Safer Threesomes

How to Have a Safer Menage a Trois

Three women. Hero Images/Getty Images

Of all the questions I've been asked, "How do I have safe sex during a threesome?" may be one of my favorites. There's nothing wrong with being a bit sexually adventurous if you're sensible about it.

It always excites me when people want to combine a healthy, thrilling sex life with safe sex. Having a threesome is riskier than sex in a mutually monogamous, long-term, committed relationship where both people have been tested.

However, it's not actually significantly more dangerous than the serially monogamous relationships in which many people engage in unprotected sex.

The main concerns when trying to make a threesome safer are the same as when trying to make any sexual relationship safer. You need to talk about testing histories and safe sex in advance, so that you can get a good handle on the relative levels of risk associated with various sexual activities. Then, once that's finished, you can directly negotiate what activities everyone is interested in exploring, and with whom.

Here are some of the practical considerations you need think about when trying to have a safer threesome:

  1. Everyone should practice safe sex, even if two of the people are "fluid-bonded"
    There is a risk of exposing the third partner to bodily fluids when the two fluid-bonded partners engage in unprotected sexual acts. Therefore, it's a good idea for everyone to use barriers for all sexual activities. Furthermore, insisting on safer sex for everyone helps everyone remain conscientious. It reduces the risk of someone forgetting to put on a condom when it's needed. It also reminds you to use new protection when switching sex partners. 
  1. New act, new barrier - no exceptions
    Just as if you're having sex with one partner, if you're having a threesome, every time you switch sexual acts you need to use a new barrier. That means if you're going from intercourse to fellatio, or vice versa, you change condoms. You also need to change condoms if you move from penetrating one partner to penetrating another. You need to pick up a new dental dam when performing oral sex on someone new. In the heat of the moment, it can be easy to forget that you're not just using barriers to protect yourself. You're also using them to protect the people you're sleeping with. You don't want to cross-contaminate your partners with each other's fluids any more than you want to expose yourself.
  1. Consider assigning a different color condom/glove/dam for use on each person involved.
    Sometimes it's hard to keep track of who has been doing what to whom. Picking up colored safer sex supplies can help. For example, use purple gloves/condoms for sexual contact with Partner A, black gloves/condoms for sexual contact with Partner B and white gloves/condoms  for sexual contact with Partner C. Then there's less of a risk of cross contamination. Plus, it may be hard to keep track of which hands, tongues and other body parts are touching you in the heat of the moment. But you can feel safer when they're all covered in the same color latex (or nitrile).

Of course, sexually transmitted diseases are not the only thing that can derail a threeway. If you're part of a couple and are considering inviting a third person into your bed, it's important to make certain that the threesome is something you both want. Furthermore, you should discuss your physical and emotional limits before the third person becomes involved.

You should also make a plan for how you'll handle things if one of you becomes overwhelmed or upset and needs the experience to stop.Experimenting with threesomes to spice up your relationship is fine. However, you don't want to end up doing something that ruins it instead.

Finally, remember that the "special guest" is a person, too. They need to be treated with respect. It's important to ask them about, and listen to, their limits as well. As with any other sexual experience, everyone needs to feel safe and comfortable enough to say no as well as yes.

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