Let’s Get It On: Trains vs. Threesomes

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In an earlier blog I stated that occasionally I see something repeated enough times that I feel inclined to write about it here. This is one of those topics. Strong sexual themes below: you’ve been warned. (Who am I kidding. I know you’re only going to read further now, you horndogs.)

Three people are having sex. Most people would call this a threesome. It makes sense, right? Three people. Having sex. It’s a threesome. Now, from my perspective, threesomes look like this:

One man + two women = a threesome

One woman + two men = a threesome

Three women = a threesome

Three men = a threesome

Because….three. Threesome. But there are certain parties who insist that what we call a threesome depends on the genitalia those three parties possess. From their perspective, it looks like this:

One man and two women = a threesome

One woman and two men = a train

Before you ask, I don’t know what happened to the three men and three women scenarios. Lost in the Land of Heteronormativity, perhaps. The people that hold this latter understanding of group sex don’t ever discuss what same-sex sex looks like. But that’s another discussion. For now let’s focus on threesomes vs. trains.

For context, a train has always been defined as one woman and a large group of men. The imagery of the term is crass, of course: a long “train” of men lines up and has sex with the woman one after the other. Historically, a woman who participates in a train is viewed, discussed, and treated as an object of the highest contempt. A woman who participates in a train, according to men and women who subscribe to misogynistic standards of sexuality, is not a woman but a whore, deserving of any and every abuse, both verbal and physical. The men who participate in trains, of course, are invisible in this interaction. No shame falls on their shoulders. The word “train” is heavy with a history of sexist, shaming connotation.

So there’s that. Now we get to the real root of this discussion: why those (both men and women) who insist that a sexual encounter consisting of one man and two women is a threesome, yet a sexual encounter consisting of one woman and two men is a train, are deeply immersed in misogyny.

Basic Sexism

In its simplest form of analysis, the abovementioned understanding of threesomes puts on display its basic sexism. A man engaging in sex with two women at the same time has traditionally been given a badge of honor, a societal backslap, an historical high-five. He is perceived as sexually potent, a master of seduction with an endless supply of stamina. It is commonplace in Hollywood films for the macho male star to rise from his bed while the camera catches sight of not one, but two women in his bed (see Star Trek: Into Darkness and Troy for two immediate examples).

Women, however, are given no such congratulations. Female sexuality remains a force worthy of fear in our society—why else was American Pie, a story about teenage boys on a quest to lose their virginities, given an R rating by the MPAA but, Coming Soon, a similar story but with female stars, originally slapped with an NC-17 rating? The idea of a woman having the appetite not only to enjoy sex, but to enjoy sex with two simultaneous partners is not worthy of awe and admiration, but rather humiliation and degradation.

It is misogynistic to imply that a man enjoying a threesome with two women is a mark of status, but the reverse is a mark of shame. Behavior (whether sexual or merely social) being rewarded when committed by a man and disgraced when committed by a woman (and vice versa) is one of the most basic structures of sexism in our society. Changing the vocabulary we use to describe a threesome when it involves two men and a woman, subbing in “train,” with all its “slutty” implications and layers of shame to describe an act regularly applauded when committed by men, is sexist. And that’s that.

The Doer and the Done

The other regularly-spouted bit of nonsense I hear that defends “train” being used to describe a one-woman-with-two-men threesome is this (and I’ll try to make it comprehensible, as it rarely is when spouted by the people this blog criticizes): “A threesome is when all three people are interacting. Two women and a man are all touching/pleasuring each other. With two men and a woman, only the men are touching the woman. They’re not touching each other. So it’s a train. They’re doing her.”

This is my face right now.

1)   Your assumption that two men are not touching each other during a threesome with a woman is heteronormative. In short, how the fuck do you know?

2)   Wait…are you saying it’s bad for two men involved in a threesome with a woman to touch each other? Goodbye.

3)   If two men and a woman are engaging in a threesome, what do you think is happening exactly? One man might be having sex with her vaginally/anally while the other is kissing her, receiving oral sex from her, etc. ….I’m still not understanding how this is not a threesome?

In short, the people who subscribe to these kinds of notions reveal themselves for what they are: fragile minds bogged down in misogynist thinking who literally cannot imagine an encounter in which a woman has sexual agency free from shame. In the minds of these people, a woman does not DO during sex, but is done. Men are DOING her, and she is being DONE. Even when she is performing oral sex, she is not doing, but having something done to her. This line of reasoning is a little rapey, if you think about it.

If sex is consensual, and it damn well better be, then a woman is fully capable of DOING. Two men is her prerogative. So is three. So is four. Know why? Because she can do what the hell she wants with her vagina to as many people as she wants. A threesome does not become a train merely because only one of the three is female.

