Why Unicorn Hunting is exercising Couple Privilege : Multiple Match – Ethical Non-Monogamy, Sex, Love & Relationships

Why Unicorn Hunting is exercising Couple Privilege

Unicorns. Not as desirable as one might think…

Unicorn –  A mythical creature, in the Poly community is the rare bisexual woman who is willing to be in a relationship, often exclusively, with an existing male/female couple. Unicorn Hunters are the couple seeking only such a woman.

Please note, a Unicorn is not a pleasant term for most bisexual women and no one should think of putting it IN a profile!!

So why are Unicorn Hunting/seeking a closed Triads unpopular in Politically aware Poly communities?

Despite the Triads unusually high failure rate (even by Poly standards) there is always a steady stream of couples entering into the Poly community looking for a “third” to join them. A recent quick survey of new couples advertising on a popular Polygamous site showed a massive 51% of couples explicitly requesting a bisexual woman, compare that to the only 10% of single women who identified as such, since there is only one single woman, bi or straight, to four couples to begin with, these couples are very much limiting their options, so why does the fantasy persist?

Part of the reason for its popularity is simply down to pornography – a permanent hawt   (but loving) threesome is a fantasy for many men and bisexual women.  Another is the fact that female bisexuality is (relatively) socially acceptable so many more women are coming out to their husbands and no longer suppressing this aspect of themselves.

You just never see that level of female acceptance of male bisexuality.

In the small secular/non denominational Polygamous/Poly-Fi community people tend to be more mainstream and unaware of alternative socio-political analysis, their only exposure to non monogamy tends to come from a more religious model like HBO’s Big Love or TLC’s Sisterwives and they wish to adapt that model and be inclusive of their sexuality.  Even those who have previously explored Polyamory by having short lived triad or female secondary relationships tend to see their desire for a permanent triad as an extension of their dyadic marriage, rather than a radical re-thinking of the standard narrative/paradigm.

There is a small crossover between the secular/liberal and the devout/Biblical members of this community which means that there is some controversy with seeking a “bisexual sisterwife” usually these are in the forms of Biblical objections to Homosexuality, often countered with the injunctions being  male specific, therefore the unicorn seekers get a fairly comfortable ride in this community.

As I alluded to previously,  I think the term bisexual sisterwife is a unfortunate neologism, using terms picked from one source, combined with their sexuality to create…the perfect Frankenstein’s Poly Bride, one that can be joined with, shared, enjoyed, played with, had, and slept with by “both of us”*.

The blatant objectifying of this unknown bisexual female seems to miss these couples.

The Polyamory community being LGBT friendly and women focused makes it a natural place for bisexual women to gravitate towards. However the community has been wary of couples seeking a third “to complete them”* for traditionally two main reasons, the well examined Male privilege  and the particular to Polyamory neologism Couple privilege.

A good Poly community will explain their objections and advise seekers to be more flexible and let relationships grow organically, a bad community will just mock them, not explain their objections to Unicorn hunting and run them off the site. Recently, the terms, Unicorn or HBB have the ability to cause such flame wars that many communities now have taken on an ‘ignore and maybe it(they?) will go away tactic’ preferring for people to discover why triads rarely work…the hard way.

Male privilege, as in the traditionally Polygynous societies, is simply that a man will need to be assured that his is the only penis in the relationships (AKA OPP one penis policy) this male need not challenge any preconceived, unenlightened notions of female ownership, female submission and female promiscuity, since he is a man, he need not feel threatened by the female/female relationship since it is inherently inferior.    For these men, entering Poly can give the illusion of being progressive whilst still avoiding the fact that he is limiting his partner’s freedom of choice.  By claiming, that because they are limited by gender (by virtue of being a straight man) their partner has the same limitation, is ignoring the fact of their partners possible ability to bond with both genders and is thereby evoking male privilege.

Couple Privilege is when a couple, for all intents and purposes work as a single unit to preserve and enhance their primary dyad above all things. This is the main purpose of the hierarchical primary/secondary forms of Polyamory . However, many couples who seek a triad do not realise that their actual seeking of a bisexual female is a form of couple privilege at work.

