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Janis Ian Advocate Cover

Ménage à Blah

Originally published in The Advocate
Issue #661-662, July 1994

Leroy hates women. He particularly hates lesbians, since one ran off with his wife. The fact that they were all sleeping together in a ménage à trois at the time doesn't affect his feelings. Nor does he mention it to friends.

My former manager, the legendary Simon "Scumbag" Renshaw, maintains that sex with two women at once is the best sex of all. When I asked why he doesn't worry about them running off together, he was shocked. "I would never invite a lesbian to participate!" he assured me.

My former husband wanted ménage à trois with me. He wanted it so desperately that it became a running joke. He used every rationale in the book - it would "free me", allow me to "get in touch with my true nature", allow us to "explore our larger selves". After two years of this I finally said "Okay, let's sleep with a woman this weekend, the three of us together. And then next weekend we can sleep with a man."

"Never!" he thundered. "I ain't no faggot!"

When you ask a straight man what he thinks of lesbians, he usually perks up (literally and figuratively) and says something like "Oh God, I love lesbians; two women in bed together is my favorite fantasy". Magazine covers featuring two women together routinely outsell the "heterosexual" covers. Porn magazines are devoted to the subject; in fact, many of them are only about that subject.

What's the deal here? Its enough to make me think that straight mens' sex lives are incredibly boring. "How inventive of you," I want to say, "to put yourself into a situation where twice as many people don't need you there in order to have a good time".

My own first experience with a woman was in my teens during a ménage à trois. It was the 60's, everyone was trying everything. For me, barely sexual and late bloomer at that, it seemed the safest way to find out if I could be turned on by a woman with no one else noticing. As we all moved on to other relationships, I never bothered hiding what I'd tried. Yet every male partner I had after that wanted a ménage à trois the moment they discovered I'd slept with another women. For a long time I considered it a failure on my part, as though I were lacking whatever it took to keep someone's attentions focused on me alone. But in the last ten years I've realised it's nothing personal. It is astounding how many women have been pressured by male partners into three-way-splits, whether they want it or not.

For many straight women, a ménage is the only way to have sex with a woman, and not violate society's dictates - or the little voice inside that keeps saying "Uh-oh, you must be queer now". But why would a man want to sleep with two women at once?

My male friends propose many theories (once they stop panting). The most interesting theory is that men are so anxiety-ridden about their performance that watching two women saves them from the need to actively participate, or perhaps to actively fail to participate. That's fine, except that most men do want to participate. In fact, many don't want "their" woman to reach orgasm until they are inside her. As though penetration by The Pumping Piston/Friendly Freddy/Bobo And The Twins alone could cause such a thoroughly satisfying explosion.

My female friends are considerably less generous: "I hate it; someone's foot always ends up in my mouth." "Why would I want a man there when I can just eat a pickle?" And considerably sadder: "I'm not enough for him, I never was". "He doesn't want me anymore, he's just too busy/cheap/arrogant to get a divorce".

Personally, I believe that ménage à trois are the straight male's equivalent of a glory hole: a convenient way to avoid all intimacy with a new partner, while safely remaining in the old relationship. Ménages risk nothing for the male participant, while hiding everything. If he's got performance anxiety, he can pass himself off as generous by allowing "his girls" to get it on without him. If he wants out of the primary relationship, he can just tell friends that his ex turned into a "damn lesbian", and receive sympathy all around. And if he himself is inexperienced as a sexual partner, or a lousy lover to begin with, he can learn a lot simply by observation.

No risk.

There is an apocryphal story making the rounds. A couple (Husband and Wife) engage in a torrid affair with a young woman (Friend). One night Husband and Friend return home from an errand and find a note on the pillow from Wife that reads "I'm sorry. I have to leave. I cannot share you any longer". Touched, the Husband murmurs "I guess we'll have to stop if it's hurting her this much. She really loves me." To which Friend acidly replies, "What makes you think the note's for you?"

Or, as Mr. Lesbian says, "Honey, it's like a banana split. Three scoops, all the syrup you can eat, and when you're done you just want to throw up." And that about sums it up.

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