Your sexist notion of female sexual behavior does not get to rename an act simply because of a woman’s participation in it. That’s like calling women’s basketball pussyball. It’s basketball. Its name doesn’t change simply because the people on the court are people who you believe should be shamed for their bodies and actions. Basketball. Threesomes. Call it what it is and keep your sexist little semantics to yourself.

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17 thoughts on “Let’s Get It On: Trains vs. Threesomes

  1. Thank you, Olivia, for another solid post.
    I remember being in college and facing this issue. I had a female friend who was pretty open about herself enjoying sex, and several other of our classmates (we were all taking Human Sexual Behavior) would ask her different questions than they would ask the guys who were having and enjoying sex. One of the people who was the worst in this double standard was the class professor, a PhD in psychology, no less!
    She and I talked it over later because I brought it up, and she said this was just how it was for girls/women. If she had said she loved playing baseball, or rock climbing, nobody would have cared. But sex? She couldn’t even talk to others about the topic, and appreciated the time I took.
    I’ve tried to be as close to a “feminist” as a man can get ever since then. Hopefully I’m doing all right, because it is NOT all right that this is happening. And this is directly tied in with women not having equal rights under the law (Equal Rights Amendment) and getting less pay than a man for doing the same job. It makes me sick, and I hurt for my daughter who will have to go into the world and face this.
    Thanks again.

    • oliviaacole says:

      Thanks for reading. I always appreciate your comments. You bring up a good point about your college friend and baseball. Men so often treat sex as a sport…why should women be any different?

  2. Killa Reggae says:

    a girl getting plowed from behind while she suck on dick, then getting plowed behing by the other.. is a train… train or threesome its just a word shes a fucking hoe and nobody cares… stop trying to find solace in all the shit you did in college… u got trained nobody cares….

    • oliviaacole says:

      Somebody’s been watching a little too much porn. Excuse yourself from the class, young man.

    • Alison Loris says:

      Oh, Mister Reggae, sounds like you got a whole lotta growing up to do. So, let’s see, a man and two women: the man.got his dick trapped inside some woman, while another woman is sitting on his face squashing his mouth into her parts… that must be a train too, because in your worldview, sex is not something people do together, it’s something one person imposes on another. Sounds like the only kind of sex you understand is rape.

    • Mr. Reggae,
      You were able to use the word “solace” correctly in a sentence, but you don’t know where the shift key is or how to use punctuation properly.
      Grammar aside, if you appreciate reggae, you need to rethink your above statement. Bob Marley would have taken issue with your aggressive, judgmental stance. And stop making assumptions about what Olivia did in college. You weren’t there, you don’t know.
      One Love, right? Or don’t you roll that way?

  3. Alison Loris says:

    Olivia, another brilliant one. Love the eye-roll – I feel that way a lot, especially when men start slapping definitions on women’s sexuality.

  4. AMAZING POST! This is so true.
    It’s really interesting that a lot of people think that if theres a threesome with one guy and two girls, that he is the center of attention. This is not always the case, and was not the case with mine lol!

  5. akatito says:

    I truly understand your point but there is one major flaw to your arguement. You are trying to ascribe equal value to things that aren’t sociological, psychological or biologically the same. You are saying 2a + 1b = 1a + 2b which isn’t necessarily so. Men and women are different in obvious and less obvious ways and those differences should be accounted for. That being said, those who resort to name calling and harsh judgements usually have their own repressed depravities which they battle through projection. I guess what I’m saying is a “train” and a “threesome” just aren’t the same.

    • Alison Loris says:

      Akatito: yes, men and women have differences — but the differences are not just between genders; there are differences between individual men, between individual women. The terminology ‘train’ carries a strong implication that the women involved are whores or sluts, and to a large extent powerless; that all the power belongs to the man. Unless you agree that every threesome involving one man and two women can be truthfully described this way, then your point makes no sense.

      Bit I’m guessing maybe that IS how you think, because your second sentence makes it clear that you do not believe women and men have equal VALUE.

  6. I LOVED this!
    As a woman who blogs about her sexual experiences this is such an amazing piece to read. If you don’t mind, I’d like to post a link to it on my blog. You win the interwebs!

  7. So totally true and hilarious. I always thought that in the mind of an Alpha male, 2 men 1 woman threesomes could be interpreted as “gay” if the men who were participating together actually acknowledge each other. They simply refuse to see themselves as the “strawberry/ho” but the women who paticipate in these things are usually very sexually aware and can wield that power like He-Man wields the Sword of Grayskull!!!

  8. Male model says:

    Sexism like may be related to your whereabouts in the world. In my place I don’t think it’s uncommon to view all these constellations as threesomes, not matter the gender representation.

    Personally I enjoy mmf threesomes with my girlfriend, to us that’s the most natural constellations as women have more sexual capacity than men.

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