The Nature of Explanation in Sexology and
the Riddle of Triolism
(or Troilism) is a sexual variance in which, ordinarily three people participate
in a series of sexual practices." (McCary, 1978, p.484). According to this
definition, four combinations of participants are possible: all males, all
females, two females and a male, two males and a female. This article deals
with the last possibility, namely, a couple married (or cohabitants) who is
joined by another male.
The first three possibilities are actually a variant of group sex with flexible
roles and mutuality of experience. In the fourth case, however, it is usually
the husband who initiates a situation that enables him to watch and be watched
during sexual activity.
Goethe said that, "in
her abnormalities nature reveals her secrets". Triolism is certainly not an
abnormality in the clinical sense. It is rather a very uncommon sexual variety.
Yet, the investigation of what initially seems to be of marginal significance or
just a curiosity sometimes yields unexpected results. In this case, first of
all a phenomenon considered
by many to be bizarre and defying common sense, is described and
explained. Secondly, a closer examination of Triolism reveals different aspects
of sexuality at large not realized
before. Thirdly, and perhaps the most important, triolism becomes a case
in point in examining the nature of explanation itself in Sexology.
In the next section the
"riddle" will be presented and different explanatory approaches to the
phenomenon will be considered and criticized. After that, some empirical
findings will be presented. Males who participate in triolism usually do not
see it as a problem and do not ask for psychotherapy. Many of them like to
document and share their experiences with other readers of journals such as
Forum -- The International Journal of Human Relations. In fact, content
analysis (Holsti, 1969) was performed on 50 consecutive letters that appeared in
this journal from May1982 until April 1986 (Note 1).
The Riddle of Triolism and its Established
relation is a problematic issue in the life of couples. The reason could be
that we were socialized to believe in "one true love", that "love and sex go
together" and to accept the values
implied in the terms "fidelity" and "adultery". Many of us are prone to
possessiveness and jealousy. Thus, a partner's affair is considered as a threat or an insult. And yet, as
Kinsey (1948) so elegantly pointed out, on the issue of monogamy, socialization
and biology clash. Sex with others is often desired by individuals who either
"cheat" or reach some agreement with their spouses e.g. swinging, short
interludes at conventions, "O.K. as long as spouse knows/doesn't know about it."
Triolism is a completely
different story. Here the husband is not interested in having an extra-marital
relationship, but rather in his wife having one. Being the opposite of
the usual state of affairs described
above, it is seen by many as an absurdity, as an act damaging to self and to the
The most common
explanation of the riddle of triolism is in terms of voyeurism-exhibitionism
(McCary, 1978 p.334). And yet, the differences between these phenomena
and the behavior to be explained here is
more significant than the possible similarities. The typical voyeur (e.g. one
who spies on and watches women living on ground floor getting undressed) and the
typical exhibitionist (e.g. one who opens up his raincoat and exposes himself at
the central bus station) are both considered by the community to be criminals,
or at least as causing an outrageous unwelcome disturbance. The triolist, on
the other hand, gets what he desires with a certain style. He does not abuse or
hurt those who are not
interested. He enters a relationship of give
and take: to his wife he gives variety and adventure without guilt feelings; to
the other male he supplies sex without involvement and to
opportunity to watch and be
Another attempt at
explanation is done by using the concept of latent or disguised homosexuality
(Bieber, 1962) i.e. the husband is symbolically having sex with the other male,
through his own wife or by identifying himself with her. This explanation has to
be rejected for the simple reason that it
is impossible to prove that something
latent does not exist. Thus it can be said that anyone who is not a manifest
homosexual - is a latent one. An explanation that can explain
everything or everybody - does not
surprisingly, invites speculation in terms of the Oedipal Complex. Nowadays
though, vulgar theorizing is not easily accepted. Reframing the triolitic
terms of the Oedipal one is what Ernest Nagel
calls a pseudo explanation (1962, pp.36f) "in which the premise simply
rebaptizes the facts to be explained by coining new names for them.”
