The article was updated in 2021.
A unicorn 🦄 or "unicorning" in a relationship refers to a person entering a polyamorous relationship to participate in sexual escapades with a couple. In other words, the sex unicorn joins a couple either for threesomes or to enter into a triad polyamorous relationship.
People use the term "unicorn" because of its connotation of being a rare mythical creature. Think about it - except for a one-off threesome, it is unusual to find a woman that will have sex with a couple continually without looking for a relationship or commitment. Also, some women may feel awkward about entering an existing couple's relationship. We used the term "woman" but a sex unicorn can be of any gender and sexuality. However, a bisexual woman is the most preferred unicorn by heterosexual and bisexual couples in a poly relationship.
What are unicorn hunters?
Unicorn hunters are couples looking for a bisexual man, bi woman, or anyone they find attractive to form a polyamorous relationship with them. For a straight couple, it can be tricky to find an ideal unicorn as both partners have to find the third person attractive.
Also, the unicorn has to find them appealing and be willing to have sex with them. It might also take a lot of convincing for the unicorn to adjust to the couple's desires and needs. A lot of times, couples come up with ludicrous rules and demands that repel unicorns away making it harder to find a unicorn. Couples seeking unicorns usually scour dating apps and keep an eye out for the unicorn emoji in people's bio to figure out if they're a unicorn.
What does the unicorn emoji 🦄 mean sexually?
On dating apps, it's a symbol representing a bisexual person wanting to be with a heterosexual couple, usually. But again, unicorn-seeking couples can be of divergent sexual orientations. Instead of announcing their identity as a unicorn or describing it - people simply use a unicorn emoji to get the message across. According to Unicornyard, a site dedicated to the concept of unicorns, the sign, when used by a male unicorn, could also mean he wants a platonic relationship before physical intimacy with another man.
What does it mean when a woman says she is a unicorn?
Meredith Clark, a former unicorn talks about her experience as an added "mythical creature" in an existing couple's relationship in an interview with Glamour. As a bisexual woman, she described her role as "the person who comes into a couple either for a threesome or to enter into a triad polyamorous relationship."
Even though Clark would have conversations and individual relationships with two of them, she didn't want to get into a one-on-one relationship with either of them. Rather, she wanted to date the couples as a whole. She also mentions that she wasn't there to create a situation that was equal between all three of them but called herself as "something extra" in the triad.
You might be thinking, isn't merely being an "extra" a little sad? But it actually works for unicorns who dislike commitment but love to have threesomes. Clark reasons that the benefit of no strings attached is that she is in charge of whether or not she wants to spend quality time with these couples. As long as there are clear boundaries and communication, the triad can work without anyone feeling left out or hurt.
Alana Heiss, another unicorn, writes about her experiences on GQ and how she's found the perfect relationship to date. “Two years ago, I matched with B & P on Tinder. We met up for a drink to see if we hit it off. Our chemistry was off the charts. We slept together that first night, and I’ve been seeing them ever since."
She says it's the most loving and honest relationship she's ever been in. The magic or spark among the three of them is so strong that Heiss has become the only side girl they see.
“They’re the perfect relationship for me now — we have consistent enough sex that’s hot and loving at the same time, and this setup doesn’t require a whole lot of my time. They have each other; they fit into each other’s big plans. I mostly fit into their weekend plans, and I’m fine with that,” Heiss added.
Heiss' story points to the complexity of human relationships and how assumptions and rules never pan out well in a relationship. Couples can create rules that limit emotional intimacy or personal disclosure in the triad. But the triad can transform into something more personal, beyond sex. The unicorn may accompany the couple to parties, spend one-on-one time with either of them, eventually developing an emotional bond.
However, not every “unicorning” experience has a fairy-tale beginning and end. Many couples look at unicorns as sex toys, merely existing to entertain the couple's fantasies. Such an outlook can make unicorns feel objectified and used - feelings people rarely want to experience. That's why, before you put yourself out there, contemplate on what you want out of this arrangement - be sure of your needs. Also, beware of certain red flags to avoid selfish couples or couples with weak boundaries.
How to be a sex unicorn?
PolyFor.Us, an information resource for practising ethical non-monogamy, and specifically polyamory, warns a unicorn's sex satisfaction is often overlooked by the couple since the focus is more on the couple's pleasure. Sometimes, the unicorn is asked to leave the scene if the couple wants to spend intimate time together after fulfilling their experimental fantasies. Here are some ways to protect yourself from this kind of disappointment:
State your boundaries: Ensure the couple is aware of your autonomy in the relationship. They must respect your thoughts, feelings, preferences, and boundaries, even if you are secondary to their relationship. You're not an accessory to be bought or to be fit into a box - you're a multidimensional person.
On dating apps, notice how couples phrase their preferences. For example, a bio saying, "We would like to have a relationship with another woman," is much better worded and intended than saying, "We want to add a woman."
Make sure they include you in discussions
The couple can't impose rules on you without you having any say in the matter. That being said, all proposed rules should be open to discussion. We're not asking you to go on defense mode and reject any proposals made by them but choose what you're comfortable with. Since polyamory is new territory for many, couples are afraid of the unicorn disrupting their relationship but that does not give them leeway to impose unreasonable rules on you.
Tell them if they're asking for too much
If the couple demands equal affection - it could be a red flag. You don't owe emotional intimacy to any of the parties. This demand for intimacy could be rooted in jealousy or insecurity - maybe one partner feels left out because you and the other partner share a deep interest for music or a particular sex play that the first partner doesn't enjoy.
You don't have to walk away immediately, you can talk through it and reach a resolution. However, if they're still hellbent on keeping things "equal", there's no point sticking around. These are starting points to consider and the shorter version of the same would be to make sure that each relationship with each individual person is free to grow at its own pace.
How to include a unicorn in your relationship?
Be upfront and direct
When going for a three-way date, you need to be far more upfront in the first and second dates than most monogamous dates. Discuss expectations, what you're offering, preferences, details on your current relationship, and why you're entering into a poly relationship.
Decide on boundaries and dealbreakers
Everyone has limits, boundaries, and dealbreakers they can't cross or withstand. It is perfectly fine to lay them on the table before starting a poly relationship. You might not enjoy BDSM in the bedroom, hence refuse to partake in it or maybe you do not want the unicorn to meet your kids or family members. Whatever it may be - decide on your boundaries and dealbreakers beforehand.
Prepare for your relationship to change
It's impossible to have an unchanging, bulletproof relationship in general. So, when there's a unicorn involved, you can definitely expect changes to occur. But you can decide to keep those changes healthy, remember - the grass is greener where you water it. So, you need to invest in your relationships to keep them healthy and make sure you don't deprioritize your previous partner.
Respect the unicorn
Try to avoid projecting your fears of jealousy and insecurity on the unicorn. As a unicorn hunter, you may think it's okay to enforce rigid rules upon the third person to "protect" your relationship. But this is dehumanizing and can make the unicorn feel unworthy. It is okay to tell the unicorn that you can't equally divide your time, affection, and sexual interaction between your partner and them, but then don't expect them to do it either. Connections can’t be forced and the unicorn may not want to offer equal time, priority or affection to both partners.