Erotic scene, misleadingly attributed to Peter Fendi

Group sex is sexual activity involving more than two people. Participants in group sex can be of any sexual orientation or gender. Any form of sexual activity can be adopted to involve more than two participants, but some forms have their own names.

Group sex most commonly takes place in a private sex party or semi-public swinger gathering, but may also take place at massage parlors or brothels or, in some jurisdictions, at purpose-built locations such as sex clubs. In places where non-monogamous sex is taboo or illegal, group sex may take place in private or clandestine locations including homes, hotel rooms, or private clubs.

Fantasies of group sex are extremely common among both men and women.[1][2] Many forms of sexual behavior were reported by Kinsey's subjects, but the official Kinsey Reports website does not mention threesomes or group sex in the summary of Kinsey's findings.[3]

Group sex is a subgenre in pornographic films.


Indian Kama Sutra painting depicting group sex
Illustration of group sex in Japanese woodblock printed books

In principle, any sexual behavior performed by more than two people can be referred to as group sex, but various terms are used to describe particular acts or combinations of people. Many swingers argue that non-swingers have conflated the terms because of lack of understanding and that there are distinct differences among the terms with specific meanings as to number, intent, sexual orientation, and familiarity of the persons involved.

Types of sex party

Illustration of a foursome by Édouard-Henri Avril
Illustration of an orgy by Édouard-Henri Avril

A sex party is a gathering at which sexual activity takes place. Sex parties may be organized to enable people to engage in casual sexual activity or for swinging couples or people interested in group sex to meet, but any gathering where sexual activity is anticipated can be called a sex party.

There are a number of types of sex parties:

Swinger party/gathering

A swinger party or partner-swapping party is a gathering at which individuals or couples in a committed relationship can engage in sexual activities with others as a recreational or social activity.[5]

Swinger parties may involve various group sex activities. Partners can engage in penetrative sex, known as "full swap", or choose to "soft swap" in which they engage only in non-penetrative sex. New swinging couples often choose a soft swap before they are comfortable with a full swap, although many couples stay soft swap for personal reasons.[6] "Soft swinging" is when a couple engages in sexual activities with only each other while other couples perform sex acts in the immediate vicinity.[7] Technically this is a form of exhibitionism rather than "group sex" per se.


An orgy is a gathering where guests freely engage in open and unrestrained sexual activity or group sex; and a bunga bunga orgy is an orgy in which participants have sex underwater, such as in a swimming pool or a hot tub.[8]

Daisy chain

Two men and two women ringed in a circular foursome sex position performing four combinations of oral sex: M–F, F–F, F–M, M–M

A daisy chain refers to a sexual act involving three or more people, during which each person simultaneously has sex with the person beside them in the group, thus forming a chain.[9] Some sources consider only groups of four or more people to be a daisy chain.[10]

Thus, in an "erotic foursome or partie-carrée", "two couples ... form a chain or Maltese cross carefully alternating man and woman".[11]

"The matter of ... erotic or spintrian chains ('daisy-chains')",[12] i.e., "of 'spintries' or erotic human chains, ... has been taken to ... permutational development in the appendix of postures to the well-known Manual of Classical Erotology (1824) of the Fichtean philosopher, Friedrich Karl Forberg, and in a Swedish work, Ju fler vi är tillsammans ('The More the Merrier'), by a schoolteacher, Ragnar Aaslund, published in 1966 and intended frankly as a manual of group-sex."[13]


As with all sexual activity, the relative risks of group sex depend on the specific activities engaged in, although having a large number of sexual partners increases one's risk of exposure to sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

From the mid-1980s there was active lobbying against gay bathhouses, blaming them for the spread of STIs, in particular HIV, and this forced closures in some jurisdictions, particularly in the United States.[14][15] Sociologist Stephen O. Murray writes that, "there was never any evidence presented that going to bathhouses was a risk-factor for contracting AIDS."[16] This statement ignored the fact that few studies had been done.[17] Later studies have confirmed a higher risk off STI from bathhouses.[18] In other countries, fears about the spread of STIs have prompted the closing of bathhouses—with their private rooms—in favour of sex clubs, in which all sexual activity takes place in the open, and can be observed by monitors whose job it is to enforce safer sex practices.[19]

Proponents claim that venues where group sex takes place often provide condoms, dental dams, latex gloves, lubricants and other items for safer sex, although they cannot prove that use of those items are used and use is typically not mandated. Bathhouses in particular are a major source of safer sex information—they provide pamphlets and post safer sex posters prominently (often on the walls of each room as well as in the common areas), provide free condoms and lubricants, and often require patrons to affirm that they will only have safer sex on the premises.[20][21][22][23]


