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‘My partner was just all over her’: jealousy, communication and rules in mixed-sex threesomes

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Abstract

Drawing on findings from interviews with 28 men and women, this study explores experiences related to communication and jealousy in mixed-sex threesomes. Findings suggest that those in relationships often experience feelings of exclusion when engaging in threesomes, although open communication is a method by which the negative effects may be mitigated. Some couples agree on particular rules during their threesomes, symbolically demonstrating the specialness of the relationship as well as protecting it from further progression into non-monogamy. Although communication appeared less important for those having threesomes when not in a relationship, it still played a role in determining participants’ use of contraception whether the threesome occurred while in a relationship or not. Study findings are contextualised using the concept of monogamism, with it being suggested that threesomes involving romantic couples can serve to help maintain institutional monogamy, rather than trouble it.
‘My partner was just all over her’: Jealousy, Communication and Rules in Mixed-Sex
Threesomes
Ryan Scoats*a, E. Andersonb
Centre for Social Care and Health Related Research, Birmingham City University,
Birmingham, UKa; Department of Sport, Exercise and Health, University of Winchester,
Winchester, UKb
*Corresponding Author: Ryan Scoats Email: ryanscoatsphd@gmail.com
The Version of Record of this manuscript has been published and is available at:
Culture, Health & Sexuality, 2018,
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13691058.2018.1453088
Abstract
Drawing on findings from interviews with 28 men and women, this study explores
experiences related to communication and jealousy in mixed-sex threesomes.
Findings suggest that those in relationships often experience feelings of exclusion
when engaging in threesomes, although open communication is a method by
which the negative effects may be mitigated. Some romantic couples agree on
particular rules during their threesomes, symbolically demonstrating the
specialness of the relationship as well as protecting it from further progression
into non-monogamy. Although communication appeared less important for those
having threesomes when not in a relationship, it still played a role in determining
participants’ use of contraception whether the threesome occurred while in a
relationship or not. Study findings are contextualised using the concept of
monogamism, with it being suggested that threesomes involving romantic couples
can serve to help maintain institutional monogamy, rather than trouble it.
Keywords: communication; consensual non-monogamy; jealousy; monogamy;
threesome
Introduction
A presumption of elevated jealousy is often a reason why people do not consider
consensual non-monogamy a viable alternative to monogamy (Aguilar 2013; Conley et
al. 2012; LaSala 2004). Missing from this assumption however, is a consideration of the
different ways in which jealousy can be conceptualised (Ritchie and Barker 2006) or
worked through (De Visser and McDonald 2007) so as to minimise, or even neutralise
its negative impact. Related not only to jealousy but other issues as well, those engaging
in consensual non-monogamy have been found to adopt a range of communicative
strategies, rules and arrangements that help their relationships function (LaSala 2004;
Philpot et al. 2017; Wosick-Correa 2010). In contrast, very little is known about jealousy,
communication or rules within the context of mixed-sex (including both men and
women) threesomes. This article draws upon interviews with 28 men and women to
explore their experiences of jealousy and use of communication/rules during their
threesome experiences. It theorises how threesomes may serve to further reaffirm the
primacy of the monogamous couple.
Agreements and Communication in Consensual Non-monogamy
The cultural hegemony of monogamy, which is referred to as ‘monoganism’ (Anderson
2012) or ‘mono-normativity’ (Pieper and Bauer 2005), means that alternative
relationship and sexual possibilities are often culturally stigmatised (Anderson 2012;
Conley et al. 2012; Grunt-Mejer and Campbell 2016). As a result, consensual non-
monogamy is often presumed to be inherently deficient in comparison to monogamy
(Conley et al. 2013). One such presumed deficiency lies in the higher levels of jealousy
associated with consensual non-monogamy (Aguilar 2013; Conley et al. 2012; LaSala
2004). Stigmatising cultural dialogues around consensual non-monogamy however,
often overlook the range of strategies that practitioners may adopt to help navigate
problems.
In contrast to monogamous relationships, consensual non-monogamy often
includes proactive discussions around issues like jealousy - acknowledging it as a
potential problem and taking active steps to address the emotion (De Visser and
McDonald 2007; Robinson 1997). Giving specific examples, De Visser and McDonald
(2007) describe swingers alleviating feelings of jealousy through communication, or
even manipulating it so as to foster sexual arousal or excitement. Using a similar
approach, jealousy can also be re-contextualised through the creation of new terms
such as ‘compersion’—whereby someone derives pleasure from seeing (or knowing of)
their partner enjoying themselves with another (Ritchie and Barker 2006).
Helping facilitate the smooth-running of relationships or sexual encounters,
consensually non-monogamous arrangements often place emphasis on honesty and
communication (McLean 2004; Shernoff 2006). This may mean practitioners already
have rules or arrangements in place before they even encounter a particular scenario.
Speaking of her polyamorous participants, Wosick-Correa (2010, 147) writes, ‘…almost
all respondents, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, have some kind of
agreement about being in a poly relationship’. These agreements are often in a state of
flux and may develop as the relationship does.
