Moving into the Modern Era

I first released my sex game Onyx twenty years ago. I’ve been maintaining it and distributing it from various Web sites ever since, and to be honest, the Web sites I’ve been distributing it from haven’t advanced a whole lot in that twenty years. Seriously, if you want to see the Web as it was in the 90s, look no further than my Symtoys site. (Mobile browser compatible? Pah! What’s that? In my day, we surfed the Web on dial-up from a Mac IIvx!)

As I work on making Onyx 4 more accessible and modern, I’m also working to dust off my own corners of the Web. And I’ve just completed a big part of that.

I am pleased to announce a brand-new, modern Web site for Onyx. And I’ve also dragged my boots out of the mid-90s and upgraded to a completely new Web shopping cart for all my posters and stuff.

And you can help me celebrate!

Special offer! Use coupon code

newsite17

on checkout for $6 off registration!

Download Onyx here!

Update 9 on the Bionic Dildo: Lots of progress!

A few folks have been wondering where we’re at on the Bionic Dildo, as we’ve taken to calling it.

We’ve made a lot of progress in the last few months, starting with setting up a workspace for research, development, and testing. We’ve moved into the new space, where we have a lot of resources we didn’t have before.

The first few prototypes were put together by modifying existing sex toys. This crude approach was good enough to show us that the basic technology is sound, but the prototypes we built this way were limited, fragile, and rather uncomfortable to wear.

Since then, we’ve acquired a 3D printer and facilities for making ceramic molds to cast silicone. This allows us to create custom-designed silicone with electronics, sensors, and electrodes cast right in.

From 3D rendering to printed positive that we use to make a mold.
And yes, those are Lego bricks we’re using as a mold box!

We’ve 3D printed and made silicone test casts of the insertable part of the device. Here’s a test cast of the insertable with electrodes directly embedded in the cast, a huge improvement over our first few prototypes:

Right now, we’re moving into a development phase aimed at answering questions like:

  • How many sensors and electrodes do we need?
  • What’s the neural density of the inside wall of the vagina?
  • How much variability is there in sensitivity between different people, and between different parts of the inner anatomy of the same person?
  • What’s the best way to modulate the signal in response to pressure on the sensors?
  • What’s the maximum perceptual spatial resolution of the inner anatomy?

The first-generation prototype had three sensors and three electrodes, and the insertable part was rigid plastic, which as you can imagine was not terribly comfortable and certainly not workable for long-term use. The prototype we’re working on now is an enormous improvement: fifteen sensors and fifteen electrodes, embedded in custom silicone that’s far more comfortable.

We’re excited with the progress that we’ve made, and looking forward to what we can learn in 2017.

Want to keep up with developments? Here’s a handy list of blog posts about it:
First post
Update 1
Update 2
Update 3
Update 4
Update 5
Update 6
Update 7
Update 8
Update 9

A lot has changed in twenty years

Wow, has it really been twenty years? My God.

Back in 1996, I released the first version of the sex game Onyx. It’s a game for two to six adult players, played a bit like Monopoly (the players can buy properties on a game board) but with a twist. Each player fills out a profile specifying sex, orientation, and kinks, and if a player lands on a property owned by someone of the correct sex and orientation, the player can pay rent or work off the debt. Working off the debt causes the game to search its database of sex acts and draw an appropriate act that fits the genders and kinks of the players.

All very straightforward, right?

Fast forward twenty years. I’m working on (among many, many other things) an update to Onyx, Onyx version 4, and I’m a lot more aware now than I was then.

Twenty years ago, I thought there were only two possible sexes, and the idea that someone might be trans wasn’t even on my radar. (And nonbinary genders? Way outside my conception!) One of the things this new update includes is a complete overhaul of my assumptions, which means a complete overhaul of some legacy code that stretches clear back to version 1.0.

Onyx 4 will allow players to specify their own pronouns however they like, and will be much more accommodating of trans and nonbinary players. As part of the update, I’m going through the database of sex acts, and man, I made a lot of assumptions.

Assumptions about pronouns. Assumptions about genitalia. Assumptions about what would and would not be possible when someone identified as a particular gender.

It’s slow going. There are hundreds of actions in the database, and I’m having to go through and check every one: am I using hard-coded pronouns? Am I presuming what the players’ bodies look like? (Spoiler: Yes. Yes, I was.)