I cannot stress how many times I have seen people write on a profile ‘Looking for a third to add to our relationship/marriage’ This, more than anything illustrates Couple Privilege and yet, they are unlikely to see this as a problem.

Question: Well isn’t asking for a bisexual female stating a preference that would suit your family, like asking for someone who likes outdoor leisure pursuits because we are outdoorsy or someone who likes kids because we have five??

Answer:  That appears to be a valid point until you realise that pointing out that you are outdoorsy and have many children has as much to do with “her” happiness and comfort as it does yours and your family.  If she hates country pursuits she may be unhappy.  If she dislikes children not only will she be unhappy but she may, by extension make your children stressed and uncomfortable by her presence.  It is a description of who you are and she needs to know you.  However, asking for her to be ‘bisexual’ you are making a request that would make YOU happy.  You have jointly decided that this is this is the form of relationship you want and it is the only type of woman who will fit the bill is someone who has the appropriate sexuality.

The assumption is then made that because she is bisexual, she will be sexually interested in both members of the couple.  This is actually a heteronormative biphobic assumption that bisexuals are not discriminating, that anything goes.  Therefore if a man is offering up his wife a sexual partner than naturally she will take it (and visa versa), since she will want to have sex with the woman by virtue of her being attached to the man she wants. Not because she is independently sexually attracted to her, alternatively since her role is to be a wife for him also, if her leanings are more geared towards the female of the relationship she will not be fulfilling her obligation to him.  Either way, she is expected to be sexually available to both partners since they made it a condition of their relationship.

Question:  Ok, so that does not pertain to us, we only pointed out that “the wife is bisexual so it is ok if she is too” how is that wrong?

Answer:  Well first of all by stating that you are still indicating an expectation that bisexual = sexually available for the wife.  Is it so unbelievable to that there may have two bisexual women in a room and neither one may want to have sex with the other?

Language is important, why state your/your wife’s sexuality unless it will open up the possibility of a sexual relationship?

Question:  My wife is bisexual, we only looked into this lifestyle so she can get her needs fulfilled.

Answer:  This is a very common experience but I am frankly confused as to why you would then look for a woman to love both of you (super hard) then just her alone (relatively easy)?  Looking for a woman to be a part of your relationship in the capacity of partner to you both means her status is dependent only on her continuing active bisexuality.  If one of her relationships is not working for her, her other relationship is threatened.   Imagine being told “Sleep with him or I will dump you” and you have the most obvious problem with this mindset.  It may not be explicitly stated but it is the underlying threat. There is a vaguely sexually coercive tactic to entering into a relationship with the unenlightened non flexible unicorn hunters and it is not reasonable, it is not egalitarian and yes, it is couple privilege. This is also part of the ‘if I am involved too I won’t be jealous’ assumption which is a pernicious mistake about the triad structure which sadly has too few working triads around to kill off completely.

Stating that you are seeking a unicorn is akin to a single man claiming he wants to marry a flight attendant, and a single woman stating she will only date doctors, it may seem reasonable, it may seem like free choice but it is still objectifying, classifying people by an arbitrary role, rather than who they are.  It can be insecure and destabilising for the unicorn and if the couple are not examining their relative privilege the unicorns role will not be an equal partner, just a equal plaything.

* All terms have been used in seeking posts/profiles by actively seeking couples.

** This post refers specifically for those seeking closed (especially live in) Triads and not open triads, accidental triads or people seeking casual relationships with occasional threesomes.

Useful links on this topic
Please read Joreth’s excellent and insightful comments on Dan Jasper’s Polytical article here
Wonderful blog post concerning the OPP
Bi Poly Kinky’s feelings about dating a couple.