Monogamism, however, does still manage to influence some dominant practices
in consensual non-monogamy. Oftentimes arrangements will be constructed around
privileging the primary relationship (Bringle and Buunk 1991; De Visser and McDonald
2007) so as to minimise the potential negative impacts on this relationship (McLean
2004). Perceptions of what might be harmful to a relationship will, however, differ. For
example, a restriction of emotional contact is frequently found in both swingers and
open marriages (Bringle and Buunk 1991; De Visser and McDonald 2007; Kimberly and
Hans 2017) but is less common in polyamorous arrangements (Ritchie and Barker 2006;
Wosick-Correa 2010). In contrast, the most prevalent practices of those who engage in
threesomes is severely under-researched.
Threesomes
While research has illustrated nuances in how different relationship forms may be aided
by particular agreements, in comparison to other forms of consensual non-monogamy
we know relatively little about threesomes, especially outside of male, same-sex
relationships (Adam 2006; LaSala 2004). Although there a number of studies touch upon
mixed-sex threesomes (e.g. Jonason and Marks 2008; Joyal, Cossette and Lapierre 2014;
Hughes, Harrison and Gallup 2004), none focus on threesomes specifically, and thus lack
the depth of detail needed to accurately comprehend people’s engagements with such
practices; with but a very few exceptions (e.g. Rupp et al. 2014). Those studies focusing
on mixed-sex threesomes, often only draw upon quantitative data (e.g. Thompson and
Byers 2017; Morris, Chang and Knox 2016) or are extremely dated (Karlen 1988). While
quantitative explorations of social phenomena are undoubtedly valuable, they cannot
capture the detail that qualitative methods provide. In contemporary threesome
research, there is only one in-depth qualitative exploration of mixed-sex threesomes
(Scoats, Joseph and Anderson 2018). This study explored the threesome experiences
and desires of 30 heterosexually-identifying male university students. It found that a
third of the men had engaged in a threesome, a rate comparable to Thompson and
Byers’ (2017) results. Although these instances were more heavily weighted towards
female-female-male (FFM) threesomes in both experiences and desire, some of these
men still showed a willingness to engage in male-male-female (MMF) threesomes.
While beneficial in helping us develop a better overall understanding of young
men’s threesome experiences and attitudes, Scoats, Joseph and Anderson’s (2018)
study tells us little about the role of communication in threesomes. Associated with
communication, we also know little regarding the safe-sex practices in threesomes.
Looking at research on all-male threesomes, it is clear that communication can be vital
in establishing boundaries and having discussions around condom use (Adam 2006;
LaSala 2004). We should not, however, presume that the extent of communication is
necessarily comparable within mixed-sex threesomes. Already being outside of the
charmed circle of “normal” relationship behaviours (Rubin 1984) may mean that these
types of conversations happen more readily among sexual minorities (Coelho 2011;
Martin 1999).
Furthermore, qualitative studies on threesomes have not sought to understand
threesomes within a monogamist (Anderson 2012) culture. Schippers (2016) describes
the Threesome Imaginary as a collective cultural fantasy about threesomes that reflect
and reproduce existing power relations and social privilege. These fantasies constitute
the dominant, maybe even hegemonic understandings of what a threesome is, and what
it should be. Schippers (2016) thus proposes that acceptable mixed-sex threesomes are
primarily constructed as a monogamous couple temporarily inviting (or imagining) a
third to join them. Engaging in, or fantasising about, a threesome is an acceptable way
for a couple to add energy to their sex life, so long as the practice remains a temporary
occurrence, and does not constitute a regular sexual practice or structural feature of the
relationship.
These impermanent forays outside of the tedium of monogamy can help ease
some of the pressures of monogamy without threatening the dyadic couple. This
function is similar to how cheating may also serve to preserve monogamy (Anderson
2012). Threesomes may, therefore, actually serve monogamism by creating an
acceptable outlet for temporary extra-dyadic practices whilst reifying the monogamous
couple as the core relationship type (Schippers 2016). Consequently, the present study
aims to explore the impact of jealousy, communication and rules during participants’
threesomes, as well as to theorise how best we might understand threesomes in relation
to monogamy.
Method
Participants
The sample consisted of 28 participants (12 men and 16 women) who had engaged in a
mixed-sex threesome. Participants were drawn from Britain, North America, and
Western Europe and were predominantly white (26), with only one participant
identifying as mixed-race and one as Black. Participants were aged between 19-57, with
mean ages of 26.2 (men) and 31.2 (women). Seventeen of the sample had at least a
bachelor’s degree, and nine of those 17 had gone on to postgraduate education
(master’s degrees, PhDs or medical degrees). At the time of interview, 17 participants
stated that they were currently students.
Participants’ sexual identities were varied, particularly among the women. From
the male participants, ten identified as heterosexual (three ‘definitely’ heterosexual; six
heterosexuals; one ‘mostly’ heterosexual), one identified as queer, and one struggled to
put a label on his sexuality. Of the female participants, only two identified as
heterosexual, four identified as heterosexual with some qualifying statements, three as
bisexual, one as bisexual/pansexual, one as pansexual, and two as queer. Three
remaining participants were unsure of the label they would ascribe themselves. With
regards to relationship styles, five participants identified as currently being in
consensually-non-monogamous relationships.
