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A Good Body Image Leads to Great Sex!Facts about sex positions

Popular mythology and many manuals of sexual technique would have us believe that there are dozens, scores - even hundreds - of sexual positions. A profound symbolism is attached to each (male dominance, in the man on top position, anyone?), and no-one may be deemed a competent lover until he or she has mastered them all. This is, of course, nonsense.

There are very few different sex positions (though each can be varied slightly in many many ways), no special significance attaches to any of them, and competence in lovemaking is measured by sexual and orgasmic fulfillment, not by the extent of the repertoire.

People naturally seek variety, but this does not mean it is right for one partner to force choices on the other. Sharing and agreement are the routes to satisfying sex, not power plays or selfishness.

This does not mean that there should be endless discussions about who should do what to whom, but that each should let the other know what he or she would like to do. If they agree, then it is fine to do it; if they don't, it is best not attempted.

There are no hard and fast rules that can be applied to each person in every situation. The sex position of the day that one person prefers above all others - what that person regards as the best position - may be one that someone else prefers not to use at all.

Attitudes to sex and personal circumstances dictate different approaches to intercourse, with the result that some couples will use one position almost to the exclusion of all others because they mutually find it to be the most satisfying. Other couples may regularly use several positions almost every time they make love.

The "best" position for intercourse is that in which a particular couple on a particular occasion finds the greatest fulfillment; one cannot say more than that.

Q. "Is 'coitus' the same as intercourse?"

A: "Yes. It comes from the Latin coire, which means 'to go together."'

Q. "How frequent is it that a penis or vagina is too large or too small for intercourse?"

A: "Very rarely. Of course, men vary a lot in penis size, and if there is a large disparity a couple may find they get greater satisfaction by modifying their techniques, but they can still have fulfilling sex. If a really marked difference in size leads to painful intercourse a medically qualified sex therapist should be consulted."

Q: "Is it really OK to have intercourse standing up?"

A: "Yes, it is just fine as long as you enjoy it; it cannot do any harm. But a woman can get pregnant standing, just as she can laying down."

Q. "What about having sex underwater?"

A: "Fine if that's what turns you on. There are no medical risks, but don't believe that the water in a pool, shower, tub or ocean will act as a contraceptive; only contraceptives stop you getting pregnant."

Q: "My husband and I always have sex in the dark, but sometimes I feel that we ought to be able to enjoy sex with the light on. What do you think?"

A: "It doesn't matter at all whether the light is on or off as long as you are both happy. If there's a difference of opinion between you, then it should be discussed. If you really want to have intercourse with the light on, suggest it to your husband, but if you feel that you ought to have the light on because other people do, forget it."

Q. "As I'm getting older, I seem to enjoy positions now I didn't like when I was younger. Is this usual?"

A: "Yes. As people age, they often find a gradual change in their preferences. This may be due to changes in mobility, energy levels or health. Incidentally, after menopause some women find that as reduced levels of estrogen have caused their vaginas to thin out somewhat, positions that lead to more gentle penile thrusting are more suitable."

Sex positions

The best sex positions are man on top, woman-on-top, side-by-side, rear-entry and anal intercourse. They may variously be performed lying down, sitting, standing, kneeling, indoors, outdoors - those are all areas of inventiveness that each couple can explore as they see fit.

Noting in life is simple - and that include the politics of sexual positions - see this for gay politics and this for heterosexual couples - - actually, that's more about gender politics, but it is a fascinating piece. A quote to whet your appetite:

Socialization "does not consist primarily of parents telling little boys to be 'aggressive' and little girls to be 'nurturant'--these tendencies exist without socialization--but of developing the skills and attitudes that make best use of such tendencies as already exist." He adds, "To believe that males should not have a stronger dominance to hope for the impossible."

It is the idea of male dominance which most annoys feminists, Dr. Goldberg says, but, "It does not matter whether the reader enjoys the idea that the male dominates and protects the female, or detests it"--it is simply, he says, a fact. Feminism

"Every society recognizes a particular emotional difference between men and women...the male strength and dominance, and the female gentleness and endurance portrayed in our novels and movies mirror not merely our society's view of the emotional natures of men and women, but the views of every society that has ever existed..."

Man-On-Top Sex Positions

This is the most common of all sex positions. At one time it was thought to be the most natural and proper - indeed, some people thought that any other position was unnatural and improper - but we have come to recognize that such values cannot be applied to sexual techniques.

