It’s classic, reliable, completely customizable—and when you get it right—it leads to the best orgasm you’ve ever had.
Let me say here and now, without shame or blush, that I like the missionary position. Making love while lying on my back with my husband on top is familiar, comfortable. It’s the meat loaf and mashed potatoes of the sex manual. If you’re hungry, it fills you up; if you’re tired, you can still manage a morsel. Beluga caviar it ain’t, but like a Quarter Pounder with cheese, you know how it’s going to look, how it’s going to taste, and how long it will take to eat. And if you want to make it fancy, you can always add fries and a salad.
At one time the missionary position was sex. As a kid, if I read about sex or glimpsed a love scene on TV before my parents switched channels, that was the position the couple was in—the man on top, the woman gazing up at him adoringly. But then came the ’70s. The hemlines went down and women went up. Indeed, woman-on-top was virtually compulsory, and anyone who didn’t have a sexual repertoire to rival the Kama Sutra had to hang her head in shame. Feminists and sex experts united in the view that the missionary position made a woman passive and subservient to her man. And no wonder we didn’t always climax—in that position the clitoris probably wasn’t stimulated, and neither was the G-spot!
Overnight, lying on your back was OUT. If you wanted to be cool and empowered, you had to get out from under and take control or throw away your chances of the Big O forever. But are we having more or better orgasms with the wealth of positions we’ve cricked our necks and twisted our limbs to get into? Has our athleticism and improvisation improved the quality of our lovemaking? A reconsideration.
It’s Girl’s Best Friend
Think of it this way: Do you look better leaning over your husband with your stretch marks glistening and everything drooping and jiggling—or reclining with your face turned up, lips parted expectantly, and your hair arranged over a bank of snowy white pillows? The missionary position is feminine; it’s alluring. And don’t try telling me that it’s not erotic. Arch your back, give your husband your best “Come get me” look and just watch that man move.
Of all positions, this is the most aesthetic. You don’t have to be self-conscious about your body because most of it is covered by your husband’s. And, for women anyway, there’s no performance anxiety. This is a position everyone knows how to do. Lying on your back with nothing on your mind other than, say, how that stain got on the ceiling, you’re in the ideal position to unwind and enjoy yourself. As my friend Joanne remarks, “I find it easier to have an orgasm in that position, because I’m more relaxed. With the others I’m constantly thinking about what I should be doing.” It’s the perfect position for the coy, the shy, or the just plain lazy. “I can concentrate on me,” says another friend, Beth.
No other position makes you feel so loving, affectionate, and close to your partner. Face-to-face you can kiss and explore each other. You can watch the expressions on his face—an erotic experience in itself—and your hands are free to caress or grip him tight. The missionary position is also the most comforting to finish in—you’re cuddling already, for heaven’s sake.
Some women, however, are put off by the position’s simplicity. If just anyone can do it, they don’t want to. And its name doesn’t do it any favors either, as it was reportedly introduced by missionaries to inhabitants of the old European empires as a “respectable” position—a history unlikely to make you paralyzed with lust.
“It’s boring,” says Patricia, who clearly never wrestled with some of the missionary’s variations. “Sideways-facing positions or being on top gives him better access to all my important parts.”
“Being on top makes me feel aggressive, which is erotic,” says Rachel. And some women, says Shirley Zussman, Ed.D., a New York sex and marital therapist, may feel pinned down in the missionary. “They’re not as free to move around as they are in other positions.
You Can Make It Your Own
If you don’t find the missionary position satisfying, you may need to fine-tune it. One or two hard pillows under your hips, tipping your pelvis up for deeper penetration, can make all the difference. Your husband can ride high or low, leaning back to watch or forward to whisper and kiss. You can straighten your legs to create more tension or spread them wide or, if you’re fit, wrap them around his waist or put one or both over his shoulders. He can hold your arms above your head or, still with your arms above your head, you can grip the headboard and thrust back at him (who said the missionary position had to be submissive?). He can lean to one side so you can caress each other’s genitals.
To guarantee even deeper penetration with the missionary position, New York psychiatrist Avodah Offit, M.D., author ofThe Sexual Self, suggests a slight variation: “Pull your knees up to your chest, then spread them just wide enough for your husband to get between them. With your calves on either side of his back, support his weight on the backs of your thighs. If you want to move you can rock back and forth with him.”