In a 2015 US survey, a significantly larger percentage of men than women responded that they had any lifetime experience of a threesome (17.8 vs 10.3) or group sex (11.5 vs 6.3).[24]


The Sexual Offences Act 1967 decriminalized homosexual acts between two men over 21 years of age in private in England and Wales;[25] however, the privacy restrictions of the Act meant a third person could not participate in the sex or even be present, as well as that the two men could not have sex in a hotel. These restrictions were overturned in the European Court of Human Rights in 2000.[26]

Section 20A of the Immorality Act, 1957,[27] commonly known as the "men at a party" clause, was a South African law that criminalized all sexual acts between men that occurred in the presence of a third person. The section was enacted by the Immorality Amendment Act, 1969 and remained in force until it was found to be unconstitutional in 1998 by the Constitutional Court in the case of National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality v Minister of Justice.

A 1996 sexual harassment case filed against Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) highlighted corporate involvement by Mitsubishi in sex parties arranged by managers and other employees.[28]

Group sex is illegal in China, due to Article 301 of China's 1997 Criminal Law which bans “group licentiousness”.[29][30]

In Canada, in a 2002 decision regarding a case in which three people were engaged in sexual intercourse, the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta declared section 159 of the Criminal Code in its entirety to be null, including the provisions criminalizing anal sex when more than two persons are taking part or present.[31] In June 2019, C-75 passed both houses of the Parliament of Canada and received royal assent, repealing section 159 effective immediately.[32]

Media portrayals

Sex parties, under various names, have been a common focus of moral panics fed by media reports claiming that such parties are prevalent, or growing in prevalence, especially among teenagers.[33]

Sensational media reports about the prevalence of sex parties, especially among young people, appear with some regularity. In the early 1950s, for example, it was alleged that teenage girls, mainly throughout the Southern and Midwestern United States were forming "non-virgin clubs", in which they organized and held sex orgies with reports of couples being paired off by drawing numbers from a hat. These claims were investigated and debunked.[34][35][36][37]

Several stories of this type arose in the US in 2003. In New York, rumors began that teens had been taking days off from school to attend "hooky parties" while their parents were at work. One school even suspended a group of girls for allegedly skipping school to attend such a party, refusing to let them return to school until each had submitted to a medical examination for sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, and school officials were allowed to examine the results. The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit against the school[38] on behalf of the girls and won a settlement which included monetary damages and a change in the school district's policy.[39]

A rainbow party is a baseless urban legend spread from the early 2000s. At these events, females wearing various shades of lipstick reportedly took turns fellating males in sequence, leaving multiple colours on their penises,[40] ignoring the fact that in such a situation the colors would blend. Rainbow parties were covered on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2003, and became the subject of a juvenile novel called Rainbow Party.[40] On May 27, 2010, the television program The Doctors discussed the topic with dozens of teens, parents, and professionals. However, sex researchers and adolescent health care professionals have found no evidence for the existence of rainbow parties, and as such attribute the spread of the stories to a moral panic.[40]

Similar stories concerning teenagers using gel bracelets as coupons or signals for sex also arose at the time, with a similar lack of corroborating evidence.[41]