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  1. Magick says:

    That’s a very nicely written article, and I totally agree with most of the underlying concepts of at least the first half, but then it seems to stray off into what I tend to think of as ‘trendy student’ territory IMHO. By that I don’t necessarily mean literally University students, more a way of thinking, and politicising personal decisions, that I’ve seen in many sub-cultures, particularly amongst vegetarians, and that I feel tends to alienate people of other viewpoints, and in the long term sideline a lifestyle that’s easier to integrate with society if it remains purely about personal choice.

    It seems to make an assumption that anyone looking for a poly relationship is, by definition, politicising their relationship, and further, trying to be progressive and remove any form of power dynamic or consideration of a family unit that all can comfortably thrive in.

    In particular, the idea that a (current) couple should be concerned what ‘The Polyamory community’ (which I’ve managed to survive without subscribing to anywhere but the internet for 25 years now) thinks, seems to me to have more to do with appearances and politics than actual relationship dynamics.

    I realise that may well be relevant to many people who join polyamory groups, but I also feel that being more tolerant of those of us who simply live this way without it being a political or philosophical ’cause’ might go some way to achieving greater social acceptance. I have a suspicion, however, that normalising poly isn’t the true aim of such thinking, which is fair enough, of course, but takes it a step even further away from my own reasons for communicating with other polyamorous people in the first place.

    For instance, the first question posed, re; ‘stating a preference that would suit your family’, seems to me to not be answered at all. The reply might as well say ‘yes, it’s pretty much the same as the outdoor pursuits thing’. To state that you are an existing couple seeking a female who is interested in both of you *is* very limiting of course, but it’s limiting your chances, not a third parties choices. If that isn’t what the third party wants, then she simply won’t be interested in your offer. It’s not making assumptions about anyone, it’s simply a matter of asking if that’s what a person is seeking. If a couple think that *any* bisexual woman would want to get involved with them, I’d see the point made in the article, but I would assume that anyone seeking this kind of set up would be specifically looking for someone who was both bisexual and interested in their offer.

    I absolutely agree that seeking a relationship where all three partners being involved with each other is the stated premise is tremendously hard to get right, but if that’s what all parties are looking for I don’t see any good reason not to try. I don’t see it as ‘coercive’ if that’s the deal on the table from the start really. If a woman gets involved with a couple under such terms, and is only really interested in one partner, that has more to do with her manipulative dishonesty than the couple’s coercion. I *do* agree that there is a pressure for all relationships to work for the sake of the others in this situation, but nobody is forced to accept that challenge if everyone is honest about what they want from the start.

    To say “Stating that you are seeking a unicorn is akin to a single man claiming he wants to marry a flight attendant, and a single woman stating she will only date doctors” doesn’t really seem accurate to me, unless the job preference were in some way related to a potential partner’s ability to comfortably fit with the expected lifestyle of the family. It’s more akin to a straight man saying he is only interested in female partners.

    The new person entering an established dynamic on these terms absolutely *is* at a disadvantage, at least to begin with, but if that’s something they feel they are willing to deal with in order to find the relationship they want, and assuming the situation is clear to all, I don’t see an issue with that.

    From a political point of view I entirely see what the article is saying, and if you have a desire to have an entirely open and inclusive dynamic I think the writer makes some brilliant points, but it seems strange to assume that just because someone happens to want multiple partners, they would share an entire philosophical viewpoint with the writer. For some of us polyamory isn’t a statement or a philosophy… sometimes it is just about love.