On the Nature of Explanation in Sexology
In 1986 we commemorated
the centennial of the publication of Kraft Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis
(l886). In l996, we will celebrate another centennial that of the publication of
Havelock Ellis' Studies in the Psychology of Sex (l896). These two
persons represent two
opposed views on sexuality: One is inhibitory,
judgmental and operates according to a medical disease model. In this view,
behaviors are classified and labeled according to
different lists of symptoms and
"deviations." The other is relativistic, non-judgmental and tries to understand
all sexual manifestations in the context of culture, history and human
nature. Today's students of sexuality,
knowingly or unknowingly, are their descendents.
a behavior as a deviation, or explaining it in terms of assumed pathology, e.g.
exhibitionism, latent homosexuality - is for practical purposes, as if saying:
is a person who is categorically unlike me." This is very unlike, for example,
explaining a genius as a person who is very high on creativity and
intelligence. Such formulation makes the phenomenon only quantitatively
different from other forms of human existence. This is not only a problem of
scientific soundness or human decency: Theories in Sexology as well as in
Psychology are used as tools for therapy and change, and the test of a theory is
in its application.
central part in all psychotherapies is the act of turning the strange and
illogical into the familiar and the reasonable. This theme is treated
extensively by Frank (l973) and
Torey (l973). The established
explanations of triolism fail exactly at this point. Saying that triolistic
behavior is related to exhibitionism-voyeurism creates antipathy rather than
empathy. It does not help us realize
that it is familiar enough or that it makes some sense, and that given certain
circumstances and characteristics, we could imagine ourselves being
interested in such behavior.
which a complex behavior is understood in terms of one cause, and use of
standard explanations, that do not take into account the unique and
specific in every case, are other
drawbacks of the traditional approaches to explanation.
In the next section of
this paper, I will present descriptive information about triolism gleaned from
the sample of letters. I will then offer an alternative to the theories which
were earlier rejected and in their place, propose a model of three
factors. Thus, each individual can be uniquely understood in terms of some of
these factors in addition to others that
are not shared with the rest of the
The Triolistic Encounter, Its Development
51 letters describing
triolistic experiences were identified. 40 (78%) were written by husbands
(including one not formally married), 9 (18%) by wives (one not formally
married) and 2 (4%) were written by males who joined a couple sexually.
Age was mentioned in the
case of 8 males only. It ranged from 25 to 48 years, averaging 38. Age was
mentioned regarding 8 females as well. It ranged from 24 to 50
years, averaging 35. In 6 cases the age
of both husband and wife was given. In all cases, the husband was older; the
difference ranging from 1 to 20 years, averaging 5 years. No
generalizations can be made with such a
narrow data base.
In 17 letters, length of
marriage was mentioned, ranging from 2 to 35 years, averaging 14 years.
The "other" males'
In 46 letters, the
identity or some characteristics of the males who joined the couples were given.
11 (24%) were strangers with whom the couple made contact in a bar or
an x-rated movie house. 10 (22%) were
friends; 5 of the wife and5 of the husband. 9 (19%) were black males - a fact
which was emphasized by the husbands. 5 (11%) were delivery
boys. 5 (11%) were anonymous observers, e.g. highway drivers. 4(9%) were
met through an ad in a swingers' magazine and 2(4%) were family members.
Each letter, when
applicable, was analyzed according to five categories. A summary of the main
findings is given below.
I. Source of
husband's sexual excitement: Most of
the husbands (25=50%) were sexually excited by the other male’s manifestations
of arousal in
response to the triolisitc situation. Some
(11=22%) were aroused by observing their own wife’s arousal. In the rest of the
cases (14=28%) the husband’s arousal was in response to a
combination of the two, or its source was
II. Method of
husband's participation: Direct
observation, occasionally accompanied by photographing (pictures or video), was
the most common way of
participation (28=68%). Some husbands (7=17%)
preferred listening to their wife’s detailed descriptions of sexual affairs,
while others were satisfied fantasizing triolistic scenes
involving their wife and a strange male.
III. Exposure only:
In five cases (10%), the triolistic activity consisted only of exposure of the
wife's nakedness or the couple's oral sexual activity without direct contact of
either of them with the other male or
males. In all these cases, it was clearly the husband's initiative with the
full cooperation of his wife. In most cases, the wife exposed her breasts or
thighs and both husband and wife enjoyed
seeing reactions of arousal in other males, who were strangers to them.