See also


  1. ^ Joyal, Christian C.; Cossette, Amélie; Lapierre, Vanessa (2015). "What Exactly Is an Unusual Sexual Fantasy?". The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 12 (2): 328–340. doi:10.1111/jsm.12734. ISSN 1743-6109. PMID 25359122. S2CID 33785479.
  2. ^ LEHMILLER, DR. JUSTIN J. (2018). TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT : the science of sexual desire and how it can help you improve your sex ... life. ROBINSON. ISBN 978-1472142238. OCLC 1013584575.
  3. ^ Bernstein, Elizabeth (25 June 2018). "New Research Delves Into Sexual Fantasies". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2019-10-09.
  4. ^ Forberg, Friedrich Karl (1963). Manual of classical erotology (De figuris Veneris). Medical Press of New York. p. 233.
  5. ^ Bergstrand, Curtis; Blevins Williams, Jennifer (2000-10-10). "Today's Alternative Marriage Styles: The Case of Swingers". Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality. 3. Retrieved 2010-01-24.
  6. ^ Wojick, Helen (Sep 2011). "What is a Swinger?". The Swinger Blog. Archived from the original on February 7, 2012. Retrieved April 15, 2012.
  7. ^ "SWINGERS DEFINITIONS - Swinger words that begin with a S". Archived from the original on 17 December 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  8. ^ "Berlusconi's 'Bunga Bunga Orgies'" Archived 2011-03-10 at the Wayback Machine. The Daily Beast, 7 November 2010
  9. ^ "A dictionary of slang - "D" - Slang and colloquialisms of the UK". Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  10. ^ "". Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  11. ^ Legman 1969, p. 307
  12. ^ Legman 1969, p. 304
  13. ^ Legman 1969, p. 305
  14. ^ Gross, Jane (October 14, 1985). "Bathhouses reflect AIDS concerns". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 December 2006. At the St. Marks Baths, for the price of a locker or a room, patrons now get a free condom, enclosed in a package that bears the legend the contents of this envelope could save your life.
  15. ^ Woods & Binson 2003
  16. ^ Murray 1996
  17. ^ Reidy, William J.; Spielberg, Freya; Wood, Robert; Binson, Diane; Woods, William J.; Goldbaum, Gary M. (April 2009). "HIV Risk Associated With Gay Bathhouses and Sex Clubs: Findings From 2 Seattle Surveys of Factors Related to HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections". American Journal of Public Health. 99 (S1): S165–S172. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2007.130773. ISSN 0090-0036. PMC 2724952. PMID 19218174.
  18. ^ Lau, JosephT. F.; Zhao, Jin-Kou; Wu, Xiao-Bing; Gu, Jing; Hao, Chun (2013-03-01). "Gay Saunas and the Risks of HIV and Syphilis Transmissions in China—Results of a Meta‐Analysis". The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 10 (3): 642–652. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2012.02956.x. ISSN 1743-6095. PMC 7105074.
  19. ^ Woods, William J.; Diane Binson (2003). Gay Bathhouses and Public Health Policy. Haworth Press. ISBN 978-1-56023-273-5. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  20. ^ Westerfelt, Alex (August 2005). "Bathhouse Norms: What goes on in the Bathhouse?". Healthy Living. Archived from the original on February 20, 2012. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  21. ^ Bernstein, Sharon (March 23, 2004). "Rising Rate of HIV Infection Renews Bathhouse Debate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 10 July 2008.
  22. ^ "NHS to hold STI testing in gay sauna". Pink News. October 15, 2007. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 21 October 2009.
  23. ^ "QX journal article". QX Magazine London (758). QX: 44. September 17, 2009. Archived from the original on 26 November 2009. Retrieved 25 October 2009.
  24. ^ Herbenick, Debby; Bowling, Jessamyn; Fu, Tsung-Chieh (Jane); Dodge, Brian; Guerra-Reyes, Lucia; Sanders, Stephanie (20 July 2017). "Sexual diversity in the United States: Results from a nationally representative probability sample of adult women and men". PLOS ONE. 12 (7): e0181198. Bibcode:2017PLoSO..1281198H. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0181198. PMC 5519052. PMID 28727762.
  25. ^ "From Section 28 to a Home Office float - Tories come out in force at gay march", The Guardian, London, 3 July 2010.
  26. ^ "HUDOC - European Court of Human Rights". Retrieved 2016-11-18.
  27. ^ In 1988 the Immorality Act was renamed the Sexual Offences Act.
  28. ^ "Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America Inc." Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine, Adam J. Conti, LLC, Filing 96-1192, September 15, 1997
  29. ^ "In China's rampant consumerist era, friends going to buy sex together has become normalised, perceived as not all that different from having a pint". Esquire (Singapore). Archived from the original on 30 March 2020. Retrieved 17 May 2022 – via PressReader.
  30. ^ Robert Foyle Hunwick (13 February 2018). "Polyamory in the PRC: A brief history of sex and swinging in modern China". SupChina. Archived from the original on 2020-03-30. Retrieved 2020-03-30.
  31. ^ "R. v. Roth, 2002 ABQB 145 (CanLII)". Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  32. ^ Bill C-75 (bill). Parliament of Canada. 21 June 2019.
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  34. ^ Morin, Relmin (August 26, 1951). "'Non-Virgin Club' New Aspect of Teen-age Sex Misbehavior". Eugene Register-Guard. Retrieved 19 October 2012.
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  37. ^ "Mattoon, Illinois History 1950-1959". Archived from the original on 2012-11-03. Retrieved 2012-10-19.
  38. ^ "NYCLU Sues New York School Officials for Forcing Teen-Age Girls to Undergo Intrusive Medical Exams" (July 8, 2003). Retrieved February 2, 2007.
  39. ^ "Doe and Roe v. Reid". New York Civil Liberties Union. Archived from the original on 7 July 2010. Retrieved 17 May 2022.
  40. ^ a b c Lewin, Tamar (June 30, 2005). "Are These Parties for Real?" The New York Times. Retrieved August 27, 2009.
  41. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara (2003). "Sex Bracelets". Retrieved December 22, 2005.