“The literary equivalent of a summer night, a good friend and a gin-and-tonic: Shannon is a deft writer; a natural storyteller with a wicked turn of phrase and frighteningly specific memory...”

Opt-in to the Shannon Colleary Communiqué to have both the Funny & the Wise delivered to your inbox weekly!

Dissection of the Ménage à Trois

Here comes the mailman with your Viagra, Ralph!

1988 was a banner year for me.

I was separately invited by two male college friends to engage in a ménage à trois with them and their wives.

I was never flirtatious with, or attracted to these men.

I didn’t have a tongue bolt, a belly ring, pierced nipples or tattoos — which is how I pictured a sexual libertine.

I wore button-down shirts, penny loafers and, on occasion, glasses that made me look like Sally Jesse Raphael, but with more hair.

When Frank, who’d been my editor at our college newspaper, propositioned me at lunch downtown, I froze, a beignet grasped tightly in my claw, equidistant between my plate and maw.

“But Frank,” I said, “You’re Asian. Asians aren’t supposed to swing. They’re supposed to ace quantum physics and master teleportation.”

Frank had no response to that.

My next thought was, “What the fuck is the world coming to?”

I judged Frank and my other friend, Ray. I thought their marriages would never last if they were already looking outside of them for sexual satisfaction.

I never heard from either of these men again, perhaps because I knew too much.

Henry and I have been married 11 years now. Together 14.

Like many couples together for so long, we’ve had stretches of sexual apathy and boredom and have had to make an effort to reconnect.

There’s been role-playing, a lame attempt to pornograph-fy our lives and I’d like to explore an option proposed by a commenter on Longer Marriage = More Adventurous Sex that has to do with electronics — but I think introducing a third person into our sex life is a recipe for disaster.

Because that third party is a person, not an inanimate object.

In my experience, sex transmogrifies into, if you’re lucky, genuine love. If you’re less lucky, it becomes fluttery infatuation. If you’re totally screwed, it becomes mad obsession.

I spent five years with a man who made my 2-year old niece scream every time he entered the room.

Poor guy. He’d walk in, she’d stare at him and howl like Shelly DuVall confronted by Jack Nicholson wielding a butcher knife in The Shining.

I was fairly certain he was Satan, but the sex was good. Five years, people.

Bottom line. Sex lies. It tells you you’re in love, when maybe you’re just at the mercy of your orgasm.

Better to lie to sex, I think.

I’m willing to whisper sweet nothings to Henry in Spanish, so if he closes his eyes he’s making love to Salma Hayek. But I won’t be inviting her into our bed. Sorry Salma, I know you were sorely looking forward to it.

Salma’s not an object, but a complex human being my husband could actually fall in love with.

I leave you with this quote from the film Kinsey about the famed sexologist:

Sex is a risky game, because if you’re not careful, it will cut you wide open.

Feel free to share your philosophy yea or nay.


Tags assigned to this article:
menage e troisthreesome

44 comments

Write a comment
  1. pattie
    pattie 10 October, 2012, 11:52

    ditto to everything you just said. It’s too risky.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 10 October, 2012, 12:21

      Whenever a woman tells me she’s had a menage a trois with her husband and another woman because SHE wanted to, I immediately red flag it.

      Reply this comment
  2. Anne Louise Bannon
    Anne Louise Bannon 10 October, 2012, 11:55

    This, I think, is the inherent problem with our casual attitudes toward sexual activity in our culture. Not that I’m advocating going back to the other extreme of puritanical judgment and guilt. But, hey, sex matters and who you do it with matters. Complex human beings are involved and hurting them is not cool.

    Reply this comment
  3. Rosie Carrillo
    Rosie Carrillo 10 October, 2012, 12:06

    Thrice, yea!

    Reply this comment
  4. Anne
    Anne 10 October, 2012, 12:11

    I’ve never been interested in this, but in the interest of full disclosure, I’ve also never been asked.

    I’m a jealous person, so anyone who is mine must be only mine.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 10 October, 2012, 12:22

      A woman once put her hand on my husband’s thigh at a dinner party and I lasered it off with my eyes.