IV. Sexual practices
of wives and other males: Most "wife
and other male" couples had intercourse (17=50%). A second large group (14=41%)
had oral sex, and the smallest group
(3=9%) had foreplay only.
V. Degree of
husband's involvement: 7 (39%)
husbands took part in an oral-genital threesome. 5 (28%) took turns with the
other male, and had sex with
their wives before or after him. 4 (22%) had oral sex with the other
male, while 2 (11%) masturbated while watching.
whose source of excitement was their wife’s arousal preferred threesomes, while
husbands who were excited by the arousal of the other male preferred oral sex
with him or masturbation.
To recapitulate, one can
generalize and say that triolistic husbands are mostly excited by manifestations
of sexual arousal in the other-invited male. Most of them seek opportunity to
observe and a minority seeks situations of exposure. Homosexual experiences are
rare, and oral sex was highly emphasized in all the "wife-other male" scenes.
Only in 35%
of the cases did the husband participate in any
way in the sexual encounter of his wife with the other male.
Four patterns of
Development of Triolism were identified, although in many cases there was a
combination of two patterns or more.
This is the most common pattern to be found in 21 (42%) cases. In the first
stage, triolism is a possibility that fascinates only the husband. In the
stage, characteristically, he starts fantasizing
it, in and out of his sexual relations with his wife. In the third stage, the
husband attempts to enact his fantasy by convincing his wife to
cooperate. At this point, the next
stages are dependent on the wife's reaction. If she agrees to cooperate, they
go to make arrangements and agreements. If not, he does one of the
following: gives up and continues to
fantasize or puts more pressure on his wife, e.g. threatens to leave or uses the
strategy of "gradual approximation."
In this mode, the wife is having or wishing to experience an extra-marital
sexual affair. Incidentally, the husband learns about it either by chance or by
disclosure. Some react immediately with
fascination; ask for vivid details and descriptions and encourage their wife to
continue the affair or have other relations with them observing.
Others react with hurt, obsessively fantasize about the situation, which
in turn, becomes erotically arousing, and leads to a request for repetition.
About a quarter of the sample describes such a development (N=12, 24%).
Triolism develops in a couple whose sex life deteriorated due to boredom and
routine. They start fantasizing another male in bed or take advantage of a
chance meeting with one, create an erotic
atmosphere which leads to a sexual encounter between him and wife. About a
quarter of the sample describes such a pattern (N=13, 26 %(.
Whereas in the premeditated pattern, different psychological motivations can be
easily detected, in the present pattern the husband describes a specific event
that instigated his triolistic interest. Only four men (8%) describe
such learning. One man for example used to watch his friend while copulating in
a brothel; another, who ejaculated
prematurely and performed cunnilingus to
satisfy his wife, felt a strong aversion to his own semen but after a while
found it arousing and wanted contact with other males' semen too.
Triolism's Effects on
The decision itself, to
write and have the journal publish a triolistic experience, might as well be
self selective. It is plausible that those that felt adverse effects - did not
at all. 35 (80%) letters described positive
effects; 9 (20%) described negative ones. One positive effect was in the area
of sexuality: 9 letters described a generally improved sex life;
7 relate to a vigorous and exciting
sexual experience, the couple had after the other male left; 3 mentioned
disinhibition of the wife; 3 describe a sense of excitement, variety and
adventure as a couple; in two cases
triolism enabled the husband to get an erection.
A second positive main
effect was on the system of relationship as a whole. 5 letters described
increased closeness and strengthened friendship between the two ("we
have a really special secret that the two
of us share"). 2 letters related to feelings of kindness and satisfaction ("It
makes me very happy to know she is fulfilled") and two letters
mentioned feelings of pride with the wife's effect on other males.
The negative effects
were: 3 letters described husband's feelings of jealousy, hurt and anger; 3
letters mentioned wife's secret extra-marital affairs besides triolism; 2
husbands reported dependency on triolism
to get an erection, and in one case, the wife got pregnant without knowing who
was the father. Some couples described active coping to
prevent negative effects e.g. "We have an
understanding that if we ever do this again we would look upon it as if we were
playing with a toy." In other couples, a differentiation was
made between love and sex: while the
husband is "making love" the other male is "just having sex."
Another husband says: "I did not share
her love, I share her vagina."
