Do Women Want Threesomes?

threesome_feetAre women up for a three-way?

And how closely does their interest track to what men think it is?

And do women know what men want?

I surveyed my students (83 women and 63 men who are not gay/lesbian) and found that their responses were consistent with other studies

What do women want? And what do men think they do?

When it comes to threesomes, more than two-thirds of men thought that women would be very — or at least moderately — interested.

Instead, two-thirds of women had no enthusiasm at all. And the majority ranked their desire for a three-way at the lowest possible score (1).  A couple of them even went off scale, writing in 0!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Only around 1 in 10 women thought it sounded hot.

Considering that these are young women in the socially and sexually liberal San Francisco Bay Area, that response may seem surprising.

I have seen similar numbers in national surveys. An ABC News Primetime Live random sample of 1,501 adults found only 9% of women fantasizing about threesomes. Fantasy is a different question from “Would you like to do it in real life?” but if only 9% of women have even fantasized about it, probably no more would want to actually do it.

What do men want? And what do women think they do?

But women had a pretty accurate sense of men’s interest in threesomes, almost exactly mirroring men’s responses. Sixty-two percent of the men in my sample would love a three-way.

By comparison, other samples have found anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of men saying they’ve fantasized about or would enjoy doing a threesome. The ABC News Primetime Live survey found one third of men imagining lusty three-ways.)

A few of the men said that while they did fantasize about it, they thought it wouldn’t be a very good idea to actually try in real life.

Based on women’s reactions, they’re mostly right.

(BTW, this is ongoing research. I don’t know if the numbers will shift after surveying a few more classes of students.)

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I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on January 9, 2017, in psychology, sex and sexuality and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 62 Comments.

  1. For couples that engage in threesomes, the effects can be tricky. Feelings of jealousy and insecurities can be exacerbated after adding another partner to the mix,

  2. But this is probably more to do with reasons such as jealousy and not wanting to share their man or another girl involved as a result. You’ve said how our culture nitpicks women’s looks and bodies that can make women self conscious of their bodies and distracted about how it looks to the men they are with. So saying that, it makes sense women would not be too enthused sharing a bed with another woman that “she has to compete with or may have a better looking body than hers:” or even worse the man she’s with is looking at or enjoying the other woman’s body more. So I feel these are the huge reasons and why such a low percent for many women, and not having to do with “women’s heterosexuality” and because of no sexual attraction to women and their bodies. You ask if men would do a male male threeway for their woman and yet it would be an even lower percentage for men, but I guarentee the biggest reason reason and indicator to that unlike for women, would be because of not having sexual interest to men, and not wanting to be in another bed, sexual sitation with some other dude naked. That would actually probably caused the opposite reaction for many straight men and not be turned on at all. And well yeah not going to want to share a woman a big reason too, but such different reasons.

    • You make some good points about the differences between women’s and men’s socialization in our culture. And they all make sense to me. Thanks for chiming in with this.

  3. That’s just prove that men are more polygamous whereas women are more monogamous.
    All through history there were some men having a harem of many women. Even today in the western society there are similar cases like Hugh Hefner and that rich guy who posts pictures of him with many women.
    But never ever there was a case of a woman having a harem of many men. Sure a woman could have many lovers but not at the same time as a harem.
    Male rock and pop stars have many female groupies like the Beatles and Elvis. There are no female singers having male groupies.
    I am pretty sure you know about the studies on the Coolidge effect

    • The Coolidge effect is actually stronger for women than for men. The effect says that we get more aroused by a new partner. Women probably get more aroused because it takes more to get women aroused due to cultural factors (whether or not biology plays a role). The biggest aphrodisiac for most women is feeling desired by a man she finds desirable. In long-term relationships that feeling goes down, whether because the partners are used to each other or because she is in a committed relationship and on some level – consciously or not – she kind of feels like her partner is with her because he has no other choice, more than because she is so desirable.

      Also, if the biggest aphrodisiac for women is feeling desired then having another woman in the bed could be a big distraction as the woman wonders how much the man finds her attractive compared to the other woman.

