April 2001

Organic Love #2

I am certain that when your mom and dad sat you down for The Sex Talk (if you were so lucky), or when they showed you the Fucking Film or the Zygote Slide Show in 6th grade, nobody mentioned the joys, wonders and emotional tribulations of three people getting naked together. But really, could we have a more interesting subject, or one more filled with sweet, deep and dark emotions?

Now you're probably sitting there thinking, three-way sex! Thanks a lot! I'd be happy if I could get myself a little two-way sex. A little ordinary nookie! Damn, I'd be happy if I could seduce myself, but I'm not even cooperating (that, however, is next month's theme -- May is Masturbation Month).

Yet sex-for-three is not just something you read about in the Penthouse Forum, where two hot babes allegedly go to town on a cool dude with a sweaty moustache, or get it on solely for his gratification. Sex-for-three actually happens, and it may happen to you. Far as I can tell, fantasies of sex involving three or more people are such a common desire in both men and women as to be archetypal; they are part of our inherent humanity. The nice young woman at work with the cross around her neck, the frankfurter guy, your girlfriend, your husband, the cafeteria lady -- you can assume they think about this kind of experience, or have; that they want it, perhaps need it. I mean, chimps do; why not the cafeteria lady?

There is no reason why not. Just because our one legitimate model of relationship, handed to us by government and religion, sanctions only monogamous heterosexual relationships between two people to the exclusion of all others, human interaction takes many shapes, and some of those involve relating to more than one person in an erotic experience. Perhaps we want the extra attention. Perhaps we want to be seen in sexual exchange with another person, or maybe we want to watch. Perhaps it's just a great idea. Adding a third person opens the possibilities for unspeakable pleasures that can make our fantasies seem boring.

But most of us can't speak of these desires out loud. There are reasons: shame is the first. I have a lot of occasions to speak to people about their inner sexual worlds; in one conversation, I was speaking with a woman about her feelings of shame about her dark and dirty sexual desires. "Okay, so, what are they?"

After some hesitation she revealed she wanted to have sex with several men, one after the next; this was her horrible secret. My response was something like, "Oh, that's nice. That's sweet."

So, take note: if we are shamed for masturbating and shamed for every other form of desire, then we can be pretty sure we're going to get caught in some guilty barbed wire if we're not really conscious when it comes to our other more exotic desires. Bring your wire clippers; sex-for-three is no place to take your inhibitions.

Now, there are a few other reasons we don't speak up, and they make the idea of sex-for-three both sexy and scary.


Taboo or just Tabu?

Sex-for-three breaks the Monogamy Taboo. Not that we don't go around breaking the Monogamy Taboo as casually as we eat an apple; it just that when everyone is in the same room doing it, it's more difficult to deny, and some of the same emotions -- guilt, the need to hide the truth, and so on, can surface. Most of the time, three-way sex happens in the context of an established couple. At least one of those people is going to be seen by the other as expressing sexual desire for a third person, and surrender with that person. It may be a hot fantasy, but the potential jealousy is far more than most people can bear.

Then there is the Homo Taboo. Do the math: when three people get together, two will be of one sex and one will be of the other. This means there will be "homosexual activity," which is isn't just fun; it makes lots of people run. Now, there are those threesomes where the two people of the same gender go really out of their way to not touch one another. They do this little dance. No skin will make contact, and especially no eyes. The opposite sex person gets all the attention. This is pretty boring for the same-sexers avoiding one another, and for the person getting the attention. I am speculating here, but only a little.

But taboo is hot territory. Jealousy, when we surrender to it, burns bright as fire. There is erotic joy pent up in those feelings of rage and abandonment. And when heterosexuals have a rare opportunity, perhaps the first, to explore an erotic encounter with one of their own gender, it's worth getting over your squeamishness. And I do declare, most women want to see two men have sex just as much as any man wants to see two women have sex.

When everything works: when the (emotional) chemistry comes on just right (drugs are especially risky mixed with this form of sex play) you can find yourself as both participant in, and witness to, a sexual, sensual and emotional experience so beautiful you'll suddenly remember why you're alive.