Recruitment Strategy
Participants were recruited through personal connections in addition to snowball
sampling (Denscombe 1998). Following the example of Browne (2005), initial
respondents comprised of friends whom had either engaged in or knew people whom
had engaged in a threesome. Initial connections subsequently served as de facto
research assistants (Biernacki and Waldorf 1981), sourcing and connecting the authors
with potential participants. The use of personal acquaintances has the benefit of being
able to access those who would not answer advertisements for research but would
perhaps respond to a personal request (Browne 2005). This approach to snowball
sampling therefore resulted in a convenience sample.
Data Collection
Semi-structured interviews were selected as the method of data collection and were
undertaken both in person and via Skype. Audio-recorded interviews were transcribed
verbatim and then analysed using thematic analysis as outlined by Braun and Clarke
(2006). Participants were asked questions related to their threesome experiences;
including the themes of jealousy, rules and contraception as well as more open-ended
questioning (e.g. were there negatives related to your threesome?). Semi-structured
interviews allowed for flexibility, complexity and clarity in participants’ answers
(Sarantakos 2005).
Since the taboo nature of some of these topics (Rubin 1984) may encourage
participants to give socially desirable answers, the authors were open to disclosing their
own personal sexual and relationship experiences to help put the participants at ease
and encourage more truthful disclosure (Anderson 2012). Participants were thus invited
to ask the interviewer questions on these topics if desired, although it is recognised that
this approach can have both positive and negative influences on participant responses
(Berger 2015).
Participants were also actively reminded that they were permitted to not answer
any questions they were uncomfortable with (Hutchinson, Marsiglio and Cohan 2002)
as the study of highly personal topics has a higher chance of causing anxiety (Renzetti
1990, as cited in Bahn and Weatherill 2013). Additionally, all were given a description of
the purpose of the study, the right to anonymity, and the right to withdraw at any time
(Arksey and Knight 1999). The ethical procedures of the British Sociological Association
were followed.
Limitations
Limitations of this study are comparable to those associated with interview-based
studies of sexuality that use a small and selective sample, specifically issues of
representativeness (Gledhill, Abbey and Schweitzer 2008) and the reliability of self-
disclosure (Gribble et al. 1999). Emergent research on sexual topics is often based on a
convenience sampling, owing to the difficulties with finding participants willing to speak
about intimate sexual behaviours (Harris, Cook and Kashubeck-West 2008). In particular,
it is possible that those with negative experiences, and experiences that they want to
forget, are under-represented in the findings. The conclusions drawn from these
findings should, consequently, be restricted to those who are share similar
characteristics, while at the same time acknowledging that without further
contemporary empirical evidence on men and women’s experiences of threesomes, we
cannot also claim that other experiences are necessarily any different to this sample.
Results
Feelings of Exclusion
Predominantly, it was those that had their threesome with a romantic partner who
described occurrences of jealousy. The most common examples of experiencing the
emotion were when one participant in a relationships did not feel they were receiving
enough attention. In other words, they felt excluded by the attention the other two
people engaged in the threesome were giving to each other. Despite these experiences,
some participants were able to overcome these feelings by discussing them with their
partner (and sometimes the other person). In addition, a proportion of participants
found threesomes to be much less problematic than other potential options for extra-
dyadic sex and suggested that threesomes could be good for one’s relationship.
Feeling ‘left out,’ manifested itself in different ways. It sometimes happened in
a corporeal sense when one of the threesome participants was less physically involved
in sexual activities, but exclusion was also constructed psychologically when a
participant felt that the other two were predominantly interested in each other. These
sorts of experiences have also been documented in LaSala’s (2004) research on gay male
couples who engaged in threesomes.
Among participants, seven highlighted instances where they had felt somewhat
left out. Most commonly, this feeling stemmed from the behaviour of their romantic
partner during the threesome. For example, Lauren suggested that her boyfriend had
not been good at sharing his attention: ‘My partner was just all over her and wasn't very
good about dividing’. Sue described a similar situation with her husband: ‘He
concentrated virtually solely on her’. She did, however, feel that had this not been the
case, the experience could have been better: ‘I probably would have been okay with
sharing if it had been real sharing, but seeing how much more interested he was in her
was just horrible’.
Colette had not felt excluded often; on the few occasions when she did, it mainly
focused on the fear of being less desirable than the other person. She referred to: those
little tiny feelings of [my boyfriend] liking her more than me’. These feelings were
reported to be at their worst during one particular experience: ‘I felt threatened because
she was really, really good looking and I knew that my boyfriend really wanted her, and
he pushed a little bit with that threesome’.
Much like other participants in relationships, when having a threesome Sarah
wanted to feel part of a three, rather than an appendage. Although Sarah and her male
partner, Robert, had a somewhat open relationship, when Robert instigated things with
another woman without her, it created anxieties for Sarah. She said:
I think I was a little insecure as Robert told me he had been making out with our
mutual friend all night and he was bringing her home for me, I felt like I had no
power in that situation. Like I wasn't even consulted.
By not being consulted on bringing someone home for a threesome, Sarah felt left out.
She suggested: ‘It can't just be you fucking the other person and then I'm off to the side’.
From within the context of a polyamorous triad, Julia also discussed experiences
of exclusion: ‘I had several triad poly relationships and I always found it very hard when
my partners didn't want to engage in intimacy and sex with me, but they did want to
engage with each other’. Julia felt that her experiences of exclusion had mainly been
down to a lack of communication: ‘Communication wasn't always as bright as I would
want it to be. Jealousy was very much a part of it’.