      And it could be cultural since in some cultures women desire more than one man to father her child. Which makes no sense to us but in these cultures a woman gets pregnant and then she has sex with other men believing that these other men will give her child desirable traits. She has sex with One man to give her child his kindness, and another to give her child his courage.

      Some believe that women are multi orgasmic, while most men are not, so that a woman could have many partners at the same time — same session – and let the best sperm win! Which does happen in some cultures.

      Men have more often been married to more than one woman in polygamous relationships. A couple of things are going on there. For one, men are more often warriors and more killed off in wars. When they take over the conquered group there are extra women for them to take as wives. Also, in patriarchal times men have more power to make the rules.

      But in some cultures polygamy goes the other way. One woman is married to many men, often brothers. I can’t remember the name of these peoples at the moment but you could Google it.

      With the way we socialize and slut-shame women in our culture, Women would be more disinclined to want many men at once. I saw an interview with Hugh Hefner and three of the women he was with. A couple things there. First, maybe because of slut-shaming, The women were careful to emphasize that they saw themselves as monogamous in that they had no partners other than Hef. But he also had rules to make sure that they didn’t and they would have been dropped if they did. Also, two of the women emphasized that they didn’t have sex with Hef because they wanted to preserve the relationship between him and his number one. (Plus, they probably didn’t want to have sex with him.) I watched the program “The girls next door” because I couldn’t figure out why these women would be in this sort of relationship. My sense was that The relationship was primarily monogamous and that the women were there as a career thing. They could be TV stars. And they had opportunities to meet a lot of celebrities while living at the Playboy mansion. They were also given career opportunities in his business. And it was just a temporary arrangement, so they largely were choosing to be celibate as a career move.

      Also, see Bob’s comment.

      • Life has proved that the Coolidge effect is definitely stronger for men.
        Women would rarely if never be interested in someone new unless they get to know him well first. Men are very eager to get a new partner first and ask questions later.
        That’s why Playboy and similar magazines were so popular. Men like to look at a variety of women they don’t know and fantasize.
        How many women are interested in looking at naked men they don’t know and fantasize?

      • The Coolidge effect is different from what you are describing. It says that you get more aroused with a new partner than with an old one. Women are pickier because their sexuality is more repressed, So it takes more to get them interested. Plus, Women are also less likely to have casual sex with men they don’t know because they perceive them as being more dangerous then men do women. The reason why Playgirl went bankrupt is that we don’t eroticize and fetishize the male body like we do the female body.

      • Then how about gay men?
        Their sexuality is definitely repressed but still they engage in casual sex with multiple partners no questions asked.
        If someone just took a look in dating and hooking up ads they could see that there are numerous ads of gay men looking for casual sex. And that’s possible because there are no women involved to set the pace.

    • I don’t think men are naturally polygamous because they last so short in bed and can’t even satisfy one woman. It seems that nature didn’t equip them for polygamy. And there actually are cases where women have many men in certain cultures.

      • Sure nature did equip males to be polygamous.
        Look at the lions, the roosters, the sea elephants, etc.
        You just judge by today’s standards where the vast majority of males have been affected by processed foods and pesticides and porn. The average levels of testosterone in males have been dropped to half in the last century

      • Besides, among gay men casual sex is very common.
        It’s very common because there are no women involved to set the pace and take things slowly.

    • In rural Tibet, women may have a number of husbands.

      • That’s because there are more men than women. In that case men are willing to “share” their wife with other men instead of staying single

      • In this area of Tibet it’s because there’s not much land so this is a form of birth control. Fewer women are able to marry and have children.

  4. Not really surprised by any of this. I would suspect that most men’s interest in a three way would wane if the third party was another man.

    • Ah, you know women’s mind better than most men do. And I’m sure you are right about the MFM.

      • How was the question phase, a threesome or was it phased as bring another women\man in for a threesome. I think most people assume a threesome is one male and two females.