It’s been an interesting exercise, being confronted with these assumptions in a direct and systematic way. I hope the new version, whenever it’s done, will be more accessible and accommodating for more people.

Call to the Interwebs: Looking for experts!

Most of the folks reading my blog are probably familiar with the high tech sex toy my partner Eve and I are working on. Essentially, we’re making a strap-on covered with sensors, that uses direct neural stimulation to allow the wearer to feel touch and pressure on the strap-on.

We’ve built several prototypes that validate the basic idea, and we’re excited to move into the next phase of development.

To that end, we need your help! We’re looking for two things:

1. A person skilled with molding silicone who is willing to work with us to do one-off and two-off custom castings that integrate sensors, electrodes, and electronics into the casting.

This person will know a great deal about custom-molding silicone and be willing to work with us with some fairly exotic requirements, like molding silicone with electrodes embedded in the surface.

2. A skilled electronics person with knowledge of RF analog electronics. I know digital electronics, and so far, the prototypes we’ve built have used electronics and firmware I’ve written. But I’m a bit rubbish with the electronics stuff. Specifically, what we need is someone who can design circuitry that can be controlled by an embedded microcontroller and can modulate the amplitude of an analog signal based on input from pressure sensors. Imagine a signal generator that produces a signal something like this:

What we’re looking for is someone who can design a circuit that will modulate the amplitude of this signal in proportion to the input from pressure sensors…but, naturally, the human body being what it is, the correspondence is logarithmic, not linear (hence a programmable microcontroller doing the work fo figuring out how strong the signal needs to be).

We do have a budget for accomplishing these tasks. It’s not a huge budget, mind you; we’re a small startup, and that’s how it goes with small startups.

If you are interested or know anyone who might be, please let me know! You can reach me at franklin (at) tacitpleasures (dot) com.

Want to keep up with developments? Here’s a handy list of blog posts about it:
First post
Update 1
Update 2
Update 3
Update 4
Update 5
Update 6
Update 7
Update 8

It’s the summer “Help Franklin Pay His Taxes” sale!

It’s that time of year again, when Franklin realizes that the tax bill is coming due and it’s going to be down to the wire about whether he can pay it.

But my distress is your gain. I’ve just created a new coupon code for registered versions of my sex game Onyx.

What is Onyx? Glad you asked!

Onyx is a sex game for 2-6 players. Think Monopoly, with a sexy twist. If you land on a property owned by another player, you have a choice of paying rent or working off the debt. If you choose to work off the debt, Onyx looks at its vast database of sexy fun things to do to show your gratitude for being allowed to stay on the other player’s property.

You can download it free for Mac, Windows, and Linux. And if you want to register the game, use coupon code Summer16 to take $6.00 off the full version.

[ Download Onyx here! ]

Unwrapping a new project: an uncensored Amazon erotica search tool!

I am a self-published erotica writer. I write BDSM fiction, including the novel Nineteen Weeks, a story I’m very proud of.

A couple of years ago, I discovered that the number of books I was selling suddenly fell off a cliff. I did some research and found that the same thing was happening to a lot of erotica writers, especially self-published writers. Amazon’s Search function on their Web site was filtering out a lot of erotica, particularly erotica with themes of non-traditional relationships like BDSM.

However, I discovered something interesting a few months back: The Amazon search API, a set of programmer’s tools that allows Web programmers to search Amazon’s book titles, doesn’t filter search results. You can log on to Amazon and do a search for a particular book and see no results, but if you write a Web site that uses Amazon’s API and do a search, ta-da, there it is!

I’m sure you can see where this is going.

On and off for the past few months, I have been working on building a new Web site, called Red Lit Search. This site has a database of erotic books in Amazon’s catalog–so far only about eighteen hundred or so, but the list is growing–and also allows you to do uncensored searches of Amazon. My hope is to grow it into a portal for erotic books; if it succeeds, I plan to add new sections with things like articles, interviews with erotica writers, and all kinds of fun stuff like that.

So check it out! Spread the word! Kick the tires, test the software, and let me know what you think!

[ Visit Red Lit Search, the erotica search engine ]

“I trust my girlfriend. I just don’t trust other guys.”

It’s a comment I see scattered far and wide across the Internetverse. In almost any conversation where some guy is complaining about his wife or girlfriend having male friends, inevitably someone else will ask, “don’t you trust her?” And inevitably, as sure as night follows day, he will say “Oh, I trust her, I just don’t trust other guys.”

