How to Do It

My Threesome With My Girlfriend and Another Guy Resulted in an … Unexpected Discovery

What do I do now?

Three people's feet stick out the end of a bed. Neon male symbols are in the background.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Send your questions for Stoya and Rich to howtodoit@slate.comNothing’s too small (or big).

Dear How to Do It,

My girlfriend and I had our first threesome a few nights ago, and it was great. We talked about it, and she felt most comfortable trying it out with a guy first (with a woman possibly in the future), and I was fine with that. We found a guy on an app designed for couples looking. I’ve never been naked with another guy outside a locker room, much less seen one hard in person, so I was nervous, but it was actually just comfortable and fun from the get-go. Maybe too comfortable. Things took a turn about halfway through—he was watching her blow me, and I got really, really hard, and to both of our surprise, he asked if he could join her (he went for the … jewels). He had told us he was straight but fine with some man-on-man contact in threesomes; we figured that meant we might touch inadvertently, but nothing more. In the moment, we just kind of went with it, and I came shortly after, possibly harder than I ever have. It was great—except now I feel like I’ve learned something about myself that I don’t really know how to process. My girlfriend seemed unfazed and barely acknowledged it happened, which I sort of appreciate, but I am not sure what to make of this. Can I be bicurious and not know it? Is it just that it was hot in the moment, two people on me at once? I’ve never had a threesome before, much less thought of a guy this way at all, so I’m not sure what to do.

—New Man

Dear New Man,

I’m not sure bicurious is really the word, since you seem surprised by a sexual interest in the same gender after an absence of curiosity. Regardless, while you absolutely could attempt to ignore this for the rest of your life, I think your curiosity is a great place to start.

It’s very possible to be sexually interested in a kind of person, a body part, or an activity and not know it. This sometimes happens when the person hasn’t been exposed to whatever the specific is, or hasn’t been exposed to it in a sexual context. Another phenomenon is context-specific arousal—this particular guy, or that particular day, or because you were wearing blue striped socks. Who knows?

So, is it just that it was hot in the moment having two people on you at once? I suggest you dig into that and find out. Try a threesome with your girlfriend and a woman. Try threesomes with other men. Maybe that first guy wants to come back with better boundaries and more thorough negotiation (it’s better to be totally clear in these situations about who’s comfortable with what). If in-person interactions are too difficult to arrange, too risky, or something you don’t want to pursue for other reasons, that’s fine. Maybe read some man-on-man erotica and see what strikes your fancy.

Remember the Kinsey scale is just that—a scale—and not a binary set of categories. Most of us are somewhere in the middle or edges, not 100 percent homo or heterosexual. So what you’ve discovered is that you’re complicated, like most of the rest of us.

Dear How to Do It,

Before meeting my girlfriend (I’m a bisexual cis man) in our early 20s, I’d never held hands with anyone in any sort of romantic way, let alone had sex or been in a long-term relationship. She was a little more experienced than me and was understanding as we took things slow for a few weeks before eventually starting to get intimate in any way. After the first time, we continued having fairly vanilla sex for a few months before hitting our stride and starting to try (just a few) new positions. For the first 11 months, we had what I thought to be a fairly healthy physical relationship, having sex two or three times a week, which I was ecstatic about and she continued to enjoy just as much. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, sex became very difficult for her.

She’s a survivor of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Our issue started as a lowered sex drive in her, and our sex became less frequent, dropping to once a week, then once every two, then a month, and so on. Eventually she admitted that not only was it harder for her to get in the mood, but she was now also experiencing pain during sex that she had been embarrassed to bring up for the first few months. I tried to keep up other forms of intimacy as our sexual relationship plateaued at a once-every-two-months basis (it’s been as long as five months in the past). This pace seemed easier for her and less likely to cause the pain. We were eventually able to maintain about a 50 percent success rate, and when it doesn’t work out and we have to stop, I’m always sure to remind her that not being able to finish isn’t the end of the world.

After a number of doctor’s appointments, we learned that the physical issues she was experiencing are common to victims of sexual abuse and were told that physical therapy was our best bet. The doctor gave us a recommendation and informed us that most patients she’s recommended this PT to see real results after about a year of appointments and focused sessions with a therapist (which she was already seeing). Unfortunately, her (and my) financial means pretty much ensure that she hasn’t had the time or money to start PT in the year since then. Now we’ve been dealing with this very passively for two and a half years (the majority of our three-and-a-half-year relationship), and I just feel like I’m the only one putting effort into maintaining what little is left of our physical relationship. Our emotional relationship is the strongest it’s ever been, and we’ve talked at length about wanting to spend the rest of our lives together, but sex and most forms of intimacy haven’t really been a part of our relationship for a long time. We cuddle all the time but she’s rarely receptive to making out or even to taking her shirt off while we lay in bed. More intimate activities like oral sex never happen outside of foreplay before our successful attempts.