        I wonder if the number for women would go up if it was phased differently. Would you consider bring another man in for a threesome? Or would you consider bring another person in for a threesome to help pleasure you?

      • I did an updated survey where I did distinguish between the two. I just found it and the women’s answers are indistinguishable. Doesn’t matter whether it’s FMF or MFM. But see my answer to Taylor, too.

        Thanks for getting me to take another look at the data on that question.

  5. Hi Georgia, seems to me it the desire for a three-way would depend on the gender of two of them. For example, would the man be cool with another man and one woman rather than two women. I’ve never been overly eager for a threesome but have considered it. My response to one woman and another man, however, is a non starter and not a molecule erotic. Two women, however, I think would be.

    • Thanks for asking this question. I’m looking at my updated data which distinguish between FMF versus MFM.

      For women it makes no difference, about two thirds have almost 0 interest (when I include women who label themselves bisexual or pansexual and not just straight — see my answer to Taylor)

      But with men the answer shifts quite a bit. 80% of the men I surveyed have a high interest in FMF, but only 20% feel the same way about MFM.

  6. The survey that was compared to was about 13 years old. How have things changed since that time?

    I haven’t done an extensive study or anything but that would be interesting to see if anything has changed since 2004.

    Here is one example of a study where 24% of men and 8% of women have already had a threesome so if that holds true it would make sense for interest in it to have evolved.

    http://www.womenshealthmag.com/sex-and-love/how-many-have-threesomes

    • I’m glad you asked this question. It made me take another look at the data. The answers of straight women have stayed the same. BUT women are more likely to label themselves pansexual or bisexual now. So if you include all of the women the number does go up. Then 67% of my women students have no interest, 18% have moderate interest and 14% have high interest.

      • It seems to be that it would be misleading to exclude pan/bi people, since they can be in heterosexual relationships. But I’m not sure it makes the most sense for them to be weighted equally with heteros in the statistics, either.

      • Yeah. For this I included them. But if you look at the data, over time more women in my classes label themselves bisexual or pansexual. And I’ve only been doing these surveys since 2011 (2011-2016), So it’s a pretty quick change.

      • Any idea to what extent people are changing their orientations, vs. just being more open about it?

      • Human sexuality has some level of fluidity, because we are affected by our environments. So a person might become more sensitive to something they haven’t really noticed or been opened to. I’ll write more on this later but you could take a look at this:

        Women Are More Sexually Fluid
        https://broadblogs.com/2015/10/05/women-are-more-sexually-fluid/
        Sexual Fluidity, Images & Biology
        https://broadblogs.com/2015/10/19/sexual-fluidity-images-biology/
        Sexual Fluidity & Emotional Connection

        I’ll be writing more on this. Sneak Peak:

        University of Utah Prof. Lisa Diamond did ground breaking work on sexual fluidity. She makes a distinction between sexual orientation, which appears to be biologically-based, and arousal — which is more flexible and “fluid.” Fluidity may be expressed in different kinds of ways. Self-identified labels may shift over time, actual sexual behavior changes, sexual feelings that had once been drawn to men are suddenly drawn to a woman, or genital or brain responses may become aroused by a stimulus that is not attached to the gender one is sexually interested in. Like Vickie, age 46, who is introduced in a HuffingtonPost article called, “Why So Many Straight Women Watch Lesbian Porn” Vickie gets off on lesbian erotica, which she watches three or four times a month. But she’s never found herself attracted to a real-life women.
        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/08/straight-women-lesbian-porn_n_7689072.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women

      • Besides with the increasing popularity of girl-on-girl in the media and lesbian porn there goes the repression of women’s sexuality. There are countless studies and surveys about women’s sexuality.
        But there are nowhere near as many movies about gay men or studies or surveys.
        That proves that gay men’s sexuality is nowadays far more repressed whereas female sexuality is cheered.
        Just count how many studies are about women’s sexuality vs gay or bisexual men’s sexuality.
        Count how many posts you have made about women’s sexuality and bisexuality vs about men’s bisexuality.
        Women can freely admit they are watching lesbian porn or having sex with women and they aren’t criticized anymore.
        But on the other hand guy-on-guy is excluded from the media like the plague.
        So gay men’s sexuality is definitely far more repressed than women’s sexuality which is celebrated nowadays.
        Still gay men seek casual sex way more than women do.