On other occasions, the behaviour of the person joining the couple would cause
issues. Demonstrating this, David suggested that a problem had only occurred when, in
a repeat threesome with the same woman, this woman had shifted her attention from
his partner to him:
The girl wasn't really interested in me, which I think made my girlfriend less
jealous, because the girl fancied her more than myself. And that's why I think it
got to [my girlfriend] the second time, because the girl had spent more time with
me than with her.
For Joanna, her feeling of exclusion built over a number of repeat encounters with the
same woman:
Partly I got the impression that she was quite attached to [my boyfriend]. And
we discussed the reasons that this could be, such as only having been with guys
and so this is how she is with guys. Or maybe she was projecting her desire for a
boyfriend on to him, or maybe she did have strong feelings for him. I felt that
she was really into my boyfriend at that point and the situation became
uncomfortable for me. So, I said to my boyfriend that I didn't want anything to
happen anymore with her.
Three women suggested that when they had felt excluded, communication was often
able to resolve, or at least minimise its impact. For example, Lauren described talking
with both her male partner and the other woman after a threesome where she had felt
neglected:
The second time I made sure we all sat down and made sure that we all knew
what was happening, and that the expectations were the same for everybody. I
know it alleviated a lot of anxieties I had, and I think it's alleviated some anxieties
that she had, because I think that she was a little uncomfortable with the fact
that he had been so focused on her.
Meika suggested that the result of these conversations could then feed into future
behaviours: ‘I often noticed that with my partner, he feels left out, and so maybe he is
more insecure because of that’. Because of this, Meika felt that sometimes she would
need to disengage from the situation: ‘You have to keep a balance and at some point,
you need to be able to take a step back and just watch and think okay it's not my turn
now’.
In contrast to experiencing exclusion, having threesomes with one’s partner was
seen by some as a good way to feel included when compared with other arrangements
that allowed for extra-dyadic sex. Fred suggested that he and his female partner were
happiest engaging in extra-dyadic sex together: ‘We would never go off with other
people separately’.
Rosie described a situation with her male partner when they were engaged in an
open relationship, but neither of them were entirely happy with the other having sex
with new people. Consequently, having FFM threesomes as a couple was a compromise
they came to. After coming to this arrangement, Rosie’s partner stopped pursuing sex
with other women, alleviating her negative feelings: ‘The only time when I get jealous is
when he is with other girls on his own. Other than that, I've been completely fine with
it’.
Philippa, who although not in a relationship, felt similarly about a man who she
would regularly ‘hook-up’ with; the same man she had her threesome with. She said:
‘When we had a threesome I didn't feel any jealousy at all, but when we sleep with other
people outside of this threesome situation, I do sometimes’.
In addition to avoiding potential problems, some participants suggested that
pursuing sex together had been good for their relationships. Sarah suggested that
threesomes could be relationship affirming when done in a couple: ‘There is something
bonding about it, experiencing something with your partner. It's like a shared
experience’. Similarly, Rosie said: ‘I never felt so connected to John as I did after the
threesome’.
So, while feelings of exclusion did occur with many of the participants who had
a threesome with a partner, there were ways in which some participants attempted to
minimise or avoid these feelings in future encounters. Open communication about
feelings of exclusion or acting as a “unit” both emerged as potential strategies for
dealing with these issues (Adam 2006; De Visser and McDonald 2007). Consequently, it
may be hypothesised that romantic couples engaging in spontaneous threesomes might
be more at risk of complications. Without having necessarily discussed their
expectations beforehand, participants may hold different beliefs as to what is
acceptable or desirable during the experience.
Protecting the Primary Relationship
Alongside feelings of exclusion, another commonly perceived problem was the potential
impact a threesome might have on one’s relationship. Consequently, specific behaviours
were sometimes deemed as “special”, reserved only for the couple. Reibstein and
Richards (1992) have suggested that ‘sexual exclusivity is symbolic of “specialness” in
couple relationship(c.f. Jamieson 2004, 36). While not demonstrating absolute sexual
exclusivity, some participants were motivated to maintain a distinction between dyadic
sex and threesome sex. As found in other studies (De Visser and McDonald 2007;
Jamieson 2004; Kimberly 2016; Wosick-Correa 2010), this sometimes meant restricting
particular behaviours, such as how their partner orgasmed or whether or not they were
allowed to engage in penetrative sex.
Demonstrating a restriction in behaviours, Jennifer explained that during her
threesome: ‘We said that my boyfriend had to cum in me and not her’. Similarly, Kirsty,
her male partner, and the female that joined them had discussed beforehand the types
of things they were not comfortable with: ‘I had kind of said that I didn't want her to
have [penetrative] sex with [my boyfriend]’. In the same way, Colette described a
situation where the woman joining them was the one most concerned with preserving
their relationship:
[She] felt she couldn't do everything, or certain things with my boyfriend because
she didn't want to jeopardise our relationship. So, they were more reserved on
certain aspects like maybe kissing too long, or she didn't want to get penetrated,
because for her that was a line that she did not want to cross.
Colette reasoned that this concern might have come from the fact that the third person
had been her close friend. Therefore, not wanting to damage the friendship (Byron
2017), this friend was perhaps tentative in the behaviours they felt they could engage
in.
