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three-way etiquette for dummies
a guide to popping the +1 question with finesse
by alex b (@Lexistential)

Guys, face it. Us chicks know you've always got three-way in your brain. Sleeping with two of us at the same time is usually up there, along with naked Heidi Klum daydreams, linty bits regarding your relationships, and some questionable visuals possibly involving I Love New York's very own namesake host. (Yeek.)

We also know you guys usually do not succeed in addressing the topic with tact, delicacy, or general grace. In fact, when you bring it up, you pretty much thunk like a ballet dancer that needs to stay off Twinkies. Sometimes, we smack you for asking with a leer and a desperate hope for it to happen—in spite of our discomfort or outright opposition to the query. Believe it or not, there are ways of talking about the circus in your head without setting off World War V to your face.

Thus, should you propose the indelicate without being on bended knee, observe the following guidelines (a.k.a. commandments):

I. DO NOT: Ask to have one if our not-yet-defined relationship has only been going for three weeks and doesn't really even exist as a desirable interaction. You haven't earned those brownie points; a nanosecond span of time is not enough for you to conclude that we spar outside Standard One-on-One, much less with you. Earn your gold stars, Level 3 clearance, and VIP Privilege Points. Inebriated discussion on the first night of meeting you does not count.
DO: Ask nicely, especially if our relationship has actually progressed past the two-month mark and actually involves talking about our sex life as grownups—and not Family Guy send-ups.

II. DO NOT: Assume we will do one again just for you if we or you have prior experience. If we all have prior experience, then that's nice. We've all sparred in the alternative category, but we're not part of the same tour.
DO: Once again understand that a three-way is a privilege. Earn it.

III. DO NOT: Foist a three-way fantasy on us, or beg and bug us to do it if we're married to you or have a long-term relationship with you. Our legally bound, balled, and chained state doesn't signify automatic clearance past Standard One-on-One, especially because you never had the chance to sow your wild oats while young and uncommitted.
DO: Ask us honestly and openly if we'll consider checking out a swinger's party or a sex club as a Hall Pass moment between the two of you. No need to sneak off and gripe to the neighborhood dominatrix or stripper that we wouldn't understand if you're too embarrassed to ask. (And hey, you save a shitload of money in tips).

IV. DO NOT: Presume that flirting with two of us at the same time will bring you a happy ending. We're chicks. We're competitive. We will want to kill each other—then you. (But, in case we are attracted to each other, we might sleep with each other—without you).
DO: Not be surprised if you're all by yourself. Or slightly mauled.

V. DO NOT: Eagerly mention our girlfriends' names to us as possible three-way prospects without stopping to consider our feelings. Especially when you don't know if we're down with "Three's Company." We will want to stab you, and if we can get away with it, we might just go for it.
DO: Ask nicely if we think she's attractive. If we don't telepathically detect "C'mon can-we-do-it-tonight," and see that your manner is modest instead of fiending, we'll most likely make the effort to answer honestly, even if we feel kinda shocked.

VI. DO NOT: Suddenly mention our girlfriends' names in the middle of intimate one-on-one time with us, even if you genuinely find her/them sexy.
DO: Think time and place.

VII. DO NOT: Ask one of our best girlfriends to join us during naked one-on-one time, especially if you don't know her.
DO: If you're alive the next day, profusely apologize. In person.

VIII. DO NOT: Employ ambush tactics if out and about. Pointing to chicks you'd like us to hit on is Z-grade Paris-with-no-panties tacky. Repetitive utterances of, "C'mon, don't you think she's cute?" will make us go Biblical on your ass. "No," number one means it's not happening. Two deflates the fun of being around you in the first place. The third will be uttered if we're still around to say it.
DO: Accept defeat gracefully. See IV.
(*Author's personal note: Do this to my younger sister one more time, and I will punch you.)

IX. DO NOT: Propose a three-way with two of us without considering our own fantasy of two Christian Bale clones in return.
DO: Understand if you're negotiating for a Hall Pass, we get one too.

X. DO NOT: Assume that you will somehow shrivel up and die without ever having two of us at the same time, or are less of a man if you never have the experience. Ron Jeremy's had quite a few, and it's not flattering to look like him.
DO: Count your lucky stars if you ever have one. You did it. You're your own rock star. Hopefully, you will never look like Ron Jeremy.

Bottom line: Ask nicely. Earn clearance. No shmuckiness is necessary. Don't pop the +1 question by pounding on your chest, or attempt to sweet-talk us with bribery a la Dangerous Liaisons. Ask nicely—and we might just make that fantasy come true.