A Three Factors Model of Triolism
Based on content
analysis of letters dealing with triolism, three groups of factors emerge as
crucial to the understanding of the phenomenon. Delineation of these factors
also contributes to the understanding of sexuality at large, as each one
of them is significant by itself and in relation to other issues in addition to
triolism. These factors are:
Sexuality in the framework of marriage.
The role of visuality in human sexuality.
Coping with inhibitions in sexual functioning.
It is not at all
necessary that in any given case of triolism, all these factors will play an
equal part and of course, idiosyncratic factors have to be taken into
well. Thus triolism can be conceived as a result
of a problem solving process in which a person finds a creative combined
solution to the three concerns mentioned before. Following
is a discussion of these factors.
Sexuality in the
Framework of Marriage
The chains of matrimony are so heavy that it takes two to
carry them - sometimes three.
Some dilemmas are
inherent in the institution of marriage and must be confronted by all who enter
it. The way these are dealt with is crucial to the nature of their
relationship and sexuality. Such a dilemma is discussed by Haley (1963):
once a couple is married, they no longer know if they are together because they
so want and choose, or
because they are already married. Another is
mentioned in Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus (1968). In this novel Adrian
Levenkuhn talks about "the domestication of sex."
The relationship between lovers is based
upon strangeness, and once it is proclaimed that "these twain shall be one
flesh" - strangeness ends..
Marriage like any other
human system is prone to power struggles. Husbands and wives fight over "who
will be the boss." Yet, in closed systems (McDonald, 1980) one
can't really win: the other can always
find ways to get back or if worse comes to worse, leave.
Thus, for the married
person, the task at hand is a complicated balancing act among different
demands: Revival of declining sexual desire and introducing excitement into
a routine love life; bringing an element
of free choice or at least its illusion, into a system of predetermined
commitment; becoming the powerful party in the couple or avoid being the
Male sexuality is
characterized by a process of comparison with other males, real or imagined (Zilbergeld,
1978), which enables self-rating of adequacy as a lover. This
issue is related to the fear of desertion
i.e. being left by one's spouse for not fulfilling her perceived expectations,
in this case, in the sexual area.
Rightly so or not,
people tend to feel that if their spouse gets a lover, it is a sign that they
have failed a test or were declared inferior lovers. Among the dilemmas
by a married person is the issue of dealing with
the possibility or the reality of a spouse's extra-marital affair and the
handling of the painful emotion of jealousy.
Tripp (1975) emphasized
the role of impediments (accidental or deliberate) as necessary precursors in
the psychology of sexual arousal: "It is important to remember that
the transgressing of barriers is itself a
major element in promoting sexual arousal."(p.114). Thus, triolists solve the
problem of routine by breaking taboos, by introducing variety and
excitement around finding, watching and
dismissing another male.
I suggest seeing
triolism as one possible answer to some or all of the above dilemmas. By this
very act, the triolist sees himself as dominant in the relationship: he treats
his wife as an object, makes her do
things she would not have agreed to, and creates for the couple situations of
choice. The triolist, in a counter-phobic style, does not worry or suffer
with regard to his wife's adultery,
because it is he himself who brings her lovers or encourages her to have
affairs. He feels safe because all his wife's perceived sexual needs are
abundantly provided for. He can also see himself as a winner in a
competition with other males, as he is the one to stay home after the others are
The issues of jealousy
and envy, domination and objectification are especially salient in the triolists'
letters and will be further discussed.
Jealousy and Envy:
Jealousy is usually understood as a response to a noxious stimulus. In this
sample it also serves as a stimulus, an aphrodisiac. This is one of the
themes in Tinto Brass's 1983 movie La Chiave (The Key), in which a
husband encourages his wife to have an affair with their daughter's fiancé, and
discovers that the feelings of
jealousy create a state of unusual arousal. Pozdnychev in Tolstoy’s
Kreutzer Sonata is aware of this phenomenon and says: "Our arguments were
equally incensed paroxysms of animal sexuality." Erica Jong in her
How to Save Your Life calls it "Kendall's first law of jealousy": "Jealousy
makes the prick grow
harder and the cunt wetter. It's so common you
wouldn't believe it."
a person feels envied for having a sexually attractive spouse, a similar effect
is in existence. Some jealousy is aroused, and the person can also appreciate
spouse's attractiveness, as if thinking that if
others want her, she must be worthy of it.
