This list of sex positions includes descriptions of various forms of sexual intercourse and other sexual acts between people. Sexual acts are generally described by the positions the participants take in order to perform those acts. Alfred Kinsey used six primary positions as categories. Since the number of positions that can be used for sex is essentially limitless, this list is not exhaustive.
These positions involve the insertion of a penis
or other phallus (such as a strap-on dildo
) into a vagina
Penetrating partner on top with front entry
These positions are primarily used vaginally, although some can also be used for anal sex. The basic position is called the missionary position. In it, the receiving partner lies on his or her back with legs apart. The penetrating partner lies on top of the receiving partner, facing them. The following variations are possible:
- The penetrating partner stands in front of the receiving partner, whose legs dangle over the edge of a bed or some other platform like a table. With the receiving partner's legs lifted towards the ceiling and resting against the penetrating partner, this is sometimes called the butterfly position. This can also be done as a kneeling position.
- The receiving partner lies on his or her back. The penetrating partner stands and lifts the receiving partner's pelvis for penetration. A variant is for the receiving partner to rest his or her legs on the penetrating partner's shoulders.
- The receiving partner lies on his or her back, legs pulled up straight and knees near to the head. The penetrating partner holds the receiving partner's legs and penetrates from above.
- Similarly to the previous position, but the receiving partner's legs need not be straight and the penetrating partner wraps his or her arms around the receiving partner to push the legs as close as possible to the chest. Called the stopperage in Burton's translation of The Perfumed Garden.
- The coital alignment technique, a position where a woman is penetrated vaginally: the penetrating partner enters vaginally in the missionary position and moves slightly forward so that the base of the phallus rubs the clitoris.
- The receiving partner crosses their feet behind their head (or at least puts their feet next to their ears), while lying on their back. The penetrating partner then holds the receiving partner tightly around each instep or ankle and lies on the receiving partner full-length. A variation is to have the receiving partner cross their ankles on their stomach, knees to shoulders, and then have the penetrating partner lie on the receiving partner's crossed ankles with their full weight. Called the Viennese oyster by The Joy of Sex.
Penetrating from behind
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. This is called the doggy position. The penetrating partner may also grab the receiving partner's hair for added leverage, and increased control.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the spoons position both partners lie on their same side facing in the same direction.
- 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. 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
Most of these positions can be used for either vaginal or anal penetration.
- The penetrating partner lies on their back. The receiving partner kneels on top of the penetrator facing them. Sometimes called the cowboy or cowgirl position. See Receptive partner on top position.
- As above, but the receiving partner sits on top of the penetrator facing away from them. Sometimes called the reverse cowboy or reverse cowgirl position. See Reverse receptive partner on top position.
- As above, but the receiving partner arches their back with their hands on the ground.
- As above, but the receiving partner squats (instead of kneeling) on top of the penetrator facing toward them.
- The penetrating partner is on their back with the receiving partner lying down on top with their knees brought forward against the ground.
- The penetrating partner lies with their upper back on a low table, couch, chair or edge of bed, keeping their feet flat on the floor and back parallel to floor. The receiving partner straddles them, also keeping their feet on the floor. Receiving partner can assume any of various positions.
- The lateral coital position was recommended by Masters and Johnson, and was preferred by three quarters of their heterosexual study participants after having tried it. The position involves the man on his back, with the woman rolled slightly to the side so that her pelvis is atop his, but her weight is beside his.
Sitting and kneeling
Most of these positions can be used for either vaginal or anal penetration.
- The penetrating partner sits on an area surface, legs outstretched. The receiving partner sits on top and wraps their legs around the penetrating partner. Called pounding on the spot in the Burton translation of The Perfumed Garden. If the penetrator crosses their legs instead, it is called the lotus position. This position can be combined with fondling of both the breasts and buttocks of the receiving partner and the buttocks of the penetrating partner, increasing the chances of both pleasure and orgasm in both partners.