Which, as near as I can tell, translates into English as “I don’t trust my girlfriend.” Because the only alternative reading I can see is far more horrifying.

First things first. Let’s call this what it is: an endorsement of the belief that what women want doesn’t matter.

“I trust my girlfriend.” I think my girlfriend wants to be faithful to me, wants to support me, wants to be with me. “I just don’t trust other guys.” Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what she wants. She’s not a man. It only matters what those other guys want.

There are a couple of ways to read this, one of them pretty messed up, the other one even more so.

The first, messed-up reading: My girlfriend wants to be with me and be faithful to me, but other guys don’t want her to be. Other guys will trick, persuade, cajole, or convince her to cheat on me. You know, because they’re guys and she’s a woman. Women are weak of will, incapable of holding out when faced with a determined guy who wants to seduce her.

The second, even more messed-up reading: My girlfriend wants to be with me and be faithful to me, but other guys don’t want her to be. They’ll just rape her. Because, you know, they’re guys, and that’s what guys do.

Regardless of the reading, the conclusion remains the same: Ergo, the thing I must do is prevent my woman from hanging out with other guys. Charmers or rapists, it doesn’t make any difference if she wants to be faithful to me; they want her, so they’re going to fuck her.

And that’s a whole world of messed up right there, it is.

Disempowering and infantilizing on the one hand, or implicitly supportive of rape culture on the other—there’s no interpretation that makes this idea smell any less bad.

So, I would like to have a word with all you men out there who have ever used this reasoning, thought about using this reasoning, or nodded in sympathetic agreement when someone else has this reasoning. I will try to put this as delicately as possible:

Cut it out. It’s bullshit.

“I trust you, but…” is just a way of saying “I don’t trust you.”

Look, I get it. It’s scary to trust someone else. When you do, you’re putting your heart in their hands and giving them a chance to let it shatter on the floor. You’re hoping they won’t drop it, knowing it will hurt if they do. I totally understand how scary that is.

But you can’t have it both ways.

If you trust your partner not to betray you, you have to have confidence that she won’t even if she has the opportunity to. And if you try to control her to prevent her from having the opportunity to hurt you, you don’t trust her.

This is not about other guys or what they want. It’s about her.

If you don’t think she can say “no” to a silver-tongued bloke with a huge, massive, throbbing bank account, you don’t trust her. If you trust her, it doesn’t matter what other men’s intentions are.

And if you assume as a given that other men who take an interest in your girlfriend will ignore her ‘no’ and just rape her, there’s a bigger problem than her fidelity. Perhaps it’s time to stand up, you know? And I don’t mean stand up to control your girlfriend. I mean stand up against the notion that it is in any way, shape, or form acceptable to assume that other men will not listen to her ‘no’ and there’s anything normal about that…because there isn’t.

“I trust my girlfriend. I just don’t trust other guys.” Basically, you’re saying your girlfriend’s desires don’t matter.

Is that really what you believe?

My hunch is that it’s not. My hunch is what you’re really saying is you think your girlfriend will choose to cheat, but you don’t want to say it because you understand what it might mean. You don’t trust her, and a healthy relationship can’t function without trust.

If you trust her, it doesn’t matter what other guys want. If you don’t trust her, have the courage to own it. But listen, all you other men out there, enough with the “I trust her, I don’t trust other guys” already.

You aren’t fooling anyone.

Sex tech: Wave your arms in the air like you just don’t care

The street finds its own uses for things.
—William Gibson, Burning Chrome

Imagine, if you will, a device you strap onto your lower arm. This device has a bunch of embedded myoelectric sensors that respond to hand movements, and accelerometers that track arm movements. Yoked to these is a Bluetooth transmitter that relays a stream of data about your hand position and arm motion to a computer or smartphone. Sound exciting?

Meet the Myo, a gadget in search of a purpose.

It’s a neat, if pricey, device still in search of a killer app. It comes with a PowerPoint plugin that lets you flip through slides by waving your arm in the air. There’s an interface for Skyrim, though it’s a bit laggy and you can’t play for long before your arm gets tired. There’s also a bit of software that lets you control a small drone with arm gestures, though with less precision than a conventional remote control. It’s very much a “build first, look for a function later” gadget, reminiscent of many tech innovations from the age of the dot-com bubble.