  2. Natja says:

    I think we probably come from very different world views Magic. I rather think that there is a political aspect to everything we choose to do, when you consider notions of privilege especially gender privilege in our world, politics are important aspects of our interpersonal relationships. Also, the Polyamory community is relevant is so far as A) it tends to be full of people educated in gender and sexual politics, as such these discussions come up frequently and B) The people I refer to as Unicorn Hunters more often than not start their search from within the Polyamorous community and therefore this makes them fair game for commentary from within said community. Believe me, they are not going about their search quietly, as anyone who spends a great deal of time on an active Poly forum has seen the ‘Why can’t we find a perfect woman to share her life with us’ lament on more than one occasion. It is not just my own personal bias, it is something witnessed by many and witnessed repeatedly.
    We may have to disagree with this, but I most certainly think the job description aspect of the Unicorn Hunt has far more in common with filling a role than just wanting a relationship at all, if I am seeking a new relationship, I want to find someone who I get along with, I don’t look for a person who must fulfil an obligation to not just myself but to anyone else I happen to be in a relationship with.
    This is a reasonable request to ask of anyone and most experienced Poly women do realise it (for those same understandings of the notions of privilege I explained already). But some people do choose to undertake this sort of relationship and yes indeed, if someone goes into a relationship understanding the issues well, fair play, but my point is, most people do not realise that there ARE issues, that take a woo-woo romantic view of things and in almost every single case those people are inexperienced Poly’s, who have very often either never had a Poly relationship before at all or have only had swinging threesome experience and think it would be the best thing EVER to have that every day. It is the fact that they are inexperienced and have no desire to examine their pee-conceived notions why there are very few active triads out there and every single one I know of, was started accidentally not through seeking it out. Out of all the other triads I know of, they either break up, often in a 2+1 configuration again or they become a vee, sometimes they become a vee and then break up because one person is resentful because of their change of status from lover to metamour. This is very well documented in the Poly community and is particular to that configuration, in the same way that all configurations have their own particular stresses, but what makes triads particularly problematic are their relative popularity as a first step in Poly for many couples with Bi wives.
    Finally, if it is just about love, than it need not come with such a condition.

  3. Magick says:

    OK framed within the world of poly forums it maybe does make more sense, though my over-riding point really was that the thinking only seemed relevant from a specific perspective, so actually it seems we agree.

    From my perspective, I run my relationship dynamics much as I would if I lived on a desert island with my chosen family and were answerable only to them. On that basis – since I don’t consider the views of people outside of the family concerning how we do things to be important, and have no interest in imposing my view on others (and live in a society where I experience no effective discrimination that matters to us), I don’t see my relationships as political.

    I am confused by your reasoning though TBH…

    You say Poly forums “tend to be full of people educated in gender and sexual politics”

    Then you say that members of said communities repeatedly see laments about not being able to find unicorns (presumably from other members)…

    Then you say that unicorns (who are presumably also members) tend to be naive…

    Surely these last two statements suggest the forums aren’t full of political academics after all doesn’t it?

  4. Natja says:

    >Then you say that members of said communities repeatedly see laments about not being able to find unicorns (presumably from other members)…
    >Then you say that unicorns (who are presumably also members) tend to be naive…
    >Surely these last two statements suggest the forums aren’t full of political academics after all doesn’t it?

    Sorry I did not make myself clear, Unicorns Hunters and indeed the (few) Unicorns themselves are almost always new to Polyamorous forums and very new to Polyamory itself. Occasionally, you would find some people who have moved from a swinging experience of “HAWT threesome sex” and try to extend it to a permanent Poly (often Poly-fi, live in) situation with very little examination to their existing couple privilege.

    The few who continue to stay in contact with the Polyamorous community will invariably change their approach, the rest disappear after the trauma of realising that Unicorns are not falling out of the sky.

    I think it is important to make a distinction between saying people are ‘educated’ in gender and sexual politics and saying that the forums are full of political academics (something I did not write btw).
    Polyamory does tend to draw in quite a few politically aware people yes, it is how we often navigate our needs and rights and the needs and rights not only of our partners but also our partners partners. Those who come into Polyamory attempting to expand a monogamous situation dyadic situation into a triadic situation do not usually feel they need to do any work because it will be just the same, but instead there will be one ‘extra’ person.

