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Conventionally, the ménage à trois is seen as sexually unconventional. It is edgy. Couples can be obscene, it is true, but in the end they are still just couples. They are still ordinary. Whereas a ménage à trois is bohemian. It can’t help being bohemian.
    In case the incontestable point needs proving, take the film Cabaret. Produced in New York in the early seventies, Cabaret has trashy glam-rock glamour. Set in Berlin in the early thirties, this film tells the story of an American cabaret singer called Sally (played by the young Liza Minnelli), and a British writer called Brian. Sally and Brian are girlfriend and boyfriend. Then they meet Maximilian. Maximilian is a German count. You can imagine what happens. Sally falls for Maximilian. Brian also falls for Maximilian. Maximilian falls for both of them.

They were a contemporary ménage a trois. They had sex in twos and three.

    The threesome is the hallmark of a glam-rock plot. It wouldn’t be bohemian without a ménage à trois.


    For instance, the most famous line in the film is this. "Twosy beats onesy, but nothing beats three." The line is sung with a leer by the rouged and male MC of the Kit Kat Club, in evening dress, flanked by two buxom women. And that is the conventional view of the threesome. The threesome is virulently sexual. It is pre-Nazi decadence. It is sex personified.
    I know all that. I know that this is how lots of people think about the ménage à trois, if they think about it at all. I just think this view of the ménage is inaccurate. It misses out so many of the facts.
     It was autumn. Nana moved in with Moshe. Anjali kind of moved in with Moshe too. She had a key cut. So she popped in and out. She stayed there every weekend.
    I hope you are happy now. I hope you are clear about the living arrangements.
    They were a contemporary ménage à trois. They were definitely a ménage à trois. It was undeniable. They had sex in twos and three.

But a ménage is not just a sexual thing. It is not just a pre-Nazi decadent thing. Like everything else, it is also domestic. Nana and Anjali and Moshe played depraved sexual games, of course, but the three of them also went swimming. On Saturday mornings, Moshe and his two girlfriends went swimming in the Oasis Pool on High Holborn. And I want to watch them swim. I especially want to watch Moshe at the swimming pool.
    Moshe hovered in the shallow end, looking at the entrance to the girls’ changing room. He thought about the tricks they played on him. One morning, Nana and Anjali fitted Moshe up with water wings and carried him. Or Nana and Anjali swam away and kissed, treading water, in the deep end. Nana and Anjali were much better swimmers than Moshe. They teased him. He imagined them pornographically soaping each other’s tits in the pre-swimming shower. This gave him an erection, trapped in his tight trunks. So he stood there, leaning his elbows on the greasy bobbled tiles, looking nonchalant and pensive.

The ménage, as Moshe was finding out, was based on mutual infidelity. A threesome was three different couples. And one of those couples was Anjali and Moshe. This did not make Moshe very happy. He enjoyed it, he enjoyed all the sex with Anjali. He was just not sure that he approved. It was, in the end, infidelity.

He felt uneasy, and that feeling is important. But Moshe was only human. In addition to feeling uneasy, he could also acknowledge the obvious perks of having two girlfriends.
    For instance. In the Oasis Pool, the ménage was normally domestic.

Even with the weight of a swimming pool on it, his penis grew. It grew and grew.

