Advertisement
sex and relationships

Bisexual Women Explain Why They Hate Being 'Unicorn Hunted' for Threesomes

As nonmonogamous dating and polyamory have become more popular, the practice of couples using dating apps to deceive women into being their mythical 'third' is on the rise.

by Sophie Hemery; illustrated by Ella Strickland de Souza
Jun 10 2019, 4:00pm

Illustration: Ella Strickland de Souza

Chloe*, who is bisexual, had her dating app set to exclude men when she matched with Cat. Though Cat's profile mentioned being interested in "someone to join" her and her boyfriend, it also said she was up for dating solo. Chloe clarified that she wasn't interested in a threesome, and the two of them shared what she describes as "fast-track intimacy." Two dates and some sex later, Cat abruptly called things off over text.

"I did feel a bit let down because I’d allowed myself to be vulnerable," Chloe tells me. But it wasn’t until one more text came that she felt actual animosity. "It was something along the lines of: 'I hope this isn’t too much, but would you be up for meeting me and my boyfriend?'" Chloe was angry and hurt. "I feel like the connection we shared was actually just to manipulate me into a threesome. To reel me in." Upon reflection, she feels the experience was "toxic and actually kind of dehumanizing."

As nonmonogamous dating and polyamory have become more popular in recent years, sex educator Ruby Rare tells me that having a threesome with another woman has become something of a gateway drug for heterosexual couples—with most conducting their search for "a third" on dating apps. Ruby embraces this increased openness, but says that "the reality is that there are lots of people getting involved in these conversations who might not have much education" around sexuality, gender, and feminism—which isn’t surprising, considering the state of sex-ed in schools.

What Cat was doing is known as "unicorn hunting."

"Unicorn hunting refers to people looking for somebody to be the perfect fit for what they want sexually or romantically," says author and academic-activist Meg-John Barker. "Often the phrase is used in the context of man/woman couples who are searching for a 'hot bi babe' who will fancy them both equally and join them for a threesome." Another common usage is for a poly man/woman couple looking for a girlfriend. The main problem, though, Barker tells me, is that "they're looking for a mythical beast who doesn't really exist."

Unicorn hunting couple Tinder profile

"Some of the criticism of unicorn hunting is about it coming from a heteronormative standpoint, where the needs of the man/woman couple is prioritized and where there might be a sense that it's for the man's benefit—wanting to see his partner with another woman," Barker adds. "Where his partner's sexuality is assumed to be flexible in a way his is not. Perhaps even all about his desire, not hers, and not the other woman's."

Unicorn hunting is prevalent on a wide variety of dating apps. Designated apps such as Feeld allow couples to create shared profiles and allow all users to define their sexual desires, including threesomes, but this doesn’t prevent problematic unicorn hunting happening. Thirds are also commonly hunted down on apps such as OkCupid and Tinder, with couples either creating a profile together, or using on their own. Even users of lesbian dating apps such as HER aren't safe, with many users reporting unicorn hunters commonly popping up in their potential matches.

In response to the proliferation of unicorn hunting on all kinds of dating apps, there is a Facebook community with over 9,000 members devoted to sharing experiences of being "hunted." Some women-who-date-women now feel compelled to open their app profiles with lines like "I am not your unicorn," "No, I don't want to meet/fuck your boyfriend," and, No threesomes please." Lesbians are unicorn hunted, too—but women who identify as bisexual seem to be prime targets, often having their potential matches overrun with unsolicited threesome proposals.

Francesca—who had a threesome feels was "very male gaze-y," after being unicorn hunted online—says she feels bisexual women are hunted most often in this way because they "are seen as greedy and promiscuous and always up for sex" according to societal stereotypes. "A lot of it feels really essentializing and potentially exploitative," she says. After paying a subscription for one month to OkCupid to see who had "liked" her, 15 out of her 38 likes were from couples. "Some even had a meme as their profile picture, with 'reasons to date a couple,' and all the main pictures were of the woman." In order to come up in her matches, couples set their identity as, for example, "gay woman."