Objectification: By making his wife
do things she ordinarily would have refused, and by turning her into a sex
object that can be used at will
- the triolist becomes dominant and in
his own view, the winner in a power struggle. Thus, expressions like
"borrowing”,” be my guest”,” pimp for her" - signify the husband's perceived
control over his wife. Themes of
humiliation and group rape are to be found in some letters.
Coinciding with the
issue of dominance is a tendency, on one hand to dehumanize the female and
describe her as a whore or a "bitch in heat", and on the other hand, to use
her as a means to create male
solidarity. Alternatively, it can be said that some triolists are either,
afraid of intimacy with their wives, or feel safer in creating a bond or a
males out of the relationship and against the
wife. Dominance and objectification are clear and central themes in13 (26%)
The role of visuality
in human sexuality
Heart and eyes are the two procurers of sin
Sight is to human
beings, what smell is to other mammals. "Sex appeal" is a visual appeal, and
hence the expression “loves at first sight." People watch how others look and do their best to look good
themselves. Many cultural phenomena are related to the centrality of the visual
channel for the processing of sexual information: advertising, television,
cinema, diets, fashions, cosmetics,
characteristics, such as body shape, hair, voice - usually serves as attraction
and arousal signals. Sometimes it can be minute gestures, such as the
blowing in the wind of a woman's hair or
a smile, which triggers desire. In the 1982 Playboy survey, 55% of the thousands
of males who were interviewed ranked physical
appearance as of prime importance in sexual arousal. Only a third of the
female readers felt the same.
Generally, men are
considered to be visualists and thus find interest in books, pictures, and
movies displaying nudity, while women are less so (Money, Note 2). "This erotic
scopophilia, love of looking, serves as
an anticipatory response to sexual possibilities," says Singer (1974, p. 50).
"Whether he is sitting at a café, waiting for a train, walking through
a shop, looking at paintings, or watching
a movie --
the male uses his eyes for visual consummations which are clearly sexual, even
if they do not lead to orgasm."
between the sensuous and the passionate in sexuality: "For some people, sexual
experience amounts to little more than the sensuous and even the
end pleasure of orgasmic relief becomes
subordinate to the delights of sensory enjoyment. For others, however,
sexuality is charged (on some occasions at least) with emotions of yearning, caring, hope,
anticipation, joy, oneness, overwhelming tension followed by a dying or
dissipation of feelings, a final release of sexual energy" (p.41f).
In the case of triolists,
sensuality, and to be more specific, visuality predominates and not passion. I
suggest that visuality itself can be analyzed into different styles that are
actually ends on a continuum. People can
either be concrete visualizers (CV) or fantasizers (F).
Different kinds of
magazines can be found at the "adult" sections of bookstores, and each of them
aims to please a specific group of customers. For their arousal, CVs
prefer pictures of women that are not
only nude, but also have expressions - evidence of arousal on their faces and/or
while having sex with a nude male. Fs on the other hand, prefer
pictures portraying only partial to full
nudity. They prefer to supplement the erotic context in their own mind.
There is another
difference between the two styles. Fs do not pay much attention to their own
arousal. It is seen merely as a means for achieving orgasm. For CVs, on the
other hand, arousal is often an end in
itself ("I had such a strong erection...") much examined and enjoyed often more
satisfying and replacing the orgasm.
An F performs the
miracle of "being there while being somewhere else" - namely, have sex with a
partner and if he so wishes, imagine that he or she (the partner) is with
someone else. A CV can not do that. For
him, fantasy is a serious matter - something to be enacted and not just
contemplated; a need state that has to be satiated and not a pleasant diversion by itself.
In order to see better,
the CV as if in an art gallery, has to step back. He can't be both an observer
and a participant, and often he can't concentrate on observing while
being seen. In coping with this, the
triolist delegates the role of actor to another male, enabling himself to be a
dedicated observer, who occasionally also uses aids (mirrors, cameras) and
collects evidence (stained pants etc).
often enables the visualizer to solve his dilemma in a different way: he can
take pictures of himself participating and later, undisturbed and uninvolved,
Early life experience
So called "dynamic" explanations of triolism in terms of latent homosexuality or
oedipal complex were rejected at the beginning of this article. And yet, if
a conceptualization of present events as symbolizing or fulfilling
related past needs, a different dynamic hypothesis can be offered. Namely, that
an interest in triolism is related to
children's curiosity and fascination with
their parent's "secret" sex life.
