Alexandra Fine, Credentialed Sexologist, M. Psych | Written by Dame
It may not be a major issue in most stable, long-term relationships.
But it’s a question that’s certainly been discussed in many of them.
Should we try a new sex position?
People love comfort and predictability. That’s why, for example, chain restaurants are so popular while many new (and terrific) restaurants fall by the wayside.
There’s even been scientific research into the reasons that people hate uncertainty. It turns out that predictability achieves a major human goal: reducing stress.
Yes, that yearning for comfort and stability also applies to sex. The “same-old same-old” routine under the sheets makes romantic life more stable and less stressful.
It can be a double-edged sword, though. Boredom often causes people to search out new experiences. And if the search leads to a new sexual partner, that’s the most destabilizing result possible.
The alternative? It’s no secret; any sex therapist or sexologist, whether they’re in sophisticated New York or rural Nebraska, will tell you to liven up your existing relationship. Of course, that can be done by introducing new elements – like roleplaying, anal experimentation or BDSM – into sex play.
But couples often find that trying out new sexual positions is a less stressful (and less threatening) way to change things up within the comfortable boundaries of a relationship.
It can also be a whole lot of fun, and you don’t need a copy of the Kama Sutra to get started.
Here’s a look at new positions that can breathe new life into your relationship. You’re probably familiar with some of them, but bear with us. Some readers may not even realize that there’s life beyond missionary.
The Old Reliables
We’d guess that no reader needs an explanation of the missionary position – not even lesbians who’ve never had any interest in penetrative sex. And it’s unlikely that anyone who’s involved in a relationship would consider missionary an “exciting change” from their normal sexual diet.
Back in the mid-20th century, Alfred Kinsey’s landmark work Sexual Behavior in the Human Male reported that missionary was the only position used during penetrative sex by more than two-thirds of penis-havers. That percentage is probably lower today, but not by much.
So why do we even put it on this list?
There are actually two reasons. First, it allows us to pass along one of our favorite stories: how missionary sex supposedly got its name. As it turns out, Kinsey coined the term. But it’s said to be based on the fact that people in most societies don’t have sex that way, so they’d laugh if they happened upon Western missionaries who did. Thus, the “missionary position.” Before Kinsey, missionary was known by names like “English-American,” “male superior” and “matrimonial,” and it still has other names in many regions. (For example, in France it’s called the “classical” position.)
The more important reason we include the missionary position is to mention several variations which could be easy ways for couples to dip their toes into experimentation.
In one (sometimes called the “Seashell” or “Legs-Up Missionary”), the vulva-haver lifts their legs up to a position near their ears, allowing for greater body contact between the giver’s pubic bone and the receiver’s clitoris during penetration. The pleasure can be increased even more if the receiver brings their legs all the way over their head and crosses their ankles, or if the penis-haver “rides low” so they can hit the vulva owner’s G-spot.
Another option is “Grinding Missionary,” which replaces the usual penis-thrusting with hip-grinding. The penis (or strap-on) is kept stationary in this position; pleasure is generated instead by actions like grinding. The resulting body contact provides pleasure to the vulva and allows penis-havers to last longer.
“Kneeling Missionary” is another possibility which can delay climax and extend pleasure. First, the giver assumes a kneeling position. The receiver then rests their thighs on the giver’s, pushing their body up with the elbows to allow penetration in “mid-air.” This position may be difficult to maintain for long, but the different sensations can be worth it.
The sensations are also different during “Reverse Missionary,” in which the penetrator is on the bottom. There’s still strong eye-to-eye contact and penetration, but this alternative switches up the power dynamic and feels very different than standard missionary sex.
Finally, there’s “Outercourse,” which is basically missionary sex without penetration. The less-sensitive back of the penis is used to stimulate the partner’s clitoris and other parts of the vulva; it can be extremely pleasurable and a good alternative for those who have issues with premature ejaculation.
Never thought the missionary position had so many “close relatives,” did you?
This classic sex position may not be quite as common as missionary, but in a survey of several thousand respondents in America and the U.K., doggy style was found to be the position that people enjoyed most.
The more polite name is “rear entry.” But doggy style is a more appropriate description since the receiver positions themselves on all fours, before their partner enters them from a kneeling position. The reason that doggy style is so popular: it allows for deeper penetration and is very likely to produce G-spot stimulation. One drawback is that there’s no face-to-face eye contact during rear-entry sex. Cynics, though, claim that some penis owners prefer it that way so they can pretend they’re with a fantasy partner instead of their real one. A better reason to explain penis-havers’ affinity for doggy style is that it usually leads to ejaculation, since they are in full control of the action.
