So, You Might Want to Rethink Giving Your Partner a Threesome as a "Gift"

No offense, but a threesome is (probably) a bad gift. In fact, some might even argue that a threesome literally isn’t—or at least definitely *shouldn’t* be—a gift at all.

If this little update comes as confusing or otherwise surprising news, I hear you. I can definitely understand why a threesome might seem like a good gift, especially if you’re someone who values ~experiences~ over material goods when it comes to gifting. (Cute, but can’t relate, sorry. Memories fade, but diamonds are forever, baby.) After all, as porn, mainstream media, and, of course, IRL men themselves are often only too eager to remind us, a threesome is supposed to be the ultimate sexual fantasy. What could possibly be so bad about giving your partner the gift of making their sexiest dream a reality?

Well, quite a few things, as it turns out. “There are many layers to this that make it a problematic practice,” says non-monogamy educator Leanne Yau, founder of Poly Philia. For starters, there’s the objectification of the third, the commodification of queerness, and of course, the male-gazey undertones. Don’t worry, we’ll unpack what all of that means and why it’s potentially problematic. But the most important thing to know—the number one concern that literally every expert I talked to brought up—is the fact that framing a threesome as a gift turns it into something that centers the recipient’s needs and desires, rather than a co-created experience among three enthusiastically consenting partners.

“In a threesome, every person involved needs to be considered and have their desires taken into account,” says Abby Moss, a writer specializing in sex and polyamory. “If the threesome becomes a ‘gift,’ this implies it’s all for the benefit of the person on the receiving end of said ‘gift,’ and the other two people involved are only acting for that person’s enjoyment, rather than their own.”

Pretty much every reason threesome gifting might not be such a great idea comes down, in one way or another, to that dynamic. Still, there’s a lot more to understand about the many layers and (mostly patriarchal) structures at play here. Below, some of the world’s foremost threesome experts—because yes, that’s a thing you can be—get into it. Plus, some expert advice on how to gift a threesome the right way (because there *is* a right way!) if you still have your heart set on giving the gift of group sex.

Why is giving a threesome as a gift problematic?

Please take out your textbooks and get ready to take some notes, because we’re basically going back to Gender Studies 101, but make it threesomes.

It objectifies the third.

One of the biggest problems with threesome gifting is that you risk objectifying the third person you bring into your bedroom by presenting them to your partner as a “gift.”

“People aren’t objects,” says Yau. “They’re not gifts to be given to people—especially not a complete stranger you bring in to give a threesome to your partner.”

Objectification of the third is already a pretty common problem people run into when it comes to keeping threesomes ethical, especially ones involving an established couple, adds sex coach Stella Harris, author of The Ultimate Guide to Threesomes. “When the third is seen as simply a tool or a toy to be used by an existing couple, their needs, wants, and feelings will be secondary at best.”

Framing a threesome as a “gift,” and thus the third as part of that gift, only further compounds this issue, making it that much easier for the third to become some kind of “human sex toy,” as Moss puts it, in the eyes of the couple they’re joining.

Writer and entrepreneur Emilie Lavinia says that while she’s often down to join couples for threesomes, she doesn’t love when it’s framed as a gift. “I do tire a bit of being offered up to my friend’s boyfriends as a ‘gift.’ I prefer to view these encounters as something we’re all entering into because we want a fun sexual experience,” she says. “It annoys me, because it does away with my sexual agency somewhat. The act of being ‘gifted’ to another person—especially a man—objectifies me and diminishes my sexual power.”

It objectifies women, in general.

The gender and relationship dynamic typically at play in a threesome gifting scenario is also a major factor in terms of problematic potential. If you’ve been picturing a woman in a hetero relationship gifting an FFM threesome to her straight male partner this whole time, it’s not just because of all that heteronormativity we’ve internalized—it’s because that’s pretty much how it usually goes down, folks.

