Threesomes: A User's Guide

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Threesomes: A User's Guide
How to (really) manage a ménage a trois.

The answer for Janet* and her boyfriend Jack* was an emphatic no. "Neither of us wanted to be with another guy, and the idea of him watching me and another woman was hot—but the idea of me watching him and another woman was repulsive," says Janet, a 25-year-old historian. "So the rules were that he could watch us, direct us, and do anything he wanted to me. He was quite happy with that."

Making rules about what's going to happen may seem like a spontaneity killer—but that's better than turning the experience into a relationship killer. Besides, there'll be space for spontaneity within the boundaries you set with both your partner and the third person, which should also include the measures you'll take to protect everyone from STDs. (For instance, two women means two different condoms.)

"There's no such thing as too much decision making beforehand," says Jen Sincero, author of The Straight Girl’s Guide to Sleeping with Chicks. "You also need to make sure that both partners feel comfortable pulling the plug in the middle if things start feeling weird."

Which is exactly what happened to Jim* and Tracy*. After she agreed to—and enjoyed—a threesome with another woman, she requested they try it with another man. Believing the situation to be a sort of quid pro quo, Jim agreed despite his misgivings.

"I'm not a homophobe and I'd enjoyed seeing my wife with a woman, so I felt an obligation to say yes to a man," admits the 34-year-old lawyer. But before anyone's trousers dropped, he changed his mind. "Thankfully we had a 'safe' word I could say to stop everything," Jim recalls ruefully. "I had really been hating every second of it, and I knew it’d get to the point where our whole marriage could suffer."

"We didn't really 'choose' the three friends we've been with—it was all more a function of circumstance," explains Jaime, a 29-year-old speech therapist who has been with her boyfriend for six years. "It always started after a party, and it always ended with hugs; it was really nice. But my boyfriend and I had discussed the theoretical possibility of a threesome beforehand. And we knew the people well enough to believe they'd be OK with things afterwards, but not so well that a need to sever ties would have been hard."

So if you and your partner are truly ready to share your sex life with another person, there are potential collaborators everywhere—that is, if you make rules that will keep everyone happy and satisfied. That said, coworkers should probably stay a fantasy—no matter how hot the office manager is.

Whether you're interested in men or women or both, it's vital that everyone involved—including the easy-to-overlook third person—be comfortable with each other. When you’re ready to find a partner, you can go about it in any number of ways.

There are polyamory clubs all over the world; try googling "polyamory munch," which sounds filthy but is actually a nonsexual gathering in which groups of people meet to discuss their interests and find potential partners. However, while many people recommend that the third person be a virtual stranger, the right friend can be an ideal partner as well.

ThreesomeHollywood rarely depicts sex accurately: near-instantaneous, always-simultaneous orgasms? Sheets that conceal only naughty bits? But on screen threesomes get at least one thing right: the act is often hot and the aftermath is often messy. Everyone betrays everyone else in the movie Wild Things. A friendship is doomed in Y Tu Mamá También. And in HBO's Entourage, Turtle and Drama must deal with the heterosexual male nightmare of having "crossed swords."

Of course, that’s not to say all threesomes lead to disaster. Inviting someone else into bed can be a positive experience for all parties, but the presence of a third person does magnify the hazards all couples must face—from feelings of jealousy and self-loathing to unpleasant realities like sexually transmitted disease and social stigma. Portrait Of An Open Marriage

People fantasize about threesomes for any number of reasons: the opportunity to totally make out with another person without cheating, a chance to share something exciting and taboo with their partner, or the sensation of an extra pair of hands, eyes, and… other things in bed. But no matter what your motivation, the high stakes require that you pursue a threesome the right way for the right reasons.

"Plenty of men and women fantasize about threesomes—yet that doesn't mean they should actually have one," says advice columnist and sexologist Logan Levkoff. "Some couples are quite capable of handling it, but the majority of people can’t because emotions get in the way."

To determine if you're ready for a ménage à trois, see if you feel comfortable raising the subject with your partner. You can ask point blank if he's ever thought about it, or you can broach the subject in a roundabout way—through dirty talk during sex, or while watching a conveniently telling movie or TV show (see above).

Regardless, you should then be able to speak frankly about the realities of the situation. Make it clear that you find your partner attractive and that your desire isn’t a result of deficiencies in your relationship. Then be honest with yourself and with him about your capacity to not just endure, but to enjoy sharing each other with someone else.

"It is important for couples to talk about the fantasy, because each person may have a completely different picture of what the reality would look like," says Dossie Easton, a San Francisco therapist and coauthor of The Ethical Slut. "By talking about it, you'll find out if either of you have specific concerns about the idea." Do the two of you desire a man or a woman? Will there be full-on sex with the other person? Does everyone have full access to everyone else's… areas?

The answer for Janet* and her boyfriend Jack* was an emphatic no. "Neither of us wanted to be with another guy, and the idea of him watching me and another woman was hot—but the idea of me watching him and another woman was repulsive," says Janet, a 25-year-old historian. "So the rules were that he could watch us, direct us, and do anything he wanted to me. He was quite happy with that."

Making rules about what's going to happen may seem like a spontaneity killer—but that's better than turning the experience into a relationship killer. Besides, there'll be space for spontaneity within the boundaries you set with both your partner and the third person, which should also include the measures you'll take to protect everyone from STDs. (For instance, two women means two different condoms.)

"There's no such thing as too much decision making beforehand," says Jen Sincero, author of The Straight Girl’s Guide to Sleeping with Chicks. "You also need to make sure that both partners feel comfortable pulling the plug in the middle if things start feeling weird."

Which is exactly what happened to Jim* and Tracy*. After she agreed to—and enjoyed—a threesome with another woman, she requested they try it with another man. Believing the situation to be a sort of quid pro quo, Jim agreed despite his misgivings.

"I'm not a homophobe and I'd enjoyed seeing my wife with a woman, so I felt an obligation to say yes to a man," admits the 34-year-old lawyer. But before anyone's trousers dropped, he changed his mind. "Thankfully we had a 'safe' word I could say to stop everything," Jim recalls ruefully. "I had really been hating every second of it, and I knew it’d get to the point where our whole marriage could suffer."When Lesbian Obsessions Backfire On Men

"We didn't really 'choose' the three friends we've been with—it was all more a function of circumstance," explains Jaime, a 29-year-old speech therapist who has been with her boyfriend for six years. "It always started after a party, and it always ended with hugs; it was really nice. But my boyfriend and I had discussed the theoretical possibility of a threesome beforehand. And we knew the people well enough to believe they'd be OK with things afterwards, but not so well that a need to sever ties would have been hard."

So if you and your partner are truly ready to share your sex life with another person, there are potential collaborators everywhere—that is, if you make rules that will keep everyone happy and satisfied. That said, coworkers should probably stay a fantasy—no matter how hot the office manager is. Are Sex Parties The New Vibrator?

Whether you're interested in men or women or both, it's vital that everyone involved—including the easy-to-overlook third person—be comfortable with each other. When you’re ready to find a partner, you can go about it in any number of ways.

There are polyamory clubs all over the world; try googling "polyamory munch," which sounds filthy but is actually a nonsexual gathering in which groups of people meet to discuss their interests and find potential partners. However, while many people recommend that the third person be a virtual stranger, the right friend can be an ideal partner as well.