The woman lies on her back with her legs spread. She may have a pillow under her buttocks to raise her pelvis. Either the man or the woman may guide the penis into the vagina. The man can lie flat on the woman, but this restricts movement and may be uncomfortable; he is more likely to support some or all of his weight on his elbows, hands or knees. The woman can wrap her legs around the man's hips or back if she pleases or even put them over his shoulders.

The further up her legs are, the deeper the penetration the man can make as he thrusts, which means this a particularly good position for a couple trying for a pregnancy. Although in the man-on-top position the man finds he is limited in the way he can use his hands to caress his partner, it is a very good position for looking at each other and kissing, both during intercourse and afterwards. The woman can use her hands freely to caress the man or to fondle her clitoris.

Some women find that the weight of the man on them restricts their pelvic movements and some do not care for the deep penetration the position encourages; it is also an uncomfortable sex position during pregnancy for women in the middle and later stages of pregnancy.

Q. "Why is the man-on-top sexual position called the 'missionary' position?"

A: "The story goes that Christian missionaries in the last century who believed that man-on-top was the only natural and proper sexual position sometimes reproved their converts for the 'animalistic' positions (presumably rear entry) they were accustomed to use and encouraged them to use man-on-top. That an intercourse position should figure in spreading the gospel and civilization may strike us now as bizarre - which is probably what the missionaries' converts thought at the time. The degree to which missionaries succeeded in persuading the heathen to have sex 'properly' is not recorded."

Q: "A friend of mine told me he read that the man-on-top position was not good because it lead to quicker ejaculation. Is that true?"

A: "If a man has difficulty with delayed ejaculation - i.e. he is unable to orgasm during sex - the man-on-top sex position is not recommended because it may lead to relatively early ejaculation. Other positions in which vigorous thrusting is less likely are more suitable until ejaculatory control is improved."

Woman-On-Top Sex Positions

The statistics indicate that as people are becoming generally more creative and flexible about their sexual expression, so the woman-on-top sex position is gaining in popularity. Twice as many couples were using it in the 1990s as in the 1970s.

Because of our traditional erroneous assumptions about men's and women's behavior, in which the man is supposed to be vigorous and in charge, the woman passive and accepting, some men feel threatened if they adopt the "feminine" position and a woman gets on top of them. This attitude is not as common as it was, but it does still exist.

The other side of the coin is that some women feel too inhibited to try having intercourse on top. They are reluctant, probably because of the way they have socialized, to set the pace and determine the range of activities. Some women feel that if they assume the woman-on-top position for sex it may be seen as a sign of their being dominant or "oversexed."

Both men and women who accept these attitudes are not experiencing maximum sexual variety and fulfillment. Interestingly, these attitudes are not shared by many other cultures, in which intercourse positions are not endowed with psychological significance, but only with possibilities for pleasure. Roman literature, for example, contains enough references to women "riding" men to suggest that the woman-on-top position was widely used for intercourse.

The woman-on-top position is not a good one if the woman is trying to get pregnant. To encourage pregnancy, the man's semen must be able to pool deep in the vagina, so she needs to be lying on her back. If she is on top, the semen naturally tends to run out. This does not mean, however, that a woman cannot get pregnant in this position.

Woman on top is a good sex position for the later months of pregnancy, for it allows intercourse without the woman's growing belly getting in the way. It is also a good position for men with large stomachs: it takes the pressure off and allows considerable freedom of movement.

Older men, and particularly men with heart conditions, may have the woman-on-top sexual position recommended to them. It is less demanding, and requires the expenditure of less vigorous energy. A waterbed is especially helpful in this context, as it reflects and repeats the couple's movements, rather than absorbing them as a conventional bed does.

Another aspect of the woman-on-top position for lovemaking is that it allows the woman to set a gentle pace and to be symbolically caring and protective of a man with a serious medical condition. (Of course it also allows her to go full throttle and enjoy sex at the fastest speed she wishes!)

The man lies on his back and the woman lowers herself onto his erect penis. Either the man or the woman may guide the penis into the vagina. Couples may start in this position or arrive at it by rolling over from a man on top position or a side by side sexual position. The woman can remain squatting on her knees facing the man, she can straighten her legs, or she can turn around and face the man's feet. Her weight usually presents no problem.

The woman can regulate the depth of penetration of the penis and the rate of thrusting; the position also allows for maximal indirect stimulation of the clitoris by the penis, and many women report that they come more frequently when they are on top than when they are underneath. Some women though find that penetration is too deep in this position and so prefer not to use it. Also, with vigorous movements the penis can easily slip out, which is frustrating.

