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"Mike, I have important news. I totally did it. Two chicks. At once. Hells yeah."
Steven Heck, Alpha Protocol
Tenor (3)

Also known as a "ménage-à-trois"[1] or a "threesome" or "(Riding) the Tricycle."

Normal sex (for those of us who aren't aliens) involves two people. Supposedly it feels pretty good. So what's the most obvious way to take this steamy dynamic and ramp it Up to Eleven? Add another person. Preferably a sexy one.

The third person in this scenario is usually a woman, and the important in-focus character is usually a man, for the simple reasons of Male Gaze. This trope is most commonly used as a form of basic Fan Service, so who these women are or why they're willing to get into a threesome is rarely considered important information. Oftentimes, both women won't even have Nominal Importance, and will exist entirely to show off how manly the guy is for having a threesome. This aspect of the trope is shown in one recurring aspect of the sex act -- it will sometimes start out with the two women making out for an extended period of time before eventually "inviting" the man to join in, conveniently shortly before we Fade to Black.

In terms of narrative, most dramatic tension is built in the lead-up to the act, with characters discussing how or why they want to do it. It can also be used to develop sexual tension during the act by having the male character do it with his girlfriend and a third party, only to discover he kind of likes the third party more. Some audience members will be annoyed that his getting too much sex is supposed to count as a "problem".

One common variation that turns the trope into a joke involves a man's girlfriend suggesting to him that they do a three-way, and he quickly and eagerly accepts, only to discover at the last minute that the third party is a dude. This puts him in the hilarious situation of either having a Gay Moment, or admit that he was being hypocritical in only wanting three-way-sex when it fulfilled his fantasy.

Like any sex-related trope, Double Standard applies. If a woman acknowledges to have partaken or to desire the 2 males/1 female variation of this trope, expect people around her to view her with disgust or at least with suspicion because My Girl Is Not a Slut, never mind that the 2M/1F ménage-a-trois is just as common a fantasy among women as the 2F/1M is among men.

An easy way of raising the stakes in an Everybody Has Lots of Sex setting.

The Super-Trope to Twin Threesome Fantasy, One True Threesome. For specific examples of FFM and MMF variants, see A Threesome Is Hot and A Threesome Is Manly.

Compare Mile-High Club in terms of sexual rubicons that all men are supposed to aspire to. This trope also inspires shippers to create OT3s.

Take this Up to Eleven (by a fourth, or even a fifth/sixth/.../nth member), and this would be appropiately called Multi Way Sex.

No Real Life Examples, Please

Examples of Three-Way Sex include:


Anime and Manga

  • In Rosario to Vampire 11-year old Cute Witch Yukari seems perfectly fine with having one of these with Moka and Tsukune. In fact, it's one of her main ambitions in life.
  • Sailor Moon season 2. Usagi fantasizes about Mamoru in both his guises, making this also Screw Yourself.
  • In Mahou Sensei Negima, Nodoka fantasizes about Three-Way Sex between Negi, Yue, and herself. There's a Censor Bar involved, but it doesn't obscure the fact that in the fantasy, all three are naked and Yue appears to be sitting on top of Negi.

Comics

  • Omaha the Cat Dancer has two major incidents. The first was with Joanne initiating it partially to keep Chuck and Omaha entertained while she is hiding them from a murderous businessman's minions. The second was when Omaha and Chuck celebrate their first New Year's Eve party after reuniting after an extended break up. Specifically, Chuck had invited Omaha's boyfriend whom she met during that separation to the event and to show his appreciation for that guy's support of Omaha during that tough time, Chuck invites him to participate in a threesome and a fun time is had by all.
  • Elves in Elf Quest are bisexual and tend to open relationships. Stable trios include Pike/Skot/Krim, Scouter/Dewshine/Tyleet, Cutter/Leetah/Skywise, and temporarily Cutter/Nightfall/Redlance. Then there's Skywise/Vurdah/Ruffel/Maleen, particularly in The Heart's Way. The pre-battle orgy in Book 4 shows Skywise with at least 2 unamed Go-Backs, and Nightfall and Redlance mixing it with another unnamed couple. In the Futurequest storyline it's suggested that Kullyn, Jink and Tamia will enjoy a threesome at the end of the story, all having previously had twosomes with each other.

Fanfic

  • Happens loads and loads of times in Fan Fiction, where, because Most Fanfic Writers Are Girls, the usual genders are most frequently seen flipped, with the female getting double-teamed by the two hot male characters the fic writer can't choose between.
  • This is basically the whole premise behind Relationships Series.