It was normally a series of invigorating lengths up and down the pool. But on this particular Saturday swim, it was naughty. Anjali’s bikini top was flopping undone. That was why Anjali and Nana were late. They emerged from the dressing room, giggling, with Anjali’s arms crossed over her chest. The catch, she explained, was broken. And it was true. As she breasted the waters, her breasts appeared. It was, she told Moshe, a new bikini. She had bought it last week in Topshop. She had worn it once, said wide-eyed Anjali, without any problems. It was just that now it was useless.
    They were a naughty threesome and they improvised. Artfully concealed by orange water rings, Anjali’s arms were kept close to her chest. This did for a bikini top. But it did not solve the dilemma of the decorous morning swim. The three of them stood in the shallow end, by the water filter, confused.
    I am ashamed to admit it, but the odd feeling of abandon caused by her naked breasts had just given Anjali an idea. Even though she is one of my heroines, she did not want a decorous swim. She suddenly wanted a louche swim. She wanted to make Moshe come in the water. So with Nana standing behind him, Anjali stooped lowish in the water and gathered Moshe’s penis inside his Adidas trunks. Even with the weight of a swimming pool on it, his penis grew. It grew and grew. And considerate Anjali promised Moshe that nothing would get spilled. At the critical moment, she would lean down and Nana would raise him up enough for his penis to break the water and meet her mouth. So everything was fine.
    Moshe’s eyes looked frightened. They expressed fear of police. As Anjali explained that in an emergency the water filter would eliminate all other traces of evidence, Moshe stood rigid and was scared. This does not seem to me unreasonable. They were tightly wedged into the corner of a public swimming pool, one of them apparently dressed only in water wings. It was not, reasoned Moshe, unsuspicious. It would probably not go unnoticed by the lifeguard.
    It did not go unnoticed by the lifeguard. He was strolling over to assist this group of non-swimmers in the shallow end, one of whom needed water wings. The lifeguard was a tall and gorgeous man. All six abdominal muscles were clearly visible. He was very beautiful. He was starkly handsome. He made Moshe feel undernourished. And sadly, Anjali, Moshe and Nana never found out his name. But I will tell you this lifeguard’s name. His name was Ade.
    Ade said, ‘Hi.’ Moshe replied brightly, ‘Hi.’ He was wondering what Ade could see. Ade could see enough. Ade said, ‘You okay with those?’ He was talking about the water wings. ‘Yes yes yes we’re fine,’ said Moshe, wondering what his relatives would say when the Jewish Chronicle picked the story up. Anjali smiled at Ade. Nana looked away, abashed. And Ade smiled.
    You see, even a lifeguard is charmed by a threesome. Even a lifeguard saw a threesome as the essence of edgy cool. Ade winked. He walked away.

Perhaps Anjali’s behavior seems unusually exhibitionist. I can see that it might need explaining. The thing is, Anjali and Moshe were not particularly relaxed being sexual together. In the course of the ménage, they always remained friends, who, inexplicably, also had sex. They had sex because they were meant to have sex. They were, after all, two-thirds of a ménage à trois. But dutiful sex is, well, dutiful. Dutiful sex is boring.

Redistribution worked. It worked sexually. Anjali loved it when Moshe pushed into her, deeply. She came.

    I think that this was a pity. In many ways a threesome is the ultimate sexual unit. It is the socialist utopia of sex. One advantage of a threesome is that sexual responsibilities can be shared out equally. Sexual positions can be redistributed. Anjali, for example, had always felt unhappy asking a girl to use a dildo on her. With girls, Anjali coyly felt that begging for a dildo seemed to indicate an excessive interest in penetration. But obviously, in the ménage, she felt no such inhibition asking Moshe to use his penis on her. The one position that Nana disliked was the girl on all fours, fucked from behind. She said Moshe hurt her when he did that. She could feel him almost in her stomach and it hurt her. Whereas Anjali was happy to crouch there.
    Redistribution worked. It worked sexually. Anjali loved it when Moshe pushed into her, deeply. She came.
    As for Moshe, one regret he felt thinking about his sexual repertoire with Nana was the difficulty of the sexual position "69." This position is simultaneous oral sex. It rarely featured in Nana and Moshe’s sex life because Nana was six foot. And Moshe was not. In order for the position to be truly successful, Moshe’s penis would have to extend inversely, backwards. Instead, in real life, either Nana’s back was painfully arched, or her mouth could only suckle on his inner thigh, close to his knee. Or Moshe could lick Nana’s tummy button. Whereas with Anjali, Anjali was smaller than Moshe. Her mouth was in just the right place. Everything was in the right place.
    So why, if it was sexual utopia, was a threesome not perfect? I am going to explain with an illustration. Well, an imaginary illustration. You will have to imagine the sketch. This sketch shows Anjali on all fours, and Moshe kneeling behind her. If you want, you can imagine a small jutting prong veering from Moshe’s waist. Anyway, the interest of this sketch is not the prong. It is the thought balloons.
    You know what they are feeling. They are feeling enjoyably fucked. It was what they are thinking that is the problem.

