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illustration by Édouard-Henri Avril.
Kama Sutra illustration

Group sex is sexual behaviour involving more than three participants at the same time. The main focus of this page is group sex among humans, however group sex also occurs in other animal species - e.g. bighorn sheep and bonobos.

Any and all sexual behaviour performed by at least four people can be a part of group sex, as well as a number of behaviors only possible with more than two people. Group sex involving one participant being penetrated by multiple people is sometimes termed a gang bang. In modern parlance an orgy may also refer to an event involving group sex.

The difference between group sex and an orgy is that in group sex there is collective sexual activity, that may be added onto; but if there is more than one focal point of sexual activity, group sex becomes an orgy. In one notable exception, some regard a case with two men and three women with the three foci of activity being the first man and one of the women, the second man and another woman and the third woman having sex either with one of the man-woman pairs, the other pair, or with both women, or, most commonly, rapidly cycling through all three of them, to be a special case which is not an orgy but rather a 3-on-2, cyclic ménage-à-trois, horseshoe orgy[citation needed], or other terms which vary widely with locale and group. If there were activity between the two men as well, such an arrangement would simply be an orgy, or perhaps a co-ed circle jerk.

Group sex can occur amongst people of all sexual orientations and genders.


Group sex in contemporary culture

While group sex activity has been practiced in many cultures across the world, it wasn't until the 1960s that advocates of group sex first brought recreational (as opposed to purely ritual) group sex into the public consciousness of the Western world.[citation needed] Groups such as the Sexual Freedom League[citation needed] introduced many people to large scale, frequently polyamorous group sex. As the experiments and bohemian lifestyles of the 1960s became absorbed by the mainstream, group sex in a variety of forms became tremendously popular in the United States and Europe in the 1970s.[citation needed]

Types of group sex

Group sex may involve three or more people of any gender or sexual orientation. The events themselves may be characterized by sex; for example, a straight group sex session would involve only heterosexual sex. Some venues for group sex may be intended for a particular group or groups of people. Different types of group sex may or may not involve switching partners. Some sex clubs, for example, require entrants to come in pairs and do not typically involve actual physical contact between people in different pairs. Group sex may involve a specific set of sexual activities; for example, some involve BDSM, while "vanilla" group sex does not.

In many cultures, public intercourse is considered taboo and is illegal (see indecent exposure); many groups also frown upon sex that is not monogamous. Group sex often takes place in private or clandestine locations, including homes, hotel rooms, unpopulated areas, or private clubs. Sex clubs are often open to members only, while less formal locations (truck stops, wooded areas) may be semi-secret. Group sex also sometimes takes place in nightclubs, bathhouses, massage parlors, or bars, although such places are sometimes subject to legal repercussions. Group sex may be a part of other social activities such as parties, although some venues such as gay bathhouses tend to eschew talking.

The possibility for awkwardness among friends, significant others, or strangers at group sex is often cited as a problem with them, particularly in relatively spontaneous incidents of group sex such as drunken group sex among friends. Among heterosexuals, the relative availability of men and women is also a concern for participants, as social stigma or other factors structures the extent to which many men or women feel comfortable being promiscuous.


Fantasies of group sex are extremely common among both men and women. In major studies, between 54%-88% of people fantasize about watching others have sex, 40%-42% fantasize about being watched by others, and between 39%-72% fantasize about bondage.[1] A 1968 report in Cosmopolitan magazine mentions use of marijuana as sometimes being something which can increase the likelihood of group sex occurring, which the survey estimated as having a prevalence of 6 percent at that time in the United States.[2] Many forms of sexual behavior were reported by Kinsey's subjects, but the official Kinsey Reports web site does not mention threesomes or group sex in the summary of Kinsey's findings.


With the arrival of AIDS, group sex is widely considered a dangerous activity, precipitating crackdowns on venues where it takes place and a shift away from widespread anonymous group sex and towards sex parties among trusted groups of friends. In response to the threat of sexually transmitted infection, some people have begun to organize safer sex parties in order to give people who enjoy group sex a risk-reduced way to participate in it. Such events typically do not involve intercourse or sex without barrier methods such as condoms, focusing on group masturbation, protected oral sex, the use of sex toys, or other activities involving minimal risk of STD transmission. Many venues where group sex often take place provide condoms, dental dams, latex gloves, lubricant, or other tools for safer sex to participants. However, sex involving potential fluid exchange is considered a major risk factor for HIV or other diseases.