“The advantage of this position,” says Dr. Offit, “is that you don’t have to be particularly supple. Taking his weight in this way also gives you some control, and orgasm is easier because penetration is deeper than if your legs are straight or out to the sides.” But, she cautions, you do have to be shaped for it. Some couples just aren’t built to fit for this, so there’s no one prescription. But you’re most likely to get maximum benefit from the missionary position if you start practicing those old Kegels again. “Kegel exercises alone can aid orgasm,” says Dr. Offit. “Or you can bear down, pressing your vaginal lips and clitoris toward the man’s body.” Even better, she suggests, is doing the two movements together, which tightens the whole of the vagina.
Have the Best Orgasm of Your Life
If this isn’t enough to convince you there’s more to the missionary than just lying there, it’s time you learned about CAT—Coital Alignment Technique—a variation on the missionary position that supposedly stimulates the G-spot as well as the clitoris and encourages simultaneous orgasms.
You start out in the normal missionary position but with your spouse resting his full weight on you, not on his elbows. Then he moves about two inches forward so that his pelvis is over yours. With your legs around his thighs, you press up as he moves backward so that you feel gentle but direct stimulation. The key is in the pressure and counterpressure and the rhythmic coordination of movement, a slow, gentle rocking.
“The position isn’t automatic, but a small series of adjustments,” says Edward Eichel, a psychotherapist who developed the technique. “You never just ride or collapse.” Also, when you’re both feeling close to orgasm, he explains, “you have to wait and let it come to you—no grasping for it. You have to trust it will happen.”
If all these instructions are dampening your ardor, try getting the position and contact right without attempting penetration, suggests Eichel, so that the movement itself becomes a source of pleasure. “It’s a shared response,” says Eichel, “so ideal it’s almost poetic.”
Alas, so far the technique has eluded me, though not a friend. “You have to be rhythmic, controlled—and patient,” she says, which probably explains why I haven’t mastered it. But I am convinced it’s worth practicing: In a study of 86 men and women, half of whom were trained to use CAT, Eichel found a “staggering increase” in the number of women reaching orgasm “always or often” during intercourse—77 percent, compared with only 27 percent in the untrained group. And in a smaller study, the rise in the number of women enjoying that rare treat—the simultaneous orgasm—was even more dramatic: 50 percent succeeded, compared with 4.5 percent (I must try harder).
In the end, what’s really important is how you feel about a sex position. “If you feel imprisoned by the missionary or feel less stimulation that way, then you won’t allow yourself to enjoy it,” says Dr. Zussman. In which case, no amount of adjustment, repositioning or stimulation will work.
As for the missionary being a submissive position, sex is often a reflection of what’s going on in the rest of your relationship. If you’re trying new things only because your husband wants to, then you’re still being submissive whatever position you twist yourself into. Getting on top isn’t being dominant if you’re just doing what he has requested.
If you ask me, the missionary position is like Keanu Reeves. Yes, some stars may have bigger pecs or cuter butts, and I may enjoy an occasional dalliance with the odd Baldwin, but Keanu is special. And think of it this way: If you were having sex with Keanu, you’d just want to look at him, wouldn’t you? You’d want to feel at your most desirable—and not have to do anything that might distract you from just lying there and enjoying it. And what better position is there for doing that?
Most Men Love it Too
To find out, we went to the source: a sample of experienced (and willing-to-tell-all) guys.
“I love it. I can feel her breasts rubbing on me. I feel so close to her.”
—Jeff, 39, married 15 years
“I like it because I’m in control and I know the next move I get to make.”
—Sean, 27, single
“It makes your arms ache.”
—Bill, 35, married 6 years
“I prefer her to be on top. I don’t have to do all the work—and I like to watch her.”
—John, 34, married 7 years
“It’s not athletic or exciting, and you’ve got to do everything. It’s like she’s saying, ‘Impress me.'”
—Carl, 31, single
“I like the bottom because then she’s in control.”
—Joey, 28, married 3 years
“You can feel your manly powers—your strength—more on top than with any other position. And it’s always nice to have someone look up to you.”
—Jake, 34, married 6 months