She’s finally able to start PT in a few months, so hopefully that does start to make a difference down the road, but in the meantime, I would love to be able to introduce smaller forms of intimacy back into our relationship. She’s said that making out and cuddling without clothes on is often uncomfortable for her because she worries I’ll get too excited and she’ll end up disappointing me, and it seems off the table. Because of this, any new plans to, for example, try making out at a scheduled rate fall by the wayside within a week of agreeing on them. I think the biggest issue now is that it’s easy for us (less so me since I still very much have a sex drive) to give up on even trying, but I don’t want to push because I know how hard it is for her too and I don’t want her to feel obligated to do anything she doesn’t want to. I’m just not sure what is left for me to do as every form of intimacy past cuddling in our underwear and T-shirts seems to be too much of a step, despite both of us desperately wanting to get back some semblance of a healthy sexual relationship. How can I strike that balance between staying supportive and not pushing her too much, but also not just letting our intimacy fizzle out completely just because it seems like a lost cause?

—Reboot

Dear Reboot,

Your girlfriend suffered through months of pain because she was too embarrassed to bring it up, hasn’t had the funds to access the physical therapy recommended by her doctor, and you want more sexual interaction?

No.

Having penetrative sex when there’s pain could be making your girlfriend’s situation worse. The right, supportive thing to do here is to wait. Wait until her body is ready. Wait until her emotions and soul are ready. There’s no acceptable way to push for more here. If you can’t put your sexual desires to the side until she’s physically ready, you may want to consider breaking up and letting her move on.

Dear How to Do It,

I’m dating a man who is very set on a particular sex act that I’ve never tried and feel kind of gross about (straight woman). He says he’s encountered women before who didn’t like it either, but they tried it and loved it with him. I feel it is gross and thoughts of having him that close to … this particular body part … really wigs me out. I know I don’t have to do it, but this seems like his main fetish, if you can even call it that. Should I try it, even though the thought stresses me out?

—Not That

Dear Not That,

Is it rimming? Is it feet? Is it… gasp… kissing?

Whatever this guy’s kink is, you don’t have to do it. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. If someone asks you to do something that squicks you out, you are completely within your rights to say, “No, thank you,” or even just “no.” You can turn and flee while screaming if you really feel the need to.

But, clearly, since you’re writing, you either think you do have to on some level, or you aren’t entirely sure about your choice. So how much does this guy mean to you? Is he great and funny and comfortable to be around? Then you might want to consider trying this act that wigs you out. Do you have a difficult time matching with people? Then I would absolutely understand you being willing to do something that grosses you out just in case it turns out to not be so bad.

And I’d love to help you navigate that—aid you in mitigating the gross factor—but I’d really need to know what the particular body part is. Without that detail, the best advice I can give you is to listen to your gut, have an open and thorough conversation with your partner about what he’s into and how you might be willing to accommodate it, and remember you can always stop if it turns out you do dislike the, um, anal? Foot job? Forehead kisses? Good luck.

Dear How to Do It,

Like many other women, I have a major roadblock impairing my ability to achieve an orgasm. My therapist and I are going to try EMDR to work on overcoming trauma from sexual molestation when I was a kid, and I’m really hoping that will help, but I was also hoping that you also might have some ideas to help me get over the hump.

When I am nearing orgasm, my brain will sabotage me every time. When I get close, my brain just takes off—not always just to mundane things I need to do or remember, but to unpleasant memories, to very unsexy people (like an old teacher, my dad, my kid, my elderly neighbor, that chick I don’t like, etc.), to unpleasant images, to ANYTHING that will shut down the mood. I have tried concentrating on the feeling, watching porn, listening to music, listening to hot scenes in audiobooks, trying to imagine something sexy, and other things like that, but when I get close? Bam. I’m thinking about gutting fish or grammar or my 80-year-old mother-in-law complaining about her (lack of a) sex life with my father-in-law. When I try to steer it back on track, the thoughts come faster and harder. Any ideas?

—Mental Block

Dear Mental Block,

Intrusive thoughts sometimes come along with trauma. I’m curious whether they appear outside of sexual contexts and confident that the right treatment with a qualified therapist will help reduce them.

In the meantime, Staci Haines’s Healing Sex, a Mind-Body Approach to Healing Sexual Trauma has some ideas about how to stay present in your body when your brain starts giving you memories or images you don’t want. There’s a lot of stuff about breathing into one’s body and focusing on this or that erotic specific. It might be worth picking the book up as a guide to turn to.

Mostly, your therapist is going to be the most useful person here. They can help you work through what’s going on in your brain and give you tools for returning your attention to where you want it to be. One example is going through the rainbow. You find an object of each color, repeat the search with new objects each time, and eventually your brain is calm enough to chill out and stop throwing you your life’s greatest horror-show hits. These sorts of skills are part of the EMDR process from what I understand.

The bad news is that a lot of this stuff is a grueling struggle until it just clicks. And sometimes you have to try a few different methods and treatments before something works.
So keep your chin up. You’ll get there.

—Stoya

More Advice From Slate

My husband and I are in our 20s. We’ve been together over 10 years and have two kids. Our sex life is great, but my husband does masturbate a lot. He found a porn video with a girl who looks exactly like me—super creepy! He asked me several times if I had cheated on him. About a week later he asked me if I would want to have a threesome with his childhood best friend, someone I’ve known for 18 years. He said he picked him because he’s seen him naked before, and because he’s not married and not attractive (at all, eww, although my husband says he’s not THAT bad) and therefore not a threat to steal me away. I don’t know if it’s just super gross and offensive because of who he picked or if I would feel like that with anyone. We do like to get kinky, but I don’t know about this. Please help.