While doggy is immensely popular, there are ways to change it up. Both partners have access to a vulva-haver’s clitoris during the action, so clitoral stimulation during doggy style is more likely to produce simultaneous orgasms. In prone rear-entry sex both partners lie facedown; the sex may not be as intense, but it will usually last longer.
One way to vary the latter approach is the flatiron position, in which a wedge pillow is placed under the bottom partner’s pelvis. That elevates the vagina to make entry easier and penetration deeper. Another way to vary doggy style is to use it for anal sex – but we’ll leave that discussion for another time.
Often known by the (slightly) more politically correct name “woman on top,” the cowgirl position gives control to the receiver. The key feature of cowgirl is that the vulva-haver is on top, straddling their partner’s hips to allow penetration; in different variations the dominant partner may remain upright, sit or lie facedown. Upright and sitting positions provide enough room to bring a finger vibrator into the action, too.
Vulva owners are often partial to being on top, and the reason is easy to understand. The position generally prevents a penis-haver from thrusting, letting the vulva-haver focus primarily on their own satisfaction during penetration by grinding, bouncing and rocking.
(That leads to a natural question: is there also a cowboy position? Absolutely, with the penis owner or strap-on user sitting on top while the bottom partner tightens their thighs. Some couples enjoy this position because it creates more intense penetration.)
The most common way to change up cowgirl sex falls into our next category of sex positions.
Positions Which Look More Difficult Than They Really Are
You may never have tried the reverse cowgirl position, but you probably know how it works. The penis-owner or dildo-wearer lies flat, and the vulva-haver climbs on top to straddle their partner while facing away from them. The advantages are similar to those of the cowgirl position, but the sensations are different.
Many couples are only familiar with the reverse cowgirl position from reading articles like this one, or from watching pornos; there are two reasons they may not have actually tried it. First, it limits additional physical contact; penetration is the be-all and end-all. But it’s also because, to many people, reverse cowgirl seems to require more athleticism, it seems to be edgier, and – to be honest – it seems like something that you’d only see in a porn flick.
Even if trying the position makes you feel a little naughty or dirty, though – isn’t that a good way to change up your sex life and make it less boring and predictable?
Pro tip: Reverse cowgirl doesn’t require you to be a sexual athlete. You may see porn stars’ arms flailing away in the movies, but the sex is just enjoyable if you brace your hands on your partner’s body to keep yourself stable.
One of the many wonderful things about the human body is that it’s built for sex while sitting in a chair. Even if you think the angle might be difficult, it’s not. The penis-haver (or strap-on wearer) sits in a chair, the vulva-haver faces away and lowers themselves into position, and the fit works more perfectly than you might imagine. Think of it as reverse cowgirl sex in a chair.
This position gives control to the receiver so there’s usually not much thrusting or frantic sex, and bouncing can get tiring rather quickly. Instead, it’s a great way to experience deep penetration and satisfaction through grinding and the slow maneuvering of bodies.
Face-to-face chair sex is another way to switch things up; the angle is a little tougher to get right, but the sensations are worth the extra effort.
Here’s another sex position that may seem harder to pull off than it really is. Spooning (lying side-by-side, facing in the same direction) is easy when you’re cuddling after sex, but some couples find it difficult to find the right angle for insertion. Here’s the secret. When the receiving partner brings their knees up toward their chest, it opens things up to make rear entry much easier. Some shifting of the hips may also be required to make things comfortable.
Spooning allows for deep penetration and is one of the best positions for G-spot stimulation. And since the penis or dildo owner doesn’t have the leverage needed to thrust powerfully, sex in this position is likely to last longer before climax. There’s one more benefit to spooning; it allows full access to the receiver’s genital area for finger or sex toy play.
Side-by-side sex is similar to spooning, but the partners face each other for greater eye contact and communication. This position is also less difficult to accomplish than it looks, as long as the vulva-haver wraps their upper leg around their partner’s thigh. That opens access to the vagina and makes the “right angle” easier to find.
If you still can’t “get it in,” here’s a cheat you can use: start in the missionary position and support yourselves with your arms, as you gently roll onto your sides. Voila!
Positions Which Require Some Coordination or Planning
Many couples searching for ways to add excitement to their play have already run through the “easy” sex positions we’ve just listed. That means they’ve had enough experience to give some of the more difficult ones a go.
There are three different positions often called the cross. Let’s look at the easier ones first.