- The penetrating partner sits in a chair. The receiving partner straddles penetrating partner and sits, facing the penetrating partner, feet on floor. This is sometimes known as the lap dance. Other receiver-on-top variants can be adapted in this way as well.
- The penetrating partner sits on a couch or in a chair that has armrests. The receiving partner sits in the penetrating partner's lap, perpendicular to penetrating partner, with his or her back against the armrest.
- The penetrating partner kneels while the receiving partner lies on his or her back, ankles on each side of penetrating partner's shoulders.
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:
- In the basic standing position, both partners stand facing each other and engage in vaginal sex. In order to match heights, the shorter partner can, for instance, stand on a stair or wear high heels. It may be easier to maintain solid thrusts if the woman has her back to a wall. With such a support, the Kama Sutra calls this position the suspended congress. This position is most often used in upright places, such as a wall in a bedroom or a shower. When in the shower, the water can be turned on to steaming to facilitate a more pleasurable effect.
- Alternatively, the receiving partner can face away from the penetrating partner which allows for anal sex. This position is varied by having the receiving partner assume different semi-standing positions. For instance, they may bend at the waist, resting their hands or elbows on a table. Or they may put both hands and one foot on the floor and let the penetrating partner hold the remaining leg.
- In this position, the penetrating partner stands. The receiving partner wraps their arms around his neck, and their legs around his waist, thereby exposing either the vagina or anus to the man's penis. This position is made easier with the use of a solid object behind the receiver, as above. Use of a solid object also helps hold the receiving partner up. In this fashion, the position is called the suspended congress in the Kama Sutra.
Most penetrative sex positions (see above) can be adapted anally, especially those that involve entry from behind. Other sexual practices involving the vagina, such as fingering, can also be adapted anally. However, some positions are not directly adaptable because of the different angles required for anal and vaginal entry. Here are listed positions that work well for anal sex.
- Doggy style – see above. This position maximizes the depth of penetration, which may be desirable by either or both partners, but can pose the risk of pushing against the sigmoid colon. If the receiving partner is male, this increases the chances of stimulating the prostate. This position allows for vigorous thrusting. A variation is the leapfrog position, in which the receiving partner angles their torso downward. The receiving partner may also lie flat and face down, with the penetrating partner straddling their thighs.
- Missionary – see above. In order to achieve optimal alignment, the receiving partner's legs should be in the air with the knees drawn towards their chest. Some sort of support (such as a pillow) under the receiving partner's hips can also be useful. The penetrating partner positions themselves between the receiving partner's legs. This position is often cited as good for beginners, because it allows them to relax more fully than is usual in the "doggy" position.
- Spoons – see above. This allows the receiving partner to greatly control initial entry and the depth, speed and force of subsequent thrusting.
- Receiving partner on top – see above section. These are sometimes cited as a good beginning positions, as they allow the receptive partner more control over the depth, rhythm and speed of penetration. More specifically, the receptive partner can slowly push their anus down on the penetrator, allowing time for their muscles to relax.
Less common positions
These positions are more innovative, and perhaps not as widely known or practiced as the ones listed above.
- The receiving partner is on the bottom. The penetrating partner lies on top perpendicularly to them.
- The penetrating partner lies on their back, legs spread. The receiving partner is on their back on top of the penetrator, legs spread, facing the opposite direction.
- The penetrator and the receiver lie on their backs, heads pointed away from one another. Each places one leg on the other's shoulder (as a brace) and the other leg out somewhat to the side.
- The receiving partner lies on their back with knees up and legs apart. The penetrating partner lies on their side perpendicular to the receiver, with the penetrating partner's hips under the arch formed by receiver's legs. Sometimes called the T-square.
- The receiving partner's legs are together turning to one side while looking up towards the penetrator, who has spread legs and is kneeing straight behind the other's hips. The penetrator's hands are on the other's hips. This position can be called the Modified T-square.