“I’d go out on a limb and suggest the vast majority of threesome ‘gifts’ are FFM threesomes being arranged for heterosexual men by their female partner,” says Moss. Obviously, this tends to lean pretty heavily into ye olde male gaze, which is part of the reason threesome gifting is generally frowned upon, especially in sex-positive communities.

“I can’t speak for everyone, but I’d guess most people in the poly/queer community would cringe at the idea of ‘gifting’ a threesome,” Moss adds. In general, that idea “comes from heterosexual, mostly monogamous couples who don’t fully understand the nuances of arranging a threesome ethically.”

It’s also worth noting, as Yau points out, that you, uh, don’t usually see this dynamic go the other way around, now do you?! What I’m saying is, when was the last time you heard of a straight man “gifting” a threesome with another man to his female partner?

“This is more commonly done among women who feel like they ‘owe’ their partner a threesome with another woman,” says Yau. “This is never really reciprocated in the vast majority of scenarios.”

In short, the stereotypical threesome gifting dynamic (a woman gifting an FFM threesome to her straight male partner) tends to reflect what I like to call, “a load of patriarchal nonsense.” (That’s a technical term, it will be on the final exam.) In case you haven’t noticed, women are often objectified as prizes or rewards for men. For reference, see: pretty much the entire history of Western civilization. Thus, “gifting” a woman, or, more specifically, sex with a woman, to your partner—especially a straight male one—treads into some pretty patriarchal territory. Enter at your own risk.

It commodifies and appropriates queerness.

Going back to our stereotypical threesome gifting scenario, we’re probably talking about a couple in a hetero relationship looking for a bisexual woman to join them for a threesome. This is where couples tend to fall into toxic “unicorn hunting” behaviors—i.e., problematic third-seeking tactics that usually play into objectifying assumptions about queer people, especially bisexual women.

“People in queer and poly communities are often targeted as potential thirds by couples who are handling their partner-seeking badly,” says Harris. Once again, it’s all about objectification. These problematic behaviors usually hinge on the harmful yet all too common assumption (especially among hetero couples) that if someone is open to sex with multiple partners and/or multiple genders, that automatically means they’re down to have a threesome with you and your partner. “It erases [the potential third’s] personhood and ignores their attractions and desires,” says Harris.

This stereotypical threesome gifting dynamic also has a tendency to appropriate bisexuality—or sex between women, in general—as something that is *for* men and male pleasure. Framing sex with another woman as a “gift” for your male partner only reinforces this notion of commodified queerness. Meanwhile, it also leans into the sexist and homophobic double standard that women are expected and even encouraged to “experiment” with each other—again, usually for the purposes of straight male pleasure—while queer men are rarely granted any such ticket into patriarchy’s good graces.

Basically, it’s unicorn hunting, misogyny, the male gaze, and queer appropriation, all wrapped up in a shiny bow and presented to your partner as a gift. Not a great look!

Some other reasons gifting a threesome might be a bad idea

Aside from the many ways in which threesome gifting reflects problematic patriarchal structures, there are also a number of non-patriarchy-related reasons it might just be kind of a bad idea.

It can make it harder to revoke consent if you change your mind.

“I think that the notion of a threesome being a gift could make it more difficult for someone to ‘back out’ of things should it start going in a direction they don’t want,” says sociologist Ryan Scoats, PhD, who is often credited as the first person to earn a doctorate in threesomes. “Can you ever think of a time where you’ve given someone a gift and then decided to take it back? How did that go?”

Obviously, everyone in every sexual situation has the right to revoke consent at any time. But for sex to be truly consensual, everyone involved also has to really feel like they can act on that right if they need to. As Scoats points out, feeling like you’re taking back a gift can make it harder to back out if you change your mind, which isn’t good for anyone involved.

It might make your partner feel pressured.