Much was written about
the "primal scene" i.e. a child watching or hearing his parents in the act of
coitus. The child's reaction can consist of fear (of an activity that is
construed as violent), guilt (doing what
is forbidden),arousal, or a combination of all the above.
A related critical
experience is that of childhood sex-games that are usually carried on in small
groups where the participants are not always of the same age. The main
activity in such games is of mutual
Kinsey (1948, pp.165-8)
stood the psychoanalytical approach to homosexuality on its head. It is not
that homosexuals have unconscious needs for experience with members of their own
sex, but rather that all people have “larger scope sexuality" and some of them
such as heterosexuals suppressed part of it. In a similar way, it is suggested
triolists: 1. had prototriolistic experiences
(primal scene, group sex-games). 2. experienced arousal in them and 3. did not
repress them. As a result, in adulthood, they can replicate
the basic situation of watching a couple,
reach legitimate arousal and/or gain more understanding about what was once a
mystery for them.
This formulation is
quite speculative and gains support from two letters only: one describing the
husband’s satisfaction in secretly watching his wife and another male
engage in oral sex. In the second
letter, the husband invites his son to watch his mother (wife) naked, without
her knowledge. And when copulating, the husband fantasizes the boy watching his mom, and sees his
wife as if through the son's eyes.
Inhibitions in Sexual Functioning
A person without any inhibitions - is a pig;
A person who overcomes an inhibition - is an artist.
Triolism may be a
solution to the problem of a person's or a couple's inhibition of sexual
expression and satisfaction. It can be initiated or encouraged by either
wife, and in the best tradition of human
miscommunication, such an issue is not always explicitly discussed. The
discussion will be organized according to four areas of inhibition.
Liberating a sexually
inhibited wife: Some letters deal
with a couple, where typically the wife is "frigid" namely, one who refuses to
undress, is passive in lovemaking, conservative
in positions and generally leaves her husband in a state of frustration. The
husband is obsessed with overcoming her inhibitions, and in order to do so, encourages her
to have an extra-marital affair.
The implicit reasoning
here is that deep within her hides a soul of a whore that must be released.
This is done by "shock treatment" - crashing her moral code: An extra marital affair which is
considered a severe moral offense in Judeo-Christian ethics (punished by death
in the Bible) makes nudity or oral sex with one's husband look relatively
The "Madonna -
Puttana" dichotomy: When a negative
attitude i.e. sex is “dirty" or "bad" exists - a quite common result is the
differentiation between "bad-dirty" women-whores who "do it" and "good-clean" women-ladies-saints who
do not. Sometimes males with negative attitudes make a distinction between
sex i.e. intercourse and
"perverted-wicked" sex i.e. fellatio. Characteristically, such men can function
sexually with other women, but not with their own wives.
Yet, not all males agree
or dare having extra-marital affairs, and in addition, their wives demand their
conjugal rights. In such a case, the husband is confronted with the
cognitive dissonance of "doing something negative" with a wife that is
regarded positively. The resolution of this takes place first of all by denial
(it's not me, it's the other male) and
then by reversing the attitude towards
the wife: A woman who has an extra marital affair or a woman who performs
fellatio on strangers is not a lady-saint anymore, and if she is "bad” --
"bad" things can be done with her. In 18
(35%) letters, the husbands watched and described in their writing, their wives
performing fellatio with other males.
Dealing with one's
perceived sexual inadequacy: A sense
of sexual inadequacy is related to a naive acceptance of what Zilbergeld (1978)
Fantasy Model of Sex." The relevant chapter in his book is actually titled: "it
is two feet long, hard as steel, and can go all night." A precondition for such
inadequacy is an
exposure to myth supporting media e.g.
pornographic movies, lack of decent sex education and a sexually unsophisticated
For these males, love
making is conceived as a specialized skill, as a collection of techniques or
tricks, and not as a free flowing act of self-expression. Not having the right
kind of equipment and/or not knowing how
to use it properly, they see themselves as inadequate lovers and a
disappointment to their wives. Thus they either try to compensate for
their shortcomings by delegating their
duties to a more skillful lover and/or try to learn through real life modeling,
or from their wife's detailed account of extra-marital sex.