Rendering and Surrendering

I was pondering the word "surrender" recently, playing the etymology game. "Render" means "to give over" or "give up control." "Sur" means "higher" or "beyond," as in "surreal." So to surrender means "to release oneself beyond." We often struggle with surrender in our sexual experiences, both alone and with other people. For example, we might want erotic gratification but not emotional honesty. We might want freedom, but are afraid to extend the same to our partners. Even when we're masturbating, our experiences can have a rigid quality, a fear of stretching beyond the familiar territory where we've carved out a little haven from guilt.

We work most of our interpersonal sexual experiences in this little haven as well, this safe space we've demarcated as "okay." Indeed, we spend much of our time in this little harbor, where we feel protected from the judgments of others. We may say we're inhibited, but I would propose that inhibition is really fear of going outside the safe haven we've found from the storm of guilt of the world. But the haven does not really protect us; fear and accusation seep in. What we really need to do is surrender, and go beyond judgment.

When three people get together to share sexual joy, an extraordinarily deep level of surrender is necessary, and we totally must go outside the safe zone. We must sail out into the high seas. In this unusually open space, we are exposed to a wide variety of psychic weather, to which we're unaccustomed. And it's a truly vulnerable place to be.

What we are indeed giving up is control, both self-control and the control of another -- that is, the other people we are with, one of whom is likely to be our primary sexual partner. But outside the safe haven, outside the world of control and self-control, amazing pleasures are possible.


Where Fantasy Misses Reality

Most of our sex-for-three fantasies are works of inexperienced pretend fiction. They never happened; they will never happen quite that way. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as we don't confuse fanasy with reality.

One of the more common musings we hear about is two women and one man getting together. Men are said to have a fetish for women having sex together, yet relatively few have ever seen this. In the fantasy, it's really sexy; it is a visual image with a lot of erotic power. It will draw the orgasm out of a man thinking about it in about ten seconds, give or take.

In a real situation, though, something else may unfold, and we need to be prepared. If you're a man and you're with two women, if you're lucky, they will have good sexual chemistry. And if they do, they may be more interested in one another than in you -- they may in fact be super-curious about one another. It's the best thing you could hope for, but it makes many very edgy, triggering all kinds of abandonment feelings, a sense of unfulfilled desire, and even an urgency to separate them before it goes too far.

For sure, these emotions were not in the fantasy, and it's a wave of inner movement that can feel like a tsunami. I won't go so far to say these feelings are natural, but they are pretty normal in that they come up for a lot of men, indeed for a lot of people when they get to witness others being sexual together. And you'll have only two choices at that point: to let go to what is happening, or to spread bad vibes and end the fun. In shorthand, to allow or to control.

In most three-way sex situations, two of the people are likely to have more magnetism for one another than either has with the third. This will often leave an "odd person out," and there can be a variety of feelings moving at this point: envy, jealousy, resentment and so on. And it can leave the other two people feeling, eventually, like they owe something to this person; this is another opportunity for the weird vibes often set in.

There is an old Tantric teaching that three people can join together for sex as long as all three have open hearts. This is good advice for any form of sex, including masturbation, but it's especially important when three people are together because everything is so multiplied and in a sense exaggerated. There is so much at stake. Having an open heart is a way of being loving in the moment. It is about being in love, but right then. It does not need to last forever. Many people are quite confused about this and associate an experience of having an open heart with commitment to love eternally. But I am just talking about in that moment.

I remember experiences of this kind unfolding during one series of encounters. My lover and I had met a third partner, who was a woman. The women were more emotionally mature than I was, they were bonding as very good friends, and they were very, very sexually open to one another. I was in a particularly needy phase, and in the end, got my share of attention; but this did not stop my heart from raging in some strange ways when the two of them would give themselves over to one another, with me on the outside, which could go on for a long time.

Oh, these were beautiful experiences. I could watch at a distance of inches as my lover went down on our lover, even making eye contact with either one of them as she did this. I could hold her as she gave herself over to the pleasuring of a woman, which I knew was an exquisite and necessary experience for her, and joyful. I could embrace them as they mixed into a 69.

Yet I would rage inside. The feeling I had was beyond jealousy or envy. It was having to confront the acknowledgment that I could never have what they were sharing with one another because I am a man. Slowly, I surrendered to these feelings. I gave myself over. Walls inside me began to break down. I learned something called compersion. This is the feeling of total compassion for the pleasure and love that another person is experiencing, in that moment. It is being turned on by another person's pleasure -- yes -- but more than that; compersion is letting go into another person's pleasure with one's whole being.

