So You Want to Have a Threesome

Q: Me and my boyfriend (been together for about a year, I’m 19 years old, he was my first and my first serious boyfriend, I’m about his tenth sexual partner but also first serious girlfriend) would like to get more into swinging, threesomes, etc. We haven’t tried anything like that before and I’m worried about certain aspectslike safety, honesty, trust…I’m a little bit afraid about how feelings and sex are going to mix, because he still is my first and I don’t really know. Also any tips to keep everything safe and STD-free?

A: It sounds like it’s important to you that whatever sex you and your boyfriend have with other people be both as physically and emotionally safe as possible, and that’s great! We’re going to talk about your last question (preventing STIs) first, because we see that as the easier part to address, and then we’ll move onto the sometimes-messy subject of emotions, trust, communication, etc.

When it comes to preventing STIs during threesomes, it’s important to be informed and to know what your comfort level is as well as the comfort levels of everyone else involved. Is it important to you that the other person or people have been tested recently? If so, that’s definitely something to bring up early on, and it would also be good to talk with your boyfriend about your expectations regarding those tests results (would you only consider partners who are STI-free, or would you feel comfortable using barriers with a partner who has an STI, and would that vary depending on the particular STI?). This handy list from Scarleteen explains what sexual acts can potentially transmit what STIs, and this post offers a great discussion of different ways to practice safer sex. If pregnancy prevention is going to be a factor, that’s also something to keep in the front of your mind.

So, if your potential partner(s) haven’t been tested recently, or if they have but you all would still prefer to be extra-cautious, what kinds of things can you do? Male condoms are definitely worth considering, as they help protect against STIs as well as pregnancy, and female condoms are also a good possibility; they can be more expensive and harder to find than male condoms, but they also have some benefits that male condoms don’t because they’re bigger and cover the vulva as well. (However, do not use male and female condoms together, the friction could cause one or both condoms to tear.) If you’re using barrier methods, you’re going to want to make sure that, for instance, your boyfriend doesn’t go from having PIV with one woman to having PIV sex with you without removing or switching the condom first. If any toys are involved, you’ll want to be similarly mindful of where the toys are going and what barriers there are between the toys and the various body parts, and make sure that nothing (toys, fingers, penises, etc.) ever goes from someone’s ass to someone’s mouth or vulva/vagina. (That’s just a good rule to follow in general.) You’ll also want to know if anybody involved is allergic to any of the materials from which these things are typically made – the ideal time to find out about a latex allergy is before any sex happens, not during! It’s up to everyone involved if you want to use barrier methods during penetrative sex, oral sex (dental dams can be good for this), and even for acts like fingering and hand jobs (with gloves or finger cots) – like we said earlier, it’s about your comfort level. The crucial thing is that you and your boyfriend talk about it and be on the same page, and that the two of you talk about it with anybody you’re considering having sex with together or swinging with.

You’ve probably noticed that we’ve mentioned talking, both with your boyfriend and with potential partner(s), a handful of times in just two paragraphs. As you might have guessed, talking, and lots of talking, is essential to addressing the aspects of non-monogamy that worry you, like trust and feelings getting involved. Do both of you want this equally? Adding another partner, even a one-time casual partner, into a relationship can be a really big step, and we think it needs to be something that you both genuinely want and aren’t doing mainly or solely to please the other.

We’d also strongly suggest having multiple conversations about your boundaries. Are there certain acts (even something as simple as kissing) that you want to keep for just the two of you? Some couples find that a pretty broad “anything / almost anything goes” policy works well for them, while others prefer some boundaries around sex with other people, for example, not doing anything with someone else that they haven’t done together. What if the two of you are in bed with another person and one of you starts feeling uncomfortable, unhappy, insecure, envious, etc.? Or what if there’s just a small thing that’s bothering you, not enough to want to end things entirely, but something you want to make known? How will you let each other know, and how will you handle the situation? Also, when it comes to finding and engaging partners, how will the two of you handle that? Especially when it comes to swinging or swapping partners – is it okay for one of you to have sex with someone else without the other one being present? If so, do you want to check in with one another first, or are you okay without doing that?

These are important things to address, but these conversations don’t always have to be very serious, you can make them fun! Fantasize while snuggling together one night – if you both found a guy who’s up for a threesome, what sorts of things would you want to do and how do you see the scenario playing out? Or what if an attractive couple starts coming onto you both in a club, what kinds of sexy things might happen? If you don’t get to quite finish these particular conversations because you find yourselves, er, occupied with other things, that’s fine; this can just offer you both some insight into what kinds of experiences the other is interested in having, and it can also help you figure out those boundaries (for instance, “I loved when you suggested all of us touching each other at the same time, but I want to be the one kissing you while we do that.”).

You also mentioned feelings being a concern for you. Are you worried about your boyfriend developing feelings for someone else? Or are you worried about you having feelings for someone else? Or one or both of you feeling attached to one of your new partners? (Or all of the above?) We think it’s crucial to share these concerns with your boyfriend – talk about what exactly worries you and what it would mean for each of you and for your relationship if indeed one of these worries came true. (While you’re at it, it would probably also be useful to discuss possible physical ramifications of threesomes or swinging: what if you or another woman got pregnant? What if one of you contracted an STI? What would that mean for each of you and for you as a couple?)

If/when the two of you have communicated about this to your satisfaction and you’re ready to start finding other partners, you’re probably going to want to basically repeat these discussions with them. What are their boundaries? Do they have any concerns or insecurities? Do they feel comfortable voicing their preferences? And how do you want to go about making this happen? (Meaning, do you want to hang out all together and try to let it happen naturally, or are you all fine with it being a group booty call?)

We’re inclined to say that, if after having these discussions with your boyfriend (and letting them simmer in your head for a while and then having them again, and repeating as necessary), you still have any fears or concerns that are nagging at you and won’t go away, wait. Sex with other people can be awesome but it can also be complicated, and if you don’t feel confident about it or have any profound concerns that you don’t think have been adequately addressed and resolved, don’t do it yet. Feeling a little nervous before any new sexual situation is very normal, but if you’ve got more than just “eek, this is new and exciting!” butterflies in your stomach, talk to your boyfriend, and don’t feel like you need to go ahead with anything you don’t feel confident about. The two of you could have plans to get together with another couple and if an hour before you’re supposed to meet up, one of you starts freaking out and feeling uncertain, remember that you’re in it together – whether you decide to hold off or whether you go ahead and have some awesome, new sex, you’ve got each other’s support.

Keep the great ques­tions com­ing! (Hee.) Got a ques­tion to ask, sub­ject you’d like us to dis­cuss, or myth you’d like us to bust? You can e-mail us at FriskyFeminist@persephonemagazine.com or send us an anony­mous mes­sage via the spiffy new Ask Us! fea­ture here.

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paperispatient

I recently earned my MA in women’s studies. I enjoy reading, working out, playing Scrabble, watching cheesy movies, and cooking yummy vegetarian meals with my partner and Frisky Feminist co-author, Future Mr. paperispatient.

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