Although not talking about certain acts specifically, Emma described regrets
around her threesome in that she had allowed someone else into what she saw as a
special part of her relationship: ‘It just felt a bit wrong, it's hard to describe how you feel
afterwards but it's the feeling that she had shared something with my partner that we
should share. Like it was our something special’.
Repeated threesomes with the same person were also sometimes seen as a
potential threat to dyadic relationships. For Kirsty and Jennifer, each suggested that if
things continued for longer than one or two meetings, then the encounters would
become something they did not want. Kirsty said, ‘I didn’t want it to become a thing
with her. It was our relationship!’ She continued, ‘I probably would have considered it
with somebody else, but I just didn't want it to become a regular thing with one person,
because then it's more of a relationship’. Jennifer suggested a similar desire to protect
her relationship from repeated sexual encounters with the same person: ‘Because it's
her, it might get a bit weird. It’s sort of adding a third person to the relationship almost…I
kind of just wanted it to be what it was’.
In contrast, those not in committed relationships were somewhat less likely to
discuss restrictions or arrangements beforehand. When things were discussed, they
usually focused on one person’s specific desire to not engage in a specific act. For
example, Cathy said that she did not want to have sex with the man in her threesome.
For Stuart, in one of his threesomes the man quickly made it apparent that he did not
want any same-sex sexual interaction. In Stuart’s other threesome, one of the women
said she: ‘Didn't want me to cum on her or in her at all’. Only Mike, who had a lot of
experience of multi-person sex, had engaged in any sort of in-depth discussion.
It might seem quite rule heavy, but it seems safer that way because there won't
be any awkward situations. Obviously, you want to be relaxed whilst you're
having sex, so I quite like the rules being in place because everybody knows
where they stand. There is no worrying about if I do this will it be okay? You know
it's going to be okay before you enter into the situation.
Thus, rules and arrangements seemed most important for those in relationships and
were used as a method by which to limit threats to the relationship (LaSala 2004; Philpot
et al. 2017; McLean 2004; Wosick-Correa 2010). In addition, those in relationships
usually viewed threesomes as most acceptable when they were an occasional
occurrence (Schippers 2016) that privileged the existing relationship (Finn and Malson
2008). Threesomes in this manner, consequently and perhaps unexpectedly, do not
necessarily challenge the norms of monogamy; but instead serve to support them by
constructing the monogamous dyad as the most important thing.
Talking “Safe Sex”
As highlighted in the previous sections, for those having a threesome from within a
relationship, the communication of expectations and desires were important for
avoiding potentially negative outcomes. Those not having a threesome in this context,
however, rarely had such discussions. In contrast, both groups had similar discussions
around safe sex and contraception.
From the sample, 22 out of 28 participants described being aware of some sort
of protection present during their threesome(s); often discussing which method was
suitable for their needs. Of the remaining six participants: four could not remember
whether they had used protection, one got STI tested after sex, and the remaining
participant had used no protection. The most popular form of protection was condoms,
used by 14 of the participants, and most favoured by those having sex while outside a
relationship (ten participants). No participants identified using protection for oral sex.
Participants only used condoms for penetrative sex and the effectiveness of their
usage for STI protection varied. Of those who used a prophylactic, and where there was
penetrative sex with two different partners, five participants had experiences of
changing condoms when switching between partners, whereas three did not. Not
changing condoms between partners can lead to elevated risk of ‘third party
transmission of infectious agents’ (Friedman, Mateu-Gelabert and Sandoval 2011, 5)
between those who might not necessarily engage sexually. Importantly, for these three
participants who did not change condoms it had not been a conscious choice, but a lack
of knowledge that meant they had not considered it.
It is also important to note that when participants did change condoms, it was
not necessarily their own idea. For example, Mike suggested that: ‘They actually
swapped it themselves. I was hot and ready to go into the other one, but they stopped
and swapped it’. Likewise, James suggested: ‘They made me change the condom
between each other’. Nevertheless, other participants were proactive about this
themselves. Meika, who had a lot of experience with group-sex, highlighted that it was
often something that others did not consider when engaging in threesomes or group
sex:
I remember having sex with a couple and the guy’s fantasy was to have the girl
and I both in doggy style next to each other on the bed and he would go back
and forth. Then I said, “That's great but you have to change condoms” and it kind
of ruined the whole thing for him.
For those that chose not to use condoms, oftentimes they used a combination of birth
control methods (such as an implant or a contraceptive pill), in combination with STI
testing, suggesting that for many, the main perception of risk was around pregnancy
(rather than STIs). For example, when talking about her threesome with her male
partner and another woman, Jennifer stated, ‘I don't think we used any [condoms]
because I've got the implant and so does she. I got tested afterward and so did he; so, it
was fine’. Before Philippa’s threesome, all of the threesome participants discussed
whether they had been tested recently as they preferred not to use condoms:
So, he and I don't use protection but if we sleep with other people we do. So,
we've both been tested and are clean and he had spoken to her beforehand and
suggested that maybe if we were having a threesome it might be awkward to
use a condom. So, he talked to her about STIs and asked her if she had been
tested, and she recently had. So, we all agreed we weren't going to use a
condom.