        Which leads to some basic conclusion about either genders’ sexuality
        Men are mostly polygamous
        Women are mostly bisexual

      • You don’t seem to understand what repression is. Repression is a loss of interest in sex due to punishment. Obviously, Even though Gay men’s sexuality is greatly punished, they have a high interest in sex. That’s because Men’s sexuality is not easily repressed, even if it is punished, as gay men’s often is.

        See my other comment to you on how much women’s sexuality is punished.

        Like I said, most people believe that everyone is the same as they are. You are polygamous so you think all men are. Yet one study found that there’s not much of a continuum in how polygamous or monogamous the population is. It found that men and women were equally likely to be either one and in a very polarized way. About half of men and half of women tend toward being polygamous and the other half of both men and women tend toward being monogamous.

        At the same time, three quarters of both men and women prefer relationship sex over Random hookups. That doesn’t mean that some people who value relationships don’t also want variety. Apparently he about 25% of them.

        Women sexuality is fluid. That’s different from being bisexual.

      • A) gay men’s sexuality is severe punished yet they seek casual sex. That proves that men are hypersexual by nature

        B) I am not into casual sex as you think. I agree that most people think for others as they think for themselves. That’s why women can’t understand the hypersexual nature of men. Sure most men including me prefer having a relationship but all men would be jealous of living the life of DiCaprio.

        C) women’s sexuality is fluid is not correct. Lesbians don’t have fluid sexuality. So the correct term should be “so called straight women’s sexuality is fluid” which is basically a cute term for bisexuality. If men exhibited those same behaviors and traits then they wouldn’t be called as having fluid sexuality but gay.
        Why is that?
        Because male bisexuality is still very repressed.

        Women were sexually repressed in conservative places a few decades ago but not anymore. Straight women can admit watching porn, going to see female strippers, having sex with women and noone is going to judge them. But if a man admits being sexually fluid then no woman is going to date him.
        This has nothing to do with me. I couldn’t care less if women don’t date bisexual men but I don’t like double standards. And I all see is about female sexuality on the media. Movies and music videos have become an excuse to show naked women and girl-on-girl which would be nice but it has gone over the top

      • Lesbians actually do also have sexual fluidity.

        I don’t know that men are hyper sexual, maybe it depends on what you mean. But they do have a high steady sex drive that is constantly reinforced and protects them from the repressive effects of punishment.

      • It’s simple. Every single man who is single (or not) any time they see or meet an attractive woman they wouldn’t mind to go on a date or more with her

    • How is possible for 24% of men to already have a threesome whereas only 8% of women had?
      That would mean that MFM is 3 times more common than FMF threesomes?
      But everyone takes for granted that FMF is the default setting for threesomes whereas MFM is uncommon.
      So statistically there should be a high percentage of women and a low percentage of males having threesomes

  7. When did your survey and asked your students if they would be interested in a threesome did you specifically ask for a FFM threesome or you didn’t specify that?
    If you didn’t specify that and everyone answered having FFM in mind then that just proves that everyone has ingrained the notion that threesomes have to be FFM

    • True. That would probably yield different results.

    • Thanks for asking this question. I went back and looked at my data because I did ask that question later on — and decided to keep asking the question to get a bigger sample. But here’s what I have so far:

      Are women more interested in MFM versus FMF? For women gender didn’t make any difference. Two-thirds of them had absolutely no interest regardless.

      But men’s answers shifted quite a bit. Eighty percent the men I surveyed had a high interest in FMF, but only 20% felt the same way about MFM.

  8. I won’t like it too, guess i belong to that exception list!

    It is quite understandable why women wouldn’t want it, though many men like it dirty!

