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Just How Common Are Threesomes?

Just How Common Are Threesomes?: © Hello Lovely/Corbis

© Hello Lovely/Corbis

One of the most common sex acts people fantasize about is having a threesome. In fact, survey studies have found that the majority of both men and women report having fantasized about this type of group sex before.

Perhaps not surprisingly, though, men are more likely to say they’ve had threesome fantasies than women. Men report having more intense interest in them, too.

Given that threesome fantasies are so widespread that they can be considered a normative sexual interest, it only seems logical to ask how many people have actually acted on this desire.

So just how common are threesomes?

To my great surprise, I could only find two scientific studies that specifically asked people about their prior threesome experiences, and both of them were published in the last two years. It seems that the science is just now catching up with people’s massive interest in this kind of group sex.

In the first study, published in 2014, 720 Canadian college students (most of whom were heterosexual) completed a survey about their attitudes toward having a sexual and/or romantic relationship with someone who was bisexual. As part of this study, students were asked whether they’d ever had a threesome in which both of their partners were of the same sex.

In other words, if you’re a woman, have you ever had sex with two men at the same time? And if you’re a man, have you ever had sex with two women at the same time?

The researchers found that just 2 percent of women reported having had this type of threesome, compared to 10 percent of men.

However, this study might have underestimated how common threesomes are because the researchers only asked about one kind of three-way.

In order to address this limitation, let’s take a look at a different study published earlier this year. Unlike the previous study, which was focused specifically on threesomes with bisexual partners, this study inquired about previous experience with two different kinds of threesomes: two females and one male (FFM) versus two males and one female (MMF).

In total, 274 Canadian college students (all of whom were heterosexual) answered the questions.

Overall, 13 percent of them had participated in a threesome before. Consistent with the 2014 study, men were more likely to have done so than women (24 percent vs. 8 percent, respectively).

Certain types of threesomes were more common than others, though.

  • Specifically, whereas 18 percent of men had been in at least one FFM threesome, only 8 percent had been in MMF threesomes.

  • By contrast, 7 percent of women had been in at least one FFM threesome, compared to 5 percent who had been in MMF threesomes.

Although it appears that men are more likely to have taken part in both kinds of threesomes, it’s interesting to note that the FFM combination was more commonly reported by both sexes.

However, given that men were more than twice as likely to report having had FFM threesomes, you can’t help but wonder: who are the women that men are having all of these threesomes with, anyway?

One possibility is that perhaps men are overreporting and women are underreporting their sexual histories in order to enhance their reputations. It’s also possible that maybe men and women just have different definitions regarding what “counts” as a threesome.

Before you jump to any conclusions, let me point out again that both studies were based exclusively on college students and, further, that all of the students were from Canada.

Obviously, this means that the numbers might be very different if, say, people from another country or another age group were surveyed. For instance, I suspect that the numbers might be a bit higher if older people were studied because with more time comes more opportunity to expand your sexual horizons.

That said, what the available data do suggest is that, although the vast majority of us have had threesomes fantasies, most people haven’t turned those fantasies into reality.

At least not yet.


Justin Lehmiller, PhD is a sex educator and researcher at Ball State University and author of the blog Sex and Psychology. Follow him on Twitter @JustinLehmiller.


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