Despite a difference in perceived need for communication, both those having
threesomes when in relationships and those not, still attempted to practise some form
of safe sex when in a threesome. Participants’ responses suggest that the main worry
was related to accidental pregnancy; while STIs were potentially treatable. Some
participants did, however, still want to protect themselves from STIs and possessed the
knowledge of how threesome sex differs somewhat from dyadic sex in the potential
risks.
Discussion
This research draws upon data participants who had experienced a mixed-sex
threesome in order to explore their experiences of jealousy, communication, and
contraception within this context. Issues of exclusion were most commonly highlighted
by participants who had had their threesome while with a romantic partner. Twelve of
the female participants had engaged in a mixed-sex threesome when in a relationship,
whereas only three of the male participants had. Of these 15, ten women expressed that
they had at some point felt excluded in connection to one of their threesome
experiences.
These feelings of exclusion during a threesome were often linked to the
behaviour of a romantic partner. This is perhaps unsurprising given that the majority of
these participants were going from an entirely monogamous relationship, where all
attention is focused on one other person, to a threesome situation where attention is
now divided. The novelty of the new person may mean that one person within the three
may receive more than an equal share of attention from one or more of the couple. But
while threesomes did present problems for some participants, others suggested that
they had relationship building qualities through the shared experience they offered.
For the ten female participants who described experiences of exclusion, open
and honest communicationincluding discussions around expectationsappeared to
be a method by which they could navigate feelings in a positive way, although this did
not always happen. This is in line with findings from other research on consensual non-
monogamy (De Visser and McDonald 2007; McLean 2004; Robinson 1997; Shernoff
2006; Wosick-Correa 2010). Through these conversations, while exclusion might have
still been experienced, its influence became less, and it did not necessarily lead to long-
term damage to the relationship. Although few men reported experiences of feeling
excluded, this is not to say that they do not experience such feelings. It is likely that this
finding is a consequence of the sampling procedure that resulted in few men who had
had threesomes while in a relationship.
Some participants in relationships also adopted rules in order to reserve
particular behaviours only for the romantic couple, thus emphasising the importance of
the relationship and creating an easily discernible demarcation between threesome sex,
and sex within their dyad. In a similar way to how Anderson (2012) suggests that
cheating may paradoxically demonstrate the presence of love within a relationship,
having a threesome with ones’ romantic partner may also send a comparable message.
By restricting the behaviours that are available to the participants in the threesome it
proclaims the importance of the couple’s relationship. Additionally, to the person
joining the couple it emphasises the recreational nature of the sex, eliminating the
potential of the threesome becoming something more serious.
Furthermore, some participants were also cautious to ensure that the primary
relationship was protected from what were perceived as more permanent additions to
the relationship (Schippers 2016). Seemingly, these participants were keen to protect
their monogamous status (Conley et al. 2012), while at the same time, often enjoying
their extra-dyadic experiences.
Although communication was seen as important for having a positive threesome
experience within a relationship, when not in a relationship, it appeared less of a
concern. This lack of communication may be related to less concern for the other
people’s desires during casual sex (Backstrom, Armstrong and Puentes 2012; Boyer and
Galupo 2015; Stinson, Levy and Alt 2014). It may also reflect the preference for minimal
verbal communication during casual sex (Kratzer and Aubrey 2016; Weaver, Mackeigan
and Macdonald 2011). The comparatively high frequency of feeling excluded for those
who have threesomes when with a romantic partner suggests that in this scenario,
individuals are likely to benefit from discussions regarding their threesome-related
expectations.
The one area where similar communicative behaviours seemed to cross over
between those in relationships and those not, was the issue of contraception and safe
sex. Across both groups, the majority of participants used some form of protection when
having sex or discussed their justifications not to. Approaches to protection varied but
seemed to reflect those used when hooking-up (Moran and Lee 2014), or when engaged
in longer-term casual sex (Konkle-Parker et al. 2018; Weaver, Mackeigan and Macdonald
2011). In line with this, those having threesomes when not in a relationship most
commonly used condoms; other participants often discussed different forms of
contraception that would protect against pregnancy (but not necessarily STIs). Some
participants did, however, highlight a lack of knowledge around why some dyadic
strategies for protection may be less effective during group-sex. Consequently, it may
be useful to consider the inclusion of group-sex in sex and relationship education
programmes.
Overall, this research demonstrates that threesome practitionersparticularly
those having a threesome while in a relationshipuse some similar communication
strategies and rules to those engaging in other forms of consensual non-monogamy. In
addition, perhaps because of the perceived casual nature of the sex, approaches to
contraception seemed to be similar to those adopted during hook-ups/casual sex
(Moran and Lee 2004).
Threesomes do not, however, necessarily appear to disrupt monogamy in the
same way that other more regular forms of consensual non-monogamy (i.e. forms that
are a more day-to-day part of participants’ lives) may do (Ritchie and Barker 2006). In
fact, rather than challenge the institution of monogamy, threesomes may actually
support it, particularly when engaged in by romantic couples. Threesomes may offer
couples a sexual “release”; allowing access to extra-dyadic sex while reaffirming the
primacy of their committed relationship (Schippers 2016). Accordingly, threesomes may
present a challenge to monogamism when engaged in by individuals, but paradoxically,
reproduce it through an emphasis and privileging of the couples who engage in them.