      Reply this comment
  5. Denise Fisher
    Denise Fisher 10 October, 2012, 12:18

    So true! Was in love with an addicted personality for two years (or so I thought). It was this unprecedented high, anticipation excitement, chemistry…sadly, it was not love. I encouraged him to go to rehab. He did, and he came home with more than I anticipated, a new woman he had hooked up with over the time he was there. (Three whole days!). Be careful ladies, make sure the love bug is REALLY the one that’s biting you!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 10 October, 2012, 12:24

      Oh Denise, I swore off dating for a year after my five year debacle. I only lasted 4 months, but my husband came along next and I knew he was a keeper long before we dated and were just friendly acquaintances. But having sex with a man always made me insecure and neurotic. Sigh.

      Reply this comment
  6. tania luviano
    tania luviano 10 October, 2012, 12:42

    Never been asked, not sure I would try it, but definetly, no Salma in my bed, my husband would probably leave me! LOL!

    Reply this comment
  7. Carol D
    Carol D 10 October, 2012, 14:52

    I went through a phase where I was totally into the toys, not the men. Wonderful results without the bullshit. But, I’m happy to say, I’m with Mr. Wonderful now and if someone wanted to share, well, I might have to hurt her!!!

    Reply this comment
  8. Chloe Jeffreys
    Chloe Jeffreys 10 October, 2012, 15:54

    Very early in our marriage, we had a couple ask us to join them for sex. We seriously thought about it (Hey, we were young and not exactly prudes), but decided then that this was a VERY bad idea and that we would never open our bed to any other humans. We both agree that was the right choice. No big surprise that the couple offering the invite didn’t survive.

    Two years ago my husband and I went to a hoity-toity chocolate festival in a nearby town. During our lovers’ vacation we received two notes, TWO, one on our car window, and another taped to the hotel room door, asking us if we wanted a man, presumably two different men, but who knows?, to join our little chocolate holiday.

    It was flattering. Or maybe it was just creepy. I couldn’t help but look around me and wonder who was propositioning us. Two nights later I had the nastiest dream of, guess what, a three-way with my husband and another man. It was a mighty fine dream, but having had some adventures in my life prior to this relationship I already knew that some things are better left in your imagination.

    But still. It is fun to think about.

    I’ve never fantasized about bringing another woman into our bed. I know my husband has, but we both know that is not going to work for us.

    And, Asians are kinky. Just sayin’.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 10 October, 2012, 15:59

      I hold Asians to a lofty cerebral ideal. Asian friends, disabuse me, please!! Chloe I’m not surprised to hear about the notes on your car and hotel room door. It’s not easy bearing the burden of your perennial hotness. xo

      Reply this comment
  9. Maddie
    Maddie 10 October, 2012, 20:53

    I sit here like a trout ( maybe a guppy.. guppies are cuter right?) opening and closing my mouth trying to figure out what to say.

    To quote a rather popular School House Rock Song – ~Three is a Magic Number~ but what the song fails to mention is that it is also really hard to please two people at the same time so unless you have the skills of…. hmmmm I am not even sure who’s skills you have to have I think that the idea of three ( or more) is best left to kinky bedroom story telling.. but that in it’s self gives plenty of room for at least a mentally adventurous romp without the regret or awkward moment when you run into #3 at your local Starbucks… but then that might just be me.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 10 October, 2012, 21:55

      Hi Maddie — I love the guppy image! I’m a wanton provocateur. I come by it genetically, handed down from my grandfather to my mother to me. I do well with just two. What startles me is that people who look tame are frequently far wilder than those of us who might seem to be wild. Sigh.

      Reply this comment
  10. elaine bauer brooks
    elaine bauer brooks 10 October, 2012, 22:03

    gotta tell you how I appreciate your writing…so honest…so funny…so real. thank you!

    Reply this comment
  11. Lisa
    Lisa 10 October, 2012, 22:10

    Well I can tell you that 3 is rather… Boring! Someone is always left a bit out. And I would never recommend it for a serious committed relationship. Bring another man in and he is bound to have a bigger joystick than your mate, bring another woman in and she is certain to squeal louder than you and then your man thinks he pleases her more. I have found that it is normally the male who wants 2 women and will not try 2 men for you. If a girl wants a threesome she is usually pressured by her mate. For me – I prefer to be one on one – much more fun!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 11 October, 2012, 00:17

      Lisa you crack me up. I feel like I missed my time for three window back around 1995. Brief just-turned-30 crisis. If not then, when?