At first, Nana had been glad to see that the three of them seemed happy. It was not what she had imagined when she first met Moshe, but it was what had happened. And I applaud this pragmatism. I applaud this lack of self-pity.
    But there were worries. The sex worried Nana. It worried her more and more.
    She was feeling envious of Anjali. She was feeling jealous of Moshe. The reason for this was that Nana was not a sexual talent. She was sexually complicated. And it made her sad, being in the same room as Moshe and Anjali, while Moshe and Anjali had sex deliriously and skilfully. It was difficult to stay amused by this. It was a social effort.

As Anjali became less and less heterosexual, her requests became more specific and outlandish.

    In order to counter her feeling that she was the sexual anomaly in the ménage, Nana wanted to display willing. She wanted to be Anjali’s equal. She did not do this, however, simply by having sex with Moshe. She did that, of course, she had sex with Moshe. But more importantly, she experimented with Anjali. She agreed to all of Anjali’s suggestions. And Anjali’s requests were becoming quite intense. As Anjali became less and less heterosexual, her requests became more specific and outlandish.
    I don’t know how outlandish Nana may seem. I assume she does not seem very outlandish. In sex, the one thing Nana liked — and we all know too well that sex was not Nana’s favourite topic — was intimacy. She at least liked feeling cared for. Whereas Anjali was becoming ferocious. This made Nana feel a little uncomfortable. But what could she do? She did not want to seem prudish.

That is why, one day, Anjali’s first, second, and third fingers were inside Nana’s vagina, just below the knuckle. They were slick with Johnson’s K-Y Jelly, whose blue tube with a white flip-cap was somewhere in the duvet.
    Into their domestic repertoire, Anjali and Nana had introduced the sexual practice known as fisting. They domesticated fist fucking. And that is an achievement, I think, domesticating fist fucking. They did this, led by Anjali, using tips culled from Internet pornography and lesbian film classics such as How to Fuck in High Heels and Femme II.
    For those of you who may like to experiment, too, or who simply find it difficult to imagine this, I shall try to give you a guide.

Anjali’s first, second, and third fingers were inside Nana’s vagina, just below the knuckle.

    First, Anjali warmed Nana up. She pressed her tongue slowly against Nana’s clitoris. Anjali lapped the mucus from Nana’s vagina. She spread it round her wrinkled doughy labia. And Nana let her head go sideways, raising up her vulva against Anjali’s tongue. This gesture gave Anjali ideas. Anjali pushed her finger round Nana’s arsehole, dabbing it, then pushed it up and round and in. It made Nana snugly oddly full. And this was what Nana enjoyed, Anjali knew that. But unfortunately, Nana was not herself this morning. She wriggled. She wriggled. Anjali’s finger was slightly uncomfortable. But Anjali interpreted Nana’s wriggle not as a wriggle of discomfort, but a wriggle of pleasure. It was, thought Anjali, a request for something deeper. So Anjali pushed further in. She could feel the scraps of Nana’s shit.
    Nana said, "Aahyoourrr."
    It was an ambiguous noise. I do not think you could have known without me telling you that this was a noise of pain. It could also have been a moan of pleasure. But no, it was a noise of pain.
    Anjali looked up.
    The reason why this unique episode of lesbian fisting did not end prematurely, in a crisis of nerves, before it was even fisting, was that Anjali was still deceived. She did not know Nana was not on heat. She thought it was a moan of pleasure. She thought Nana was begging for more. She thought she was bored with just one finger. She wanted the whole shebang.
    Anjali picked up her tube of Johnson & Johnson’s K-Y Jelly, for internal lubrication, which she had received as part of her complimentary pack of Johnson’s goodies. She squeezed some jelly on her fingers and rubbed it on to Nana.
    Nana, in case you are wondering, was petrified. She was glad that Anjali’s hands were the smallest she had ever seen, but even so, it was still scary. And I am with her on this. I would have been scared. Even scarier, however, was the article she remembered, perhaps from Marie Claire, that informed its readers that only an orgasm could release a fist from the vagina. This put pressure on a girl like Nana.

