Dusan Petkovic/Shutterstock
Source: Dusan Petkovic/Shutterstock

Sexual permissiveness, new sexual attitudes, and nontraditional norms are exploding among adolescents and young adults — at least, that is our adult assumption. But is it actually the case? Will today’s youth hook up with anyone in any combination, doing any sorts of things? What about mixed-gender, multi-person sexual encounters?

Thompson and Byers recently explored these questions with nearly 300 Canadian university heterosexual students. (Note that their results do not necessarily apply to non-heterosexuals.)  Among their findings regarding mixed-gender threesomes (MGTs) are the following, for straight women and men:

1. As a group, young adults were generally neutral about engaging in MGT-type sexual encounters, with a wide range of responses from "not at all open" to "very open."

2. Overall, young men were more positive about, and more willing to engage in, a threesome than were young women.

3. The majority were interested in an MGT encounter, but only mildly so, leaving it to someone else to initiate such activities.

4. Nearly a quarter of men and almost a tenth of women have had a threesome experience.

5. Possibilities for a threesome were more likely to be driven (suggested) by men than by women.

6. Young men were far more interested in a threesome if it involved himself with two women rather than himself with a woman and another man. This is consistent with the eroticization of viewing two women having sex with each other or with receiving pleasure from two women at the same time. Or it may indicate that straight men are quite uncomfortable with having sex with a woman in the presence of another man, with "sharing" a woman with another man, or with being in the presence of a naked man with an erection.

7. Women were not so demanding. Any combination was okay in a threesome, not just having sex with two men.

8. Both women and men preferred MGTs with known individuals rather than strangers.

9. Women preferred not to be involved in MGTs with their romantic partner.

The authors concluded: “Together, these results suggest that young people are not judgmental about others engaging in MGTs but also are not highly motivated to do so themselves.” Regarding sex differences, they stated that their findings are “consistent with the prescribed gender and sexual scripts for men and women as well as with research that has shown that, compared to women, men have less traditional attitudes toward sexuality and report a stronger desire for and more experience with non-traditional sexual behaviors, including casual sex.”

CC-BY-SA-2.5,2.0,1.0Self-published work
Source: CC-BY-SA-2.5,2.0,1.0Self-published work

These findings appear reasonable to me, though I wonder about non-heterosexual attitudes and behaviors. I suspect the following might be true:

1. Mostly straight and mostly gay men and women are less averse to engaging in an MGT in general, including MGTs composed of a member of their non-preferred sex (e.g., a woman and a man for a mostly straight woman).

2. Because of their outsider status, lesbians and gay men are more willing to engage in and have positive attitudes and reactions toward MGTs.

3. Bisexual individuals are most positive toward MGTs, regardless of the sexual composition of the threesome.

References

Thompson, A. E., & Byers, E. S. (2017). Heterosexual young adults’ interest, attitudes, and experiences related to mixed-gender, multi-person sex. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 46, 813-822. doi: 10.1007/s10508-016-0699-1