In Praise of Three-Ways
Has Mr. Right turned into Mr. Not-Right-Now? Are you only using your bed for sleeping?
Written by Steve Weinstein
Question: What do you call a lover after five years? Answer: roommate. Second question: What’s the gay male equivalent of “lesbian bed death”? Answer: porn.
Forget all the lovey-dovey stuff. I always say that you know when the honeymoon is over for good when you casually walk into the bathroom to shave while the love of your life is relieving himself on the can. Once you’ve seen (among other senses) Poopsie on the pooper, it’s hard to go back to the idealized man you bed and wed.
That’s OK! A real-life relationship isn’t all moonlight and magnolias, nor should it be. It’s paying bills and cleaning up after he’s upchucked too many sliders and removing his back hair.
As I wrote recently in Next Magazine, straight men have been dealing with this for centuries. Some psychologists call it the Madonna/Whore Complex. It’s hard to see the Madonna, the pure Mary-like mother of his children, as a hottie, let alone a ‘ho. Not to mention the weight gain from those pregnancies (and yes, I know this is a two-way street; middle-age spread affects both sexes). Speaking of ‘hos, a lot of straight men, frustrated with the “not tonight, I’m too tired” line, seek their pleasure elsewhere, in the company of real-life sex toys. The only reason why we snicker at Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, every politician from South Carolina, every New York governor and every NBA star is because everyone knows about their straying. What it comes down to is that there are two types of men in this world: the sluts and the liars.
The Third Way
Does this sound vaguely familiar? You’re not alone, despite the media portrayal of gay men as 24/7 horndogs — an image aided and abetted by ourselves. If gay men don’t have an equivalent term for lesbian bed death, it’s only because our egos won’t allow us to acknowledge it.
In January, a study conducted by researchers at San Francisco State University caused a ruckus when it revealed that—gasp!—gay men’s relationships are far more open than straight ones. Yeah, I hear you: Tell me something I don’t know. “With straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating,” Colleen Hoff told the New York Times. “But with gay people, it does not have such negative connotations.”
As long as both sides know the rules, I don’t see anything wrong in stepping out once in a while. But for some people, it’s still cheating. Or they feel guilty — especially if it’s more fun than spooning with the spouse. But there’s a third way: the three-way. It’s like cheating, only you’re both doing it.
The concept of adding a third is nothing new in gay life. In that proto-gay urban male dramedy The Boys in the Band, Hank and Larry are a couple working out Hank’s need to fuck around with Larry’s serial monogamy (he left a wife and kids). They argue about whether a ménage à trois — “Two’s company, three’s a ménage,” as bitchy Michael puts it — might solve the problem.
After two decades of gin-soaked truth sessions on Fire Island, I should be able to qualify as a relationship expert — not to mention my own (ahem!) empirical experience into the subject. I can confidently report that if Hank and Larry didn’t come to that conclusion, Hank’s compulsive promiscuity and Larry’s jealousy would have ended the relationship.
The joy of the three-way is that it turns that sober Suzy who trudges to work every day and the gym every night back into the sexy pig you originally fell for. Anyone who has been in a relationship three-way has told me the same thing: In the middle of the action, one partner will relax and watch his significant making love to a beautiful stranger. If you ask him what’s wrong, he’ll tell you he’s getting off watching you having sex with someone else. It’s like making a sex tape, only it won’t end up on the Internet (and in your boss’ email).
Pleasure and Pitfalls
The best moment, however, comes after the third leaves and the two of you explore each other as if you’d just met. A third also allows you to try out those fun positions you’ve been watching on the porn DVDs. There’s the double-fuck (two pegs, one hole), the daisy chain (top-top-bottom) and the triangle (69’ing all around).
Picking up a third, ironically, is much easier on the Internet than hooking up solo. It’s like walking into a ready-made mini-orgy. Make sure the potential trick knows what you both look like, however; as well as having your (honest) vital stats, kinks and fetishes. Most important: Both of you should be attracted to him — and he into both of you. When a trick walks in and says that most ego deflating of phrases, “This isn’t going to work” after seeing the second guy, expect the relationship to enter full-tilt crisis mode.
Now, if you are someone who likes three-ways (and who doesn’t?), a word of advice: At a club or online or at the gym, if you think a couple is coming onto you, make a play for the guy you perceive to be the less attractive one. Once he’s persuaded you’re into him, you’re set with both. Trust me, it works every time.
Are there any potential pitfalls to two committed people indulging in threeways? Glad you asked that. If a couple becomes dependent on threesomes, that’s a sign of real trouble in the relationship. Or it could mean that one partner is jaded. Or he’s not turned on by his partner. If that’s true, the two of you can’t use three-ways forever to mask the very problems that may ultimately undermine your partnership. Better to get it out into the open and work it out than depend on steady sex with a third.
You can also become one of those dreary couples always on the make. We’ve all seen them on the dance floor: eyes darting everywhere but on each other, turning guys into cream filling for their human Oreo. Not only does it inhibit the sheer fun of dancing, but it gives off a distinctly icky — even desperate — vibe. Much hotter: Being into each other and letting the other guy discover you. Make a subtle invitation with your eyes but let it be known you think the guy you’re with is hot as hell.
Then there’s the dilemma of the guy who thinks a trick is the real deal. Forgetting Harvey Fierstein’s dictum that a thing of beauty is a joy until sunrise, some people actually believe that recreational sex means something. Big mistake. Just ask John Edwards.
The publishers of this august journal tell the cautionary tale of a couple they knew. They broke up — after 10 years! — when one of them was convinced a threeway partner was the real deal. Well, a fine romance that was — less than six months, and now there are three more unhappy people cruising the bars along the Santa Monica Boulevard strip. You might want to set up some rules beforehand: no repeats — within a certain period of time, or ever (up to you); no contacting the third privately or when the spouse is out of town; no social events — dinners, cocktails, movies — with the third.
Don’t let the pitfalls scare you, however. If you’re not feeling the love, consider inviting a third in to make those bedsprings do their work again. And remember: the couple that strays together, stays together.