An expert in coloring outside the lines while reading between them, Alex B has a head for business, bod for sin, and weakness for ice cream during all seasons. Apart from watching Bravo marathons and enjoying haute bites here and there, she writes about TV, pop culture, and coloring outside even more lines. She sneaks Tweets via @lexistential.

more about alex b


all about my mother(s)
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published: 5.15.09

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ted byrnes
3.14.08 @ 10:41a

I enjoyed the unabashed gender stereotyping in your opening paragraphs. As we are all a product of our own environments, your missive begs the question, "What bad decisions are you making that bring you into such voluminous contact with this type of depravity?"

alex b
3.14.08 @ 2:28p

Hah! Actually, this is just a small tribute to all the boneheaded moments my girlfriends, sister, and I have had the topic brought up. Fortunately or unfortunately, I live in New York, which is pretty depraved. And a lot of fun.

spence martinez
3.14.08 @ 6:19p

Such a directly-on-the-mark discussion of this topic from both sides of no-man's land.

I won't delve with detail into the platoon of complaints I have fielded from my ladyfriends about guys in their lives who are guilty of breaking some or all of Alex's commandments, but I will confess on my own behalf to a conspicuous breach of #2. (Bless me Alex, for I have sinned...well, I wanted to sin but suggested it for the wrong reasons and screwed up all possible chance of it by going about it in entirely the wrong way....)

Some time ago I was interested in a woman who can only be described generally as "sexually empowered" and specifically as a sexual Sith Lord, at least by comparison to my Paduan learner self. It of course came to light that she had had several experiences involving a third-- the scenario generally being her guest appearance on an "established- couple" sitcom.

While it is generally true-- particularly in the sexual arena-- that once something is tried it becomes part of one's sexual repertoire to be busted out in appropriate circumstances without concern if it feels right, in the case of threesomes this is most certainly not the case. At the time though I didn't grasp the distinction. So predictably the mental image of being with her *and* her evil twin became my new obsession.

Suffice it to say it didn't work out. Three Our Fathers, three Hail Mary's, and NOTHING else three for you, buddy boy....

You can't fault us guys though. For better or worse, having a threesome has become a rite of passage of sorts for us --something we aspire to tick off our list of "things to do before I die." It's stupid no doubt, but the general idea is by no means gender specific. Women have that list too-- it's just easier to tick things off. Examples? How about getting with a girl. Making out with a woman. Being a stripper for a summer. Yes, even being the guest-star in a regular-couple sitcom. More generally, acts that call for individual initiative rather than a collaboration of like-minded, elusive individuals.

Which brings me to another point-- we guys also suffer from an additional disadvantage: a woman who wants "in" to this scenario will nearly *always* find an invitation if she looks hard enough. She's smaller. She's not a threat. She looks better naked. Odds are under the right circumstances, the female sitcom "regular" would have made out with her anyway or maybe even taken her home.

Guys, not so much. We're bigger, hairier, scarier, overenthusiastic, boisterous, pompous, we snore, and as a gender we think we're better in bed than we truly are. Women are wise to all of this. So when we, as guys, find a woman who is open to certain "possibilities" it feels like we've found a Holy Grail.

So yeah, smack us for begging, cajoling, bribing and crying. But don't frown upon us for thin


alex b
3.14.08 @ 7:14p

Spence- you're right that women shouldn't frown on you guys for thinking about it. If anything, what I understand about your gender is that the mere prospect of a threesome with two chicks sets off some pretty darn happy ding-ding-DINGS in your brain. No frowning from this chick.

If anything, I kind of feel sorry for guys, because as a woman, I don't feel culturally pressured to have a three-way of any kind. Though I've got my own share of experience outside standard lines, I've never felt pressured to prove my femininity the way Playboy/Girls Gone Wild culture kind of pushes you guys to prove yourselves your masculinity. Having a three-way with two chicks seems to be held up as a milestone for you and other single guys to hit before you ever settle down with a wedding ring, and I don't see a parallel within female culture. (If there is one, hey, I'd like to know!)

However, that said, there is some pressure on chicks- not from outside factors, but from within our relationships with guys. As a result of guys feeling so driven to have one, we girls get pressured in turn, which is where this column comes from. That pressure is not fun to feel. Sometimes, it really isn't easy to hear that you'd like us to get down with another chick when the first thing we hope you like us for is ourselves.

You're right in that it is easier for a girl to have casual sex than it is for a guy, for all we really have to do is say yes, whereas you guys have to work hard to come across as sexy, etc. I would also agree with you in that a girl can find a three-way invite faster than a guy. However, that said, just because it's easier for us to have the experience doesn't mean we want to be pressured into having the experience so you can have it too.