She worried that now was not the time for her to reach her first ever sociable orgasm.

    Anjali had by now spread a large amount of K-Y Jelly outside and inside Nana’s vagina. She had spread clear strands of it onto her right hand. She was very much enjoying herself. Frankly, this does not surprise me. A six-foot blonde girl with pale pubic hair was a wet mess, reclining, in front of her. It was not an unappealing sight.
    Anjali, with the palm facing up, as she had observed in her educational photos, introduced the first and second fingers of her right hand. She did this very slowly. She moved very very slowly. She got nearly as deep as the knuckle. And simultaneously, with a delicate first finger of her left hand, she delicately touched Nana’s clitoris. This went on for minutes. Then she slid in her third finger. It slid in surprisingly quickly. It slid in so quickly that Anjali decided to add the thumb in too. The thumb should be lain flat above the fingers, in a position known as the ‘duckbill.’ Anjali formed the duckbill. Nana moaned. She moaned, this time, in pleasure. It was, she thought, the most extraordinary thing. And Anjali pushed. She slowly pushed, curving her little finger inside as well.
    Gradually, gradually, Anjali’s right hand slipped in. Her hand was inside Nana up to the base of the fingers. She was finally fisting her.
    Then Moshe walked in.
    They all carried on as normal.
    Moshe sat on the wooden desk chair by his little black Formica desk. He sat on the chair and picked up the nearest book — unconcerned, frightened, turned on. He began to read. The nearest book turned out to be the hardback Collected Stories of Saul Bellow, as recommended, according to Anjali, by Elle. Moshe did not buy books. He thought they were too expensive. He might browse and quite like one in a bookshop but then he would look at the price and that was it. Moshe would put the book down. He glanced at the dust-jacket flap of Saul Bellow’s Collected Stories. Twenty pounds! He thought, astonished. Twenty pounds! But he read it. He read about the life of the Jewish male in America.
    Nana, being fisted, looked at the picture of a Cadillac, snowbound, in Chicago, on the cover of Saul Bellow’s collected stories. It was something else to think about. She grunted. Anjali was unfolding and clenching her fingers in Nana’s vagina. And this was a fundamental pleasure for Nana. She grunted. Anjali smiled approvingly.
    But Nana was finding it hard to relax with her boyfriend reading contemporary American literature while she was being fisted. And she was worried about the orgasm. She was worried that now was not the time for her to reach her first ever sociable orgasm. Anjali was pleasurable but also painful. So Nana decided that, for an experiment, they had done remarkably well. They had discovered a special treat. But now it was time to stop. "I think that’s enough," said Nana. She gasped it. And Anjali, because Anjali is gentle, I do not want you to think she was not gentle, smiled at Nana and nodded. She tucked a finger from her left hand into Nana’s vagina, at the base, underneath Anjali’s own right hand. And she pushed down on Nana’s vagina. This was to let some air out. This was to release the vacuum.
    Moshe put Saul Bellow down. He laid out his arms on the arms of the chair, then let them drop over, uncomfortable, heavy. He went to make everyone tea.  

From the book Politics by Adam Thirlwell. Copyright © 2003. Published by arrangement with Fourth Estate, a division of HarperCollins Publishers.
To buy this book, click here.


©2003 Adam Thirlwell and

Adam Thirlwell was born in 1978, and grew up in North London. He was placed on Granta‘s 2003 list of Best Young British Writers under forty. He is assistant editor of the literary magazine Areté, and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. POLITICS is his first novel.