"Hitting people up for threesomes isn’t a very consensual thing to do unless they have specifically said in their profile that they are open to this," says sex educator Justin Hancock. He also thinks "it is an example of biphobia" because "being bi doesn’t mean that people will be interested in sex with more than one person," and that unicorn hunting often "objectifies and fetishizes" women-who-date-women. Meanwhile, hetero couples are proudly putting shiny unicorn emojis in their app profiles, hoping to find the third of their dreams.

Bisexual unicorn Tinder profile

Zoë, who has been unicorn hunted both offline and on dating apps (to the extent she felt compelled to change her username to Not Another Unicorn), thinks that the way the process plays out is almost always harmful for the third—usually a bisexual woman. She says her main problem with it is that couples are usually deceitful in their approach, and end up reinforcing oppressive structures such as patriarchy and heteronormativity.

"I find that typically guys use their girlfriends as bait, as a way of using a woman to make him—as a very masculine man—less predatory or threatening," she says. Zoë has been "duped quite a few times in what is supposedly a queer space." She says that usually a woman will start communicating with her, and then—once things feel comfortable and flirty—present her male partner.

"I really have a problem with the duplicitous approach that couples have, to move under the radar in queer or progressive sexuality spaces," says Zoë—adding that she feels it "erases genuine girl-on-girl desire" by having "women kind of orbiting male desire, only existing to serve that male desire and the male gaze."

Holly experienced this dynamic after matching with Clara, who was in a nonmonogamous relationship with a man. Her and Clara became close, and it was only after two years of dating and friendship that she "suddenly realized that the plan the whole time… was just to get me to sleep with her boyfriend."

In Priya’s case, initially she was interested in having a threesome with the couple who sought her out online—but in the end she found their approach disrespectful. While she had been enjoying getting to know the woman over text, one day "the woman disappeared and suddenly the man took over." Priya said this felt "weird," like her connection with the woman was insignificant. And quickly, despite the fact she'd told the couple that she wasn’t comfortable sending nudes or meeting somewhere private, the man asked for both those things a second time. "I just didn’t feel like I was being heard," she says.

This kind of treatment has left much of the queer community with a sour taste surrounding unicorn hunting. "A couple looking for someone together isn’t inherently problematic," says Zoë, "but the idea that: 'This is my partner, and this is someone I’m just fucking who I don’t really give a shit about but is fulfilling my needs right now'—that makes me uncomfortable, the idea that people are disposable in relation to this primary relationship." She says the dynamic often relies on the unicorn’s "passivity" and "strong restrictions" being placed on their desires, behaviours, and emotions. In essence, she says, often "these couples are looking for someone who is ostensibly doing sex work but they don’t want to pay for it."

Unicorn hunting Tinder profile

Luna Matatas—who describes herself as "a card carrying unicorn"—started teaching workshops on pleasurable group sex after a "ton of terrible" experiences. "I'd say 95 percent of the time, I felt like I was being invited into a couples' space as an 'invited intruder'—sort of like, 'We want you here, but don't get too close, don't take up too much space with your desires…"

Luna can now spot red flags on app profiles—such as those asking for "no drama" and not detailing anything about their interests or positive traits.

"When I teach, it's the exact same problems that come up all the time—the couples are usually very protective around their own needs and desires… and they forget that the other person is not just there to serve them." She urges couples to think about what they’re offering someone else. Her own best threesome felt positive from the offset: "They were showing off their fun qualities, what sexy things they have to offer someone else." And crucially, she says, the couple "recognized their couples' privilege." The couple put her comfort and pleasure at the center of the experience, and they were "treating me and them like three separate people."

Luna urges couples to want to find someone to join them for a threesome to use appropriate apps, and to have a shared profile that includes photos of them both. She says it's important the couple only seek out people whose profiles say they’re interested in threesomes and that, while communicating with the third, they’re able to openly discuss everyone’s desires and needs equally. Basically, to remember that "the other person is actually a human and not just another body they’re adding into their fantasy."

And if a couple would prefer someone to enact their fantasy? Maybe they should consider paying a sex worker rather than asking a bisexual woman to do it for free.

*All names have been changed

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.

VICE U.K. originally published this article.

Follow Sophie Hemery on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.