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... Existe outra forma de não monogamia que aparece nas pesquisas atuais e que ainda não presenta acordo científico respeito de si é ou não uma categoria mais dos RCNM, o "threesome", a relação sexual com outra pessoa fora da díade que existe com a necessária presença do casal (MARTIN, 2017). No presente trabalho é tomada como categoria, por aparecer estudada especificamente em um artigo e pelas suas características particulares muitos simila res com outros tipos de RCNM, como a presença necessária de comunicação, acordo, regras, intimidade e compromisso (RYAN S & ERIC ANDERSON, 2018). ...
... (WANG, 2016) Os RCNM têm elevados níveis de comunicação (MARTIN, 2017;MOGILSKI, ET. AL., 2015;WANG, 2016;SCOATS & ANDERSON, 2018;MUISE, ET. AL., 2018), caracterizada por ser aberta e sumamente honesta (MARTIN, 20178;SCOATS & ANDERSON, 2018). ...
... AL., 2015;WANG, 2016;SCOATS & ANDERSON, 2018;MUISE, ET. AL., 2018), caracterizada por ser aberta e sumamente honesta (MARTIN, 20178;SCOATS & ANDERSON, 2018). Os RCNM conversam muito sobre sexo e expressam com apertura os desejos emocionais ou sexuais que puderam surgir na interação com outras pessoas (MOGILSKI, COHEN, 2015). ...
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Este livro tem uma interessante história. Os textos foram desenvolvidos ao longo de um ano com um grupo, inicialmente, muito heterogêneo que não apresentavam afinidades. Juntos por um curso com foco em sexualidade, cada aluno foi buscando encontrar o que compreendia que seria importante ou que lhe chamasse a atenção. Durante o curso receberam aulas num amplo leque de assuntos em sexualidade, o que conduziu a poder ouvir, ler e debater alguns assuntos muitas vezes inesperados, outras vezes alinhada com o que compreendia e desejava saber. Ao terminar o curso, esses alunos foram instados a apresentarem seus estudos, suas monografias, no formato de uma Jornada Científica, com tempo limitado de apresentação do tema, com tempo posterior para debate e sendo avaliados por três professores. Como os estudos foram sobre temas de interesse a quem queira mais acesso e informações sobre sexualidade, desde a organização do curso, propusemos que os textos compusessem um livro, que primeiramente marcassem os feitos dos componentes deste grupo de profissionais em saúde e educação. E assim houvesse uma valorização específica através da publicação, permitindo a outros o acesso a estas composições que são uma panóplia do que é mais importante ao redor do estudo da sexualidade no final desta segunda década do século XXI. https://www.amazon.com/Estudos-sexualidade-Portuguese-Oswaldo-Rodrigues/dp/1091182663
... The popularity of threesome pornography viewing and the high interest in MSTs in offline settings is interesting given that MST-related activities violate the norms prescribed by traditional sexual scripts. However, MSTs may serve as a "golden opportunity" to explore both consensual nonmonogamy (defined as involvement in a relationship in which all parties agree that it is acceptable to have additional romantic or sexual partners) [29] and same-sex sexual behavior without experiencing the high degree of stigma commonly associated with these behaviors [44,45]. For example, over 95% of heterosexual men from the UK report that they do not view an individual instance of an MST involving two male individuals as indicative of homosexuality [45]. ...
... For example, over 95% of heterosexual men from the UK report that they do not view an individual instance of an MST involving two male individuals as indicative of homosexuality [45]. Additionally, participation in MSTs is not perceived as a violation of monogamy norms [44]. Because of the popularity of threesome internet pornography, the substantial proportion of adults reporting interest in and experience with threesomes, and the potential impact MST videos may be having on sexual scripts, it is important to understand the content being depicted in MST internet pornography and how this content may be shifting over time. ...
... As stated above, because MST pornography is popular and because there is a high reported level of interest in engaging in threesome sexual behaviors [42][43][44][45], the current study extends past research by assessing the content of free pornographic videos from a popular genre, MSTs. In particular, the current study focused on examining differences in the occurrence of same-sex and other-sex behaviors between MMF and FFM videos. ...
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Viewing online pornography is common among US adults, with mixed-sex threesome (MST) videos being one of the top 10 most popular categories of pornography for both men and women. The current content analysis applied sexual script theory to understand the themes present in these mixed-sex threesome videos. Independent coders viewed a total of 50 videos (25 MMF and 25 FFM) at each timepoint (2012, 2015, 2020) and coded for different sexual behaviors and themes in each video. By examining both same-sex (female–female, male–male) and other-sex (female–male) behaviors, as well as themes of aggression and sexual initiation in different videos and across three timepoints, it was determined that other-sex behaviors are more common in MST videos than same-sex behaviors. Same-sex behaviors between two female actors were more common than same-sex behaviors between two male actors. Aggression was a common theme in videos, with male actors being more aggressive on average than female actors. Most of these trends did not change across 8 years, suggesting that the impacts of traditional sexual scripts are pervasive in pornography, even in current online content. Important implications for both researchers and clinical professionals are discussed.
... In fact, involvement in MGTs may indicate certain personality characteristics (i.e., risk taking, sensation seeking) rather than one's sexual orientation or preferences (Frank, 2008). In addition, Scoats and Anderson (2019) found that adults engaging in MGTs do not perceive their behavior as violating norms surrounding monogamy, rather they report using MGTs as means by which to promote or enhance monogamy and commitment. Thus, examining MGTs provides researchers with important information that is distinct and novel from previous studies that have explored CNM more broadly. ...
