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Meet the Women Who Date Couples

... and the generally stable couples that go unicorn hunting.

JP WALLET/Shutterstock
Source: JP WALLET/Shutterstock

As an academic writing on sexuality, I am accustomed to reviewers’ critiques of my work, although writing for the public sphere has offered a sharp learning curve on how to best deal with public reactions to my findings. (Every post I publish here is based on information grounded in empirical research, both my own and others.) The previous two posts in this series covered the reasons why it is so hard for couples to date and provided some tips on how couples can improve their dating lives — both of which got a big reaction. This post uses research data to explain unicorns from their own perspective and readers’ comments to explore critical thinking.

Who Are the Unicorns?

Unicorns are bisexual, bicurious, or heteroflexible women who like to date female/male couples, and they are so rare as to be nearly mythical. In theory, people of all genders could be unicorns if they are open to dating couples. In practice, the unicorn-hunting phenomena is mostly limited to heteroflexible couples seeking women. People of other genders and sexual orientations are more likely to have a range of interactions (from passing sexual encounters to long-term triadic relationships) and generally do not label any of those variations as unicorn hunting.

Even though they are rare, women who enjoy dating couples do exist and report enjoying it for a range of reasons. Women who fit the profile have appeared in three of my research settings, covering both the mainstream polyamorous and kink communities in the United States: the Longitudinal Polyamorous Family Study (1996-present); the Overlapping Identities Survey (2005-2006); and the Are You Kinky? study (2007-2009). My findings indicate that these women’s experiences in consensual non-monogamy (CNM) are incredibly diverse and range from dangerously exploitative to joyously liberating.

During research interviews, I asked respondents of all genders about the advantages and disadvantages of CNM, and they responded:

“I get to go places and eat at places I never would otherwise because they pay….it makes me feel valued that they want me to come enough to pay for me all the time; it’s one of the ways they show they care about me.”

“They are to treat me like a queen. If they want to be in My presence, then they need to show their appreciation. I like to have multiple people attending to Me at the same time.”

“They assumed I would find a sitter, take the train to their place, and leave when we were done. They never offered to pay for the sitter, get me a cab, or come to my place, which actually wouldn’t have worked anyway. But they never even offered, that’s the thing — like to get a hotel closer to my place or take any of the financial load of us getting together. It was all on me. I only saw them a few times and got sick of that sh*t, so I dropped them.”

Using data on both the advantages and disadvantages that these respondents reported, I identified what these women commonly said they wanted from dating couples. These data then formed the basis of my advice to people who want to date unicorns — even using their own words to advise couples to “treat her like a queen.”

Other women chimed in on the discussion about the first two posts. QM (quoted with her permission) reported that:

“I love dating couples. It indicates to me right off the bat that both of them are probably at least tolerably emotionally stable and relationship material to *someone.* It takes a lot of the frustration and time-wasting out of dating. Plus I have my own primary relationship and my own life; I’m independently happy and successful, and prefer to date others who are as well, rather than feeling like I’m supposed to fill a lonely person’s needy void. Additionally, couples tend to be notably more respectful of my time and presence. They also tend to go out of their way to show greater tokens of appreciation for me than single people.”

Clearly, women who like to date female-male couples exist and report some similar advantages and disadvantages to dating couples.

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the practice of analyzing information in order to logically evaluate it, using reflective and independent thought to guide beliefs and/or actions, distinguishing empirically-based facts from opinions, evaluating claims of expertise, and clarifying who legitimately defines identity.

Occasionally readers will post comments telling me of their extreme displeasure with my findings. On the one hand, readers have commented that all polyamorous people are predatory individuals, abusers, or rapists, unable to experience intimacy or engage in consensual relationships. On the other hand, some readers have commented that the CNM community is not as I represent it and that my findings are suspect because I am not a legitimate expert and not polyamorous myself.

Those who say that polyamory is evil and those who say that unicorn-hunting is evil generally base their responses on their individual experiences. Those experiences are real and legitimate — but they are not the only experiences. Research involves the systematic investigation of a topic designed to contribute to general knowledge. Perhaps most importantly in this case, research with humans involves sampling as broad a range of people as possible, including non-monogamists who identify as something other than polyamorous or manage their polyamorous relationships differently than those who oppose unicorn hunting on principle.

In the age of online communication, it can be hard to tell what constitutes legitimate expertise. Because anyone can present themselves as anything online, one of the best ways to evaluate expertise is to consider their credentials. For instance, I call myself an expert in polyamory because of my training (Ph.D., CSE, CASA), research, and extensive publications. Others acknowledge me as an expert when the media seeks my commentary or courts recognize me as an expert witness.

Studying polyamory and BDSM as a person who identifies as both monogamish and French vanilla[i] has made me a target for identity-based criticisms, both that I am too polyamorous to be objective and not polyamorous enough to be accurate. If my ideas were opinion-based, that would be a reasonable critique. However, they are built from decades of research, ethnographic interviews, participant observation, and reading others’ research findings on a wide range of topics.

[i] A term I made up to describe my mostly vanilla self with a hint of openness to kinkiness which is generally foiled by my dislike of pain and defiant personality that does not like to submit to authority but also has no desire to tell other people what to do.

Facebook image: JP WALLET/Shutterstock


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Drescher, J. (2015). Out of DSM: Depathologizing homosexuality. Behavioral Sciences, 5(4), 565-575.

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Moser, C. (2016). DSM-5 and the paraphilic disorders: Conceptual issues. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 45(8), 2181-2186.

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Sheff, E. (2013). The polyamorists next door: Inside multiple-partner relationships and families. Rowman & Littlefield.

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