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My First (and Second and Third and Fourth...) Threesome

When it comes to sex, maybe there's something to be said for the adage: “Trouble always comes in threes.”
 
 
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I almost lost my virginity in a threesome. I was playing truth-or-dare with two friends, one male and one female, who had recently broken up, and the game turned increasingly sexy as the cheap wine began to turn our conversation into a soothing platter of hormonal obviousness. “I dare youuuuu,” I slurred, pointing at Michelle, who was the only one I could have been talking to. “…to go down on Gabe, but juss fer a second!” We all took turns agonizingly pleasuring each other in this way for mere moments at a time, not quite ready to leave the relative safety of the “game,” and also seeing just how far we could push each other’s boundaries before someone would refuse. Then out of nowhere, Michelle abruptly turned and headed for the bathroom, where she would remain for the next several hours, head firmly in toilet. Gabe and I, in a move of sheer selfishness that we (and especially I) would pay for dearly later, went ahead and finished our game without Michelle. In her bed.

Since that night, threesomes have become an incredibly common staple for me, one that even almost a decade later, has not stopped coming up, despite my never seeking it out.

Note of historical revision: Well, okay, that’s not entirely true. My last girlfriend and I were in the market for an all-girl threesome a few years ago, something neither of us had experienced. However, we wished a little too hard and ended up in a foursome, which, since we hadn’t planned for it, caused a lot of tearful conversations, lost sleep, and unnecessary laundry. Aside from that time, however, threesomes aren’t something I’ve ever consciously pursued.

Part of the reason I’ve had so many threesomes, I’m sure, can be blamed on that trough of horniness known as college. I was somehow the only out bisexual among my group of mostly straight friends, and on any given weekend, we would get semi-naked, talk about Heidegger, and drink enough booze to sterilize a small lake.

Kara was one such friend, and the first straight girl I fell for so hard, it took years to pick myself up again. Kara and I had made out a couple times, dabbled in a few moments of anxious sober touching, and one time, she and I watched a guy masturbate together, but it never went very far between us. We were like Girls Gone Mild, or any number of frustratingly homoerotic superhero duos. Until one night, emboldened by, I kid you not, "The L Word" season premiere party, she suggested matter-of-factly that we go upstairs to her room and masturbate. She had a boyfriend at the time, so I assumed she was kidding, until I was presented with an array of vibrators to choose from. It was when I was half-naked and straddling her that she sprung the threesome question on me. Since I was high on happy sex chemicals, I said yes, partly because I thought she meant the threesome would occur at a later date. But 10 minutes later, her boyfriend was there, holding two glasses of red wine and asking if we “needed a hand.”

As the years passed, my threesome tendencies became almost habitual. Last year, bored on a plane, I crunched the numbers and found that out of all the people I’d slept with, 60 percent of them had been in threesomes. I always assumed the number would be high, but the actual results were jarring. Most of my threeways involved couples, some married, all in some way or another exploring or taming their desires and fears, a notion I admit fascinated me, but also caused some terrible scenes. The last couple I rode the tandem bike with, Devon and Bob, ended up getting in a huge fight due to jealousy, leaving me alone in their room, naked and confused. Marjorie Garber explained this kind of erotic threesome jealousy in Vice Versa: “[T]he lover gets to gratify both fears and desires: The fear that a partner will be unfaithful is related to a desire to be unfaithful oneself as well as to the desire to know and therefore control the other’s fidelity.”

Later, when I was far away from both of them, I asked Devon what happened that night. As a former sex worker who’d had threesomes regularly in that context, I was surprised by her sudden jealousy. “I wish I liked them. I really do, but the fantasy never aligns with the reality.” She went on: “I saw my work-related threesomes as very positive and my personal, romantic experiences as chaotic and crazy-making. Professionally, threesomes meant I didn't have to work as hard. I could focus on the girl and very secondarily the guy, who I was rarely physically attracted to. It felt like me and her against him. We were a team solving a problem.”

Another friend, Isaac, thought the build-up to a threesome was hotter than the act itself. “I remember these two girlfriends going at each other at the very end of a party and I took a risk and walked over to join them. This hand came out of this mess of female making-out and grabbed my belt buckle and tugged me into them. That right there, without a doubt, was the hottest part of the night for me. To quote the great Andre3000, ‘Separate’s always better when there's feelings involved.’”