In most industries, the “build it and they will come” approach to project engineering is looked at with less and less favor these days. I am a long-time mad scientist with a particular flair for designing and building all manner of high-tech sex toys, though, so to me “build it and they will come” is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

As soon as I saw a demo of the Myo, my mind instantly went to sex. Controlling a device remotely by gesture and motion? What could possibly be more fitting in a sex toy? (In fairness, I did once, many years ago, build an Internet-controlled sex toy called the Symphony—a name that might perhaps be more appropriate for a device that you can operate by waving your arms. Dance, my puppets! Dance!)

So imagine my surprise when I Tweeted that this would make a cool controller for a sex toy and shortly thereafter one showed up on my doorstep, courtesy of AV Flox over at Slantist.

Electronically, the Myo is a Bluetooth LE radio, a set of myoelectric sensors, a suite of accelerometers, and a low-power processor core running proprietary firmware. Information from the myoelectric sensors is interpreted and translated into a set of posture information. This information is combined with data from the accelerometer and transmitted as a series of gestures and motions.

Conceptually, it looks a bit like this:

The Myo communicates with a laptop or smartphone. The laptop or smartphone interprets the messages from the Myo, then sends appropriate commands to an Arduino with a Bluetooth board connected, instructing it to to run (or stop) a vibrator attached to the motor driver.

The Arduino is a small single-board computer that was designed to do easy experimenting with programmable devices. Think of something like a Raspberry Pi, only far simpler and without an operating system. You can get many additional boards for the Arduino to do all sorts of things—Bluetooth, WiFi, networking, sensors, motor drivers, and other boards exist. The Arduino and its add-on boards are designed to be stacked on top of one another, to make project development easy.

The laptop or smartphone is necessary because of Bluetooth’s design. Bluetooth is a computer-to-peripheral technology. A Bluetooth network uses a master/slave topology, which means a Bluetooth peripheral can’t communicate directly with another Bluetooth peripheral—a “master” device like a laptop or smartphone is needed as an intermediary. When I first started working on a Myo-controlled sex toy, I did the development on a Macbook Pro laptop.

The Hardware

For the first-generation version of the gesture-controlled sex toy, I opted to use an Arduino Uno with a Red Bear Bluetooth shield and one of Kyle Machulis’ Pen15 vibrator controller boards, largely by virtue of the fact that I already happened to have all of them sitting on my workbench.

The Arduino is a small electronics board, roughly the size of an index card, that’s easy to program and capable of talking to all sorts of peripheral hardware. As a controller for a sex toy, it’s a bit large and clunky. Combined with a Bluetooth board and a motor control board, the whole ensemble is about as big as a pack of cigarettes; not exactly discreet. There are several much smaller development boards available, and a later version of this project will probably be about the size of a quarter.

The Arduino, Bluetooth board, and motor controller, all stacked atop one another, look like this:

The blue board on the bottom is the Arduino itself, and contains the processor, power supply, and USB interface for programming. The red board in the middle is the Bluetooth board. The green board on top is the Pen15, an interface board designed specifically to run a sex toy from an Arduino. All together, this stack of boards cost about $40 or so.

The Software

Assembling the stack of components to make a Myo-controlled sex toy was the easy part. Writing the software turned out to be a bit more aggravating.

There are two parts to the software: a program running on the laptop (or smartphone, but for convenience I wrote the first version on my laptop), and a program running on the Arduino. The laptop software needed to pair with the Myo and the Arduino’s Bluetooth card, accept incoming data from the Myo, figure out how to translate those data into sex toy functions, and then send appropriate commands to the Arduino. The software on the Arduino needed to accept those commands and run the vibrator accordingly.

The Myo does a lot of on-board processing to figure out what hand gestures are being done, then sends the gesture data to the computer. It can recognize certain gestures, like making a fist, spreading your fingers apart, and tapping your thumb and forefinger together. It also sends information from the accelerometers, to report motion data.

For the first version, I wanted to keep things simple. I decided to look only at hand gestures, rather than arm motion. Making a fist, I decided, would turn the vibrator off; spreading my fingers would turn it on. (I opted not to control the speed of the vibrator, even though this is fairly straightforward for the Arduino to do, just to keep things simple.) This let me ignore accelerometer data and look only at hand gestures.

