Originally posted at Selena Illyria’s blog during Ménage week
It’s the stuff of fantasies for many, a lifestyle for a few, and a deep commitment for even less, but what is really in a name?
Ménage a trois: French, literally, household for three. It appears such a melodic phrase, doesn’t it? But oh what a tortured history it weaves. Modern interpretation is as ‘threesome’, a sex act, but in fact it is oh so much more.
While of course, the concept of a household of three is longstanding; they are by no means peaceful, nor as simple as ‘just sex’ if history is anything to go by (sex, simple? Lol). Take Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire from approx. the Regency period as an example. She was usurped in her husbands affections by her best friend, and until the day she died was tied into an unhappy marriage and forced to cohabitate with her husband and his much preferred mistress. In opposition to that, by all appearances–even though her life was not at all easy–Lady Emma Hamilton of the same era lived with both her husband and her lover Lord Nelson in apparent harmony until the men’s deaths, only to later die in penury.
Fairly tragic indeed, I must say, but if we fast-forward to today, has it changed much? In essence, I think not much, yet in a wider scale, immensely so. In an age where our sexualities are much more open, people find it easier to embrace some of the sexual opportunities of a threesome–or at least their fantasies of a ménage a trois. But the actuality of living the lifestyle, I don’t know that it’s any easier, but…well, that’s a post for another day.
But what about those late-night-get-you-off fantasies? Because to be sure, a threesome is not a ménage a trois, but ménage a trois is much like polyamory (loving more than one/ responsible non-monogamy)–which is not to be confused with polygamy.
Confused? Let me explain.
No doubt you’ve seen amongst the erotic romance publishers the terms mmf/mfm/fmf or even ffm, they’re all ménage, right? Well indeed, if you’ve got this far, you’ve no doubt figured where I’m going with this–these things are indeed not all like the other. While, indeed they are all an indicator of multiple partner sex in between the covers, it’s not a be all and end all of what’s in the book.
For example: In my first book, Persuading Jo (mmf), two bisexual men have long been keen on their best girl, but not just for some one off sex games, but as an intricate part of their lives. An expansion on the wife, two kids and picket fences deal if you like–only in this scenario there are two husbands and a wife… At the end of the day, these three people are going to spend their lives together as one family unit– ménage a trois at it’s most literal, and polyamorous, the situation of loving more than one.
Now in total opposition to that in Par 3 (mfm), a husband and wife are both separately wondering if their marriage has run its course, while at the same time hoping it hasn’t.
It’s the outrageous suggestion by a friend of a threesome to kick-start their waning sex life that’s at the heart of this story. In this instance, I class this story as a threesome. I also put Curious Intimacies in this group too, even though it comes with the mmf classification. My main reason–because at the end of the day it’s just all about the sex between the three. There’s plenty of love, of course, between our main couple (in these two cases m/f), and much affection between them and their third, but that’s where it ends. It’s arousing and daring and outrageous, but fleeting…at least as far as the sex goes, anyway; it’s an experience, not at all a lifestyle. (but oh man, what an experience!)
But that’s not to say all mfm books are threesomes. Witch Vamp Were? is a case in point. The trio of Witch, Vampire and Were end up in a committed polyamorous relationship, but rather than a sexual circle where the sexual loving goes in all directions, it’s a little more linear with the heroine being in the center receiving love from both ends. The ends don’t touch…well, that’s the theory, anyway. Sometimes I wonder if I might let that line might get a little wiggly.
At the end of the day, what does this mean to you, the reader? Well, what it does mean is that you get your fantasies fulfilled either way. Whether it’s a sexy, naughty one off encounter that you and your lover have with a stranger (or indeed a close friend), or a story about sexual fluidity that allows you to vicariously live loving more than just one partner, we ménage authors have got you covered.