Film

  • In Chasing Amy, Holden feels insecure that he has less sexual experience than his girlfriend Alyssa, and things are awkward with his best friend Banky because of Banky's repressed homosexual feelings for Holden. To solve both problems at once, Holden proposes that the three of them all have sex together. Banky tentatively accepts, but Alyssa is insulted, and both relationships end.
  • One of the selling points of Wild Things was a threesome between Neve Campbell, Denise Richards and Matt Dillon. (The others were Girl-On-Girl Is Hot and a surprisingly complex plot.)
  • The climax (heh) of the Mexican film Y Tu Mama Tambien features such a scene between the female lead Luisa and the two male leads, Julio and Tenoch. It's actually important for the film's story, as it exposes the underlying attraction between both boys. At first, Julio and Tenoch focus their attentions on the incredibly lovely Luisa, but as she kneels to the ground to pleasure them both, the camera focuses on Julio and Tennoch as they begin to passionately kiss. Notably, the threesome ends the friendship between both boys, as they can only manage an awkward silence after waking up next to each other and never speak to each other again, except for a chance meeting months later.
  • The film Threesome.
  • In American Psycho, Patrick has threesomes with callgirls several times. Then, he usually tortures them to death.
  • In the 1999 TV movie Journey to The Center of The Earth, after arriving to the land beneath the crust, the adventurers encounter a village of humans. Their guide McNiff immediately takes a liking to the local women, who respond to the big man from above. He then sees men glaring at him and finds our they're the women's husbands. Apparently, they practice polygamy. He grins and takes two women to a shack to exchange cultural knowledge. In fact, the idea of limiting relationships to only two people seems ridiculous to the locals. One woman even asks in disbelief if women from above really like monogamy.
  • Featured in A Clockwork Orange where Alex brings home two girls he meets at the local record store. The entire scene is sped up with a synth rendition of the William Tell Overture.
  • The end of She Hate Me


Literature

  • Comes up a couple times in the Anita Blake novels. Generally the Everybody Has Lots of Sex moments are what broke the fanbase.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe subverts this. In the Dark Nest Trilogy, Zekk and Jaina become part of a Hive Mind and have a lot of sex. Zekk realizes that adding Jaina's other Love Interest, Jag would be... nice. Jag, upon finding that his romantic rival now had the same feelings for him as did his romantic interest, refused to comment.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand like to share. It's also indicated that Oberyn doesn't have the expected reluctance to include a second male when the circumstances lead in that direction.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Seekers of the Sky duology, Helena is a glider (wood-and-cloth plane) pilot. She retells a few stories from her flying days, many of which end in pilots having sex after (crash-)landing. One story ends in a foursome with her as the only woman. Apparently, this is quite common among pilots, even though most are male.
  • Smoke and Ashes ends with a threesome to save the world, because the gay protagonist needs a man involved to become aroused enough to activate Leah's sex-based powers.
  • Happens in Dhalgren as a more-or-less stable relationship.

Live-Action TV

  • As per its Everybody Has Lots of Sex notoriety, Nip Tuck seems to engage in this trope with a fair amount of regularity. Most of the time it's just Christian doing it because, you know, he's Christian, but a couple of plot-focused examples stand out-
    • Matt agrees to engage in these with his ex-girlfriend lesbian cheerleader and her also-a-cheerleader lover, who feels that her new girlfriend is getting turned off the relationship because she's "not getting enough cock". Better Than It Sounds, really.
    • Sean and Christian engage in one with a high-class call-girl. Notable for sounding like a subversion of the "one guy two girls" dynamic while actually being completely unlike most examples of the trope. It's not really a "threesome" so much as it is "they take turns mounting her".
  • One of these happens in Entourage, when Eric's girlfriend's best friend suggests they all do it. Here, her motivations are treated as suspect, and are the first thing Eric brings up with his (male) friends. They conclude that what she really wants is to have sex with Eric's girlfriend, and Eric being around is just a plausible excuse for her to suggest it. Though not considering this in itself to be a dealbreaker, Eric ultimately decides against the proposal. But when he offhandedly mentions to his girlfriend that he "didn't think you'd be into it", she insists that they do do it, apparently interpreting Eric's statement as some sort of remark on her not being adventurous enough.
    • It also happens when Turtle and Drama, after spending days trying to impress the same girl asks her to make a choice. She simply takes them both by the hand and leads them upstairs. Cue uncomfortable silence the next morning due to accidental "crossing of swords".
  • Captain Jack Harkness mentioned, in Doctor Who, waking up with his erstwhile executioners the morning after they were supposed to well, execute him, and says they're a nice couple and they've stayed in touch. In Torchwood, he mentions having once been involved with a pair of twin acrobats.
    • And it is "implied" that these are on the less adventurous scale of things he's done.
    • He also showed clear interest in both the Doctor and Rose, as well as appreciating them together ("You two are so sweet."). This culminated in the PG version of this trope (kisses in all possible permutations) during The Parting of the Ways. It's also remarkable that if Jack shows up in Nine/Rose fanfic at all, the fans almost always see it as a case of OT 3 and rarely if ever write it as a Love Triangle involving a Cock Fight or case of Die for Our Ship
    • In another "Doctor Who" example, it's implied that River Song has had a threesome with the Doctor and ...the Doctor.
  • In the Friends episode "The One Where Ross and Rachel Take A Break" Chandler and Joey once thought they might end up having sex with the same woman. When Joey asked who would go where, Chandler suggested flipping a coin:

