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Five things you might not know about threesomes (and beyond)

Sex doesn’t necessarily mean that only two people are in the room. All kinds of sexual expressions and fantasies can include more than one person. Here are five things you might not know about getting more people involved.

Just how many people are interested in threesomes?

Perhaps not as many as you think. Research about threesomes is often concerned with how frequently people have them, rather than how they feel about them. Which is why a recent Canadian study published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior is interesting. Researchers prompted 720 college students to rate their feelings about threesomes. Women’s positivity towards them was a little under neutral. Men’s enthusiasm was higher, but it was still less than the unrestrained enthusiasm men are generally assumed to possess. When the interviewees were asked how likely they would be to actually have a threesome, the results were also mixed. Men’s interest in having a threesome involving two women was, unsurprisingly, higher than their interest in having one with two men. Women’s willingness to have a threesome in any configuration was about the same – about 2.5 on a scale of one (unlikely) to seven (very likely).

And how many people actually have them?

The same study also looked into how often threesomes actually happen. It reported that men and women have MMF threesomes at the same rate: around 8%. When asked about FFM threesomes, 18% of men and 5% of women said they’d indulged. (Though there’s a possibility that men may have been over-reporting.)

Another Canadian study (what is it with Canadians and threesomes?) looked into the incidence of women having MMF threesomes and men having FFM threesomes. Two per cent of women and ten per cent of men said they’d had at least one. Which affirms stereotypes, but also confirms that threesomes aren’t exactly mainstream sexual practices.

But ladies first, please.

Experiences of three (or more) somes reported by women who have sex with women and men’ at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, researchers – as reported by Dr Justin Lehmiller – found that “of women who had experienced group sex at least once, the majority of those women reported initiating the event and said they were happy they had done it”. Which suggests that the stereotypes of women being coerced into group sexual encounters may need a little rethinking.

Beyond the threesome.

What happens when people have sexual relationships with multiple partners concurrently? That would be polyamory, which we have discussed before. In the academic world, the term ‘consensual non-monogamy’ is preferred, and emerging research in the field suggests that it’s entirely healthy, despite society’s overwhelming tendency to prefer a monogamous mode of romantic and sexual relationships. A study in the Journal of Sex Research concludes that “consensual nonmonogamists have similar psychological well-being and relationship quality as monogamists”. Maybe sexual desire for more than one person doesn’t have to be limited to one-off encounters.

When cheating’s not cheating.

A ‘cuckold’ is an archaic term for the male partner of a female who has engaged in adultery. More recently, the term has emerged as part of ‘cuckolding’, a man’s active desire to have (or watch) his partner or spouse have sex with another man. This fantasy is often understood as an extension of masochistic impulses, but new research conducted at the University of Western Australia may point to different motivations for the practice. The study found that men who were shown pornography involving two males and one female had more active sperm in their ejaculate than men who were shown pornography with one male and two females. This suggests that when two men’s sperm compete to impregnate one egg, the quality of both men’s ejaculate increases, which may give a biological explanation as to why men seek out cuckold fantasies.