Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

Three can be my magic number
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The Independent Online

What can I say? I was single and, at the time, the choice between sexual ecstasy and infomercials seemed an easy one. The experience was fun and unforgettable; I relished the sensation of being pleasured by more than one person, and because there was no unrequited love on anyone's part, we all remained friends.

But even though threesomes had been a fantasy of mine for years, I was surprised to find that the reality was a bit anticlimactic. There were moments when, unsure of where to focus my attention, I caught myself checking out my friend's gorgeous mint-green satin Christian Louboutin pumps. And part of me couldn't help comparing my non-model slim thighs with hers - not to mention my scuffed Nine Wests - and feeling a bit inadequate.

A lot of my friends have at least flirted with the idea of a threesome. "Ménages à trois are to the Noughties what anal sex was to the Nineties," says Victoria. "Everyone seems to have had some type of experience, or at least admits to being curious."

Some go as far as to say that monogamy is not natural or satisfying, and that they get turned on watching their partners being pleasured by someone else. "I had one with an ex-girlfriend, but we talked through every possible scenario first and agreed to the 'rules', like whether we were going to have intercourse or just oral sex. Because we both wanted it, it actually brought us closer," says my friend John.

Which brings me to my own first rule of three-ways: I'm always the guest star, never the main attraction. Because, despite my liberal attitudes toward everyone else's sex lives, paradoxically, I'm far too jealous to ever share a serious boyfriend. Besides, co-ordination has never been my strong point - my ballet teacher compared me to "a bull in a china shop". So, it's no surprise that when performance anxiety sets in during a multiple-partner encounter, part of me feels like the cruise-ship director walking around with a clipboard, saying, "Is everyone OK for penis over here? Anyone need more oral?".

Those who share a bed in the context of a relationship also run the risk of hurt feelings if something goes wrong, as my friend recently discovered. "I went along with my ex-girlfriend, who wanted to have a threesome with a male friend of mine, but ended up feeling ignored," he says. "There was this awkward few minutes when they were staring into each others' eyes, and it felt like I was watching a wildlife documentary." He pauses. "So I 'accidentally' pushed him off the bed. We haven't spoken since."

"Bringing someone else into bed would destroy the intimacy," says my new crush (the Irish businessman). So, when he asks if I've ever had a threesome, I prevaricate, saying that, for me, the hottest sex has always been with someone who knows my body inside and out, literally and figuratively. But he does accept my offer to talk dirty about a "fictional" scenario. "Wow, you have a vivid imagination!" he says. Well, what he doesn't know won't hurt him...