Consent can also be an issue for participants of group sex, because individual participants may not want to perform certain acts (for example they may only want non-penetrative sex) and it can be difficult to establish clearly defined boundaries before group sex begins. Most organized forms of group sex impose restrictions or use customs to ensure that all sex involved is consensual; for example, some groups have specific non-verbal cues (eye contact, hand gestures) used to communicate consent or lack thereof. Furthermore, alcohol and other drugs may be seen as risk factors for unwanted sexual contact during group sex. While the term “orgy” is used to refer to consensual group sex, it (and other terms such as "gangbang" or "pulling a train") can also be used to refer to sexual assault committed by a group.

Sexual positions and combinations possible only in group sex

Initialism codes

Peter Fendi portrayed group sex in lithography, c. 1834

A system of initialisms has evolved to describe the variety of group sex arrangements. These codes can appear in erotic literature and film descriptions, member profiles in online communities, and personal ads. These codes consist of arrangements of the letters M (for male) and F (for female). Adjacent letters are sometimes used to signify sexual contact between the participants represented by those letters, though this does not necessarily mean there is no contact between the other participants. For example, MMF would signify a ménage à trois of two men and one woman in which the center male has sexual contact with the other male and the female, and in which it is not specified whether there is contact between the female and the other male. MFMF (situation pictured in photo to right), on the other hand, implies no same-sex contact.

Variations on this system exist that use case to convey more information. Within the BDSM and D/s subcultures, upper and lower case letters can signify dominant (or top) and submissive (or bottom).

Daisy chain

A daisy chain refers to sexual relations among three or more people, with each person both performing and receiving oral sex simultaneously.[3] Some sources consider only groups of five or more people to be a daisy chain.[4]

Self-evidently, for a closed daisy chain to be entirely heterosexual there must be an even number of participants with equal numbers of males and females. An odd number of participants would result in two people having to connect "both ways" to complete the chain.[5][6]

Thus, in an “erotic foursome or partie-carrée”, “two couples ... form a chain or Maltese cross carefully alternating man and woman”.[7]

"The matter of ... erotic or spintrian chains ("daisy-chains")"[8], i.e, "of "spintries" or erotic human chains, ... has been taken to ... permutational development in the appendix of postures to the well-known Manual of Classical Erotology (1824) of the Fichtean philosopher, Friedrich Karl Forberg, and in a Swedish work, Ju fler vi är tillsammans (“The More the Merrier”), by a schoolteacher, Ragnar Aaslund, published in 1966 and intended frankly as a manual of group-sex."[9][10][11]

A "table" threesome

See also



  1. ^ Howell, Teresa M.; Cooper, Barry S.; Williams, Kevin M.; Spetch, Ashley; Yuille, John C.. "The Association Between Sexual Fantasies, Behaviors and Pornography in Undergraduates". Poster presented at the 112th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ A dictionary of slang: D
  4. ^ The Swinging Life - Vocabulary
  5. ^ ""Are teen sex antics tall tales?"". BBC News. 28 April 2005. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  6. ^ Nigel Hawkes and Sam Lister (28 April 2005). ""Teenage ‘daisy chain’ sex alert"". London: The Times.,,2-1588791,00.html. Retrieved 2006-12-18. 
  7. ^ Legman 1969, p. 307
  8. ^ Legman 1969, p. 304
  9. ^ Legman 1969, p. 305
  10. ^ Bette Talvacchia, "Taking positions: on the erotic in Renaissance culture", Princeton University Press, 2001, ISBN 0691086834, p.246
  11. ^ Alastair J. L. Blanshard, "Sex: Vice and Love from Antiquity to Modernity", Volume 5 of Classical Receptions, John Wiley and Sons, 2010, ISBN 1405122919, p.56


External links

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 18, 2010

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