Illustration by Dave van Patten

Looking for a Third? These Guys Are Down

Feeld encourages users to ‘explore love beyond society’s norms.’ So why is the app full of straight dudes?

When Feeld founder Dimo Trifonov first came up with the idea of creating a hookup app for threesomes, it wasn’t for him. It was for his girlfriend, at least mostly. The couple had many times before searched online for ways to find another woman to join them in the bedroom and, like so many before them, had been left uninspired. So the Bulgarian-born designer built his own app. Launched in 2014 as 3nder (pronounced “Thrinder”) its mission, he said, was to “make society more open about sexual desires.”

Two years, a lawsuit from Tinder, and a subsequent name-change later, Trifonov is still optimistic that people — particularly people in New York, LA, Sao Paulo, Paris and London, where the app was born and remains most popular — want to “explore love beyond society’s norms.”

In reality, 55 percent of its users are single, straight-identifying men and 75 percent of them are looking to meet women — not quite the orgy of sexual fluidity he had once envisioned. But statistics, as usual, only tell half the story. Any user of a hookup app, from OKCupid to Craigslist, can tell you that you are more likely to get approached by a straight dude than by anyone else.

Using Trifonov’s Feeld as part of a male-female couple, you are just as likely to match with a guy who says he’s straight as you are with someone identifying as heteroflexible, bicurious, or any of the other 16 options the app offers. Despite what they tell us in their profiles, straight men, it seems, are looking for threesomes — with another guy.

“I’m looking for fun singles and couples who want to try something different,” a straight single Feeld user called “James” says when asked what brings him here. What about guy-on-guy contact? “OK, I’m open,” he pings back.

So far, so liberated. But if this seems like an awfully quick decision for someone who purports to be straight, that’s because it might be. Psychotherapist and sexual identity expert Joe Kort explains that availability and opportunity form a large part of male sexual behavior. “It’s an opportunity to have a different kind of sex, some variety,” he says. “Plus they’re edged [i.e., very turned on]. They’re already horned up thinking about the woman; they are happy to do stuff with a guy to get to her.”

Indeed, “James” is not the only one whose reaction to the possibility errs on the side of maybe. “Mush” says he might be open to some “soft” play but not penetration, adding a See-No-Evil monkey emoji. Others are more definite.

“I’m looking for some fun, as long as there isn’t any male-on-male action,” says “Joe.”

After talking to Kort, I wonder how far he would go when “horned up.” But here the fantasy seems to be verging more toward what sex educator and coach Charlie Glickman calls the “V-shaped” threesome where two people focus on the third without interacting themselves.

“Some people really like watching people have sex,” he says. “The dynamic of being in that shared erotic space is appealing.”

A threesome provides the opportunity to be a voyeur and an exhibitionist at the same time, Kort says. Plus, it’s a chance to engage in some power play. One dude called “Fabio” shares the details: “I love when the husband or boyfriend [is] watching me fuck their woman.”

The fantasy of fucking someone else’s wife is huge, Kort says. “It’s the cuckolding thing. Or it’s this idea of sharing, you’re giving me access to her. Like ‘I’m gonna put my scent all over her and then you’re gonna have to deal with that.’”

But none of this seems to explain how many straight men claim to have some male/male fantasies. “Mush” is interested in some kind of experience with a man. “I’m bi-curious but not bisexual,” he says. When asked what he means by that, he replies, “I want to experiment!”

The male-female threesome is seen as the perfect way to play out these fantasies while still identifying as straight, Kort says. “It’s a way of exploring sexuality in a safe way. There’s still a woman there but the two men get to explore with each other.”

This is all very well, but half the time these dudes don’t even show up. From the guy who sent us explicit fantasies on WhatsApp for weeks and then ditched us an hour before our meeting to the dude who got as far as the shower before deciding he wasn’t comfortable, the straight men of the internet don’t actually seem to want to act on their curiosities.

Trifonov laughs at this suggestion. “A gay friend who uses the app told me there are so many straight men on the app who match him then unmatch him, then match him again and he’s like, ‘Dude, just figure out what you want!’” he says. “The app is a space to explore a fantasy before they decide if it’s real or not.”

Kort has a more straightforward explanation. “It’s used as interactive porn,” he says. “Men love that; it’s so much better than just looking at pictures and watching videos. Here they’re actually talking to somebody live and they’re masturbating at the same time. It’s not a conscious decision. I think they really think they’re going to meet up.”

Glickman explains that people often find the reality more complicated than they bargained for. “The fantasy is that it will go perfectly just like it does in their head when they think about it. In real life it’s a lot trickier so the cold feet people get can actually be the realization that they’re in over their heads and they’re actually unprepared for the reality of this.”

What both Glickman and Kort agree on — and what Trifonov is counting on — is the fact that on some level straight men do want to have threesomes and explore their sexual boundaries. But the fact is the experiences, like the apps that enable them, can be glitchy.