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In the pantheon of sexual fantasies blissful to imagine but volatile to undertake, threesomes are near the top of the list. It might seem like a ménage à trois should be an easy sell: more hands! More mouths! More genitals! More fun! Yet such logic evades the emotional brains driving our hot-sex-machine bodies. As someone who has engaged in both recreational and financially compensated threesomes, I can attest to how difficult they are. Three different people usually means three different ideas of how sex should or will unfold, and odds are high that, at some point, one or all participants will feel insecure, left out, or bored. So here are some tips to help heterosexual couples looking to ride the three-headed dragon without it leading to crying, breaking up, or a vicious cycle of escalating revenge affairs.

It might be harder than you expected, and that’s ok. As urbane, jaded, and debased as we denizens of the 21st century may be, most of us still prefer our sex one-on-one. That’s what feels familiar, right, and sexiest. So even a beautiful, intelligent, glamorous straight couple is probably going to find themselves facing a dearth of potential partners. Lots of men are weirded out by the idea of another guy being there, and the ones who aren’t can be way too into the contrived “stud” angle. Most women have the intuition to know that getting involved in a straight couple’s sex life is a minefield of past resentments and miscommunications, and rife with the potential for emotional meltdowns. Trepidation is common and, frankly, practical.


If you two have decided you want to make a threesome happen and you have any standards at all about who you choose, you might not get lucky right away. Maybe you live in a small town where discretion is a big concern. Maybe you work so much you almost never have time for each other, let alone courting someone else. Patience is required, and my best advice is that when a feeling of disappointment pervades—when you find yourselves engaging in a series of grim, Tinder-begat interviews or making yet another slog through the Craigslist Casual Encounters section with a sense of hopelessness in your heart—back off. Your downtrodden desperation is going to broadcast to others and yield only more of the same. You still have each other, and you’re really into each other … right?

Be honest with everyone involved. If you’re overly invested in making a threesome happen, you might be tempted to speed up the process by getting “creative.” Maybe that means hiring a sex worker with whom to surprise your wife instead of waiting for her to help out with the planning and third-party-selection process. Or maybe that looks like your girlfriend putting up a Tinder profile with only pictures of herself, and dropping the boyfriend bomb well after she’s established a rapport with an interested queer lady.

The first tenet of a threesome is the first tenet of any sexual scenario: All participants should be into it. If any of your actions might be described as “tricking” someone, you’ve already blown it. If your girlfriend was originally excited by the idea of a threesome but is now dragging her feet, you two probably need to talk about it more. If you’re having trouble finding matches on Tinder when you identify as a couple, you might need to switch to a different platform.

In digital space, advertising yourselves with a straightforward, sincere “We’re a couple who wants to involve another woman/man in our sex” should suffice. There’s no need to make this process convoluted or shady. If you want to hire your third person, that should be a joint decision discussed in advance. From one partner to another, surprise threesomes should wait until you’ve had your first successful threesome (or even your first 12 successful threesomes). As far as the third party goes, “surprise” should never enter into it.


“There’s no need to make this process convoluted or shady.”

Yes, you have to be honest with each other, too. If you’re going into a threesome as a couple, you have to talk to each other about what you each want out of it, and what you don’t.


What makes me saddest about most of the threesomes I’ve been in—paid and unpaid—is how often the guy contacts me later to try to meet alone, stressing that his partner should never know. His girlfriend or wife has made it clear to him that sex with other women can only occur if she’s there, too; the threesome is a special occasion and not a pass for him to poke anyone he wants, anytime he wants it. Don’t be the guy who does this. Maybe such a demand on her part strikes you as overbearing or unfair. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore what you already agreed to. You need to negotiate new terms or break up.

Similarly, if you’re a woman diving into the threesome pool mainly because you’re worried your guy is going to get some with or without you, you should talk about that fear with him so he can put it to rest. (If he can’t, your collective energies need to be focused on fixing that, not shagging someone else.) It’s unfair to drag a clueless third-party into the larger relationship that exists without them.


Don’t pretend to be bi and don’t expect your partner to, either. Thanks to the Aughts’ fascination with “girl-on-girl” action, the groundwork for FFM (Female, Female, Male) threesomes in the context of het couples has been solidly established, and we’re living in a golden era of straight-identified women feeling empowered to investigate their attraction to other women within the bounds of their het relationship. Or at least that’s one way to look at it. The flip side of the coin is that young, urban women are expected or encouraged to be cool with hooking up with other girls, regardless of which gender their desires actually direct them toward.