... Research on threesomes is incredibly scarce, and research on MGTs in particular is nearly absent from the literature (Scoats, 2019;Scoats & Anderson, 2019;Thompson & Byers, 2017. However, research indicates that threesomes are one of the most popular sexual fantasies. ...
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Mixed-gender threesomes (MGTs) are a type of consensually nonmonogamous sexual encounter involving three people of more than one gender. Little research has been conducted on MGTs, and what little work does exist is limited to college students, who may actually be less experienced with MGTs than older adults. The present study investigated attitudes toward, interest in, experiences with, and outcomes of MGTs in two samples (college N = 231; online N = 1342), comprised of 907 heterosexual and 666 sexual minority participants in total. Results indicated that participants reported neutral-to-positive attitudes toward and moderate-to-high levels of interest in MGTs (81% indicated some degree of interest). MGTs involving familiar others were preferred to those involving strangers. Men, sexual minority individuals, and participants from the online sample reported more favorable attitudes toward and greater interest in MGTs as compared to women, heterosexual individuals, and participants from the student sample. In addition, 30% of participants indicated having experience with a MGT. Sexual minority individuals reported more experience with MGTs and more positive outcomes than did heterosexual individuals. In addition, on average, participants reported that their MGT experiences “met expectations.” Overall, these results indicate that MGTs are a common sexual behavior that often results in positive outcomes, especially among sexual minority individuals. Additional research on this understudied topic is needed, particularly as it relates to outcomes and the role of MGTs in consensually nonmonogamous relationships.
... 4 This text does not want to provide an analysis of threesome or other type of love relationships where multiple partners are involved. In order to have some references of studies done on this topic see for example(Scoats 2019;Scoats and Anderson 2019;Schippers 2016).Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved. ...
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... They are also expected to practice open communication, honesty, emotional intimacy, and consent-seeking to reduce the threat of partner defection or resource diversion. Scoats and Anderson (2019) interviewed men and women who engaged in mixed-sex threesomes and found that open communication reduced feelings of exclusion. Similarly, Aguilar (2013) studied two communal living groups practicing polyamory and reported that both cultures discouraged aggression and competition among males within the community. ...
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Life history theory (LHT) predicts that individuals vary in their sexual, reproductive, parental, familial, and social behavior according to the physical and social challenges imposed upon them throughout development. LHT provides a framework for understanding why non-monogamy may be the target of significant moral condemnation: individuals who habitually form multiple romantic or sexual partnerships may pursue riskier, more competitive interpersonal strategies that strain social cooperation. We compared several indices of life history (i.e., the Mini-K, the High-K Strategy Scale, pubertal timing, sociosexuality, disease avoidance, and risk-taking) between individuals practicing monogamous and consensually non-monogamous (CNM) romantic relationships. Across several measures, CNM individuals reported a faster life history strategy than monogamous individuals, and women in CNM relationships reported earlier pubertal development. CNM individuals also reported more social and ethical risk-taking, less aversion to germs, and greater interest in short-term mating (and less interest in long-term mating) than monogamous individuals. From these data, we discuss a model to explain how moral stigma toward non-monogamy evolved and how these attitudes may be mismatched to the modern environment. Specifically, we argue that the culture of sexual ethics that pervades contemporary CNM communities (e.g., polyamory, swinging) may attenuate risky interpersonal behaviors (e.g., violent intrasexual competition, retributive jealousy, partner/child abandonment, disease transmission) that are relatively more common among those who pursue multi-partner mating.
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Background: There have been limited studies of group sex among heterosexual individuals. This study aimed to explore the factors associated with group sex among heterosexual males and females to improve risk assessment guidelines and inform sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening requirements. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted among heterosexual males and females aged ≥16 years attending the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre between March and April 2019. The survey asked about group sex participation, methods used to meet sexual partners, number of casual and/or regular partners, and injection drug use (IDU) in the previous 3 months. HIV and STI (chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis) diagnoses were extracted. A multivariable logistic regression was conducted to identify the factors associated with group sex participation. Results: A total of 698 participants (325 males, 373 females) were included and 4.7% (33/698) had participated in group sex in the previous 3 months. The proportion who participated in group sex increased with age (2.1% in 16-24 years, 5.5% in 25-34 years, 7.8% in ≥35 years, ptrend=0.010). Meeting partners at sex venues (e.g. brothels) was associated with the highest odds of participating in group sex (aOR=5.74, 95% CI: 1.20-27.44), followed by dating apps (aOR=2.99, 95% CI: 1.36-6.58), friends/family (aOR=2.99, 95% CI: 1.34-6.69) and social venues (e.g. bar) (aOR=2.73, 95% CI: 1.18-6.30). Group sex was strongly associated with STI positivity (aOR=6.24, 95% CI: 2.41-16.13). There was no association between group sex and sex, casual and/or regular partners, HIV positivity or IDU. Conclusion: Heterosexual individuals participating in group sex had a six-fold risk of testing positive for STIs. Including group sex in a sexual history is useful to determine STI risk and inform testing practices. Safe sex messages on group sex that are delivered through multiple methods (e.g. at sex venues, social venues and dating apps simultaneously) would be beneficial.
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