Why I Don't Have High Hopes for "Tinder for Threesomes"

For the most part, people looking for a ménage à trois through digital means are often uninterested in developing any kind of relationship beyond a quick check-in over gin-and-tonics to ensure that no one involved is a serial killer.

Mar 2, 2014 at 1:00pm | Leave a comment

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Too many dicks on the dance floor. So to speak.

As a queer lady with a fairly relaxed view of where my bits end up, I have partaken in my fair share of threesomes over the years. Not every combination or permutation, mind you, but enough to give me a decent perspective on the whole experience. I mean, I dated a couple for almost a year -- eventually, you just kind of work some things out. 

So here's the thing about threesomes: Everyone says they are overrated, but this is wildly, patently untrue. 

I mean, it's not as if they're particularly underrated, either. Like most sex acts, threesomes exist on a spectrum. Sometimes they're mind-blowingly awesome, and sometimes they feel like the equivalent of when a coworker you don't particularly like tells you the minute details of a 15-minute nightmare about The Big Bang Theory. Only, y'know, naked.

And just like any sexual activity among consenting adults, there are some methods of going about the care and feeding of a three-way that are more effective than others. One way that seems especially likely to take a turn for the uncomfortable is arranging your threesome via the Internet -- particularly a phone app.

This is not to say, of course, that using your intimate-encounter website of choice can never result in a good time. Online dating has obviously worked out fine for lots of folks interested in long-term, short-term, or flash-relationships (read: casual encounters). During my halcyon days of OKCupid fishing, I inbox-chatted with several couples who were looking to introduce a third into their relationship. Though it never panned out, it seemed perfectly logical that eventually, they'd find a cheerful person to join in on their human pyramid. 

The thing is, though, that I think threesomes work best when the humans in question are actually acquainted with each other and have established some chemistry. And for the most part, people looking for a ménage à trois through digital means are often uninterested in developing any kind of relationship beyond a quick check-in over gin-and-tonics to ensure that no one involved is a serial killer. 

This wham-bam-thank-you-ma'ams style of initiating three-ways is even more exacerbated when it comes to, say, using dating apps. You may have heard of something called "Tinder," a smartphone application that allows for real-time connections between people looking to make friends and/or touch genitals. Now, there exists a similar program for couples and singles trying to construct a tripod named "3nder."

3nder is still in development at the moment, so it's hard to say just how effective its interface will be. Unsurprisingly, it seems to have a similar snap-judgment rating system to Tinder or Grindr. This raises a lot of immediate questions for me -- what if two randos like each other but a third only likes one? Is group-sexting a thing? -- and I'm not entirely reassured by the site's vague mission of "making society more open about sexual desires."

However, if I had to guess, I'd say that the majority of users will end up awkwardly shooting messages back and forth for weeks on end or, at the very best, engaging in a one-time mutual grope session and then "accidentally" losing the contact information of everyone involved.

I'm not usually such a pessimist. But the thing is, threesomes can be awkward, especially for people unused to branching out of their sexual comfort zones. For some reason, three-ways (especially those involving two women and one man) have been cast by popular media as a tantalizing forbidden fruit, attainable only by those who possess a special sexual prowess. (I'm guessing that for the average straight dude, telling all your bros that you banged two women has become a coded way of informing them about the magnetic power of your super-boner and, in turn, your masculinity.) In reality, this puts a lot of weird pressure on everyone involved to make every three-way the Best Night Ever. 

If you're a member of a couple bringing in a third party, you're often unduly focused on making sure everyone has a good time, like a party host too busy bringing in hors-d'oeuvres from the kitchen to enjoy the dance floor. There's also the risk of jealousy suddenly rearing its ugly head, which can be awkward when you're trying to concentrate on, um, choreography.

If you're the "guest star," which is my preferred role, you may encounter what I call "Bedroom FOMO," which is essentially what happens when the couple you're trying to bang gets distracted by each other and leaves you to surreptitiously read fanfiction on your phone. Or you can realize, mid-screw, that you only really have a connection with half of the people present. Trust me, this epiphany will quickly become apparent to everyone involved, and it will be terrible.

And if the three of you have never met before, mazel tov! Enjoy navigating first-time sex with extra hands, feet, tongues and genitals thrown into the mix. 

Plus, regardless of the situation, you always have the standard issues of safety, consent, and positioning, which can sometimes feel like Tetris and Twister had a mean, scared baby.

Despite all this grumbling, I swear: I actually have appreciated the majority of my experiences with threesomes. I like having attention focused on me, after all, and I also like being able to high-five someone over someone else's head in the middle of coitus. But it took a lot of communication and talking through potential snags for me to enjoy myself. I don't know about you, but being open and honest with new sex partners is something I struggle with at the best of times, particularly if I don't like what they're doing but it's not the worst thing ever.

If these partners are people I know and trust already -- or have at least gone on more than one date with -- it makes those check-in situations a hell of a lot easier. By contrast, the idea of meeting two people via more or less random digital means and then immediately trying to enact complicated scenarios with them seems doomed to hurt feelings and/or bruised body parts from someone's errant elbow.

For the record, I do know people who have had successful group sex with near-strangers right off the bat. However, they have been very experienced communicators or, well, on psychotropic drugs, which tend to take the edge off any anxiety about those matters. So my point still stands.

And maybe I'm wrong about this. Maybe 3nder will become an enormous success, and undam a whole sea of potential for people who want to be the big and the little spoon simultaneously. But in the meantime, if you're truly interested in a threesome, I'd recommend hashing things out with someone in person if at all possible. You'd be surprised at how far a simple "Hey, so my life partner and I both think you're pretty cute" can go.

Kate has had "Golden Rule" stuck in her head for the entirety of writing this piece: @katchatters