- The receiving partner lies on their back with the penetrating partner lying perpendicular. The receiving partner bends the knee closest to the penetrating partner's head enough so that there is room for the penetrating partner's waist to fit beneath it, while the penetrating partner's legs straddle the receiving partner's other leg. The in-and-out thrusting action will move more along a side-to-side rather than top-to-bottom axis. This position allows for breast stimulation during sex, for partners to maintain eye contact if they wish, and for a good view of both partners as they reach orgasm.
- The penetrating partner sits on edge of a bed or chair with feet spread wide on floor. The receiving partner lays on their back on the floor and drapes their legs and thighs over the legs of the penetrating partner. The penetrating partner holds the knees of the receiving partner and controls thrusts.
- The Seventh Posture of Burton's translation of The Perfumed Garden is an unusual position not described in other classical sex manuals. The receiving partner lies on their side. The penetrating partner faces the receiver, straddling the receiver's lower leg, and lifts the receiver's upper leg on either side of the body onto the crook of penetrating partner's elbow or onto the shoulder. While some references describe this position as being "for acrobats and not to be taken seriously, others have found it very comfortable, especially during pregnancy.
- The penetrator straddles one of the legs of the receiver, who is lying on their side.
- The piledriver is a difficult position sometimes seen in porn videos. It is described in many ways by different sources. In a heterosexual context, the woman lies on her back, then raises her hips as high as possible, so that her partner, standing, can enter her vaginally or anally. The position places considerable strain on the woman's neck, so firm cushions should be used to support her.
- Another postition has the guy laying on his back with the girl on top of him on her back .
- Another postition is both the girl and guy lay on their backs away for each other but have pubic areas in contact with each other.
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
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. Those who follow the advice of old wives' tales believe certain sexual positions produce more favorable results than others, but none of these are effective means of contraception. See Old wives' tale: Having sex standing up is a contraceptive
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
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.
Other forms of frottage – as part of foreplay or to avoid penetrative sex, people engage in a variety of other non-penetrative sexual behaviour, which may or may not lead to orgasm.
- Dry humping – frottage while clothed. This act is common, although not essential, in the dance style known as "grinding".
- Handjob – Manual stimulation of a partner's penis.
- Footjob – using the feet to stimulate the penis.
- Mammary intercourse – using the breasts together to stimulate the penis through the cleavage. (Should not be confused with a "boob job" meaning to have augmentive surgery done on the breasts.) Also called a "titjob", "titty-fucking", a "tit-wank", or a "muscle fuck". Several other slang terms exist.
- Intercrural intercourse or interfemoral sex, also called irrumatio – with the penis between the partner's thighs, perhaps rubbing the vulva, scrotum or perineum.
- Axillary intercourse – with the penis in the armpit.
Humping may refer to masturbation – thrusting one's genitals against the surface of non-sexual objects, clothed or unclothed, but this word is also used in the UK and Canada as slang for penetrative sex.
Genital-genital sex, sometimes referred to as GG rubbing, is generally understood as sexual intercourse in a narrower sense, and among samesex partners vanilla sex. Sex by mutual genital rubbing is sometimes grouped with 'frottage'. However, other terms like 'non-penetrative' or 'outercourse' are heterosexist in reference and misleadingly assume a penile-vaginal context.
- Frot or frottage – two males mutually rubbing penises together.
- Tribadism or tribbing – two females mutually rubbing vulvae together.
- Docking - mutual masturbation by inserting the head of a circumcised or uncircumcised penis into the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis. Circumcised men can also use a sex toy called a "docking sleeve," a tube-shaped device made of silicone, rubber or Cyberskin which takes the place of the foreskin.
Oral sex positions
Oral sex is the term given to genital stimulation by the mouth. People may engage in oral sex as part of foreplay before intercourse, or during or following intercourse. It may also be performed for its own sake.
It can be performed simultaneously (e.g. 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
Fellatio is oral sex involving a man's genitals. Possible positions include:
- The man lies on his back while his partner kneels between his legs.