“Presenting this kind of experience as a gift may even place pressure on the receiver of the gift to participate at a time, or in ways, they’re not enthusiastic about,” says Harris. This is especially risky if you’re springing it on them as a surprise. Moreover, are you sure your partner actually *wants* to have a threesome? And even if you are, have you discussed what that threesome experience should look like, or what they want out of it? Which brings us to…

You’ll have less time to prepare.

Any successful, consensual threesome takes planning and open communication—especially if it’s your first one as a couple. “Framing it as a gift removes the ability for all parties to talk, plan, and negotiate together as equals, co-creating an experience everyone is excited about,” says Harris.

It makes it seem like something you’re just doing as a favor.

Going back to Yau’s point about women feeling like they “owe” their male partners a threesome, framing it as a gift kind of highlights the possibility that this maybe isn’t something *you* actually want.

“It suggests that the gift giver might not be particularly into it, and is doing it as a favor to their partner.” says Harris.

“I think a person who is considering doing this for their male partner has to think about whether this is something that they want,” says Yau. “Are you just doing this because you’re trying to fulfill your partner’s fantasy even though you yourself aren’t particularly into it?”

Not only is it probably going to be bad for your own mental and emotional state to participate in sex you aren’t enthusiastic about, “but that lack of enthusiasm will also be obvious to the third, and put them in an uncomfortable position,” says Harris.

Not to mention, it will probably make your “gift” a lot less fun for the person you’re giving it to. Like, imagine your partner takes you to a Broadway show for your birthday, then looks obviously bored or uncomfortable the entire time and complains about the show after. Now take that discomfort and disappointment, but make it a threesome. Yikes.

How to do it the *right* way

Okay, so you’ve heeded all my warnings and you still have your heart set on gifting your partner the threesome of their dreams. Have no fear, there *are* ways to do it ethically!

Become active in sex-positive communities.

It’s definitely easier to ethically gift a threesome if you’re already a member of queer or poly communities, especially one who is in a non-monogamous relationship or has a close network of sex-positive friends and partners.

For one thing, if you’re already operating outside of heteronormative structures, you have a lot less of that pesky patriarchal nonsense to contend with. As Yau notes, a threesome gifted together by two members of a throuple to their mutual partner, for example, would obviously be a very different situation than a straight woman in an otherwise monogamous relationship gifting a threesome to her husband.

Meanwhile, someone who’s active in sex-positive communities might be more likely to have a circle of like-minded friends who might actually be interested in having threesomes together, says Harris. “Eventually, if you build solid connections, you’ll have the kind of friends you can ask to make birthday wishes come true. From birthday threesomes to orgies to gang bangs—all are possible if you’ve cultivated the right friendships.”

That said, this is in no way your invitation to start infiltrating queer or non-monogamous communities for the purposes of unicorn hunting. As Harris notes, actually becoming an active and engaged member of these communities is a serious commitment, and likely a bigger lifestyle change than your typical threesome-gifter is looking to undertake.

Hire a sex worker.

So, if you’re not in a poly relationship or active in sex-positive communities and you still want to gift your partner a threesome, your best bet is to hire a pro.

“Normally, if you are going to be ‘gifting an experience’ to someone, you pay for that experience,” says Yau. Think: gifting a vacation, taking them out to dinner, etc. “So I really think that the only way to gift an experience like a threesome is by hiring a sex worker.”

Obviously, the viability of this option may be limited by financial means and certain legal concerns. In other words, pros can be pricey and sex work isn’t legal everywhere. But if you have the means, hiring a pro can definitely clear up a lot of the ethical ambiguities of threesome gifting.

“With a sex worker, you pay them for their service, you tell them exactly what you want out of the experience, and they perform that service for you,” says Yau. “Everyone has a good time, [the third is] appropriately compensated—no problems there.”

To summarize, there are *a lot* of ways giving a threesome can be problematic, and relatively few ways it can be, well, not problematic. If you really want to give your partner the gift of group sex and have the means to do it ethically, then by all means, gift away. Otherwise, might I suggest planning a threesome together for another time and just, like, surprising them with a nice dinner or something?

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