 Joey: Yeah, I guess, but what's like heads and what's tails?

Chandler: Well, if you don't know that I'm not sure I want to do this with you!

    • And hilariously subverted in the same series in a hypothetical What Could Have Been episode, where Ross and Carol, still married, agree to have a threesome with Susan, who was then only a... friend of Carol's. Ross, tossed aside during most of the act, finds out the hard way about his wife's homosexuality. He made and ate a sandwich halfway through. They didn't mind.
    • In the episode "The One with the Jellyfish", it was revealed that Phoebe was conceived from a threeway between her parents and the girl who ended up being her adoptive mother.
  • Baltar is implied to have done it with a three and a six in Battlestar Galactica Reimagined.
  • Seinfeld: George realizes the only way to make a switch from dating one roommate to another - normally an impossible situation - is by suggesting a Menage-a-trois to the current girlfriend. The old girlfriend will be Squicked, refuse, and tell the other. The roommate will be flattered that she's been offered. The girlfriend will dump the boy, and the other roommate will contact him to go out. Problem: when Jerry tries it, his girlfriend and her roommate both react positively, thus Squicking Jerry out of the relationship.

 Jerry: I can't! I'm not an orgy guy!

George: Are you crazy?! This is like discovering plutonium by accident!!

Jerry: Don't you know what it means to become an orgy guy? It changes everything! I'd have to dress different, I'd have to act different! I'd have to grow a moustache and get all kinds of robes and lotions. I'd need a new bedspread, new curtains. I'd have to get thick carpeting and weirdo lighting. I'd have to get new friends; I'd have to get orgy friends. No, I'm not ready for it.

    • Later, George tries the same thing with his own girlfriend in order to sabotage their relationship, only to have the girlfriend say to her (male) roommate who has just walked into the room, "Remember that thing we talked about the other night? George is into it!"
  • Comes up in a few episodes of Sex and the City.
    • In one, Charlotte's boyfriend expresses interest in a threesome and she goes for it, even though Samantha advises her that the only way a threesome is good is if you're the third party they bring in for it. It ends badly; her boyfriend is more interested in the other woman than with her.
    • In another, Samantha has been dating a guy for some time, and he asks for a threesome as a birthday present. Samantha is quite jealous, but he kicks the other girl out of bed when she calls him "Daddy" mid-sex.
    • In yet a third, Samantha has been listening to her neighbours having sex Right Through the Wall and starts to join in from afar. They invite her to join in in person, but they're too unattractive for her.
    • And in a fourth, Samantha (noticing a trend here) is propositioned by two Gay Best Friends of hers since they want to find out what it's like to be with a woman. It doesn't end well, because they can't bring themselves to do anything.
    • One time, Miranda contacts a couple online who are looking for a woman to join in a threesome. Miranda actually has no intention of going through with it, though; she's just looking for validation that she could have one if she wanted to.
  • In Coupling Patrick proposes a threesome to his girlfriend, and she's very eager, but he doesn't realise until he's already waiting naked for her that the third party she invited was, in fact, Jeff.
  • A major goal for Barney in How I Met Your Mother. He bought a wrestling-championship-style belt to be awarded in such an occasion. In one episode, he quotes the Bro Code's guidance on the matter: "No eye contact during a Devil's Threeway." (A Devil's Threeway being two men and one woman, implied to have happened between George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.)
    • In addition, Ted may or may not have scored one. He refuses to say.
  • Happens a few times in the British version of Queer as Folk, as well. The show being what it is, all of the participants were men.
  • Todd from Scrubs, when pressed, admits he's had a threesome. Normally he would flaunt information like this, but it wasn't the "cool kind." Of course, this was before his sexuality was revealed as "The Todd".
    • Elliot's old friend Melody also claimed to have been in a threesome. When J.D. asks if it was 2 girls and a guy or a "Devil's Threesome", she answers "all girl". Of course, she could have been making it all up to mess with the guys.
    • In recent seasons, Todd has become involved with a pair of swingers.
    • When Turk and Carla told JD they had something to ask him (and it would mean a lot to them if he said yes), he got the mistaken impression they were suggesting a threesome.

