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Three’s Company

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Gossip Girl’s recent three-way raised the ire of the Parents Television Council, who called the scene “reckless and irresponsible.” The three-way (as distinct from the ménage à trois, technically only a living situation), has historically been the domain of artists and rebels, and is frequently portrayed by Hollywood.

A Short History of Three-Ways
As related by Barbara Foster, Michael Foster, and Letha Hadady (who have themselves lived as a threesome since 1981) in their book, Three in Love.

1742: Casanova loses his virginity, at the age of 17, to two sisters.

1882: Friedrich Nietzsche, Paul Ree, and Lou Andreas-Salome live together in Rome.

1926: “Ernvest [Hemingway] was sleeping with [wife] Hadley and making love to Pauline in [Antibes’] secluded coves; the three would eat breakfast in bed together.”

1930: Bonnie and Clyde recruit 17-year-old William Jones to assist in robberies and, allegedly, to service both of them sexually.

1940s: According to a biographer, sculptor Alberto Giacometti “sometimes liked a third person present at moments of physical intimacy.”

1952: Neal Cassady tries to persuade his wife Carolyn and Jack Kerouac to try “a three- way ball.” Kerouac is unable to perform.

Sometime between 1960 and 1963: “A brief, most unusual threesome took place during the painting of [Salvador Dalí’s] Venus Awaiting a Phone Call, whose model was Ultra Violet, an actress from Andy Warhol’s Factory. The third was a lobster.”


So How Common Are Three-Ways in Real Life?
Number of NYC Craigslist “Casual Encounters” threesome ads by gender breakdown during a recent seven-day period.




As Seen in the Movies and on TV

1994: Threesome. Stephen Baldwin, Lara Flynn Boyle, Josh Charles.
Results in: embarrassment, rueful laughter.

1998: Wild Things. Neve Campbell, Matt Dillon, Denise Richards.
Results in: murder, extortion.

1998 : Sex and the City. Kristin Davis, Sherri Alexander, Joseph Murphy.
Results in: a Charlotte-free twosome.

2001 : Y Tu Mamá También. Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna, Maribel Verdú.
Results in: awkwardness, later wistfulness.

2009: Watchmen. Malin Akerman and two versions of Billy Crudup’s character.
Results in: narrow aversion of apocalypse (indirectly).

*Oddly does not contain a threesome: 1997’s Two Girls and a Guy


According to the Experts:
“We just don’t have good data” on how many Americans have tried threesomes, says Jennifer Bass of the Kinsey Institute in Indiana. Kinsey may have made its name with a broad survey of sexual practices, but no such study has been attempted recently; it’s difficult to compile enough data on the “fringe” activity. But! In an 2004 ABC Primetime Live poll, 14 percent of respondents reported having had a threesome.

Have good intel? Send tips to intel@nymag.com.


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