The size of the other
male's penis is emphasized in 10 (20%) letters. In this context, it is not
surprising that black males are often chosen as the husband's proxy. These
males accept uncritically the myth of
black men's penis size and sexual prowess. A discussion of this issue in terms
of prejudice is to be found in Allport (1958).
semen: One surprising finding in the
present analysis is the erotic significance of semen for some men. Female
aversion to semen is a problem
frequently dealt with in sex therapy, as
it restricts the couple's sexual free expression. Men's attitude towards semen
was not investigated before, although it was hinted at: Thus, in pornographic
movies men sometimes ejaculate on their partner's body, as if to make it dirty.
The anonymous author of My Secret Life published about 1888, already
described a "kink" of his: He liked to get into girls who were still
full of another man's seed. An erotic concern with semen was found in 17 (34%)
letters. Of these, 11 (65%) related to
the other male's sperm and 6 (35%) to the
mixture or contact of the two males' sperm in the wife's vagina.
Based on the letters,
the following explanations can be suggested to account for this fascination
I. Males do not readily
differentiate between ejaculation and orgasm. The first is an objective event
that can be visualized; the second is subjective and can only be deducted or
imagined. It was already claimed that triolists are concrete visualizers. Thus,
the sperm becomes the reification of the ultimate in sexual experience. Six
husbands reported becoming aroused to the point of erection or ejaculation while
other male's ejaculate.
II. The amount of semen
is, for some triolists, an equivalent to penis size; the larger both are, the
greater the other male's perceived potency. Similarly, the act of filling up
the wife's vagina with semen becomes a
concrete measure of one's virility. Five husbands emphasized quantitative
aspects of semen.
III. Finding semen an
attractive stimulus could be a learned response i.e.
associating its taste and smell during cunnilingus with one's own arousal. Such
learning can take place in an attempt to overcome one's own or spouse's
initial aversion to it. Four letters
belong to this category.
IV. Concern with semen
in some cases is connected with the issue of domination and objectification
mentioned before. The
mixing of the two males' semen becomes almost a
ritual, which symbolizes their bond-coalition (just like blood mixing in some
societies) as well as a primitive, derogatory and
property claiming act (similar to the use
of urine to mark a territory).
not least: the “other” male
"other males" wrote on their experiences. Thus, it is only possible, based on
the husbands' remarks, to speculate on their reasons to enter the triolistic
Sexual inhibitions can also be the motivating
force in the other male’s readiness to take part in a triolistic arrangement.
Obviously, this does not necessitate any dating skills, or commitment to a long
term relationship. Such an arrangement leaves no room for responsibility or
intimacy. He doesn’t have to be by himself with a woman, as the husband is there
to watch and direct him. And to top it all, the situation itself defines him as
better in sex than the husband.
It is possible to make sense of
what initially seems to be defying explanation. This is done using terms
applicable and relevant to the understanding of conventional sexual behavior
as well. Such an approach not only enriches the understanding of sexuality at
large, it also improves our psychotherapeutic work with couples and individuals
The discussion of sexuality in
the framework of marriage delineates the dilemmas confronted by all couples with
an additional insight into the issues of jealousy and envy, domination and
objectification. Sex as a component in a relationship system, is different from
sex that is the system itself, in an initial and non-committed relationships
In the investigation of
the role of visuality in triolism, two styles were conceptualized: concrete
visualizers and fantasizers. This distinction might be useful in the discussion
of the differences between the two genders in relation to graphic erotica. It
also seems to be meaningful to the treatment of inhibited sexual desire, and
relevant to premature and inhibited ejaculation.
In the exploration of
triolists' overcoming of inhibitions, the different variations of the "Madonna
Puttana" syndrome are clarified, and the phenomenon of semen eroticization is
described and explained.
Note 1: The authenticity
of these letters was vouched for, in a personal conversation with Philip Nobile,
Note 2: Dr. John Money,
Testimony before a hearing of the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Justice,
Washington D.C. October, 1984.
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