- The man lies on his back while his partner lies off to the side of his legs.
- The man sits in a chair and partner kneels in front of him between his legs.
- The man stands while his partner either kneels in front of him or sits (in a chair or on the edge of a bed, etc.) and bends forward.
- While the active partner lies on their back, the man assumes the missionary position but adjusted forward so as to insert his penis in his partner's mouth.
- The man stands or crouches at the edge of the bed, facing the bed. The active partner lies on the bed with their head hanging over the edge of the bed backward. The man inserts his penis into his partner's mouth, usually to achieve deep throat penetration, whereby the entire penis penetrates the mouth opening.
- The man fellates his own penis; see autofellatio
- The active partner (being female) lies on her back, and the man inserts his penis between her cleavage, and into her mouth.
Cunnilingus is oral sex involving a woman's genitals. Possible positions include:
- The woman lies on her back as in the missionary position. The active partner lies on their front between her legs.
- The active partner sits. The woman stands facing away and bends at the hips.
- The active partner sits. The woman stands or squats facing towards partner and may arch her back, to create further stimulation.
- The active partner lies on their back while the woman kneels with her legs at their sides and her genitals on their mouth. Humorously popularised in the Monty Python song "Sit On My Face" (1980).
- The woman services her own genitals. Although rarer, some women still find this possible; see autofellatio
- The woman stands, possibly bracing herself against a wall. The active partner kneels in front of her.
- The woman sits on the bed with her legs open, the active partner kneels in front of her.
- The woman is upside-down (standing on hands, held by partner, or using support, such as bondage or furniture), with the active partner standing or kneeling (depending on elevation) in front or behind. Such a position may be difficult to achieve, or maintain for extended time periods, but the rush of blood to the brain can alter stimulation's effect.
- The woman stands on hands, resting each leg on either side of the active partner's head, with the active partner standing or kneeling facing them. Depending on which way up the woman is facing, different stimulation and levels of comfort may be available.
Simultaneous oral sex between two people is called 69. It is called the congress of the crow in the Kama Sutra. Each partner may be male or female. They can be lying side-by-side, lying one on top of the other, or standing with one partner holding the other upside down.
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:
- The passive partner is on all fours. The active partner is behind them.
- The passive partner is on their back with their legs up.
- The Rusty trombone, in which a male is standing while the active partner is both performing anilingus from behind, generally from a kneeling position, while also masturbating the standing partner, thus somewhat resembling someone playing the trombone.
- Fingering of the vagina or anus.
- Shocker – simultaneous fingering of the vagina and anus using one hand. The index and middle finger are inserted in the vagina, and the pinky in the anus. A number of variations are possible by using different combinations of fingers in each orifice. This act figures prominently in the Story of O: shortly after O's arrival at the Chateau, a man grabs her in this way. O is shocked, but she learns to accept this and ruder intrusions. Sometimes referred to as "Two in the pink, one in the stink."
- Female shocker – simultaneously fingering a man's anus with one's thumb while stimulating his scrotum with the other fingers. This is done by making a shape with the hands as though one were holding the bowl of a wine glass.
- Fisting – inserting the entire hand into the vagina or anus. This usually requires large amounts of lubricant and relaxation. The hand is usually not actually made into a fist, but instead the thumb is placed between the middle and ring fingers. Anal fisting can be extremely dangerous and even fatal if the hand tears the lining of the intestine.
Various assemblages of people 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.
As with the positions listed above, more group sex positions become practical if erotic furniture is used.
With three participants
When three people have sex with each other, it is called a threesome. Possible ways of having all partners in sexual contact with each other include:
- One person performs oral sex on either of the other two partners while they engage in anal or vaginal intercourse.
- A man has vaginal or anal sex with one partner, while himself being anally penetrated by another (possibly with a strap-on dildo).
- Three partners lie or stand in parallel, with one between the other two. Sometimes called a sandwich. This term may specifically refer to the double penetration of a woman, with one penis in her anus, and the other in her vagina.
