better: conversations (plural). "Don't just pretend it didn't happen!," says Dirty Lola. If there were moments that were especially hot for you, share them. If there were moments when you felt jealous, express them so the feeling doesn't fester. (This is a little something called aftercare—and it can be a gamechanger for your sex life.)

Plus, adds Caitlin V. "Taking the time to really reflect after is what will help lead to the even more pleasure for you (and your partner) if you decide to have another even more successful threesome at a later date."

Comments

Be the first to comment!