    All one needs to do is read the words that they use in their profiles…

    ‘Looking for a woman to share’
    ‘Looking for that woman to complete us’
    ‘Looking for that special someone to add to our marriage’

  5. Master_Shiny says:

    I read through all these post, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Honesty is the most important thing…My partner and I have both lived in a closed Triad/Poly-monogamy or what ever current name you wish to label the relationship for several years…eventually they broke up but so do monogamous and polyamorous relationshipps – that’s life….but the bottom line is that we both seek a female to love and form a long-term relationship with as a closed family of three because we believe that what works for us in all aspects….WE (and you can all have your own opinion) believe that the love, time(and relationships do take time – not just seeing someone once a month) and effort to have a fulfilling long term relationship (other than just for an Open and honest sexual relationships) gets stretched far to thin with multiple partners – A Three/triad or whatever in OUR opinion in regards to OUR Wants/Needs/Life work and we feel the community should respect our whishes’ as much as anybody else’s plain and simple without trying to dissect/politicise or dismiss it…..We feel some of the community are not really as open and respectful of other peoples feelings because they are different from theirs and we also see the discrimination againt such relationships which is sad in a community that is supposed to be open.
    As for the “Unicorn Hunt” yes…finding a woman who wishes the same relationship is hard, yes that person will need to fall in love with two people – but she is not a plaything for the couple she is AN EQUAL in a Three-way Closed Relationship/Lifestyle/family…and to anyone else out there looking that gets this far through the postings…don’t give up if its truly what you believe in, want and are prepared to commit and work at…it will happen and does work…

  6. serenablackcat says:

    Master Shiny, if you were really looking for an “equal partner” then you would not have already planned out what role, type of relationship, and requirements she must meet. You have a pre-conceived person that you want to come in and sign an agreement form to obey your wishes. This is not a person who has equal say in the relationship.

    Also, with the rarity of unicorns available and the fact that any other couples would basically be competition for you, you probably shouldn’t be encouraging other people to not give up.

  7. Master_Shiny says:

    serenablackcat – when you/anybody looks for a partner you/they will have a person /type and aspirations in mind for whatever type of relationship you/they have in mind.
    Some things/traits/hobbies/interests and opinions would be a definite NO , some would be ok I can live with that either way and some would be a great that’s something I’m interested in/like /am, and A MUST have.
    How is this different in a three way relationship partner want list? especially as this is only a starting point for any relationship that is naturally bound to develop and evolve overtime like any relationship?
    Also equality can be a subjective thing. For instance My partner likes me to make decisions – partly because we are also involved in M/s bdsm kink world but also because that’s what she as a free thinking person had down as A MUST have requirement in her initial relationship starting point list as a must have(though I will point out before you jump up and down and call me an MCP I always take all her opinions/wants/needs/wishes/best interests seriously and un-selfishly into consideration before making a decision – more than many people of either sex do in there “normal” relationships )And we both agree OPEN and HONEST is right up at the top of our MUT HAVE lists.
    I cant see where I have any opinions that would stop our unicorn from being equal – far from it, and as for encouraging other people not to give up as it would be less competition (a) its not a game/competition – its a life choice and (b)The more the more people that seek to live as a polytriad/three/polymonogomy the more vocal we will become and less discrimination and more acceptance we will gain within this small poly community.

  8. Natja says:

    >How is this different in a three way relationship partner want list?

    Because you take it out of the realm of having something in common and relating one on one, to insisting that a person must BEHAVE a certain way and continue to do so with a second person as a condition of being in a relationship with you, regardless of whether they wish to or not.

    This goes beyond ‘Love me, love my family’ and into ‘Love me, feel the exact way for my family as I do’.

    For example, it is like meeting a woman, finding a connection and then bringing her home and saying ‘These are my kids, you must love them EXACTLY like I do’. Mandating feelings is just not acceptable.

    Sounds reasonable? Of course not, but that is what Unicorn Hunters are asking a woman to be in and continue to be in, a relationship with you and I would question whether your ex Unicorn would think that just because you feel that form of relationship is best for you both, if she feels like it was worthwhile for her and whether she would do the same again? My experience is that single women will do it once…..and never again. Couples on the other hand repeatedly come back for more, it’s clear who gets the most out of these ‘equal’ relationships.

  9. Master_Shiny says:

    Where do I say or insist that a person behaves a certain way and continue to do so with the second person? that’s absolute rubbish (to be very very polite) let alone say love me feel the exact way for my family as I do?
    get real we are all different and please re-read my postings.

