NOTE: Unicorn hunting is when a couple seeks out another person, often a bisexual woman for a cis/het couple (M/F) to have a sexual relationship with. The term most often referes to a woman, but may refer to any gender, and not all couples that unicorn hunt are Male/Female. Sometimes the term used for seeking men is “dragon hunting”.
So first let me say, as someone who HAS been unicorn hunted, there is nothing intrinsically “wrong” with it, as long as everything is consensual, clear and boundaries are respected. One can enjoy being the “new toy” in the bedroom of an established couple, without a doubt. This is quite common in the swing and kink communities.
The issue becomes how the couple approaches the more complex dynamics when FEELINGS become involved.
Typically the unicorn is seen as “extra”, “additional”, “the third” AND if issues occur, or if one of the people in the established couple starts to develop feelings, the relationship with the new person may end, often suddenly and without much consideration for them as a person who is invested. This may occur because the couple is hierarchical (as in our relationship is more important than any other relationship) and they can “veto” any other “addition” at will, so seeing a partner getting gooey eyed over the “plaything” you brought into the bedroom to spice things up, can raise the hackles and activate feelings of jealousy. So it’s easier to get rid of the problem than to try to work through and address the feelings.
Usually, the couple presents themselves as a “package deal” and if the new person develops an emotional connection with one and not the other, or wants to be sexual with one and not the other, then again the relationship may end suddenly. Or resentment and hurt feelings occur.
Also when a couple thinks about “adding someone to their relationship”, or they are seeking a TRIAD (3 people intimately connected) they aren’t really considering that there are SEVEN separate relationships within a triad that ALL need to be nurtured (the 3 individual relationships with themselves, the established relationship, person A with the new partner, person B with the new partner, and the relationship between the 3 of them). Each relationship needs time, attention and privacy, and that’s a LOT to manage when some of us struggle when we’re in just a single relationship! Triads are considered really advanced polyamory because they require so much consistent tending to.
The couple sees the relationship as “us” + “her” (or him or them). They, as a couple, enjoy MANY privileges such as having their alone time, as needed, often when they want to, but the new person only has access to them as a unit. Check out our 2 episodes on “Couple’s Privilege” on The EMPOWERED POLY Podcast my husband Greg and I co-host. Available on YouTube, Spotify, Google and Apple Podcasts! Link to YouTube Channel HERE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCj41-4xONgkjbbf4goWwvVg.
They are often trying to “spice thing up sexually” and using the new person to accomplish that goal. They may have expectations/rules that the new partner must conform to like “we want you to be sexually exclusive to us”. They may make decisions that directly impact the new partner without consultation.
From the perspective of the poly community here are the primary concerns:
- We cannot control our feelings, nor our partners’. Expecting human beings to be intimate without developing feelings dismisses the biological chemical response that occurs naturally.
2. We shouldn’t be creating rules to control others but rather be making shared agreements.
3. We should foster the growth of each separate relationship within a triad so they develop organically without imposing the rather two-dimensional dynamic of using someone as fodder to increase sexual desire/exploration in an established relationship.
4. We shouldn’t treat people as disposable.
5. Decisions that impact another human should involve the input of that human.
Again while much of this is still true in the swinging and kink communities, it is common to seek partners solely for the purpose of play, though often deep appreciation and long term connections develop.
The term “unicorn” is used to point out that it is a MYTHICAL creature that is being sought, not a fully developed human with their own wants and needs and desires and voice. It can temporarily be fun to be that for a couple, but the fun soon fades when things start to evolve on an emotional level.
For those who CAN keep it purely physical and enjoy it, great. It is, however, far more common that our chemical reaction leads to emotional connections developing. For more information on the hormones that impact our feelings released in our brain, due to intimacy – see my blog piece called “Don’t Move In When in NRE” for details here: https://www.leannemillion.com/2021/08/01/dont-move-in-when-youre-in-nre/. If and when emotional connections arise, the landscape of a purely sexual experience shifts, and that’s when unicorn hunting becomes deeply problematic for many.
That’s not to say that every unicorn hunting situation is handled without excellent boundary setting, shared decision-making and consideration for the needs of the new partner. Sometimes, UH can be handled well and successfully and even if emotional connections do occur, they can be managed and discussed or can even help foster a deeper relationship…even a triad. It’s just NOT the more common experience, unfortunately. Which is why many people in the polyamorous community deride UH. Understandably so…many poly folx have been used and discarded in the UH process.