The Arduino software was relatively straightforward. The Arduino Bluetooth card comes with a programming library, which, much to my dismay, failed to work right out of the box. That’s surprisingly common in the world of Arduino development, where hardware and software is often designed by small groups of dedicated enthusiasts and may or may not work as expected the first time. An hour’s worth of Googling and some trial and error let me get the Arduino Bluetooth library working, and after that, things were a lot easier. I chose a command that would mean “vibrator on” and another that would mean “vibrator off,” and wrote a simple program that would poll the Bluetooth card looking for those commands and send the appropriate signal to the Pen15 board. All in all, the Arduino side of the equation took an evening to get sorted.

The computer/Myo side was a bit more complicated. The Myo I received was one of the first to ship, and the Myo’s software development kit was a mess when it was first released. (It’s still something of a mess now.) I had considerable difficulty pairing with both the Myo and the Arduino—something that wasn’t helped by the fact that Mac development is usually done in a language called Objective-C, and my experience with Objective-C is limited. It’s mostly like C++, mostly, but there are just enough differences to trip up anyone accustomed to C++.

I finally gave up on accessing the Myo directly and opted for a shortcut. The Myo comes with software that maps Myo gestures onto the keyboard, so I decided to make things even easier by going that route. I mapped an open-hand gesture to the letter ‘a’ on the keyboard and a fist to the letter ‘z,’ and decided to write the software so that it would send a “vibrator on” signal when it saw the letter ‘a’ and send a “vibrator off” signal when it saw the letter ‘z.’ I figured once I had that working, I could get more fancy and sort out accessing the Myo directly later.

It took a good bit of time to get even that part working. The software development kit for the Arduino Bluetooth card is, if anything, in an even more sorry state than the Myo SDK. It took a lot of hair-pulling to get the sample code to work properly, and it tended to break whenever I tried to modify it.

In the end, I did finally get it to work, after a fashion. It was (and still is) quite crude: it recognizes only two Myo gestures, which it translates into “run the vibrator at full speed” and “turn the vibrator off.” The software still has a maddening habit of losing touch with the Arduino occasionally, for no reason I can discern, but it works.

The test

I decided to try out the vibrator with one of my girlfriends who was visiting from the UK, where she lives. We had just finished a whirlwind three-week camping tour of ghost towns through the Pacific Northwest, a journey I am still chronicling.

We spent her last night in Portland at a hotel near the airport, and I thought, hey, this would be an awesome time to take the new toy for a spin, and maybe even get some video of the device in action. She thought that idea sounded splendid.

Unfortunately, the software had other ideas. As often happens, somewhere between being tested on my workbench and being tried in the real world, it decided to quit working. I debugged frantically while she lay naked in bed waiting. Eventually, she fell asleep, and the opportunity was lost.

Later testing would have to wait for a more favorable time. Eventually I was able to get it working again, but the moment to use it with her had passed.

The future

The current prototype gesture-controlled sex toy is quite primitive. Put together, it looks like this:

The hardware is still clunky. I plan to rebuild it using a DF Robot Bluno, which combines the Arduino and Bluetooth on a tiny board roughly the size of a quarter.

This should make it possible to create a discreet, miniaturized sex toy that can be worn in public. I have one of these sitting on my workbench, but haven’t had a chance to play with it.

Eventually, when I’ve made more progress on the strapon the wearer can feel and I have time to return to this project, I plan to refine the software, adding accelerometer control and allowing the vibrator to be controlled more precisely—perhaps by adding patterns to the vibration. (I have visions of doing a PowerPoint presentation at a business function while one of my partners sits in the audience wearing this device, as it responds to the same gestures I’m using to control the PowerPoint slides.)

Finally, I want to compile the control software for my iPhone, so I don’t have to lug around a laptop wherever I might want to use it. I can keep the iPhone in my pocket, where it silently listens to the Myo and sends signals to the sex toy.

The possibilities of remotely operated, Bluetooth-controlled sex toys that respond to wireless sensors, controllers, and other devices has a great deal of potential, especially if you’re a mad engineer like me. There’s rich territory here, just begging to be explored by intrepid adventurers. The early Myo prototypes are, I think, merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I can hardly wait to see what else is possible!

So you Want to Have a Threesome…

Group sex. It’s arguably one of the most common sexual fantasies that exists, right up there with the one about your French teacher, a paddle, and a giant pot of honey. It’s also one of the most fraught: How do I find people who want to have a threesome? What happens if I’m with a partner who’s more into the third person than into me? What if I get jealous? What if my partner gets jealous? What if there’s Drama? What if I feel left out?

