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The Taboo of the ‘Devil’s Threesome’

MMF has plenty of appeal, but still seems somehow off-limits

“We were all in the taxi queue to go home, and someone jokingly brought up the subject of spit roasts,” begins James, a bisexual 28-year-old IT technician from the U.K. “My friend said she didn’t know what one was, which in hindsight was definitely a lie. I then made the joke that my other friend and I could show her. She said yes and me and my friend looked at each other like, ‘Uhhhh are we gonna?’ We both nodded, and we all got in a taxi.”

With that, James had his first threesome.

But to simply say “threesome” isn’t specific enough, because the term tends to evoke the configuration of one man and two women (MFF), which occupies a privileged role in the sexual imagination as the unmarked menagé. This contrasts greatly with what James experienced—what many refer to as the Devil’s Threesome.

Theories on the name tend to reach for symbolic or religious roots, claiming that the two “horns” involved represent Satan’s, or that they reference the devil’s forked member.

These are cute ideas, but a much simpler explanation considers the fact that potential male-male sexual contact is anathema to heteronormativity. Thou shalt not let balls touch, so the commandment goes, lest thou fall from the grace of heterosexuality. Whereas performances of lesbian sexuality can be marshaled for the enjoyment of hetero guys, gay male sex offers no such pleasure. Not only that, the presence of another dude — entailing the presence of another dick — can be threatening. Unless you’re a diehard cuck who’s successfully eroticized that threat, the Devil’s Threesome is likely an unappealing prospect.

And yet, it’s a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a good dick must be in want of a second. Among my hetero and bisexual women friends, being the base of an Eiffel Tower is a frequently discussed fantasy. Running with the symbolic etymology theory of the Devil’s Threesome, these women want nothing more than to mess with the bull(s) and subsequently get the horns.

Sadly, many of these women go unfulfilled (and unfilled) because of the difficulties of setting up an MMF threesome. Since time immemorial, girlfriends everywhere have assented to threesomes with another woman, but it seems much rarer for male partners to do the same. And make no mistake, I don’t think anyone, regardless of sex, should feel compelled to agree to sexual misadventures simply to please their partner. But it does seem that much like housework, there continues to be an inequitable distribution of threesomes among the sexes.

Amid this landscape, though, there are noble souls pushing through the personal and social barriers involved. As you might expect, some among them are bisexual, gay or queer — yet many of them are not. This raises a number of questions: What do men get out of these encounters? How do they affect their self-conceptions? And perhaps most importantly, is it possible for a man to give a threesome with another guy to his girlfriend as an experiential gift they might both enjoy, like pottery lessons or a ride in a hot air balloon?

“I’ve fantasized about male-male experiences,” says Shawn, an American accountant in his early 30s who describes himself as mostly straight. “But haven’t done much to experiment in that regard.” When a longtime friend of his and his girlfriend was staying at their house for a few days, the group ended up getting together without much premeditation. “We all knew and trusted each other pretty well, so we elected to skip the boundaries chat.” As to the issue of male-male contact, it wasn’t discussed upfront, but a little of it happened. It was fine, Shawn says, “though after we were done, my friend reported that he wasn’t as into that part as he thought he’d be.”

From the perspective of the sexual ringer, Ash — a gay man and musician in his mid-20s — once hooked up with a couple who happened to be close friends of his. “I’d always had a close physical relationship with the woman, but never anything sexual,” he says. Echoing James’s spontaneous post-club experience, Ash was heading home from a night out with the couple, all three having done some MDMA, when the idea arose. “We agreed we’d err on the cautious side, especially since the man had never had any male-male experiences.” For this reason, much of the encounter was directed by the woman involved.

Miles, a 35-year-old pansexual software engineer, has had his share of experiences being a third. During his first time, he was contacted by a friend of his for the express purpose of joining him and his girlfriend. The impetus for the encounter came from the woman in the relationship, whose boyfriend graciously arranged the experience, despite having no interest in other men. “This was meant to be a straight thing — his words, not mine — all male attention on the girl, no male-male stuff,” Miles recalls.

But not every initiation is so direct, perhaps because women aren’t typically allowed to be so straightforward about their desires. Just like in James’s story in which the female participant coyly pretended to not know what a spit roast was, Miles has had threesome experiences that were instigated in a somewhat cautious way. A past hookup of his had wanted to have sex with two men, and while drinking with him and a mutual friend one night, “she did that ‘joke suggestion unless it works’ thing.”

The spontaneous, indirect initiation of MMF threesomes among the men I spoke to runs counter to what might be considered best practice: planning in advance; establishing clear boundaries ahead of time; and setting aside space for debriefing after the act. That said, it’s a good idea to discuss contact amongst the various parties and any potential hard limits, since there’s a huge range in what participants might be looking to get out of the experience.

For instance, for some men, a MMF threesome is simply an opportunity to have sex with a woman — albeit with another guy present. For others, it’s an exciting occasion in its own right. Some guys find it to be a safer space to explore sexual contact with another man, while others aren’t interested in that prospect at all and are merely fulfilling a female partner’s dreams. And none of these possibilities is really any better than any other. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a MMF threesome where there’s no sexual contact between guys simply because they’re not into it. And there’s no reason why a straight man secure in his sexuality couldn’t indulge a female partner’s wishes to get railed by two dudes at once.

Of course, nobody should be having any kind of sex — threesome or not — that they aren’t comfortable with. But done right, a Devil’s Threesome can be a fulfilling, hot and exciting experience for all parties.

And the dreaded post-coital complications? Plenty of people get through them just fine. In James’s case, the straight male friend he menaged with is now his housemate. “We spend all our time playing videogames together,” he says. “Make of that what you will.”