 JD: (thinking) Oh my god, would I have a threesome with Turk and Carla? Well, it's certainly flattering and I don't think they'd tell anyone...

Turk: Will you be my best man?

JD: Oh.

  • Jimmy McNulty has a threesome with two prostitutes in one episode of The Wire, while he was undercover during a bust; he ends up justifying it as, "I was outnumbered." and has to write a report on why he did it, as obviously he wasn't meant to "close the deal" before the other police arrived to arrest everyone. It becomes such a legend in the Baltimore PD that other characters are still talking about it several seasons later.
  • On Angel, an old man has been trying to reclaim his youth by taking over the bodies of young, fit men from the gym across the street from his retirement home. The first of the men we see the old guy possess has apparently just been engaged in a threesome with two women, just before his body melts from the inside when the old man's spell wears off. It's later sort of subverted, however, when it's revealed that the women were actually prostitutes.
    • Reportedly occurred sometime in the past involving Drusilla, Darla, and the Immortal-- just one more way he topped Angel and Spike.
  • In an episode of Just Shoot Me, Maya and a lesbian model get revenge on Finch, who tried to hook them up, by pretending they're willing to have a threesome with him, but only if he completes an insane list of impossible tasks, before sundown. Throughout the day, Finch is able to get anything he wants from fellow men simply by mentioning that it will help him in this goal. After he fails miserably, the crowd of men waiting to know if he had succeed (where they all failed apparently) is disappointed when he shrugs and says no… cue Slow Hand Clap moment for is effort.
  • In the third season of Gossip Girl an upcoming threesome was announced, and created a lot of publicity. Reactions among the fans quickly went from excitement to boredom when it turned out that the threesome was between Dan, Vanessa and Olivia (guest star Hilary Duff). Two of the show's least popular characters together with a guest character few people cared about. The whole thing is generally considered one of the least hot moments on the show, though Your Mileage May Vary.
    • Threesomes seem rather common on this show, though mainly carried out behind the scenes. Chuck seems to have more than his fair share, and both Nate and Blair lecture Dan about the unwritten rules for the activity.

 Nate: Look man, I know things. I've been to Europe. Chuck Bass is my best friend. The third person is supposed to be a stranger.

  • In an episode of Special Unit 2, a pair of Medusa sisters pick up men in clubs with the promise of a threesome and, when they're alone, they show their real "hair," petrifying the poor saps. O'Malley goes in undercover and is immediately approached by a pair of sisters offering the same proposition, followed by the Medusae doing the same. He is torn between the two pairs of sisters until one mentions that she's not wearing any panties, tipping the scales in her favor. Incidentally, she is a Medusa. He's been hunting Links for a long time now, so they don't catch him off-guard, although he probably would've rather gone with the other sisters, who actually meant what they said.
  • In a Sliders episode, the characters end up in a world where the bikers are raiding oil trucks to convert it to gas for their bikes. Apparently, all cars run on alternative fuels here. Mallory (not Q-ball) hooks up with a woman who turns out to be the leader of the local biker gang. One day, he enters her place to find her in bed with two guys (all still clothed, for PG reasons), who she calmly explains are her husbands. Furthermore, she invites him to join them. He refuses and later finds out that his friends knew that polygamy is legal and perfectly acceptable in this world.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus featured a fake-documentary sketch about village idiots, centering on one Arthur Figgis(John Cleese). When the narrator asks "What about his relationships with women?" the scene cuts to Figgis in bed with two gorgeous and apparantly naked women, saying, "I may be an idiot, but I'm not a fool."
  • In Two and A Half Men after Alan and Charlie meet several members of a women's volleyball team in a bar:

 Charlie: Come on Alan! Get your priorities straight!

