Sex position

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Sex positions are positions which people may adopt during or for the purpose of sexual intercourse or other sexual activities. Sexual acts are generally described by the positions the participants adopt in order to perform those acts. Though sexual intercourse generally involves the sexual penetration of the body of one person by another, or simply direct stimulation of the sex organ of one by another, a sex position may not necessarily involve penetration or direct stimulation, and may be non-penetrative instead.

Three categories of intercourse are commonly practiced: vaginal intercourse, involving vaginal penetration by the penis; oral intercourse, involving oral caress of the penis or vagina with a partner's mouth; and anal intercourse, involving insertion into the anus by a partner's penis.[1] Sex acts may also involve other forms of genital stimulation, such as solo/mutual masturbation, which may involve rubbing or penetration by the use of fingers or hands or by a device (sex toy) such as a dildo or vibrator. There are numerous sex positions which the participants may adopt in any of these types of sexual intercourse or acts, creating an almost limitless number of sex positions. In addition to others, this list uses Alfred Kinsey's six primary positional categories.[2]



Tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix by the Triptolemos painter, ca. 470 BC, Tarquinia National Museum.

The earliest known European medieval text dedicated to sexual positions is the Speculum al foderi, sometimes known as "The Mirror of Coitus" or literally "a mirror for fuckers", a 15th century Catalan text discovered in the 1970s.[3][4]

Exclusively penetrative positions

These positions involve the insertion of a penis or other phallus (such as a strap-on dildo) into a vagina or anus.

Penetrating partner on top with front entry

The most used sex position is the missionary position. In this position, the participants face each other. The receiving partner lies on his/her back with legs apart, while the penetrating partner lies on top. This position and the following variations are primarily used for vaginal intercourse, although they can also be used for anal sex.

Penetrating from behind

20th century depiction of a couple engaged in a rear-penetration position commonly referred to as doggy-style.

Most of these positions can be used for either vaginal or anal penetration.

  • The receiving partner is on all fours with their torso horizontal. The penetrating partner inserts from behind.
  • In a variant on the doggy position, the receiving partner's torso is angled downwards. The penetrating partner can raise their own hips above those of the receiving partner for maximum penetration.
  • In another variant of the doggy position, the penetrating partner places their feet on each side of the receiving partner while keeping their knees bent and effectively raising up as high as possible while maintaining penetration. The penetrating partner's hands usually have to be placed on the receiving partner's back to keep from falling forward.[citation needed]
  • In a variant on the doggy position, the receiving partner kneels upright. The penetrating partner may gently pull the receiving partner's arms backwards at the wrists towards them.
1st century AD depiction of 'spooning'
  • The receiving partner lies on their side. The penetrating partner kneels and penetrates from behind. Alternatively, the penetrating partner can stand if the receiving partner is on a raised surface.
  • The receiving partner lies facing down, possibly with their legs spread. The penetrating partner lies on top of them.[10] The placement of a pillow beneath the receiving partner's hips can help increase stimulation in this position.
  • The receiving partner lies face down, knees together. The penetrating partner lies on top with spread legs.
  • The receiving partner lies on their side with their uppermost leg forward. The penetrating partner kneels astride the receiver's lowermost leg.

Receiving partner on top

Depiction of woman on top position in the Kama Sutra
20th century depiction of 'cowgirl' position

These positions are sometimes called the woman on top, cowboy or cowgirl positions. Most of these positions can be used for either vaginal or anal penetration.

A feature of these positions is that the penetrating partner lies on his or her back with the receiving partner on top:

Sitting and kneeling

A couple performing sexual intercourse from a seated position.

Most of these positions can be used for either vaginal or anal penetration.


One partner stands while holding up the other without a support.

Most of these positions can be used for either vaginal or anal penetration. In the basic standing position, both partners stand facing each other. The following variations are possible:

Anal sex positions

19th century depiction of penetration from behind, by Paul Avril

Anal sex positions involve anal penetration. Most anal sex positions are adaptations of vaginal penetrative positions:

Less common positions

The T-square position

These positions are more innovative, and perhaps not as widely known or practiced as the ones listed above.

The penetrator straddles one of the legs of the receiver, who is lying on their side.

The receiver lies face down legs spread on the edge of the bed and parallel to the floor, while the penetrator stands behind, holding both legs.