Woman-on-top has a number of advantages: both the man and the woman have their hands freer in this position than in most to caress each other; the man, for example, can easily stimulate the clitoris with his hands. The couple can also see more of each other than in most other positions.

Q "Can a man's penis be damaged if the woman is on top?"

A: "No, but it can be hurt if he and his partner try it without his penis being fully erect. A semi-erect penis can be bent by the weight of the woman, and obviously this could be painful. A man can also get hurt if his penis slips out of the vagina during vigorous thrusting and she slides down onto his testicles. It is therefore desirable for the man to have a full erection before insertion and for the couple to take intercourse unhurriedly."

Side by Side Sexual Positions

This is a very comfortable position in which the partners have intercourse lying on their sides facing each other. A couple can start off in the position or arrive at it by rolling over from man or woman on top.

Deep pelvic thrusting is difficult when a couple are side by side and some couples prefer not to use this sexual position for that reason. On the other hand, both partners' hands are free to caress each other and they can kiss during intercourse.

Because energetic thrusting is difficult when lying side by side, this is a particularly good position for people with heart conditions or other reasons to avoid strenuous activity. It is also a useful position during pregnancy as the woman's belly gets in the way less than, for example, in the man-on-top sex position and the couple can feel more at ease. It also puts less pressure on the man's cock, so that he is likely to last longer before he ejaculates.

Rear Entry Sex Positions

This is not the same as anal intercourse, as you are probably well aware. Rear entry sex means the man's penis entering the woman's vagina when she has her back to him. It can be done with the woman standing but bending over and supporting herself, with the woman on her hands and knees and the man kneeling behind her, or it can be done with both partners lying on their sides, her back to his front. Either partner can guide the penis into the vagina.

Rear entry sex positions allow for deep penetration and vigorous thrusting if the couple want that. The man's hands are free to caress the woman and he can reach her clitoris easily, but it is more difficult for the woman to caress the man as she has to reach behind her. Some couples greatly enjoy the sensation of the man's pelvis against the woman's buttocks.

The drawbacks of rear entry are that the penis entering from behind gives very little stimulation to the clitoris and some couples do not like the lack of face-to-face intimacy. This is a perfectly legitimate feeling and should be respected, though the other side of the coin is that rear entry is a perfectly legitimate sexual position.

As always, with any sex position, there are less obvious advantages and disadvantages to rear entry sex, including the fact that a man may ejaculate much more quickly because of the primal stimulation in this position.

Anal Intercourse

Anal intercourse is intercourse with a man's penis inserted in his partner's rectum. Anal intercourse is sometimes regarded as the ultimate in depravity and has regularly been condemned by religious and secular authorities.

It's unlikely a woman will get pregnant if a man has anal intercourse with her (although of course semen may run from her anus into her vagina and inseminate her), and so the act is viewed as contrary to some churches' requirements that sexual acts should ultimately be open to the transmission of life.

On the other hand, countless millions of people, regardless of their sexual orientation, have had and enjoyed anal intercourse without any harm resulting: they regard it as a legitimate means of sexual expression and as one of the fulfilling ways in which people can express their desire and affection for each other.

It is up to each couple to decide what is best for them - if they are comfortable with anal intercourse, fine; if not, well, they can leave it out of their sexual repertoire.

Before anal intercourse some people clear the rectum with a small disposable enema (available at pharmacies). It is also desirable to use a lubricant for intercourse to make entry easier, and it helps if the anal sphincter (the muscle on the outside of the rectum) is relaxed as well. Since the rectum contains bacteria, mouth or vagina contact with a penis after anal intercourse is unwise until the penis has been thoroughly washed.

Pain or bleeding during or after anal intercourse means that there is a problem that should be checked out by a doctor. The couple should avoid anal intercourse until this has been done.

Mistaken ideas about intercourse positions can mean reduced satisfaction, greater risk of unintended pregnancy, unnecessary anxiety and misplaced accusations. These are some of the common mistaken beliefs:

  • you cannot get pregnant if you have intercourse standing up
  • you cannot get pregnant by having anal sex
  • if the woman is on top it means she is aggressive and oversexed and the man is submissive
  • the choice of positions shows who is active and who is passive
  • if a woman wears a diaphragm and gets on top of the man his penis will dislodge her diaphragm
  • most women prefer to have intercourse with the man on top
  • using new positions for sex is a sign of being skilled lovers
  • experimenting with different positions is a sign of dissatisfaction in a relationship
  • using a rear-entry position means that the two partners don't like each other