I’m a huge fan of group sex. I lost my virginity in an MFM threesome (something I talk about in my memoir The Game Changer), and in the time since I’ve had far too many threesomes (and quite a lot of foursomes, and a few fivesomes, and some elevensomes, and at least one fifteensome) to count.

Group sex is hella fun, though like any kind of sexual activity it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. If group sex is something that interests you, it can be hard to know where to get started and how to stack the deck in favor of a good experience for everyone. That’s what this guide is for.

What is group sex like? Fun. I’ve consistently found it to be amazing. First, though, I’ll talk about what it’s not like.

What group sex isn’t

It’s not (usually) like what you see in porn flicks or Hollywood movies. The other folks involved are people; unless you’ve hired a pair of sex workers, they’re not there just to be part of a male wank fantasy.

I’m afraid I have some bad news for the straight dudes in the audience: When you’re having sex with two (or more) women, they’re not there just for you. It’s not all about you and your pleasure. A typical threesome wank fantasy is about two women who make out or have sex with each other just to get the dude hot, but secretly they both need the D.

That’s not likely to be how it happens. Maybe they’re both straight. Maybe they’re both bi and more into each other than him. Like I said, I’ve had a threesome with a bi woman and her lesbian girlfriend; we both paid attention to the bi woman, but her girlfriend and I had no contact at all. It was all about the bi woman, not all about me.

In fact, threesomes with two men are about as common as threesomes with two women–and no, you don’t need to be bisexual to have a threesome. Three men can have a threesome, as can three women. If you’re a straight guy, you also need not feel threatened by the presence of another penis in the room. As many women as men fantasize about threesomes, and often, women quite fancy the notion of two men paying attention to her as much as men like the idea of two women paying attention to him.

Which brings up another point: unless you’ve explicitly negotiated otherwise, you can’t assume it’s a free-for-all. You don’t get to do whatever you want with both of the other folks involved. Everyone is going to come to group sex with their own limits and boundaries. If you ever want to have a second threesome, pay attention to those boundaries! Yes, people are getting naked and sweaty. No, that doesn’t (necessarily) mean you get to have sex, or perform any particular act, with either or both of them. They have the right to say what you may or may not do with their bodies. (And so do you, by the way. You are never obligated to have sex with someone just because they’re involved in sex with someone else. I am straight, so when I have threesomes involving another guy, he and I don’t touch. That’s fine. Your body, your rules.)

Finally, a lot of folks naively assume “if I’m with someone and we both have sex with the same third person, we won’t feel jealous because we’re both there!” Wrong. Jealousy is about insecurity, and it’s possible to feel insecure even when you and your partner are having sex with the same lover. The best time to get a handle on that is before you invite someone else into your bed, not after.

What group sex is

Fun. Lots and lots of fun. Threesomes can happen in a wide range of configurations with a wide range of activities that go way beyond the stereotypical porn shoot or wank fantasy. They offer virtually unlimited ways for three people to come together and explore.

There’s something delicious about having two sets of hands and lips and tongues on your body that’s just amazing. It’s fun to be the one receiving that attention, but it’s also fun to be participating in giving someone else that kind of pleasure.

It’s cozy. Three people all wrapped up together is really nice. It’s incredibly intimate, both physically and emotionally. I remember a situation where I, one of my girlfriends, and my FWB all spent the night together. We had lots of sex and fell asleep all tangled up together, but you know what the most fun part was? The next morning when we woke up and showered together. The three of us barely fit in the shower stall, and all of us were still sleepy and a bit giddy from the night before, and it was incredibly warm and cozy and intimate.

The sex is amazing. There are a lot of sensations and activities that are not possible with two people that are possible with three.

If you’re a straight dude in an FMF threesome, for instance, it’s not necessarily a question of having ordinary PIV intercourse with two women, though of course that can be part of it (and it’s hella fun when it is). I’m a big fan of pegging (having a woman use a strapon on me), and in threesomes, there are all kinds of fun combinations available. I’ve been on top of one lover having PIV sex with her while another lover is behind me pegging me…that was fun! (We broke the bed.) I’ve been lying on my side spooning a lover and penetrating her while another lover is spooning me and pegging me. There are all kinds of varieties in any kind of threesome, and a little imagination goes a long way.

