THREESOMES: Studies in Sex, Power, and Intimacy by Arno Karlen

THREESOMES: Studies in Sex, Power, and Intimacy

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Scenes featuring two women and a man or vice-versa romping on a bed are common in pornographic as well as popular novels and movies. Yet Karlen (Sexuality and Homosexuality, 1971) contends that this is the first serious booklength study of the mÉnage à trois phenomenon. To fill the gap, Karlen invested 20 years off and on conducting in-depth interviews with 50 individuals who had engaged in various types of tripartite sex. He also gathered supplementary information from 200 others, and from responses to a questionnaire distributed to 150 card-carrying swingers that, among other things, confirmed that many found three-way sex more exciting than one-on-one or group sex. Much of the book involves verbatim interview excerpts interspersed with Karlen's interpretation of the psychodynamics of the behavior. Men, he finds, frequently enjoy the sense of power they perceive in manipulating two women and, when lesbianism is also involved, experience a tremendous sexual surge. In two-male triads, some men feel more macho watching their mates drive another man into a sexual frenzy. Women, on the other hand, often stress the warmth and intimacy of what they perceive as an extended erotic family. Karlen also finds patterns that indicate many triad participants may be acting out unresolved childhood problems or repressed sexual feelings toward two caregivers: a symbolicattempt to make whole a family rent during childhood by divorce. Although some of the stories are eyebrow--if not hair--raising (a bisexual mother-daughter team), scatology buffs will find lean pickings. Interviewees recite lurid details so dryly that they could be discussing a shopping list. In sum: a significant, if not earth-shaking, addition to the growing literature of sexology.

Pub Date: May 18th, 1988
Publisher: Beech Tree/Morrow