Third time’s the charm? More like: add a third, have a climax!

Today we’re talking all things three-ways.

Whether you’re monogamous, monogam-ish, open, polyamorous, single, dating, married, or somewhere in between, you’ll find something in this beginner’s guide for you. 

What threesomes are

The definition of threesome is probably looser than you think it is. 

Ready? A threesome is sex between three people. 

And sex is any meaningful act of pleasure that happens in person or with the help of technology, as defined by sex educator, psychotherapist, and marriage and relationship expert Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT.

So a threesome could be anything from an R-rated group chat or a three-way phone sex call to an oral sex chain or an Eiffel Tower. 

What threesomes aren’t

“Threesomes aren’t a cure-all for a broken relationship,” says certified intimacy educator and sex coach Stella Harris, author of “The Ultimate Guide to Threesomes.” 

“The added pressure of an extra person is likely to amplify any cracks in a pre-established relationship stability,” she says. 

Basically, a threesome is the opposite of a Band-Aid.

“For threesomes to go smoothly when there’s an existing couple involved, that relationship already needs to be solid,” she adds. 

A solid relationship is one in which you can: 

  • talk about both your wins and insecurities
  • hear your partner and feel heard by your partner 
  • trust each other
What’s the point?

Think about it: A threesome offers more hands, holes, and lips, as well as more scents, tastes, and sounds. 

So the most common reason people have threesomes is to experience pleasure. 

But there are other reasons, too. You might want: 

And, hey, taboos can be hot!

Who’s having them — or wants to?

The disparity between the number of folks who want to have a threesome and the number of folks actually having them is probably a lot larger than you’ve been led to believe. 


According to a survey of 4,175 adults conducted by Justin Lehmiller, PhD, a sex researcher and author of “Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life,” 87 percent of women and 97 percent of men fantasize about having sex with more than one person.

The survey didn’t break this fantasy down into specifics, so this figure could include other forms of group sex, too.

All that said, some research suggests that only 10 percent of women and 18 percent of men have actually had a threesome. Sigh.

It’s important to note that neither the survey nor the 2017 study mentioned above polled folks of other genders.

A sad consequence of living in a sex-negative society is that many often assume that threesomes are reserved for the kinkiest among us. 

While there’s nothing (!!) wrong with this, the truth is that engaging in group sex doesn’t have to say anything about who you are. 

tl;dr: Anyone who wants to have a threesome can have one! 

Does gender, sex, or sexual orientation matter? 


You can be any gender, sex, or sexuality and enjoy a three-way. 

“There’s a common fear amidst straight men that you can’t be in a threesome with another man and still be straight,” explains Shelby Ring, sexuality advocate and lead educator with Ruby Riot Creatives (a boutique videography firm based in Charleston, South Carolina). 

“But you can absolutely have a threesome with another man and still be straight as a door nail.” 


  1. Being in a threesome with someone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be touching them.
  2. Sexual acts don’t determine sexual orientation — only self-identification does.

Historically, threesomes have been named according to the make-up of males and females in them. 

These terms include: 

  • MMM: Male-male-male
  • FFF: Female-female-female
  • MFM: Male-female-male
  • FMF: Female-male-female
  • MMF: Male-male-female
  • FFM: Female-female-male

Nowadays, these designations are considered out of style.

The terms “male” and “female” suggest a biological binary that doesn’t exist. 

Sometimes, the phrases “penis-owner” and “vagina-owner” are used to explain the make-up of a threesome. For example, PPV means a threesome with a penis-owner, penis-owner, and vagina-owner. 

But these terms can create gender or genital dysphoria in folks who don’t feel connected to their genitals. 

The best way to describe the configuration of your threesome is by the genders of each person involved. Are two of you nonbinary and one of you gender-fluid? Just say that!

How to bring it up to your partner or FWB

A threesome isn’t a puppy! You can’t put it in a box with a bow under the Christmas tree, whip it out mid-romp, and yell “surprise.”

Introducing a third person into the bedroom requires tact and lots of open communication. 

For instance, you might say: 

  • “Babe, have you ever had a threesome? Or wanted to have a threesome?”
  • “I had the hottest threesome dream featuring you, me, and Ruby Rose last night. Can I tell you about it?”
  • “I recently read an article about threesomes, and it made me think it’s something that might be really fun to try together. Is it something you’d ever be interested in?”

Another option: Watch an episode or movie with a threesome or group sex scene together, then do a temperature check. 

Popular movies and shows with group-play representation include: 

  • “Sense 8”
  • “The L Word”
  • “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
  • “Easy”
  • “House of Cards”
  • “Elite”
  • “Game of Thrones”

While watching, you might consider saying, “Do you ever fantasize about doing that?” or “Have you ever wanted to have a threesome with me and another person?” 

Of course, if they’re recoiling with discomfort, read (!) the (!) room (!). 

How to know if you’re ready for a threesome

Before you and your partner decide to move forward, Harris recommends that you both examine why you want to have a threesome. 

“Are your ‘whys’ compatible? How does hearing their reasons make you feel?” she asks. 

You’ll also want to discuss your relationship with jealousy. 

“Are you prone to jealousy or insecurity? Do you feel comfortable speaking up for yourself and your boundaries?” she adds. 

“Remember: Multi-person play can end up pressing on any weak points in your confidence or relationship.”

How to find and approach the rest of your trio

This depends on a variety of things, like whether you’re looking with someone else or alone and if physical distancing orders have been lifted.

Use a dating app geared towards threesomes

“There are dating apps geared toward kink or open relationships, which allow you to screen for people who are game for this kind of play before making your approach,” Harris says. 

