Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 813–822 | Cite as

Heterosexual Young Adults’ Interest, Attitudes, and Experiences Related to Mixed-Gender, Multi-Person Sex

  • Ashley E. ThompsonEmail author
  • E. Sandra Byers
Original Paper


There has been little research on threesomes, a form of multi-person sex that involves sexual activity with two other people simultaneously. Therefore, we examined young adults’ attitudes toward, interest in, and experiences with one form of threesome, mixed-gender threesomes (MGTs), defined as sexual activity involving three people where at least one member of each gender is present. Participants were 274 (202 women, 72 men) heterosexual young adults who completed an online survey. Overall, 13 % of participants (24 % of men and 8 % of women) reported experience and 64 % reported some interest in engaging in an MGT. However, the overall level of interest was quite low and varied according to contextual variables (i.e., what other persons were involved). Men’s interest remained unaffected by third person status as long as the MGT involved familiar others (friends and acquaintances) rather than strangers, whereas women preferred familiar others only for MGTs with which they were the third person, not for those involving a romantic partner. Participants also reported fairly neutral attitudes toward MGTs. Compared to the women, the men reported significantly more positive attitudes and greater interest, and were more likely to report MGT experience. In addition, attitudes, interest, and experience were all positively associated with each other. Taken together, these results suggest that young people are not judgmental about others engaging in MGTs but are not highly motivated to do so themselves. Implications for researchers and sexual health educators are discussed.


Multi-person sex Threesomes Sexual attitudes Sexual interests Sexual experience 



We are grateful for the help of David Howland and Jessica Hersey through the entire research process.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin OshkoshOshkoshUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada

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