Alan: I do have my priorities straight! I've had a wife for eleven years, but I've never had group sex!

Charlie: Don't bother; it's an overrated male fantasy.

Alan: Really?

Charlie: No, are you kidding?!

    • Jake is implied to have a pair of girlfriends for this purpose in at least one episode.
  • On The Office, Michael brags that Todd Packer had a three-way with two saleswomen they met in a bar. Considering how repulsive Todd Packer is onscreen however, it could just be Michael telling tales.
  • A season one episode of Californication has Hank and Charlie having a rather messy one with a woman. The episode is titled, appropriately enough, The Devil's Threesome.
  • The Double Standard attached to the trope is Discussed in an episode of Quincy, as an analogy to the one attached to alcoholism (one of Quincy's female coworkers is alcoholic). (If a guy wakes up in bed with two women, he's awesome. If a woman wakes up in bed with two men, she's a slut.)
  • An episode of Dream On featured Martin dating a woman who wanted a threesome with him and his best friend Eddie. At the end of the episode, they decide to go through with it.


Music

 Last Friday night

We went streaking in the park

Skinny dipping in the dark

Then had a menage a trois

  • "Triad" by David Crosby.

Video Games

  • Difficult but possible: In Jade Empire, it is possible to have sex with Silk Fox and Dawn Star at the same time if you have a high enough persuasion skills and are male, or Silk Fox and Sky for either gender.
  • In Dragon Age Origins, it is possible to have Multi Way Sex with pirate queen Isabela under a few circumstances: if a female warden is romancing a hardened Alistair, she can proposition Isabela for sex and invite Alistair along. If a male or female warden is romancing a hardened Leliana and propositions Isabela for sex, Leliana will insist on joining you to "keep an eye on things". If a male or female warden propositions Isabela for sex under any situation, and Zevran is present, Isabela will invite him to join you; this can result in a warden/Isabela/Zevran threesome, or a warden/Isabela/Leliana/Zevran foursome (but not a foursome with Alistair; he will refuse).
    • Additionally, in the dwarf noble starter area, it is possible for a male dwarf noble to have a threesome with two "noble-hunters".
    • In Dragon Age 2, there is a possible threesome, also involving Isabela: at the resolution of Zevran's sidequest, Isabela will proposition him for sex. If Hawke protests, she will tell him or her, "You can come too."
  • Subverted in Mass Effect. If you flirt with both Liara and the human squad mate they will eventually confront you. Shepard can suggest a three way, however Kaidan/Ashley won't agree and will break off the relationship.
  • Aphrodite in God of War 3 is busy with two slave girls when Kratos arrives. She invites him to join in.
    • Mind you, Kratos can have threesomes in both previous games, too.

Web Comics

  • This trope is actually subverted in what you think would be the most obvious example: the webcomic Ménage à 3.
    • Not any more; Zii picked up a pair of guys and had herself a threesome.
  • Rayne, the protagonist of Least I Could Do, ends up sleeping with another guy in addition to the girl he tried to pick up. He's not too happy about the dude, but they're a "package deal" and he's apparently just heteroflexible enough to handle it.
    • Another small storyline centers around him trying to get a threesome with two girls going. It would have succeeded, but he pushed his luck in trying to make it a fivesome.
  • Skin Horse: Tip's "superpower" is apparently so strong that he can get two women to have sex with him at once even when he's barely paying attention. He doesn't realize until the next day that he never even got their names.
  • Fans features a Three Way Relationship forming out of a love triangle between the male lead and his two female romantic prospects...one of whom is a a cuddly version of a Depraved Bisexual and gets into the spirit of things (if you know what I mean) far more quickly than the other.
  • Sexy Losers discusses the above-mentioned situation with two men and one woman.
  • Dora from Questionable Content gives her opinion on the subject.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, the husband of a woman who was "gate-cloned" suggests this. The two women disagree.

Web Original

  • In "Spooning With Spoony 2", Spoony mentions pulling a man-sandwich with The Nostalgia Critic. It's safe to say that Critic really didn't want to be the filling, as it were.

Western Animation

 "So, you definitely left her a voicemail?"

"Yeah, home and cell."

"Oh, good, you got the cell too, I was wondering..."

Notes

  1. Note that mènage à trois does not actually mean "threesome" in French; the literal translation is "household of three"
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