Updated: Aug 23
First, let me make clear that the way I am using “unicorn” here is as people do in the polyamory community: a bisexual woman seeking a relationship with a heterosexual couple.
I am a member of a number of poly boards. Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about “unicorn hunters.” This topic has come up in relationship to people posting ads for their “unicorn,” questions about how to find a “unicorn” and defining “unicorns.” It is common for hetero couples to seek out a woman to complete their “polypod” relationship and is generally viewed as a natural and acceptable desire to “hunt” a unicorn.
I am, by definition, a unicorn. I am a bisexual woman who would consider dating a heterosexual couple in an open relationship. I am a Kinsey “3” – although that is misleading because the Kinsey scale is binary and I am well beyond the binary. But, most hetero couples seeking a “true unicorn” define this as a woman who is somewhere near a Kinsey 3.
I detest unicorn hunting. I find it heteronormative and rooted in horrible relationship practices. I have also found that calling out hetero poly people on these issues tends to get conversations deleted from poly boards because moderators are vested in promoting unicorn hunting.
Heterosexual Privilege and Unicorn Hunting
When a hetero couple starts looking for their unicorn, many people post ads. Most of these ads say something like, “Looking for a ‘true’ or ‘real’ bisexual woman.” I have issues with the choice of “true” and “real” as modifiers for a sexual orientation. You can see more about that on this post.
Generally, what they mean by “true” or “real” bisexual is that they want a woman who can fall in love with both a man and a woman. The idea of loving both a man and a woman is great. It happens and can be successful. However, most unicorn hunters are not really honoring a sexual orientation. They just want to know that the unicorn has some proven capacity to have relationships with two genders.
The hetero privilege comes in to play in sneaky ways. First, most unicorn hunters would never, and I mean NEVER, look for a male unicorn. Most men in the poly community I have encountered who are seeking a unicorn shudder at the idea of a loving relationship with another man. The mere suggestion of considering a male unicorn commonly evokes, “I am not gay! I don’t want another dick in the mix.”
It is not that issue that the hetero male in the couple is not gay. It is the horror they express at the idea of bringing in another man as a close companion. There are subtle and not so subtle tones of “ewww” and “fucking queer” that come out in these conversations. Nevertheless, unicorn hunters profess to only want a bisexual woman.
As someone who has been out as a proud queer for nearly three decades, I can’t imagine denying my LGBT community for a relationship. Becoming involved with anyone who has a base reaction to male sexuality as “icky” is a betrayal to who I am. You can’t put me in a box of “she is our bisexual” and then fail to support gay rights and fight for equality. Finding male heterosexuality unsettling or repulsive is not something acceptable in a person I have a relationship with, so most unicorn hunting males are out on that criteria alone.
The “Primary Penis” Issue
The second way heteronormativity comes up with unicorn hunters is with the woman in the relationship. Most women hunting a unicorn are considering and desiring a relationship with a woman ONLY because her primary relationship is with a man. Outside of a heterosexual relationship she would never consider a primary relationship with a woman. A close and sexual relationship with a woman is only acceptable because she has a man to go home to.
Again, as a member of the LGBT community, I can’t tolerate a relationship with someone who has to have a primary heterosexual relationship to make a relationship with me acceptable. I would never date a woman who had not pursued a primary relationship with another woman outside of the heterosexual context.
Unicorns Don’t Get a Primary
I know way to many hetero couples who claim, “Our unicorn will be our primary relationship!” *Sigh* Folks, it doesn’t work this way. You may have a unicorn move into your house, you may merge finances with her, she may sleep in bed with you, but she will never be a primary.
Why? Because the heterosexual couple has the established relationship and they have to negotiate that relationship first before the unicorn gets considered. Think of it as three people trying to balance on an upside-down bosu ball. Each person has weight in the relationship and each person is on the same platform. Each person also has to continually adjust their weight and balance so that everyone stays on the ball. The couple is holding hands and working in tandem to stay balanced. The unicorn, even though she is on the same platform and has the power to balance or tip the relationships, is moving and balancing for two people while the couple is most concerned about keeping the two of them on the ball.
The unicorn is entering an established relationship. She has to negotiate with two people who have established love and boundaries and rules. Finally, if she develops a primary relationship with one of the partners, it is ALWAYS at the expense of the established primary relationship.
What Unicorn Hunters are Really Asking For
Unicorn hunters are asking a woman to come into a relationship that largely denies her connection to the queer community and to accept a relationship where she will never be primary.
Additionally, the couple tends to forget that if the unicorn does seek a primary relationship outside of them, she will technically no longer be a unicorn. Her relationship will be focused on her primary, and the couple becomes secondary.
There are women out there desiring this type of relationship. They are very few, and they give up the possibility of a primary relationship in order to be with a couple. I have seen this work in very few cases. The few times I have seen this work, it has never started by hunting a unicorn.
When the M-F-F triad works, it is mostly because one of the partners found a woman they became very close to emotionally and sexually. Eventually, the other partner develops a close relationship with the same woman. At some point down the line, the couple realizes “Ah Ha! We have a unicorn.”
The reason these relationships work is that the two people in the couple focused on forming a relationship with a woman – not a dream or a sexual orientation. The focus was on building a one-to-one relationship first, then bringing in the other partner because the woman they found was so amazing. Unicorn hunters claim to want to do this, but by the very fact they are “hunting” a unicorn, the focus is on sexual orientation and some fantasy of what this will be like.
I have mentioned in a number of posts my dislike of fetishizing a single trait and then seeking a relationship or sexual encounter based on that. Unicorn hunting is yet another form for fetishization that is not okay.
You can find a unicorn, but you can’t hunt one. We are not deer that you go out to acquire then mount our heads on your wall. You cannot find us if you are looking for us specifically. We materialize in your world without you actually realizing it at first. So, stop hunting us!