December 2004

Holly Combe


Three-Way: Erotic Stories Edited by Alison Tyler

We all know the drill: "two’s company, three’s a crowd." The saying is so ingrained in the intricacies of our everyday relationships that we barely notice its influence on our sex lives. But what really happens when those boundaries are pushed? Are we so insecure and dichotomous that the insular twosome is our only route to happiness and sexual satisfaction?

Three-Way, a collection of erotic stories edited by Alison Tyler, the author of Sticky Fingers and editor of Bondage on a Budget, effectively distracts from the usual concerns by highlighting the pleasures of the threesome. Though mainly focused on the ménages à trois, this anthology also includes stories with a wider take on the group sex theme. From the anonymous masked men of Marcelle Perks's "The Scarless" to the somewhat more vanilla delights of involving a third lover by telephone, in Dante Davidson's "1-900 Fantasy" and Emilie Paris's "Cast of Three," the book covers a wide range of scenarios that are sure to tickle a variety of fancies. Whether you’re purely looking to get off or interested in exploring the transgression of conventional sexual codes, Three-Way makes for a provocative and stimulating read.

The book encompasses lots of imaginative takes on the three-way theme, some of which would not be initially obvious to the reader. A. J. Stone details the sexual exchange between a passenger receiving oral sex in the back seat of a taxi and the voyeuristic driver in "If You Can Make it There, You Can Make it Anywhere." Even more outside of the box is "Craving Faces" by Tom Piccirilli, a tale where a woman’s tattooed alter-ego gets in on the action.

A particularly interesting example of the book's challenging of conventional boundaries is in "The Scarless" where Katje, a model and performer finds the fetish scene to be far more liberating than the demands of the "straight world." She takes us through her experience of a fetish shoot, where the physical challenges to her body remind her that she’d rather be where she is than standing in front of a lingerie photographer whose main demand is for her to "keep smiling." The piece comes across as a feminist defence of masochism: two things that could be seen, by some, as impossible and contradictory bed-partners. However, the right to endure is arguably as important as the right to avoid and Perks convincingly illustrates that the sexist restrictions of apparently respectable modelling actually bind far tighter than any bondage on the fetish scene ever could.

In keeping with this challenge to common perceptions, some of the stories in Threeway also push back the boundaries traditionally placed around sexual identity. Zach Adams's "In Town For Business" features a man who firmly identifies as gay but loves to give cunnilingus and "2 Guys and a Girl" by Thomas S. Roche shows the female lead managing to disguise herself as a boy so authentically that she qualifies as a fellow participant in the activities of the men behind her at the movie theatre.

Though few, there were definitely some disappointments in this book (the grinning sexless-looking urchins frolicking on the cover being one of them). I found the rather reductive I’m-a-bloke logic of "Pink Elephants" a little irksome at times and, along with this, Tyler's "All McQueen’s Men" left me wondering exactly why Julissa had to be beaten by her poker buddies for her fantasy to fuck them to come true (an act I firmly understood as her prize more than anyone else’s in the story). Certainly, I would have liked to see some more challenges to the conventions surrounding who penetrates and who is penetrated. "Nine Ball Corner Pocket" by Michelle Houston sees the loser on the receiving end and the guy in "Pink Elephants" by Eric Williams only ever receives penetration whilst also giving it.)

Overall, however, this is a great collection. Part of what makes these stories compelling is the imaginative way the characters handle situations that could so easily have become a source of anxiety. The lovers in "1-900-Fantasy" exhibit first night nerves but manage to transcend them by picking up the phone and adding another element to their experience. As anyone who has ever considered a three-way will know, actually making one happen can seem like a lot of hard work. Finding an anthology that fires off so many different and inspiring fantasies is a great start at least.

Three-Way: Erotic Stories Edited by Alison Tyler
Cleis Press
ISBN: 1573441937
216 Pages