      Reply this comment
  12. Jamie
    Jamie 10 October, 2012, 22:21

    I was 2 years old in 1988. For that reason alone I am relieved you turned down the three-ways that year.

    Although, if we were ever to have one “Diane Lane” would be our first choice…

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 11 October, 2012, 00:17

      On the one hand I want to kill myself (2 Jamie? 2????) on the other hand I can rest my head tonight knowing that Diane Lane wishes she could be so lucky.

      Reply this comment
  13. John
    John 14 October, 2012, 17:09

    It is a neat fantasy but way to complex to deal with in an existing relationship. Most likely somebody will be hurt. Which means there is at least a 33% chance it will be yourself. I am not above saying it does work for some people, just not most in our society. One easy way to look at is that we use sex to mark our territory and it tends to be a mutual experience. We have a hard time sharing our stuff…. And the innuendo was way to high in this post…

    Reply this comment
  14. John
    John 15 October, 2012, 08:42

    The Innuendo was with my post and trying not to insert anything 🙂

    As a side note, I know that the younger me may have had a very different answer…

    Reply this comment
  15. Elaine from Toronto
    Elaine from Toronto 13 March, 2013, 22:46

    By reading the comments on this article, I see 100% negative reaction about swinging. However it’s obvious that none of your have ever tried the experience, hence shouldn’t be commenting against something that you haven’t tried.
    My hubby and I tried the experience with another couple and another guy and it has brought us closer together emotionally and more. Our trust and love for each other has never been stronger and there’s no jealousy in our relationship. We are married for 22 years and since 2005 we are swingers. Since then our sex life has been re-ignited between the two of us, as if we are newly married, yet we are in our late 40’s.
    We only swing with one couple who live 5 hours away from us and we meet 2 or 3 times a year. But that experience leaves us in a state of mind that spice up our marriage and sex life.
    It’s a long story, but the trick to it is to seperate emotion from physical pleasure. My hubby says “sex is a game that grown-ups play” and you have to leave it at that.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 14 March, 2013, 12:25

      Hi Elaine — You know I’m really in a place in my life where I judge not. Couples should do what makes them happy as long as no one’s getting hurt. It would be difficult for me to swing bc when I have sex with someone I fall in love with them. Maybe not right away, but it sneaks up on me, then BAM my hormones convince me I’m in love with a one-armed bank robber.

      Reply this comment
  16. Star
    Star 7 May, 2013, 03:02

    I am sometimes astonished at the level of hypocrisy of people, at their attempt to established a fictional moral line based on their own sets of experience, education and societal pressure.

    Does a one-partnered woman from a small town possess better morals than another 50-partnered woman who grew up in a nudist community?

    Does a couple who does not view exclusiveness in sex loves each other less than one who believes otherwise?

    Does a person who has never been in a situation where the chance of a threesome presented itself be considered morally superior to those that has, and partakook in said activity?

    Finally, ask yourself this question. If society wasn’t watching, if your peers (and yourselves) weren’t so quick to judge each other, would you NOT act out your deepest sexual fantasies? Before answering, consider how many of you pretend-prudes sneak away to watch porn when no one’s looking?

    Reply this comment
  17. Grumpy Nasty
    Grumpy Nasty 17 September, 2013, 05:58

    I’m in my late 40’s and my beautiful wife of 15 years is 10 years younger….I have never been more continually dissatisfied with my sex life. Her “wild oats” were sewn just before I met her. Threesomes, foursomes and a very brief stint as a stripper. All this to test the waters and quickly find out that her sexual appetite is not at all that adventurous. I am the opposite. This has naturally led our marriage down some dark roads. I am highly sexual. In overdrive most of the time. It doesn’t help that for some crazy reason women half my age are now suddenly finding me more attractive than ever before. Yes, I’ve strayed. A few times. We’ve talked about it. We’ve been through counseling, separation, reconciliation, organized weekend “couples” retreats and everything else modern couples do to “work” on their marriage. None of this really works. I need more sex…period. Dirty sex. Nasty sex. Wild, sweaty, do ya against the wall sex. I still insist that if she would just screw me with more enthusiasm….and more often, I would be the happiest man in the world!…are you listening married women?! We have come to the conclusion that increasing her libido is as impossible as stifling mine. I love my wife very much but this has always been the white elephant in the room. Historically, a married man with a mistress has only recently fallen out of vogue. I think things worked better this way. Women accepted it and marriages stayed together…..remember?….”for better or worse?”….not “unless you have an affair!” It has been accepted since the beginning of time that most men find sexual monogamy to be a completely unnatural state of being. Perhaps we as a society have at the same time convinced women that their natural sexual state is supposed to be Puritanical. I have in fact noticed in my limited experiences with people of “open” sexual relationships, there actually seems to be a swelling tide of women who are now stepping up and demanding more and better sex with a variety of partners. Lets hope the shoe fits the other foot when I’m 65 and my hot milf wife needs a daily “love tap.”….I want front row seats!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 17 September, 2013, 08:20

