I've Tried and Tried, But Threesomes Just Aren’t My Bag

I find having a threesome uncomfortably like hosting a party. Is everyone comfortable? Is everyone engaged in an enjoyable activity?

Dec 5, 2011 at 11:00am | Leave a comment

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Children’s educational programming wants us to think that three is a magic number. And, in a lot of ways, it is. I like odd numbers -- it gives you something to put in the middle. Something -- or someone -- in the middle sounds like such a good idea when it comes to sex, right?

Maybe it doesn’t for you -- maybe you’re a person who has never thought, “Oh, hey, the more the merrier when we’re all playing naked party games.”

If you’re that person, that is totally cool. Sex with multiple partners at the same time does not grant the participants extra awesome points. Just saying.

Winding up in a threesome is surprisingly easy if, like me at the time, you’ve never considered the logistics of it. I just hung out with some people in open relationships and flirted with the people I found attractive. (It’s worth noting, I am fat and have always been fat. My partners were highly varied in body type.)

I find a lot of different people attractive, which probably did make it easier. If your criteria for threesomes involves Calvin Klein models, it might be a bit harder to arrange. Those guys are busy.

But I digress. (That tends to happen with me. No regrets.)

My first multi-partner sexual experience was surprisingly natural and surprisingly fun. I’d met this guy, see (and by “met this guy” I actually do mean “picked this guy up at a goth club” *cough* -- he had such pretty hair, y’all). And we flirted a lot. And he was, to my complete and open knowledge, involved with several people. I wasn’t interested in anything serious -- I’d just gotten out of a relationship that wasn’t nearly as healthy in hindsight as I’d thought it was. I thought it was time to, like, take things a little less seriously.

Baseball metaphors break down when there are more people involved -- is third base still clothed? I count this because I don’t think you have to have a penis in a vag for it to count as sex. In fact, I don’t think there have to be orgasms for it to count as a sexual experience (though there were those). I had really delightful casual sexual contact with him for a little while (we never did get around to penetrative sex), casual sexual contact with him and another woman he was dating and then I moved and it was great. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt. It was fun.

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Maybe that makes it ironic that, based on my other threesome experiences, I find having a threesome uncomfortably like hosting a party. Is everyone comfortable? Is everyone engaged in an enjoyable activity? Is everyone on the same page re: potential emotional entanglements? That kind of constant situational awareness is actually pretty exhausting -- and it interferes with my capacity to actually relax and enjoy myself.

It's easy, when I am not engaged in a threesome, to say, "Hey, Marianne, next time that happens (given my current status of monogamously married, that “next time” is purely hypothetical), you should be selfish and enjoy the attention!" But self-awareness is a kick in the pants sometimes -- that's not ever actually going to happen.

I hover and motherhen and mingle at parties to make sure everyone is having a good time. I can't even go to the club without trying to steer everyone into their own personal Awesome Night Out experience. 

That's not to say that you have to be self-centered to enjoy a threesome. It isn't like only bad people get to have good sex. It's just one of those situations in which you have to be an active participant in a way that's going to get you off -- because otherwise it's going to be frustrating for the whole team. You don't want to let your team down, right?

The next big Lessons Learned is that, when you're coordinating with multiple partners, all the communication issues you would have with one partner are magnified. That's true, I think, of multiple ongoing relationships and multi-person sex situations both. Pre-negotiation is a really big deal so that you aren't sitting around naked asking questions when you could be doing other things, you know?

My next multi-partner sexual experience involved an ex-military man. He knew how to communicate and organize. We, like mature and responsible adults, emailed for about two weeks to organize and coordinate (the third person was also copied on these emails). That sounds like the least sexy thing ever, right?

This is where I tell you: negotiating and ensuring consent is actually hella sexy! You get to talk about sex! Sex you will be having! You get to say, hey, this is going to be so fun and awesome! That’s a lot of exclamation points but I think they’re required in this case. It helps if you are comfortable talking about sex, but it also serves as really excellent practice to help you become comfortable. 

We all figured out that they liked some mild bondage and I had a particular interest in watching them have penetrative sex at some point. (While I have no trouble admitting I’ve had multi-partner sex, for some reason, I’m kind of feeling vulnerable about admitting this particular detail. Huh. Weird. Also, it’s a good thing I gave up my political aspirations long ago, ain’t it?)

We also established things like my complete and total disinterest in watersports. Not that they were interested either. But still. Boundaries.

The three of us spent a nicely satisfying weekend together and I went home sore in a bunch of good ways. When you communicate what you want and what you are willing to do, even if it isn’t your particular crank turner, you wind up having more fun.

And, to be completely honest, I still spent a huge amount of time worrying about whether or not everyone was having fun. I didn’t quite schedule hydration breaks but it was a near thing.

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My next set of partners tried to spring a fourth person on me unexpectedly.

Listen, if you've signed up for a multi-partner romp, that in no way obligates you to have sex with anyone else who happens to stop by that day to borrow a cup of sugar. If someone changes the game on you, I hope everyone knows they are under no obligation to continue to play.

In that situation, while it was uncomfortable and weird and awkward, I left -- and never had sex with them again. (And isn't that a shame for them?)

 In that case, I actually knew the fourth person they wanted to introduce and had no desire whatsoever to have sex with him. Asking ahead of time would have cleared that up real fast.

Another mood-killing error: They tried to talk me into it by throwing some guilt at me about how he’d chipped in for the hotel room. Listen, manipulating people into having sex via guilt? Is low and skeevy and entirely unacceptable. Don’t do that.

It's also important to pre-negotiate these things because there are only so many orifices and ways of interfacing with those orifices.

That's the least sexy way ever of saying that you need to figure out who is going to fuck whose what and how they're going to do it. Surprise!buttsex is also known as rape. That should be obvious but I’m saying it anyway. 

Sex is awesome -- but it's also a particularly vulnerable situation for a lot of folks. Part of that is the straight up nudity of the event, but part of it is also, I think, because we trust our partners to participate in good faith -- we trust that we are all there for a common purpose: getting off or making a connection or reaffirming love or whatever. The purpose varies. 

And that doesn't always mean an orgasm -- but it should mean some sort of satisfactory experience, even if that is defined by "pride of accomplishment" or whatever you want to call the warm and fuzzy feeling a person can get from making their partner feel good.]

There are a lot of people with a lot of different sexualities and ways of expressing those sexualities -- talking about this stuff is always better than assuming and getting it wrong.

I certainly don't regret the experiences that I've had, but I'm not eager to run right out and make some new memories in that regard either. And that's perfectly OK -- because while it is important to know what we like, it's just as important to know what we <i>don't</i> like.

At the end of the day, for me, threesomes are just too much damn work.