- The partner with the penis or strap-on lies on their side, while the vulva owner lies on their back, perpendicular to them (at a 90° angle). Can’t picture it? Imagine the couple forming a cross, or “X,” with their bodies. The vulva-haver slides onto the first partner’s lap for insertion, legs hanging over the penis-haver’s hips. There’s not enough “free space” for violently thrusting in this position, so it’s a great way to prolong penetration while experimenting with angles to create different sensations.
- The partners start in a missionary position; the one on top then rotates so the two bodies are perpendicular, forming an “X.” You can’t go too nuts in this position, since the penis or dildo is somewhat at risk of falling out, but it provides a greater range of motion for thrusting than the first variation.
- The vulva-haver lies on their back. (The edge of the bed can work, but a table that’s higher off the floor is a better choice – and as we all know, sex on the kitchen table or counter is hot). The reclining partner lifts their legs into the air and crosses them at the knees, while the second partner stands in front of them and enters them.
What makes the last one so great for penis-havers (especially those without impressive length) is that they can use their partners’ legs for leverage to pull themselves in more deeply, while the vulva-haver does the same with the penis owner’s butt. Pro tip: have a pillow ready to place under the vulva owner’s back; it not only makes things more comfortable, but it also lifts the pelvis to allow better penetration and G-spot stimulation.
The Lotus Position
Ah, you knew this one was coming. The Lotus is perhaps the most well-known tantric sex position (known as “Yab Yum” in Tantra), providing both the benefits of sexual activity plus a greater degress of intimacy and mindfulness.
It’s not as complicated as it might look in the pictures you’ve seen, either.
- The penis-haver or dildo-wearer sits on the edge of the bed or in a chair with legs crossed (think crisscross applesauce, like you or your kids learned in school).
- The vulva-haver straddles the sitting partner, wraps their legs around the partner’s torso and links their arms behind the partner’s shoulders.
- Finally, the penis-haver penetrates the vulva owner while holding their butt.
There are reasons other than face-to-face intimacy and mindfulness to put this jigsaw puzzle together. In the lotus position each partner is able to reach nearly all of the other’s erogenous zones for stimulation (or to reach for more lube). As a bonus, during penetrative sex the clitoris almost always receives strong stimulation.
The lotus position, like most tantric positions, isn’t for fast thrusting and quick climaxes. It’s for slow and sensuous sex – which will almost certainly change up your usual sexual diet.
Positions You Might Not Think of as “Sex Positions”
We include the last two items on our list because survey respondents commonly list them among their top ten favorite sex positions, even though they don’t involve penetrative sex.
It goes without saying that “sex” is not synonymous with “penetrative sex.” Oral sex counts, too. So while many people think of oral as simply a part of foreplay, it’s clear that the position that makes preteens giggle – and makes adults happy – really does count as a sex position.
We certainly don’t have to tell you why it’s called 69, or how to position your bodies so each partner can orally pleasure the other at the same time. You can do it with either person on top (“classic 69” and “reverse 69”), you can each lie on your side, you can do it squatting or you can do it while standing. However you do it, it can be a welcome change from “missionary sex by appointment.”
Another way to shake up your relationship, in a very good way, is to masturbate with your partner. Mutual masturbation can be done as you sit side by side on the couch, as you face each other, or in more intimate positions. Each partner can bring themselves to orgasm while being watched by the other, they can alternate, or the two partners can pleasure each other simultaneously. No matter how you do it, there are a number of important benefits to be enjoyed.
- It improves communication in a relationship. Partners often pursue their own agendas during sex, or they do what they think the other wants. But the best method to learn what your partner really wants is by watching them touch themselves in the way that gives them the most pleasure. It can also open up the wider discussion of sex, pleasure and satisfaction (maybe one or both partners even like voyeurism?!) that most people never have.
- It lets people feel more comfortable about their desire to masturbate. Many people who are married or in a long-term relationship pleasure themselves, even if they feel “sexually satisfied” in the relationship. Many of them also feel guilty about it. Masturbating in front of a partner can help relieve that guilt. It also may alleviate worries by one or both partner(s) that “they’re not good enough,” simply because the other is engaging in solo sex. It can even help people, who are still a little uncomfortable with some aspects of sex or their sexuality in general, work things out with someone they’re close to.
- It allows a couple that’s been stuck in a rut to redefine sexual health and wellness in their relationship. It’s important for those partners to realize that there can be more to their sex life than once-a-week foreplay-and-missionary sessions. That, in turn, can boost their mental health and outlook as well.
- Oh – and it can be really hot!