Threesome

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Synonyms: menage a trois, foursome
See also: OT3, OT4, OT5, Conduit Fic, Triangle, Polyfic
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Contents

A label often used for fanworks involving three characters in a romantic or sexual situation. If the story focuses on the relationship between the men in a slash pairing, with a female character featuring mainly as an excuse for the male characters to get into bed together, it may be called conduit fic.

While not all threesome stories feature all three characters equally involved in mutual sexual activities or a mutual relationship, situations in which two characters compete for a third or in which a single character is torn between two love interests are more likely to be labeled triangles. A threesome that is a fan's favorite relationship in a fandom (or that a fan simply enjoys) may be called an OT3.

Threesomes are not evenly distributed across fandom; some sources lend themselves much more to threesomes than others. Leverage, for example, breaks very naturally into a twosome and a threesome. Fandoms where canon focuses on three main characters (for example, Jack, Will, and Elizabeth in Pirates of the Caribbean fandom) often have many threesome stories, as do some fandoms that would be slash fandoms were it not for one of the characters' being in an ongoing het relationship, such as Peter/Elizabeth/Neal in White Collar. In Harry Potter, nearly every character stars in at least one threesome story, but only Harry/Ron/Hermione approaches the popularity of the fandom's main pairings.

Frequency

In a poll run by Penknife in 2009 on her personal journal, The most common threesomes in most fandoms tended to be M/M/F (two male characters and one female character), followed by M/M/M and M/F/F, with F/F/F threesomes generally the least common, for various reasons.[1][2]

On AO3, where tagging threesomes is optional, the Threesome tag and its subtags had 15,080 uses by August 13, 2014. This included the following:

  • 4793 in F/M/M
  • 5341 in M/M/M (including the subtag OTB)
  • 867 in F/F/M
  • 406 in F/F/F
  • 20 in M/M/Other
  • 5 in F/M/Other
  • 2 in F/F/Other

AO3 has a long history of being slash-focused (see the AO3 page for more details), so these results may reflect that tendency.

Resolving Shipping Conflicts

Threesomes were once rare in fanfic, but have become more popular over the years. In some fandoms, they may represent a way of resolving or responding to ship wars by allowing a character to be in a relationship with both potential romantic partners from the "competing" pairings. For example, Tafkarfanfic says about the history of Jack/Sam/Daniel in Stargate SG-1 fandom:

And lo, the S/Jers were wroth, and some declared Daniel a whiny, needy demon. And the J/Ders became enraged, and declared Sam a castrating bitch-spawn of Satan. Battles broke out across the Internet, and several mailing lists were knee-deep in blood.
"But wait!" several voices cried out. "If S + J = hot, and J + D = hot, then S + J + D must equal twice the hotness!" For lo, these people had scored above 400 on their math SATs.[3]

Likewise, Tarie writes, about becoming a Harry/Ron/Hermione OT3 shipper:

Until then, I hadn’t been able to decide whether I preferred Ron/Hermione to Harry/Hermione (I hadn’t even contemplated the notion of Harry/Ron.). I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to choose between them and Calliope’s piece showed me that I didn’t have to choose – they could all be together.[4]

Threesome doesn't always mean sex

Just as the mere marking of a story as K/S or McShep doesn't mean that the story will necessarily include sex, marking a story a threesome may just mean that plot is about the romantic/sexual relationship, rather than that it contains threeway sex.

Not Everyone is a Fan of Threesomes

A fan explains why she doesn't care for threesomes, or moresomes: "'Menage a trois' stories don't do much for me. I like reading about Kirk and Spock; that's why I read K/S. I don't want to read about Kirk/Spock/Scotty or Kirk/Spock/Dick/Jane/Ted and Alice. Call me an intolerant purist if you want, but I was attracted to K/S by the very special love between Kirk and Spock. With a menage a trois story it just detracts from that unique chemistry between them. And adding a third party makes it lose its magic for me."[5]

Notable Threesome fanworks

  • Shades of Grey, a Star Trek: TOS zine series for Kirk/Spock/other threesomes, ran for five issues starting in 1986.
  • In the Wrong Story and sequels by Katie have been cited[3] as some of the earliest examples of Jack/Sam/Daniel in Stargate SG-1 fandom written as a functional long-term relationship.

Moresomes

The term moresome may be used for a romantic or sexual situation involving more than three people.

Resources

References

  1. Care and Feeding of OT3s (con panel report) by Penknife. (Accessed 9/3/09).
  2. Poll on which gender configurations of threesomes respondents had written by Penknife. (Accessed 9/3/09).
  3. 3.0 3.1 You down with OT3? (Yeah, you know me!) by Tafkarfanfic, in the ship_manifesto community on LiveJournal. (Accessed 9/3/09).
  4. Stronger Together by Tarie, in the ship_manifesto community on LiveJournal. (Accessed 9/3/09.)
  5. from On the Double #3
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