There has been little research on threesomes, a form of multi-person sex that involves sexual activity with two other people simultaneously. Therefore, we examined young adults’ attitudes toward, interest in, and experiences with one form of threesome, mixed-gender threesomes (MGTs), defined as sexual activity involving three people where at least one member of each gender is present. Participants were 274 (202 women, 72 men) heterosexual young adults who completed an online survey. Overall, 13 % of participants (24 % of men and 8 % of women) reported experience and 64 % reported some interest in engaging in an MGT. However, the overall level of interest was quite low and varied according to contextual variables (i.e., what other persons were involved). Men’s interest remained unaffected by third person status as long as the MGT involved familiar others (friends and acquaintances) rather than strangers, whereas women preferred familiar others only for MGTs with which they were the third person, not for those involving a romantic partner. Participants also reported fairly neutral attitudes toward MGTs. Compared to the women, the men reported significantly more positive attitudes and greater interest, and were more likely to report MGT experience. In addition, attitudes, interest, and experience were all positively associated with each other. Taken together, these results suggest that young people are not judgmental about others engaging in MGTs but are not highly motivated to do so themselves. Implications for researchers and sexual health educators are discussed.
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We are grateful for the help of David Howland and Jessica Hersey through the entire research process.
Appendix: MGT Scale
Appendix: MGT Scale
MGT Attitudes Subscale
Engaging in a threesome, or a sexual act involving three people where at least one member of each gender is present, is…. [each of the following adjective pairs is rated on a 7-point bipolar scale]
Very morally right–Very morally wrong
Very bad–Very good
Very unpleasant–Very pleasant
Very negative–Very positive
Very worthless–Very valuable
Very normal–Very abnormal
Very unhealthy–Very healthy
Very helpful–Very harmful
Very desperate–Very fulfilled
Very pure–Very dirty
MGT Interest Subscale
If presented with the opportunity, how interested would you be to engaging in a threesome (i.e., having sex with two other people) if it involved…. [each of the following items is rated on a 7-point bipolar scale]
Two males and a female?
Two females and a male?
If presented with the opportunity, how interested would you be to engaging in a threesome (i.e., having sex with two other people) that involved…. [each of the following items is rated on a 7-point bipolar scale]
You and your romantic partner (spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend) and a mutual friend (with which you will have future contact)?
You and your romantic partner (spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend) and a casual acquaintance (with which you will have no future contact)?
You and your romantic partner (boyfriend/girlfriend) and a stranger?
If presented with the opportunity, how interested would you be in engaging in a romantic couple’s threesome as the third person if…. [each of the following items is rated on a 7-point bipolar scale]:
The couple are your close friends (with which you will have future contact)?
The couple are casual acquaintances (with which you will have no future contact)?
The couple are strangers?
MGT Experiences Subscale
Have you ever participated in a threesome (i.e., having sex with two other people):
With two males and a female? Yes__/No __
With two females and a male? Yes__/No __
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Thompson, A.E., Byers, E.S. Heterosexual Young Adults’ Interest, Attitudes, and Experiences Related to Mixed-Gender, Multi-Person Sex. Arch Sex Behav 46, 813–822 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0699-1
- Multi-person sex
- Sexual attitudes
- Sexual interests
- Sexual experience