Good Things Come in Threes: Young Adults’ Experiences and Interests related to Multi-Person Sexual Behavior


The topic of group sex is not uncommon among discussions involving university students, yet fairly little is known about young people’s experiences with and interest in group sex. Moreover, with some recent evidence suggesting that today’s youth are more sexually permissive than past generations, particularly with regard to casual sex, it is more important than ever to understand all aspects of young people’s sex lives, including experiences with and interest in group sex.

Consequently, a few students and I decided to develop a study designed to address the dearth of research related to people’s experiences with group sex. As a starting point, we examined heterosexual university students’ experiences with and interest in mixed-gender threesomes (MGTs; sexual activity involving three people where at least one member of each gender is present). In particular, we were interested in assessing young men’s and women’s self-reported interest in and experience with MGTs and the influence of contextual features on their interest in MGT.


Our results suggest that about 12% of university students have experienced a MGT at some point in their lives, with more men reporting experience with MGTs as compared to women. Interestingly, men and women did not differ in their self-reported experience with MGTs involving two men, but they did differ in their experience with MGTs involving two women. It appears as though young men report MORE experience with sexual activity involving two women simultaneously than two men simultaneously, SURPRISE SURPRISE! Now, how can this be? Is it that a handful of women are running around having MGTs with tons of men? Or is it, perhaps, that men have a tendency to over-report their number of sexual partners, whereas women tend to under-report? Although we can’t be sure, previous research into reports of sexual behavior suggest that men have a tendency to over-report their sexual history, whereas women under-report (see related article here).

Despite the relatively low number of young people indicating experience with MGTs, more than half  of participants were interested, to some extent.Again, a larger percentage of men reported interest in MGTs as compared to women. Moreover, participants’ level of interest varied based on several contextual features. In particular, MGTs involving a romantic partner were rated as more desirable than those in which the participant would be the third person. Furthermore, MGTs involving a friend were more desirable than those involving a casual acquaintance or a stranger.

In sum, these data illustrate that interest in MGTs, but not experience, appears to be widespread among young adults. This suggests that young people may not consider MGTs to be an unconventional and/or stigmatized sexual behavior. Moreover, interest in MGTs appears to be influenced by contextual features (i.e., presence of romantic partner and relationship with third person) and that perhaps people may be more inclined to participate given the ideal circumstances.

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