  9. Why did you exclude gay and lesbians from the survey?

    • I was interested in the dynamic between people who have been socialized differently (males versus females) in the larger scheme of things. This is a smaller part of a bigger survey concerned with this question: Do men and women understand each other? People who only had sex with members of the same sex have a different sort of experience overall in that they aren’t with people who’ve been socialized so differently from themselves. They don’t have to deal with possible conflicts in how they have been raised. And lesbians are never going to be pressured to do certain things by men, making them have a different overall experience.

      • So if a woman is identified as lesbian then she wouldn’t possibly have or being interested in having sex with men because she’s a lesbian so there’s no need to ask her.
        But a straight woman could have sex with women and still be straight.
        See the double standard here?

      • That’s not my point.

        My point is a lesbian might want to have a threesome but the woman asking her would be socialized as a woman it’s Could change the response among lesbians. Here’s why:

        Women generally are more likely to want emotional connection, less likely to be socialized to want threesomes, And less likely to push their desires. All of this due to socialization. All of that could have an effect on your perception of threesomes. A woman is more likely to have been pushed to have one by a man (who are more likely to push for a number of reasons: more likely to be socialized to think threesomes would be a great thing, more likely to objectify and not care about their partners’ feelings, and more often taught to feel entitled). A woman faced with this pressure and lack of empathy might be more violently resisting of the idea than women who have not have this sort of experience.

      • Then you could ask specifically only gay and lesbians about having a threesome or not.
        That could lead to some new data because it would exclude women’s sexual repression and any awkwardness there may be about being with a person of the same sex (if we are talking about straight people)

        I bet that gay men are way more interested in threesomes than lesbians are.

        Is lesbians sexuality more repressed than gay men’s is?
        I think not, because society focus on the female body and girl-on-girl so they get more sexual and visual hints than gay men because the male body and guy-on-guy is ignored in the media.
        Besides gay men would be more punished than lesbians for their sexuality.
        So that also proves that men are more polygamous and hypersexual than women are

      • My problem is that I don’t have the resources to do a large-scale sample. I just sample my students, And there just aren’t enough gays and lesbians in my classes to get it decent sample size. Women’s studies classes always attract fewer men in the first place– And most of them are straight. (I get way more men than most women studies classes at about a quarter of the class. Average number of men in most feminist classes is about 6%. My numbers went up quite a bit once I started my blog.) The vast majority of my women students say they are straight. Otherwise they are much more likely to say they are bisexual or pansexual than lesbian.

        The men are probably more interested in threesomes since most studies have found men to be more sexually interested than women in almost everything. I suspect that’s due to punishment and repression a women sexuality.

        Yes, lesbian sexuality is more repressed than gay sexuality. But then lesbians are socialized similarly to other women in terms of learning that sex is bad and can get them punished. And again, women’s sexuality is more affected by punishment. Women’s sexuality is more repressible. So even though gay men are punished, There is sexuality isn’t terribly repressible. Although men’s sexuality is repressed to, just not as much.

        And you have to look at different cultures. In some cultures women have sex with a bunch of different men — quite polygamous of them. And they seem to enjoy sex as much as men do.

  10. The survey response seems quite predictable to me. I would like to know how women and men react when there is MFM (assuming that men interested and women disinterested in threesome are taking it for FMF)

    • It’s interesting that women seem to be pretty accurate are predicting men’s feelings, But not so much the reverse.

      I went back and looked at my data because I did ask that question later on — and decided to keep asking the question to get a bigger sample. But here’s what I have so far:

      Are women more interested in MFM versus FMF? For women gender didn’t make any difference. Two-thirds of them had absolutely no interest regardless.

      But men’s answers shifted quite a bit. Eighty percent the men I surveyed had a high interest in FMF, but only 20% felt the same way about MFM.

  11. I am a male. Here is what I believe.

    Women do not engage in threesomes because they enjoy (or might) dervive enjoyment from them. They are typically reluctant participants and only do so because they feel that it is what the men in the equation want.