It’s a lot of fun when bondage is involved, too. The night before my girlfriend and my FWB and I ended up in the shower together, my girlfriend and I tied my FWB to the bed and we both took turns playing with her. On another occasion, I was tied to the bed on my back while one lover straddled me and rode me, and another lover sat on my face. The two of them made out with each other while they both took pleasure from me. As you can imagine, both experiences were really hot.

So how do you make it work? What are the rules for group sex?

In my experience, the most important rules for threesomes (or foursomes or orgies or any other group sex) are not that different from the most important rules for two-person sex. Sex is sex, after all, and it doesn’t turn into something qualitatively different for n>2. As with any sex:

  • The folks involved are people, not sex toys or objects for your pleasure. Their needs and desires matter just as much as yours.
  • Consent matters. This means do not do things without someone else’s consent. Do not, for example, assume you have sexual access to everyone else involved. (I have had threesomes with two women where one of the women involved self-identified as lesbian. I have had threesomes with two women where one of the women was the girlfriend of my partner. In neither case did I assume that just because there were two women there, that meant I got to have sex with both of them.)
  • Set and respect boundaries. Talk about what access you will and will not allow to you. You don’t have to have sex with all the other folks just because your orientations and/or wibbly bits line up!
  • Talk about and plan for sexual health. Use barriers, exchange sexual histories, or do whatever else you need to do to protect your health.
  • I have found that sex of all sorts usually goes better with friends than with strangers. It is common for people new to group sex to want to try it with strangers, because they fear that having sex with people they know will make things “awkward” or induce jealousy. In my experience, though, inviting a random person into your bed goes along with inviting random communication skill, random sets of expectations, random STI risk profile, and random risk of Drama into your bed. With friends, you’ve already established a baseline, I hope, of communication and trust. Those things make sex better.
  • Communication matters. If you’re feeling something you didn’t expect, communicate! If you want (or don’t want) something to happen, communicate!
  • Treat the other people with respect and compassion. They are people too, remember? Treating people well is the key to having everyone have a good experience. When you treat other people well, you might get to play again!
  • If you do have an unexpected response, try to deal with it with grace. It’s okay to feel unexpected things when you try something new. If you need to stop, stop, but do so calmly and without shame, blame, or drama.
  • Don’t spend all your time trying to script exactly what happens or how it goes, unless scripting sex is your particular kink. Sometimes people are tempted to try to avoid jealousy by using a script. That’s unlikely to work. Jealousy is caused by insecurity and it’s hard to navigate around insecurity with rules or scripts.

Special considerations for safer sex

Group sex poses special challenges for safer sex that you might not have to think about when you’re accustomed to the more one-on-one variety. In addition to being aware of transmitting potential pathogens to your partner or receiving them from your partner, you also have to be aware of transmitting them between participants.

Some of these guidelines are common sense. If you use barriers like condoms, for instance, don’t use the same barrier with two different partners. Change condoms when moving between partners.

The same goes for use of sex toys or fingers. Be aware of who you’ve touched and with what. Cover toys and change the coverings between partners, or use toys with only one partner. Don’t put your fingers in one person’s wibbly bits and then put them in another person’s bits, if those people aren’t fluid-bonded.

Oral sex requires particular care. We don’t necessarily think of it as a vector between two folks who aren’t directly intimate with each other, but it can be. Use dental dams or condoms if you’re offering oral sex to two partners, or use mouthwash between partners. Be aware of where your bits have been, where your fingers have been, and yes, where your tongue has been.

Finding partners

Having group sex doesn’t take magic superpowers or arcane pickup secrets you learn from the seedier corners of the Internet. It does, however, help to let go of conventional attitudes about sex. We are all, throughout our lives, inculcated with a lot of baggage around sex, and some of that baggage makes it really hard to have threesomes.

In my experience, there are three approaches to trying to find group sex.

A lot of folks start out with a conventional relationship, then search for someone who will basically be an expendable fantasy fulfillment object. That can feel nice and safe. The third person is barely even a person. In fact, a lot of folks set strict rules on what that third person can and can’t do, or even set rules that it has to be an anonymous stranger from Craigslist rather than a friend or acquaintance, in the belief that this will avoid jealousy or awkwardness.

There are several problems with this approach. First, in my experience, the couples who do it are often trying to outsmart jealousy by planning and scripting a scenario they think will keep it at bay. But jealousy doesn’t come from sex. Jealousy comes from insecurity. If you see your partner enjoying someone else, and you’re sexually insecure, you will likely feel threatened and jealous even if the other person is a stranger, even if you’re having sex with that person at the same time, and even if you’re following a script. Second, sex with a stranger can feel less threatening than sex with a friend, but the problem is a random stranger brings random STI profile, random integrity or lack thereof, random baggage, and random drama to the table. Third, it encourages thinking of that person as a thing, not as a person with needs and desires.