Using furniture or special apparatus

Most sex acts are typically performed on a bed or other simple platform. As the range of supports available increases, so does the range of positions that are possible. Ordinary furniture can be used for this purpose. Also, various forms of erotic furniture and other apparatus such as fisting slings and trapezes have been used to facilitate even more exotic sexual positions.

Positions to promote or prevent conception

Pregnancy is a potential result of any form of sex where sperm comes in contact with the vaginal area (typically vaginal sex, but pregnancy can result from anal sex, digital sex with sperm fluids on the fingers, or even sperm that is on the body and is transferred to the vaginal area) between a fertile female and a fertile male. (Men and women are typically fertile by the time they reach puberty.) Oral sex itself can never result in pregnancy. However, if not careful, it can result in pregnancy if sperm on the hands or body comes in contact with the vaginal area. Though certain sexual positions are believed by some to produce more favorable results than others, none of these are effective means of contraception. See Birth control: Misconceptions.

Positions during pregnancy

The goal is to prevent excessive pressure on the belly and to restrict penetration as required by the particular partners. Some of the positions below are popular positions for sex during pregnancy.[16]

Non-exclusively penetrative positions

Oral sex positions

Oral sex is the term given to genital stimulation by the mouth. It may be penetrative or non-penetrative, and may take place before, during, as, or following intercourse. It may also be performed simultaneously (for example, when one partner performs cunnilingus, while the other partner performs fellatio), or only one partner may perform upon the other; this creates a multitude of variations.[17]


19th century depiction of cunnilingus (detail) by Paul Avril

Cunnilingus is oral sex involving a woman's genitals. Possible positions include:


A late 19th century Beijing hand scroll depicting fellatio.

Fellatio is oral sex involving a man's genitals. Possible positions include:


Kama Sutra illustration of 69 position

Simultaneous oral sex between two people is called 69. It is called the congress of the crow in the Kama Sutra. Partners may be female or male. They can be lying side-by-side, lying one on top of the other, or standing with one partner holding the other upside down.


20th century drawing of a woman performing anilingus on another woman.

Positions for anilingus, also known as butt licking, rimming, anal-oral sex, rimjob, or tossing the salad are often variants on those for genital-oral sex. Rimming-specific positions include:

Other positions

Non-penetrative positions

Non-penetrative sex or frottage—the general term for rubbing one's genitals on one's partner. This may include the partner's genitals or buttocks. As part of foreplay or to avoid penetrative sex, people engage in a variety of other non-penetrative sexual behavior, which may or may not lead to orgasm.

The slang term humping may refer to masturbation—thrusting one's genitals against the surface of non-sexual objects, clothed or unclothed; or it may refer to penetrative sex.

Genital-genital rubbing

Genital-genital rubbing, sometimes referred to as GG rubbing, is generally understood as sexual intercourse in a narrower sense, and often among same-sex partners. Sex by mutual genital rubbing is sometimes grouped with 'frottage'. Other terms like 'non-penetrative sex' or 'outercourse' are also used.

Group sex

5th century depiction of "spit roast" on rim of an Attic red-figure kylix.
20th century depiction of "double penetration".

Various people of gender and orientation may participate in group sex. While group sex does not imply that all participants must be in sexual contact with all others simultaneously, some positions are only possible with three or more people.[19]

As with the positions listed above, more group sex positions become practical if erotic furniture is used.


When three people have sex with each other, it is called a threesome. Possible ways of having all partners in sexual contact with each include some of the following:


With many participants

These positions can be expanded to accommodate any number of participants:

Multiple penetration

Multiple penetration refers to one person being sexually penetrated several times simultaneously. It generally involves between two and five participants. Penetration may be accomplished by fingers, toes, sex toys, or penises. These positions are popular in pornography, but it is difficult to say whether they enjoy any significant popularity outside of the swinger or lifestyle community.

If one person is penetrated by two objects, it is generically called double penetration (sometimes abbreviated dp).[27] Given the vagina, anus and mouth, there are several ways in which this can be done. These include:

If one person is penetrated by three objects, it is generically called triple penetration. Possibilities include:

These variations of multiple penetration are commonly seen in pornography aimed at straight men. Some of these positions put two men in intimate contact with each other, either directly or indirectly.