    Eighty percent of the time there are jealousy issues before, during and after the act. This is going to be the case going in because no two women are exactly equal in every case. Some women are more experienced, have better techniques, are more willing to do this that or the other. Some women are simply prettier, have better bodies or simply “feel” better. So one is typically going to get a bit (or a lot) more attention than the other at some point. All of these reasons are bound to eventually end up in jealousy.

    This only works when the women in question have something else to gain by being involved in such an arrangement. That something else is often not the promise of exclusive intimacy with the male in the arrangement but often other tangible benefits. Threesomes where the male is famous, very rich or otherwise powerful are very common. Try adding “insert famous handsome male” into the threesome question and see how your responses differ.

    • Makes a lot of sense. I think that even being treated equally isn’t good enough. Most women want to be number one. The most desired. Most women get aroused by feeling irresistible. If someone else is in bed with them then they certainly aren’t irresistible, because the guy feels like he wants More. So for most women this will be a turn off.

      On the other hand, as you say, women will bed celebrities. Largely for the same reason I just gave. She’s been chosen. And now by a high status man. Threesomes are a different situation though. She might agree because she has been chosen, even if she has to share. Or, even if the three some part isn’t appealing the storytelling could be. I read about women who are groupies. They mostly do it because being close to “the rock gods” makes them feel close to deity. It’s a unique situation. Cameron Crowe was assigned by Rolling Stone to hang out with Led Zeppelin and he later wrote a movie about the groupies called “almost famous.” They got a bit of reflected light.

    • Hi there. I definitely don’t agree with this statement: “Women do not engage in threesomes because they enjoy (or might) dervive enjoyment from them. They are typically reluctant participants and only do so because they feel that it is what the men in the equation want.”

      I know of other women as well as myself who feels differently and has and does derive enjoyment from them. For me they are under certain circumstances (safety and otherwise) that I won’t go into detail here. I totally understand it’s not for everyone but I just wanted to let you know it wasn’t accurate. 😉

      I never heard the 80% jealous stat so I can’t dispute if that’s true or not but assuming this came from a study so I will just go with it. I actually thought it would be higher. Also some jealousy is not a bad thing. I think we all encounter that in other parts of our life too.

      • Thanks for chiming in. I meant to add to my comment that some women actually do enjoy threesomes when they find women attractive and either aren’t in a relationship or are very secure in the relationship. But by the time I finished my other two points I’d forgotten about that one.

        I mentioned in the prior comment that women tend to be most aroused by thinking their partner finds them attractive. That’s probably because in our society women are so much more sexualized than men, so that in a heterosexual situation women are often more focused on themselves than their partners.* But if a woman were in a threesome situation where she found the woman really attractive she could focus her attention on that woman rather than herself. Or on both her and herself.

        *Women Making Love to Themselves
        https://broadblogs.com/2015/09/28/women-making-love-to-themselves/

        PS: I don’t know whether that 80% number is accurate.

      • My threesomes have only been with guys so the “finding the other women attractive” part wasn’t relevant. I am in a long term relationship with my boyfriend and they have always been encounters including him.

        I do have to have a connection to the other guy to want to do it as I don’t want do it with someone random. I’ve done this with two different friends of my boyfriends and it was something we talked about a lot before doing. He will sometimes feel some jealousy but he feels the benefits overcome the negatives.

        I do think the dynamic is different if it were another woman. It’s something we’ve discussed but haven’t done mostly because the right woman hasn’t come along at the right time. We’ve mostly been exclusive so our threesome activities have been limited to a few months over a 30 month relationship.

      • Thanks for sharing about your experience with this. Another woman wrote in who had had a threesome with two men and she had absolutely loved it.

  12. I totally agree with this article because I am a girl and I don’t think that having a threesome would be hot at all, like if I were to have sex, I would have sex with a partner I would like to do it with JUST ONE PERSON. Maybe it’s just me, I just don’t think its healthy.

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