The days when two women would ostentatiously tongue fuck each other for some Drunk Dodo at a club may not be entirely behind us, but mercifully, they are in their twilight. All of my girl friends—particularly the ones who’ve been in sexual relationships with other women—are thoroughly fed up with the notion that there’s a closet bi babe in all of us, just dying to be unleashed under the approving eye of some dude. I’ve lost track of how many men have insisted to me that while their partners have never been with another woman, they’re really curious to try it. Word to the wise: It doesn’t matter if she’s given you the impression that “Once, in college, she almost….” or if “She used to work with this junior partner who was so hot…” because all those scenarios are cut from the same porn-inflected cloth of fantasy that need never become reality. Things said in the heat of the moment shouldn’t be taken as fact; they’re not sincere, sober confessions of powerful yearning until they’ve been explicitly discussed as such.


I’m not saying primarily straight-leaning women don’t occasionally want to be with other women. I’m saying FFM threesomes are trendy right now, and another way to call something trendy is to say it’s artificially popular. That doesn’t mean your “F” isn’t legitimately curious or won’t have fun, but it means there’s a chance she’s agreed to this because she loves you and wants you to be happy moreso than she herself can’t stop thinking about getting some sweet T&A. (The other woman has been the more desirous party in roughly five percent of the FFM threesomes I’ve participated in personally.) So don’t be conveniently obtuse about who’s likely the bigger benefactor.

“Don’t be conveniently obtuse about who’s likely the bigger benefactor.”

Instead, many FFM romps are the result of a straight-coupled woman making an effort to “spice up” her sex life and sexually satisfy her guy. If that’s the case, and you’re the man being given this gracious gift, the least you can do is make it as easy for her as possible. So enjoy your two-tongue blowjob without also insisting the women recreate whatever girl-girl scene won this year’s AVN Award. Believe that the adults cavorting with you will do as they please with each other, and don’t need your direction.


Be prepared to give back what you get. It was soooooooo nice of your girlfriend to allow another woman into your bedroom, wasn’t it? That probably required her to overcome a lot of insecurity and vulnerability, no matter how much she herself might have wanted another woman there, too. If only there were some way for you to repay her, to make her feel as loved and appreciated as you do. Oh, wait, there is! You can reciprocate exactly in kind!

Women who enthusiastically like sex with men often have fantasies of being with two at once. It’s an open secret among my most man-loving girl friends that we’re all praying for a mind-blowingly hot MMF threesome before we die, though we despair of it ever happening because, well, threesomes are hard, and few men who’d be down for a FFM pairing would even consider switching out that F for an M. Those winds are shifting though, as more and more straight men realize how much they like seeing their partner’s pleasure even if—or especially if—that pleasure is the result of her rubbing on another man. In my expert sexual-trend-sense opinion, hotwifing is the new anal.


For God’s sake, don’t pressure your partner to get with another man if she doesn’t want to. But if she’s “joked” about her dreams of being a Chinese finger trap before, it would be very gallant of you to let her know you’re up for that should she ever sincerely want to try it, and to actually follow through if called upon.

Work through the geometric and physical logistics. Once your honesty and diligence pays off, and you’re all three naked together, you’ll be overwhelmed with ideas. Staring at two other nude, accessible bodies can induce Possibility Overload, so if you want a strategy for directing your energy, the absolute easiest way for things to proceed is for two to be “on” one. Maybe the third party is treated like the guest of honor, with all attention lavished on them, or maybe one half of the couple is. If everyone is enjoying it, that type of team focus is less stressful than trying to distribute attention evenly between all three people, and it can be immensely rewarding for everyone. Another option is trading off, in which one particularly giving individual takes it upon themselves to hop back and forth between the other two, and one rests while the other receives. If everyone has a sense of what role they’re playing and what’s expected of them, it helps mitigate a sense of being neglected or snubbed. But feel free to be a maverick and see what happens as you go along.


Be kind. Whoever you are in this equation, be as thoughtful of the other two as you can. If you’re the third wheel and the dynamic between the couple seems off—or one member clearly doesn’t want to proceed—make a graceful exit. If you told your partner they could kiss the other person but quickly found out you couldn’t stand the sight, tell them without accusing either party of doing something wrong. Affirm your partner’s importance to you afterwards, and even during, so they don’t feel threatened. The pursuit of sexual novelty isn’t an excuse to treat someone else badly, and if your relationship is worth being in at all, it’s not worth jeopardizing because of a badly executed adventure. If you’re sensitive and responsible, you can have a wild night that brings you both even closer together, as well as begets some amazing orgasms.

Charlotte Shane is a writer living in New York and tweeting from @charoshane. Her TinyLetter is famous among those who love emotions and long emails.


Illustration by Jim Cooke.

Adequate Man is Deadspin’s new self-improvement blog, dedicated to making you just good enough at everything. Suggestions for future topics are welcome below.


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