- A participant has vaginal or anal sex with one partner, and both give oral sex to a third.
- Three people perform oral sex in a triangular configuration, commonly called a "daisy chain".
Multiple penetration refers to one person being sexually penetrated several times simultaneously. It generally involves between three 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 it.
If one person is penetrated by two objects, it is generically called double penetration (sometimes abbreviated dp). Given the vagina, anus and mouth, there are several ways in which this can be done. These include:
- Simultaneous penetration of the anus by two penises or other objects. This is commonly called double anal or double stuffing.
- Simultaneous penetration of the vagina by two penises or other objects. This is commonly called double vaginal or double stuffing.
- Simultaneous penetration of the vagina and anus. If this is done using penises and/or strap-on dildos, this is sometimes called the sandwich or BigMac. The shocker (see above) accomplishes this using several fingers of one hand.
- Simultaneous penetration of the mouth and either the vagina or anus. If the penetrating objects are penises, this is sometimes called the spit roast. The character Alyssa Jones in Chasing Amy acquired the nickname "finger cuffs" after participating in this act.
If one person is penetrated by three objects, it is generically called triple penetration. Possibilities include:
- Two penises penetrating the vagina and one in the anus or vice versa. While possible, this position is very difficult.
- One penis in the anus, one in the vagina, and one in the mouth simultaneously.
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.
Penetration by larger numbers of objects is rarer and generally not named, with two exceptions, which are likely physically impossible:
- Double vaginal, double anal penetration (DVDA): simultaneous penetration of the vagina and anus of a single woman by two penises each. The term gained popularity after its inclusion in the movie Orgazmo by South Park co-creator Trey Parker, and is also the name of Parker's and Matt Stone's band.
- Triple-Double: Multiple penetration of a single woman by six penises. Two penises in the mouth, vagina, and anus simultaneously.
With many participants
These positions can be expanded to accommodate any number of participants.
- A group of males masturbating is called a circle jerk.
- A group of males masturbating and ejaculating on one person's face (usually a woman's), is known as bukkake.
- A group of men, women, or both, each performing oral sex on the next, is called a daisy chain.
- When one woman or man is given the serial or parallel attention of many, often involving a queue, it is often termed a gangbang (originally exclusively a rape term, but now used to include consensual group sex).
Specific referencesOther sources
In the Indian Kama Sutra
, the act and manner of sex was an art-form. In the Khajuraho
statues, it has ethical meaning. In the Kama Sutra
, eighty-four sex positions are explained as arts. These may be considered yoga
positions for a couple. Tantric yoga
, as applied to couples, is sometimes called the yoga of union
and is the supposed ethical context for these positions.
The Arabic Perfumed Garden is another ancient text which describes sex positions. However, the most commonly known English version, translated from French by Sir Richard Francis Burton, has mangled the original almost beyond recognition. A modern translation by Jim Coville claiming to be faithful to the original describes only 11 unnamed sex positions, whereas Burton's translation lists some 39, each either with a name or number.
Alex Comfort's The Joy of Sex
was one of the first widely accepted modern sex manuals
to describe sexual positions. See also:
- Gillian, Max, "The Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive Orgasm". Hunter House. 1st ed., 2002. ISBN 0-89793-362-1, 235 pages.
- Hooper, Anne J., "Sexopedia". DK Publishing. 1st American ed., 2002. ISBN 0-7894-8958-9, 272 pages.
- Kemper, Alfred M., "Love Couches Design Criteria". Los Angeles 1972. Library of Congress #75-36170, 101 pages — design criteria for assistive furniture, with sections on accommodation of disabled persons.
- McMeel, Andrews and Lisa Sussman, "Sex Positions". Carlton Publishing Group. 2002. ISBN 1-84222-266-X, 96 pages.
- Nerve.com, "Position of the Day Playbook, Sex Every Day in Every Way". Chronicle Books. 2005. ISBN 0-8118-4701-2, 376 pages.