Sometimes, guys can also be a little competitive in comparing his sexual experience next to his partner's- and if he thinks his is lacking next to hers, then a whole mess happens. He gets a bit wound up in his head where he oughta just relax, because if a girl likes a guy, she's not going to feel inadequate if he's got more notches on the bedpost than she does.

Oh, and I have to point this out too- even though you're a Padawan, some chicks aren't just Sith Lords, but Jedi, baby.

Two more Hail Marys. Have fun in the confessional. (And don't look at the nuns funny.)


adam kraemer
3.17.08 @ 4:57p

What if I'm already predisposed to look like Ron Jeremy?

daniel castro
3.18.08 @ 11:27a

Hahah, wow.

You know what the best alternative to all these "guidelines" is? Not having a girlfriend.
It's not to say, though, that I wouldn't date a woman if she wouldn't have a threesome with me and another another girl, or (gasp!) have anal sex, but I am single (and loving it) so even considering a situation like that is waaay down the line for me.

If you, as a guy, are single and are good enough at talking to women, I don't see why a threesome would be so out of the question.
On the other hand, I wonder how some guys must feel in their relationship if their girlfriend/wife has commandments for certain aspects of their sexual life.

alex b
3.18.08 @ 1:32p

Kraemer, if the resemblance is facial, you might be doomed to lots of mean Jon Lovitz jokes. (But, since I know what you look like, I will never make those).

And hah, Daniel, it's not so much that a 3-way is out of the question, but how one asks for it is (or having some "strict commandments"). Like I said, ask nicely. These days, it's pretty mainstream, so just be man enough to bring it up nicely. If a chick judges a guy for wanting to have a 3-way, then she can be a little too judgmental. But, if she judges you for bringing up the topic with the intention of pushing her into one without her really wanting to be there, then she totally has the right to go, "Ewwww." And think the same about the guy.

russ carr
3.18.08 @ 2:10p

I'm sure that statistically the (M+F)+F menage is the most common, particularly insofar as male fantasies are concerned, but I'm curious to know what the politics would be in a (M+F)+M request.

Or what if the roles are turned around, and it's the female of the couple asking her SO for another girl (or another guy) in the bedroom? Because not every guy is gonna be all over the idea, either.

alex b
3.18.08 @ 2:36p

Russ, in three-ways, there's usually a Two In Charge/Guest Star dynamic. In the M-M-F romps happen where:

1. Two guys arrange to share a chick- hence, the dudes are In Charge and she's the Guest Star.

2. A couple is In Charge, arrange for an extra guy to Guest Star. Sometimes, couples are absolutely willing to play with an outside guy, but there's usually something negotiated within that couple that the boyfriend/husband is the Alpha Guy within that M-M-F romp.

And hah, as far as the "role reversal" question... quite a few guys don't exactly turn it down when a girl offers a three-way. But it depends on the age/state. If it's a girl in a relationship who wants a three-way, there's a chance that she may be shot down. But a single chick looking for a three-way herself is more than likely going to find lots of enthusiastic male volunteers who hope to God for a M-F-F romp.

russ carr
3.18.08 @ 2:56p

Oh, I understood the dynamic (that's why I kept the inviting couple in parentheses). I'm more interested in the politics of the request, which I think could be just as dicey (if not more so) than asking for an extra girl.

In this case, it's more than a guy asking his girlfriend/wife to reveal that bi side that he just KNOWS she's repressing; it's telling her that HE has one, and/or he'd like to have some other cowboy in the saddle with her (or himself).

As far as the woman asking... Fantasies are one thing, but I wouldn't put it past a lot of guys to flinch if it was ever suggested by their gal, for many of the same reasons: Am I not good enough? Are you really bi/lesbian? And if you are, are you leaving me?

daniel castro
3.18.08 @ 3:00p

Alex, I totally agree with you. Specifically, what I mean is that the seriousness of the relationship plays a huge role in how to go about it, and what to expect.

If it's a semi-/committed relationship, I know the guy has to kiss some ass and ask nicely. But if you just met, all parites are somewhat inebriated sometimes, chances are the girl would go for it no matter how you ask.

Have I been cussed out/slapped for something like that? I won't say no, but the times it goes smoothly far over-compensate.

alex b
3.18.08 @ 3:24p

Ah, the politics of the request- the revelation of a bi side is part of that, that's for sure, or a wish to keep sex exciting within a relationship (hence my Hall Pass terminology). Those things are so sensitive, which is why asking nicely is key- you have to be able to ask/listen without fear or judgment.

Dammit, I have a few things to add, but I have a sister to meet in the city for a few bits! But I will resume this chitchat when I get home...

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