Effects of physical disabilities and limitations

Different sex positions result in differences in the depth of sexual penetration and the angle of penetration. Many attempts have been made to categorize sex positions. Alfred Kinsey categorized six primary positions,[29] but the number of positions that can be used for sex is essentially limitless.[10] Sex manuals usually present a guide to sex positions.

Some people are limited by physical disabilities in the sex positions which they may use without pain or other discomfort. Other physical limitations of one or both participants also limit the sex positions which they may adopt. For example, the spoons position is recommended when either partner has back problems; the Starfish position is recommended to achieve orgasms more easily and the missionary position may be uncomfortable for the receiving partner if the weight of the inserting partner, relative to the receiving partner's, is a problem. Also, the standing positions may be unsuitable if there is a significant height difference between the participants.


  1. ^ "Sexual Intercourse". Discovery Channel. Archived from the original on 2008-08-22. Retrieved 2008-01-12. 
  2. ^[dead link]
  3. ^ Michael R. Solomon, editor (1986). Text and Concordance of Speculum al foderi, Biblioteca Nacional MS. 3356. ISBN 0-942260-60-0
  4. ^ Michael R. Solomon (1990). The Mirror of coitus : a translation and edition of the fifteenth-century Speculum al foderi. Spanish. ISBN 0-940639-48-3
  5. ^ "The Missionary Position". Sexual Health Center. Retrieved January 31, 2011. 
  6. ^ Nafzawi, Muhammad ibn Muhammad al, and Jim Colville (trans.). The Perfumed Garden of Sensual Delight. The Kegan Paul Arabia library, vol. 7. London: Kegan Paul, 1999.
  7. ^ a b c d The Perfumed Garden, Shaykh Nefwazi [sic], translated by Sir Richard Francis Burton, 1886. full text available at Internet Sacred Text Archive
  8. ^ Comfort, Alex, The Joy of Sex: Fully Revised & Completely Updated for the 21st Century. Crown. Fully rev. ed., 2002. ISBN 1-4000-4614-9, 256 pages.
  9. ^ Westheimer, Ruth K., Sex for Dummies. For Dummies. 2nd ed., 2000. ISBN 0-7645-5302-X, 432 pages.
  10. ^ a b Rogiere, Jean, The Little Book of Sex. Ulysses Press. 2001. ISBN 1-56975-305-9.
  11. ^ Masters, Johnson (June 1970). Human Sexual Inadequacy (1st ed.). Little Brown and Company. p. 54. ISBN 0-316-54985-1. 
  12. ^ So Feminine[dead link], Love Machine. Retrieved 24 September 2006.
  13. ^ "Kama Sutra – the ancient art of love". Retrieved 2010-04-19. 
  14. ^ "Welcome to Sensual Interactive – Your Sensual Resource Network". Retrieved 2010-04-19. 
  15. ^ Hooper, Anne J. (1998). Anne Hooper's Kama Sutra (1st ed.). DK Publishing. ISBN 1-56458-649-9. 
  16. ^ "Pregnancy Resource: Comfortable Sex Positions". Retrieved 2010-04-19. 
  17. ^ "Oral Sex Positions". Retrieved 2010-04-19. 
  18. ^ William Safire (2009-03-29). "Orgasmic & Orgasmic Meditation". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  19. ^ Wojick, Helen (October 2010). "Differences Between Threesomes, Group Sex and Orgies". The Swinger Blog. Retrieved April 15, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Spit Roast Threesome". collaborative. Urban Dictionary. February 14, 2003. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  21. ^ Duckworth, Ted (November 1996). "Spit Roast Threesome". Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  22. ^ "Spit Roast Threesome". The Experience Project. August 27, 2010. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  23. ^ "Lifestyle Definitions - 369". Swinger Social Network. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  24. ^ "Lifestyle Definitions - 469 position". Swinger Social Network. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  25. ^ a b "Lifestyle Definitions - Bukkake". Swinger Social Network. Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  26. ^ a b "Bukkake". Retrieved April 14, 2012. 
  27. ^ "Double-penetration". Lifestyle Definitions. Swinger Social Network. Retrieved July 23, 2012. 
  28. ^ "Double vaginal penetration". Lifestyle Definitions. Swinger Social Network. Retrieved July 23, 2012. 
  29. ^ 6 Positions For Sexual Intercourse - In Order Of Popularity - Sex, Love And Marriage - Book of Lists - Canongate Home

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