Some popular threesome dating apps include: 

Or respectfully use another dating app

Obvi, there are other dating apps, too. 

If you use an app that isn’t geared specifically toward group sex, Harris recommends that you “make sure to be transparent that you’re dating as a couple, or that you’re single and looking to join a couple.” 

Attend an IRL or URL sex party

“In a sexually charged environment, like at a sex club or play party, these kinds of proposals typically feel pretty natural,” Harris says. 

To find the sex clubs nearest you, hit up Google. Search for “sex club in [insert city here].” 

To find a local play party, ask the educators at your local feminist sex shop. 

Look within your polycule

If you’re polyamorous, you might consider looking within your non-monogamous network! As the saying goes, a polycule that plays together stays together… 

You might say: 
  • “My other partner finds you incredibly beautiful, and we were wondering if you might be interested in sleeping with us both?”
  • “You know my other partner? We’re interested in having a threesome together. Is that something you might be interested in?”
Don’t only talk about the potential threesome

Whether IRL or URL, “make sure to show an interest in the potential third beyond just sex,” Harris says. 

Instead of launching right into threesome talk, get to know them.

“You want to find people you can enjoy talking to, not just fooling around with,” she says. 

Set expectations before things get heated

“Before you start playing, clarity is crucial,” Ring says. 

Before clothes start coming off, she recommends discussing: 

  • STI status 
  • the sex acts that are “acceptable sex acts” 
  • the birth control methods that are going to be used and by whom
  • the barrier methods that are going to be used, by whom, and when
  • the desired frequency for the three-way
  • whether there’s potential for the three-way to evolve into a (romantic) triad
  • where everyone will be sleeping after the threesome 
  • the types of interactions you’ll have in the days, weeks, and months after the threesome

“Though these conversations may be uncomfortable at first, the more clarity you have, the better,” Ring adds. 

Plus, having these clear communications upfront may be a great precursor to feel out the others’ emotional intelligence, too. 

“If someone flares up at the thought of having to get STI tested, or becomes extremely reactive when talking about off-limit sex acts, that’s a red flag.” 

When you’re ready to dive in

There’s just one rule for group play: Everyone involved needs to feel — and encouraged to feel — safe, comfortable, and respected. 

Beyond that, it’s up to you all to decide who touches who, when, how, and in what order. 

Be direct

Wondering how the heck to go from talking about the weather to talking about how wet (or hard) you all are? Harris recommends being direct. 

“Sometimes the best way to get there is simply by being direct,” she says. “You might say ‘Would you like to go upstairs/to the bedroom?’ or ‘May I kiss you now?’”

“As long as everyone knows the plan is for a threesome, you don’t need to be coy at this point.” Fair. 

Let the more experienced person be the top

Has someone in the group had a threesome before? Harris suggests letting them take the reins. 

“If someone in the group is more experienced, it can help if everyone agrees to let them take the lead.” 

Consistently communicate

Just as constant communication is the key to pleasurable two-person play, it’s also key to three-person play, says Luna Matatas, sexuality educator and creator of Peg The Patriarchy. 

Here are some questions you might ask throughout: 

  • “How does this feel?” 
  • “Do you like it like this [performs one type of touch/lick/bite], or like this [performs another]?”
  • “How are you doing, baby?” 
Aftercare as desired

Some folks are OK with a quick check-in before they’re out the door. Others want to cuddle or hop in the shower. Some pairs want to Talk It Out after the third leaves. 

There’s no wrong post-threesome move, per say. But you do want to be respectful of everyone’s emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual needs. 

“Like with most things, the only way to be sure you’re on the same page is to ask,” says Harris.

You might say:

  • “Does anyone need water or food?” 
  • “How are everyone’s muscles, genitals, and energy levels? Does anyone need ice, a heating pad, lube, or CBD suppository?” 
  • “How are you feeling emotionally?” 
  • “What are you thinking about?” 

“You can also check in with your threesome group the day after and invite any conversations now that the sexy dust has settled,” Matatas says. 

Threesome terminology to know before your first time

Sure, you could you whip out Siri and ask, “What does DP mean?” Or you could pursue the short threesome term sheet below. 


A unicorn is an omnisexual (i.e. pansexual or bisexual) individual who’s down to hook-up with both members of a pre-established couple in a no-strings-attached three-way. 

Historically, the term referred specifically to bisexual women, but it has since expanded to refer to eager thirds across the spectrum.

Guest star

Often used synonymous with unicorn, the term guest star suggests that the third (who is not part of the established couple) is going to receive the majority of the attention. 

Daisy chain

Daisy chaining is the three-person version of 69-ing. It involves everyone simultaneously giving and receiving oral sex. 

Double penetration (DP)

Any sex act that involves one person having one or more orifices — anus, vagina, or mouth — filled with two things. 

This could include any combination of penises, dildos, ball gags, butt plugs, other sex toys, or fingers. 

Double vaginal penetration (DVP)

This happens when a vagina-owner has their vaginal canal simultaneously filled by two penises, two dildos, or one of each. 

Bottom line:

Threesomes can be pleasurable as long as there’s plenty of chit-chat along the way. 

So, in the words of Tash Sultana and Matt Corby, “Let’s talk it out, talk it out, talk it out. Baby let’s talk it out, talk it out, talk it out.”

Written by Gabrielle Kasselon February 25, 2021
Harris S. (2021). Personal interview.
Herbenick D, et al. (2017). Sexual diversity in the United States: Results from a nationally representative probability sample of adult women and men.
Matatas L. (2021). Personal interview.
Ring S. (2021). Personal interview.
Photo Credit: Dainis Graveris

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