Sex + Body Positivity

About Threesomes And Media Representation On Escaping Purity Culture

Many a time, people think that my being open about being adventurous with my sexuality and wanting to explore kink means that I can be expected to jump into non-vanilla scenarios from the get-go.

I spent most of the recent Mercury retrograde watching Please Like Me. As I watched its 4 seasons, it almost felt like I was reflecting on my own experience of being in my 20s. Josh (the character, not the actor) and I have a lot in common. We both came into our queerness in our 20s, and it seems like our friends noticed our queerness long before we did. We are both only children with parents who are separated. There’s even a segment that depicts Josh going on a date with an aboriginal person where he goes into a spiral of colonizer guilt. While I certainly don’t relate to being White, I definitely related to a period of time in my 20s when I was grappling with my Savarna guilt, only to find that I had cocooned myself in a Savarna world where people didn’t know how to hold me accountable.

One thing that stood out to me in the show’s exploration of sexuality was the depiction of engaging in a threesome. While most shows worry about representing sexuality “right”, Please Like Me – probably because of the creator’s own reckoning with it –  doesn’t fall into that trap. This particular threesome begins on all the right notes – all 3 of the partners seem willing and attracted to one another, and even test their shared chemistry by kissing each other. They seem to have talked about it, as implied in the scene where they meet Josh’s roommate Tom and his girlfriend, Ella.

To share a bit context, the show’s protagonist, Josh and his partner, Arnold, have been in a relationship for a while. They are not monogamous and have discussed the nature of their relationship. They go out dancing one night and Arnold finds them a sex-unicorn, Kyle, whom he introduces to Josh by saying that they’ve already kissed. Josh asks Kyle is he should kiss him too, and they do. However, things go awry when they actually begin engaging in the act, because Kyle and Arnold seem to be into each other more than their interest in involving Josh. This leads to Josh feeling left out, and he excuses himself to go get some water.

This is beginning of the end of Josh and Arnold’s relationship. It reveals the cracks in their equation as Josh realizes that he finds himself soothing Arnold’s insecurities a lot, whereas he is not expressive enough and minimizes his own emotions, which doesn’t give Arnold the chance to understand the depth of Josh’s experiences and feelings. I think it is quite brilliant that the 4th season begins with the threesome and follows the relationship as it tragically (but in a manner that felt cathartic to me) falls apart over the next few episodes.

In sharp contrast is the depiction of the threesome that Lucy and Tom have with Annie, who propositions them, in the first season of Easy. Lucy and Tom are married with a toddler, and the scene even shows them being interrupted by the baby monitor going off. What worked for me is the level of care shown in the act towards one another, the expression of desire, the involvement in undressing and various acts of foreplay, the check-ins. It’s evident that this experience has brought Lucy and Tom closer and that they probably went on to discuss it with each other after Annie’s departure the next morning.

Many a time, people think that my being open about being adventurous with my sexuality and wanting to explore kink means that I can be expected to jump into non-vanilla scenarios from the get-go. However, my 20s served as a learning experience that I don’t have to rush into anything to prove my adventurous nature, and more often than not, my instincts work in service of my pleasure. While the causal sex and FwB culture that some folx often glorify in their 20s (in contrast to some other folx in their 20s who romanticize long-term, monogamous commitment) does facilitate experimentation and exploration, it also comes with shattered hearts, poor focus on emotional and sexual health, and blurry boundaries.

A lot of this comes from the trap of purity culture that most queer people seek to escape, owing to the complete lack of space in it for us. Being intentional doesn’t come easy, because we often don’t know what to focus our intentions on and what healthy outcomes could possibly look like.

Using honest media representation like these are often helpful to that effect.

One thought on “About Threesomes And Media Representation On Escaping Purity Culture

  1. Thanks a lot for this piece and specially for adding those clips which have quite a contrasting approach towards a threesome situation. Navigating through the ‘exploring my sexuality’ phase is indeed difficult for us teens and reads like these really makes us conscious about our decisions and propel us towards a healthier place! Definitely going to watch ‘Please Like Me’

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Tejaswi is journalist and researcher whose attention is captured by post-colonial human relationships at a time of the Internet of Things. She can't wait to become a full-time potter soon, though!

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