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.
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.