Just how common are threesomes, anyway? If magazines, pop culture references and every rap video in America is to be believed, we should be having threesomes as often as we recharge our smart phones. That is not the case, but it’s difficult to pin numbers down because, well, people lie in sex surveys. For instance, a 1993 Mademoiselle/Details magazine survey of 2,400 readers found that 7 percent of women but 21 percent of men have engaged in threeway sex. “That 7 percent of you must be very busy,” Mademoiselle added parenthetically.

ABC’s 2004 American Sex Poll found that “14 percent of adults (and twice as many single men) have had sex in a threesome, while an additional 21 percent have fantasized about it.” “Adults” in this case means married couples, though that’s an odd way to put it. A little later on, they find that for men, the average number of sex partners is 20. For women, it’s six. This disparity doesn’t make sense statistically, since who are these men sleeping with, if not women? Obviously, one or two sluts are really messing up the data!

Despite the fact that threesomes rarely made my fantasy list, it was hard to say no to them at times, especially when I was newly single. Partially because it was such an ego boost. Not one but two people wanted to bed me? Menage a troi-some! I remember one couple, Neil and Michelle (yes, same Michelle -- she forgave me eventually), who were not only fun in the sack, but also quick to tell me many of their erotic fantasies right off the bat, regardless of how taboo they might’ve seemed. Since one erotic taboo had already been broken between us, it made it much easier to break others, or at the very least talk about them, which is often harder to do in twosomes or other casual encounters. As S.P., a lesbian friend in New York put it, “There was a time when threesomes were the first real foray into taboo sex acts….Threesomes feel like dipping one's toe in the pool and people are willing to do that without having to call themselves perverts or kinky. That being said, for me threesomes are pervasive because they are gateway kink and people are really fucking kinky.”

For me, the taboo-busting allure often played a role with the women who claimed to be straight. They wanted to explore their lesbian sex fantasies while cushioned by the safety net of their hetero relationships. And I was happy to appease them because the erotic transgression of “turning someone,” even for just one night, was exhilarating. Sleeping with couples had other perks as well. There is a stability there, whether real or imagined, that I found myself drawn to. I got to see and experience aspects of a couple’s love and intimacy without putting forth any of the efforts required to sustain them. It was relationship-lite, and I could quietly slip in or out of it as I pleased.

Ammie, a friend who took her threesomes to a place not many dare, into a full-on cohabitating triad relationship, noted: “Most of us grow up thinking we'll meet someone, be in a relationship with them, and never have sex with anybody else, and a threesome automatically negates that.” Of course, Ammie is also quick to point out, “After a year or so, it doesn't seem anywhere near as exciting to have three people--it's just sort of how it is.”

I know what she means. Whereas once I found such propositions flattering, I’ve since begun to find them irritating. Especially since, by virtue of nothing other than belonging to the kingdom Bisexualis Femalia, I get an average of two threesome offers a month from strangers through online dating. This average is higher than actual date propositions. Bisexuals are automatically equated with liking threesomes and with promiscuity generally. Ironically, this common negative stereotype of perceived sluttishness for the bi third, is also a common positive stereotype for the established couple. They get to fuck other people, but are rarely perceived or labeled promiscuous. Who’s having their cake and eating it too, now?

Despite the cultural prevalence of threesome fantasies, specifically girl-girl-guy ones, they aren’t the Holy Grail for straight men that Men’s Health would have you believe. Several I spoke to were not fans, and one even sarcastically remarked, “Threesomes are mainly enjoyed by those who haven't had them.” Another friend, Lance, said, “Threesomes have never really appealed to me.” But added, “I'd still probably go for it if I was propositioned by the right couple people, but I tend to think of sex as amplified by the connection between two people. More than that introduces group dynamics that I'd rather not deal with. Addition, in this case, is division for me.”

After my last threesome ended so disastrously, I felt similarly to Lance. In truth, I wasn’t even keen on that threesome to begin with, but Devon was too beautiful; I probably would’ve screwed a Roomba if she’d asked me to. I expressed my frustration to another friend and sometimes-lover about it, and a few months later, she asked if I would have a threesome with her and a married man she was having an affair with.

This was a click moment. I began to realize the beast I’d created, and the toll it was taking on my sex life and sanity. These propositions weren’t even about me anymore – they were about someone else’s pleasure, someone else’s fantasies. Maybe they always were, and I allowed them because it gave me a kind of sexual bravado or street cred. But at 28, I’ve had enough. I’ve never particularly superstitious, but when it comes to sex, maybe there’s something to be said for the adage: “Trouble always comes in threes.”

 
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