An Experimental Investigation of Variations in Judgments of Hypothetical Males and Females Initiating Mixed-Gender Threesomes: An Application of Sexual Script Theory

Ashley E. Thompson, E. Sandra Byers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although many young adults are interested in mixed-gender threesomes (MGTs), little research has assessed attitudes toward them. Yet, MGTs offer a rare context to investigate how consensually nonmonogamous sexual encounters and involvement with same-sex others influence attitudes. Thus, by adopting sexual script theory as a framework, the current study compared three dimensions of character judgments (cognitive abilities, morality, partner quality) and assumptions about the sexual history of hypothetical males and females who initiated a MGT (two females and one male; two males and one female) or mixed-sex dyadic sexual activity with a casual or committed partner. To do so, a between-subject design was adopted in which 690 U.S. adults (405 women, 285 men) evaluated a hypothetical initiator described in one of 12 vignettes. On average, participants made neutral judgments about the initiator, yet those initiating dyadic sexual behavior were judged more favorably and as having a less extensive sexual history than MGT initiators. Male initiators were judged more favorably than female initiators, particularly by men. Those initiating in the context of a committed relationship were judged as more moral and as higher-quality partners than those initiating within a casual relationship; female (but not male) initiators in the committed context were judged as having a less extensive sexual history than female initiators in the casual context. These results confirm the presence of mononormativity biases and the sexual double standard and have implications for educators and practitioners related to stigma reduction and the promotion of inclusive sexual education.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1129-1142
Number of pages14
JournalArchives of sexual behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Consensual nonmonogamy
  • Heteronormativity
  • Mixed-gender threesomes
  • Mononormativity
  • Sexual double standard

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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