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Sunday, September 18, 2022

What is a Unicorn in a Nonmonogamous Relationship?

Most of us grew up hearing stories about rare mythical creatures called unicorns.  Unicorns originated in Asia around 4,700 years ago and they became popular in Greece about 2,000 years ago.  They symbolize power, peace and magic.  

What is a Unicorn in a Non-Monogamous Relationship?

In Europe, unicorns had the body of a white horse, a beard, the cloven hooves of a goat, the tail of a lion and a long horn protruding from its forehead.  

In olden times, Europeans believed that unicorns actually existed in real life--even though they believed they were very hard to find. They also believed unicorns' horns had magical healing properties that could cure illness, serve as an antidote for poison and prolong youth.  

What is a Unicorn in Non-Monogamous Relationship?
The unicorn is typically a bisexual or sexually fluid woman who joins a heterosexual couple for anything from casual sex to a long term commitment.

Although a unicorn is usually a woman, it's also possible that a unicorn could be a bisexual man, but this isn't as common (see my article: What is an Ethically Non-Monogamous Relationship?).

The unicorn is usually invited into a couple's non-monogamous relationship for sex.  In the most traditional form of this threesome, a unicorn usually isn't considered to be equal to the two people in the relationship, but this also depends on the dynamic agreed to by the three people involved. 

Typically, the couple has already set their own rules about what is permissible before they meet the woman who is willing to be a third party in their relationship. These rules often include an agreement that the unicorn can't have sex with either one of the individuals without the other partner because this could cause jealousy and conflict.

However, each couple comes up with their own rules and it's up to the person in the role of the unicorn to either follow their rules or make her demands known.

Sometimes, the couple is willing to have a unicorn as an equal member, as previously mentioned.  In general, these arrangements are as individual as the individuals involved.

Although it's not certain who coined the term "unicorn," many people believe the term goes back to the counterculture of the 1970s as part of swinger lifestyle where a unicorn was a term used to describe a bisexual woman who was willing to have sex with both people in the relationship.

Similar to the rare mythical creatures in fairy tales, women who are unicorns, who are willing to join a heterosexual couple for sex, are rare and hard to find (hence, the name "unicorn").  Although it's a little easier today on some dating apps using the unicorn emoji as shorthand for those in the know, unicorns are still considered difficult to find.

Aside from a willingness to have sex with the couple, a bisexual woman these days might not be so willing to take a subordinate role and follow the couple's rules.  

Also, it can be hard to find a bisexual woman who is attracted to both the man and the woman in the relationship. Likewise, the man and the woman in the relationship might not both be attracted to the same woman.

Since they are difficult to find, as previously mentioned, it's possible that some couples these days are willing to give unicorns equal power if she is willing and interested in having sex with both people.  

What Does the Term "Unicorn Hunting" Mean?
The term "unicorn hunting" refers to a couple (or usually just the man) who is "hunting" for a bisexual or sexually fluid woman to have sex with the couple.  

In the most traditional sense, as it was practiced in the 1970s (and possibly still among some people today), the term unicorn hunting reeks of misogyny.  

Unicorn hunting has a negative connotation because it implies that the bisexual woman is prey to be hunted down like an animal.

Also, individuals and couples often use unscrupulous methods to find the third party.  They have been known to mislead bisexual women into thinking one of them wants to have sex with her and it only becomes apparent afterwards that she is sought after by both people in the relationship.

Aside from the lack of transparency, the unfairness of this arrangement can also include an imbalance of power by privileged couples who take advantage of their power dynamic with the bisexual woman.

The imbalance of power can include a rule that the unicorn can't have sex with anyone else aside from this couple.  

Couples who are seeking a unicorn often go to lesbian or gay bars, events or clubs seeking a bisexual woman to come home with them.  They often stand out in the crowd, and most people there are aware of what they are seeking.

This is one of the reasons why "unicorn hunters" are often resented by the LGBTQ community when they come to events seeking a bisexual woman for sex.  Aside from the tradition of hunters mischaracterizing what they're looking for, they're often considered exploitive of bisexual women.

However, in recent times there have been more stories of unicorns being treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve.  

I recently listened to a podcast in which a woman, who was in the role of the unicorn, described meeting a couple at a resort and being treated very well by both of them.  

As she described it, she had a lot of autonomy and she had equal power in the relationship. In fact, she was the initiator of sex with them.  

She indicated they were considerate of her and at no time did she feel uncomfortable or like she was in a subordinate role.  Even after they got back home from the resort, they continued to treat her very well.

Also, women who enter into these relationships are now more aware that they don't have to consent to any rules or sexual acts they don't like and they don't have to remain with the couple.

The Potential Psychological Impact of Being a Unicorn
Depending upon the people involved and the circumstances, the impact of taking on the role of a unicorn can be pleasurable, especially if the couple sees the third party as being on an equal footing with them.

It can also be demeaning if the couple belittles the woman and treats her like a subordinate, as previously mentioned.

In addition, if a woman has a personal history of being emotionally neglected, abused or feeling invisible in her family of origin, entering into this type of relationship can be retraumatizing for her.

How is Being a Unicorn Different From Solo Polyamory?
With solo polyamory, individuals usually lead a single, independent lifestyle at the same time they are part of multiple intimate relationships.

More about this in my next article.

Before Entering into the Role of a Unicorn, a Woman Would Be Wise to:
  • Know exactly what she's entering into before she takes on the role.
  • Meet the couple in a public place (similar to going out on a first date) and get a sense of them.
  • Get to know the couple first in a non-sexual way and make sure she feels comfortable with them.
  • Believe in her own self worth.
  • Be clear and assertive that she expects to be treated as an equal and with respect.
  • Consent to only what she wants to do regardless of what the couple wants.
  • Understand that the situation can become complicated and degenerate if one or both people in the relationship become suspicious, jealous or angry about her role or if they're having problems in their relationship.  This is especially true because the negative dynamics of triangulation can enter into the situation.  Also, be aware that many couples seek out a third party to try to fix an unstable relationship, which almost never works, and she could be walking into a mess.
  • Know that she can walk away from the situation at any time.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I am a sex positive therapist who works with individual adults and couples (see my article: What is Sex Therapy?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.