    I also think your observations on my ex unicorn are so far wrong (even though I don’t understand how you could personally comment on my relationship)as we don’t even know each other and have never met, that Maybe you relying only on your own (bitter?) experience’s…

    Whereas speaking about my Own positive experience’s (even those that failed) tells me otherwise…broken relationships move on, heal and learn from the experience to better improve the success rate of further relationships be it monogamous /poly monogamous/ triad etc etc

    The “Couples Unicorn Hunt” has as much right as any other form of relationship to exist on here and be part of this community, whether you embrace it, fully understand it or not.. If you feel that strong and discriminatory please feel free to move on.

  10. Relic says:

    As someone who has been poly for their entire life, and has had much experience (imo), I will have to agree pretty much 100% with everything that Master Shiny has said. Everything! I don’t even know what to say because I couldn’t really say it better myself…I actually want to thank you for posting…because a lot of people have tried to make me believe a lot of things…like it can never work, and all the other things that people say about poly/triad…

    I will agree that things can be more complicated with a triad than with a couple…and I also agree that if a couple is looking for a “unicorn” and treating them as an “accessory”, it is unfair and just plain selfish. To me polyamory is about love…and only love. To me a triad is about love, and only love. If the love is true and shared truly between all parties, the triad or anything work just the exact same way that any relationship will work. Relationships work when their is honesty, trust, respect and understanding. Sometimes compromises might need to be made…and just like any relationship, compromises mean that all people agreeing to the compromises agree. Pretty simple really.

    I’ve also been reading a few people posting about how those who are in successful triads shouldn’t encourage, because it’s so rare to find a “unicorn”…so there is competition…Seriously!? We’re talking about people here. Not objects, not trophies! Perhaps these so called “unicorns” are rare…but you know what; maybe they are just as rare as the couples that can make triads work…

  11. babygirlkalls says:

    So in your opinion is a couple deciding to explore their polyamory together always a bad thing? Is this always “couple privilege” if the desired result is to find people wanting a relationship with both members of the marriage?

    My husband and I want to meet people interested in a mutual relationship with everyone involved, without external relationships. Preferably, eventually a live in group setting.

    Gender doesn’t matter, amount of people (up to a point of course) doesn’t matter as long as everyone already in the group is feeling the relationship. Even if anyone wasn’t sexual with one another, it would still need to be a good “mesh” if you will. But a the main thing is exclusivity within the group. Does that still make it a “couple privilege”?

  12. Mark Hoffman says:

    So I conclude from the above that the consensus is that a couple can find a third, and the relationship can be equal for all three partners in the relationship, as with a normal couple relationship if that’s how they want it – and it is that couples right to choose a poly monogamy/ poly triad as their form of polyamory (where all partners are primary’s) as much as any poly relationship with multiple partners has primaries, secondary’s etc….
    also I conclude that some people will be focused on multiple partners scenario’s and see this form of poly as a threat to the poly foundations of old.

  13. emma says:

    Hrm, you conclude that a couple can find a third if “that’s what they really want” but make no mention of what benefit a “third” would get out of joining a couple.

    As a bisexual woman who has been asked to join existing couples, but never taken anyone up on the offer, I can say it’s not for any ideological objection that I refused, but rather that I felt objectified in much the manner the author discussed. I got the sense that my needs would always be secondary to the needs of the couple, and not one thing any couple here has said has allayed my fears.

    All of this discussion seems to be very focused on what the *couple* wants – well, maybe it’d be a little easier to find a third if you could imagine what *the third* may want. And, the fact that you took responses from OHTER COUPLES that validated your own opinions while rejecting the input from bisexual women who have have felt objectified really seems to confirm the author’s original complaint that couples aren’t genuinely looking to fulfill the needs of their third.

    I do believe couples can find thirds, and I do believe in functioning threesomes, but not from people who are only looking take from their bisexual thirds. To find a third, you’re going to have to be up front about *what you can give* and somehow that seems to have escaped the discussion from every couple here.

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