      Grump Nasty — where to begin? Thanks for being so candid with your story and I suspect there are a lot of people out there who can relate. The infidelity thing is a tricky one, and so too the mismatched libidos. I guess my real question for you is this … if your wife was as amorous as you are do you think you could be faithful? Sometimes fidelity is simply impossible for certain people (and I include women in this too) regardless of how much sex they’re having with their spouse. In long term relationships that lusty spark comes and goes (so to speak) so there are always going to be stretches of sexual boredom, but if you’re the committed type you can ride those out. Perhaps what you need is a woman who is willing to have an open relationship. I have no statistics on how well those relationships work, but I suspect they do work for some couples. In any case, I wish all the best for you and your wife.

      Reply this comment
  18. Grumpy Nasty
    Grumpy Nasty 18 September, 2013, 05:43

    If my wife were as horny as I seem to be most of the time, I’m sure I would still think of other women and other “lusty” situations but the impulse to act on those desires would be satiated. My needs would be met. When these natural instincts and impulses in a man are stifled or repeatedly repressed they will manifest themselves into all sorts of nasty and aggressive behaviors. This sexually repressed state of being over time becomes a breeding ground for sexual subversiveness and perversions. I know from experience. I really don’t want to cheat. I was always the faithful boyfriend, the committed husband and an honest person. Over the past decade it seems this unfulfilled facet of my life has nearly broken me. As of late I am content to “take care of business” by myself. At least twice a day!!…sometimes more! Am I abnormal?!!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 18 September, 2013, 11:55

      Hi Grumpy Nasty — I don’t think I’m qualified to pronounce whether or not you’re abnormal, but I can say mismatched libidos can certainly make any marriage falter.

      Reply this comment
  19. Climber dude
    Climber dude 28 February, 2015, 03:02

    I have had a few menage a trois. I used to date a woman who like to go out and party with her girlfriends without me. Every once in a while she would come home with one of them and I would be woken up by them wanting to have sex with me!
    I always made sure to say “you’re drunk, go to sleep!” but she was always adamant about wanting to see me have sex with her friends.
    Until the morning….she would wake up furious that I had sex with her friend. I always pointed out that I had objected, strongly, but she insisted. She usually fumed for a day or two, but would forget about it and then a few months later would show up drunk with another of her girlfriends!
    Sometimes I actually did NOT enjoy it. She would bring home friends who I was really not attracted to. Sometimes I would have sex with them just so they would let me go to sleep!
    I enjoyed the experience and feel that it was a positive one overall.

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 28 February, 2015, 20:16

      Hey Climber Dude — There are a lot of men who probably would have liked to have been in your shoes (although I suspect you weren’t wearing any at the time), but when I read your comment I sort of perceived you felt a bit used by your ex on more than one occasion. The automatic assumption (on my part) is that men are supposed to feel proud of these types of experiences, but I suspect, much like women, no one wants to feel used. Sex is such a complex arena for both men and women, and we often don’t understand how we feel until a very long time later.

      Reply this comment
  20. T Bone
    T Bone 9 April, 2015, 09:43

    Go for it girl, whatever floats your boat…

    Reply this comment
  21. T Bone
    T Bone 9 April, 2015, 09:45

    p.s. every woman is beautiful in my mind 🙂

    Reply this comment
  22. T Bone
    T Bone 9 April, 2015, 09:55

    Sorry for being so disguised, this is a subject that really interests me. I’d love to be in a menage a trois.

    Reply this comment
  23. T Bone
    T Bone 9 April, 2015, 09:59

    And I’d bet that you’re not a tart, provacateur, but that you are a real person!

    Reply this comment

Write a Comment