Three-way sex is very pleasurable in itself. But what you will learn, if you are paying attention, is compersion.


Who I Am To You

Relationships often box us into a version of our identity. We tend to be a certain way with a certain person, and they expect us to be that way. This can be a powerful effect in sexual relationships, where we take on a role and a persona just for our partner or as a result of being with them.

If we get a chance to be sexual with another person in the presence of our primary lover, we will be mixing our chemistry with this third person and a new dynamic will be created; a whole new relationship. So, if you watch your girlfriend make love with another man, she may seem more wild with him, or more open, or something other than she is with you.

She will be a different person because she is mixing her energy with a different person. You may fear that she will love him more; if you are making love with another woman, she may fear the same thing. This fear, though, has an especially deep beauty to it, if a dark beauty. In it is the reminder that you're not in control of the universe, and that the only thing you can ever really do is to let go.

As the Grateful Dead say, "If you get confused, listen to the music play." Just let go. Just be with the feelings you're all experiencing. Tune into their breath, their voices, your breath, your inner currents of emotion. Tune in, turn on, drop in.


Partners, set and setting

It's probably a good idea to get together with good friends. But it's especially necessary to have some communication channels open. Sex is emotionally safer with people we feel comfortable speaking with. You'll need to have all the safer-sex and pregnancy prevention discussions, disclosing your physical issues, health concerns, disease status and so on. But the deeper concerns are emotional. Once this experience has happened, it's happened forever.

So it needs to start as an opportunity where everyone has the option to say yes, or not be involved. You'll probably need to set out some emotional boundaries, and own up to prior commitments that may prevent you from having an honest sexual experience. Drugs and alcohol make emotional honesty practically impossible, so if these are involved, there may be some consequences. While no drugs are preferable, I would propose that anything more than a little herb or a glass or two of wine is pushing the limit.

No doubt three-way sexual encounters happen on the various species of Ecstasy, which lends itself well to the dropping of inhibitions that make just this kind of experience possible. So be it, just please drink a lot of water.

Make sure you're in a space where you won't be interrupted. Make sure everyone can get home if they need to.

Then start with gentle touching, move into the flow, and, as John Donne said, "let us melt."


How to Create the Experience

First you find one person who wants to go for it, then you find another, and you introduce them. If there is chemistry, and everyone is free to make their own choices, you're in business.


A few ideas

Sex-for-three takes practice, just like anything else. If it doesn't work out great the first time, please don't let that deter you, even from getting together with the same people. I'd like to leave you with some suggestions for what you can explore.

  • Share your fantasies. Share out loud with your lover, if you have one, and see if they are turned on by what you want. Maybe you want to watch someone fuck him or her; maybe you want to take part; lay down your cards and see whatcha got. See how your partner responds to you expressing erotic feelings and images for other people. If it turns him/her on, that's a good sign.
  • Role play. Try being another person to your partner, or let them be another person to you. Many people imagine their lover is someone else but don't say anything. Let it out; make it a game. See how this feels.
  • Set your purpose. For example, let's say you're a woman and you want to have sex with another woman, but you want your partner there. That's the purpose. Or, if you want to have sex with a woman without him there, that calls for a one-on-one experience with a woman, not an experience of three-way-sex. It's not a good idea to mix the two orders of reality. State your needs and desires honestly.
  • Try an evening of erotic massage with a close friend you would consider sharing sex with. See how it feels when you touch one another's bodies. See how it feels the next day.
  • Invite a friend to watch you and your partner have sex. Check out how it feels when another person is there. See how it feels to speak or interact with this person while you're being sexual with your lover.
  • Get together with people you're turned on by and masturbate together. If you can masturbate together, you can probably have good sex together.
  • Get into your partner's pleasure. If someone else is fucking or going down on your partner, hold his hand, listen to her voice, make eye contact, stroke her hair.
  • Watch someone make love to your partner while you masturbate.
  • Try two couples having sex together, that is, in the same room. You don't need to swap; just explore being sexually open with other people in the room being sexually open. It's a world of its own.
  • Keep your heart open. Feel what you're feeling. If you feel any desire to "take control," just breathe into it. It's worth letting go.++
Originally published on Sexuality.Org, April 2001 as Mixed Emotions / Organic Love # 2 at