It’s easier to take this approach than to build good tools for self-confidence, security, communication, and respect. A lot of folks take this approach because they don’t want to (or don’t know how to) build those tools, and the results are mixed. It is possible to have a good threesome with this approach, but it’s surprisingly hard. I think every threesome horror story I’ve ever heard (and I’ve heard quite a lot of them) started with this approach.

The second approach is to join a swing club or lifestyle community. This approach is really intimidating to a lot of people. There are all kinds of stereotypes about swingers, it can be hard to admit to other people what you want, and a lot of folks will say things like “sure, I want to have group sex, but that doesn’t mean I’m like all those perverts!” (Seriously, I’ve heard people say just that.)

The advantages to this approach are that it’s safe–the lifestyle community tends to have zero tolerance for abusive or disrespectful behavior, there is a strong culture of not disrupting other people’s relationships, there are meet and greets where you can get to know folks in the community in a low-pressure social setting without sex, and you’ll meet people who are on the same page about what you want. The disadvantage is that it’s intimidating at first, and if you’re still carrying around a bunch of baggage like sexual insecurity, sex negativity, or poor communication skills, you’re going to have to address those. It also can tend, depending on where you are, to favor people who are conventionally attractive. But the lifestyle community offers a structural way to get what you want on your terms.

My approach is different. I’ve never “found” a partner for a threesome by going out and looking. All the threesomes I’ve ever had have involved people I already knew. I’ve always had a social circle who are open and sex-positive, so I’ve never had to go out searching; it’s always been more like “hey, I like you, I’d like to explore bring more physically intimate with you, whaddya say?”

I’ve tried to work on myself to build strong self-esteem and security, to confront my fears and insecurities, to develop the qualities of integrity and transparency, to be able to talk about sex without fear or shame, and to let go of the idea that if my lover digs sex involving another person that means I’m not good enough or whatever.

I’ve also worked hard to understand three principles that sound obvious but aren’t:

  • I can’t expect to have what I want if I don’t ask for what I want
  • If I feel something bad or unpleasant that doesn’t necessarily mean someone else is doing something wrong
  • Other people are real, which means their needs and desires are just as valid as mine.

Having done that, I deliberately built a social circle of open, sex-positive people. I got over feeling intimidated about going to kink or lifestyle social groups. I sought out people who have positive, healthy attitudes about sex. I worked on my own integrity.

And it really paid off. And because my social circle is made up of folks with good communication skills and positive attitudes about sex, it’s remarkably drama-free.

This approach takes the most work of the three, but it’s work you do on yourself. Being confident and secure, being open, having good communication skills, being willing to face down your fears and insecurities help you find partners, sure, but they also help you live a better, happier life.

Update #3 on the sex toy you can feel

A while ago, I had an idea on how to create a strapon that the wearer can actually feel, as though it were part of your body. The idea took off, so my partner Eve and I started a company and commissioned an engineering firm to do a design proposal. We recently tested a first-generation prototype, and discovered that not only does the tech work, it works far better than we expected.

Things have gone a bit crazy since then. We’ve received an avalanche of support and interest, and we’ve been talking to folks from all over the place who want to see this device become a reality.

I’m working on a second generation prototype that’s a lot more sophisticated than the first-generation prototype. It’s an interesting bit of engineering, for sure.

Still quite crude, but I’m refining it very rapidly. Right now, the main area I’m concentrating on is sensor design. The second prototype will have much more sophisticated sensors and will actually be usable for fucking (the first prototype wasn’t really suitable for penetration).

We’ve also been doing tons of market research, and the results have helped steer us toward a design that will work well for a lot of people.

If you’re interested in keeping up with this project, we’ve set up a Mailchimp email list. Feel free to add your email to the list! You can find it here:

Sign up for email list: http://eepurl.com/bP8m4f

Feel free to publicize this link to anyone you think might be interested!

We’re hoping to present the second-generation prototype at this year’s Arse Elektronica convention in San Francisco in October. Stay tuned!

Want to keep up with developments? Here’s a handy list of blog posts about it:
First post
Update 1
Update 2
Update 3
Update 4