The missionary position. Also known as the manner of serpents, the matrimonial, the mama-papa, the English-American, and the male superior… is it just us or is each of those a little more “yikes” than the last?
Still, the missionary gets an unfair rep as the boring, default sex position. But clearly the naysayers have never tried these. “Missionary gets labeled as boring or basic because it’s typically the first position — and sometimes only position — couples try when having sex,” says Emily Brooks, sex and relationship coach for Beyond Ages.
And yeah, missionary may be basic, but so is pumpkin spice, and that doesn’t stop us from drinking PSLs every year. We know what’s good. (Sugar-flavored pumpkin drinks, that’s what.)
And we’re not alone — according to a survey by Skyn Condoms, the missionary position is the second most preferred sex position by Millennials, behind doggy style. “It’s pretty accessible to a wide range of people because it doesn’t require much in the way of strength, flexibility, or agility,” says Tara Struyk, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Kinkly.
“When you’re in the missionary position, both you and your partner have an incredible view of each other’s bodies,” Brooks adds. “It’s incredibly sexy to see your partner moving and reacting to the pleasure they’re feeling.”
11 Variations On the Missionary Position To Try
Before you write off missionary as boring, try these variations to elevate your sex life — and maybe a few body parts, too.
1. Prop Yourself Up
Tyra Banks taught us to learn our angles, and that’s just as important during missionary sex as it is when you’re posing for Vogue with a tarantula on your face. Place a pillow under your butt — you can buy a sex wedge pillow, but a regular pillow works fine — and try wrapping your legs around your partner for extra deep penetration.
Why you’ll love it: A little lift changes the angle of entry for deeper penetration. If you’re not looking for sex positions that require acroyoga flexibility, props and pillows can “keep everyone comfy and bodies aligned in a pleasurable way,” Struyk says.
2. Use the Coital Alignment Technique
This sex position is also known as “grinding the corn.” If you’ve ever wanted to do your partner like a medieval mill worker, here’s your chance.
Have your partner shift up so that their hips are higher than yours. During penetration, their pubic bone should be up against your vulva, with pressure on your clit. Have them focus on grinding up and down against you rather than thrusting.
Why you’ll love it: This sex position gives you the best angle for vaginal and clitoral stimulation at the same time, so you can give your hands the night off. “There tends to be a lot of friction, which can make for great clitoral stimulation,” says Struyk.
3. Squeeze Your Legs
If you want to have sex but you’re too tired from a long day spent perfecting your Animal Crossing island to move, this is the sex position for you. Once you’re in the missionary position, you and your partner should squeeze your legs together. Then, make small rolling movements with your hips instead of thrusting. You can also add a small bullet-type vibrator between you and hold it in place with the pressure between your pelvic areas.
Why you’ll love it: The tension makes every movement feel more intense with less effort and lots of skin to skin contact. And it’s especially helpful if your partner is on the “snug fit” side… if you get our drift.
4. Go Slow
Anticipation is half the fun, or at least that’s what we’re telling ourselves while we wait for Season 3 of the Witcher. So take your time and connect with your partner: Make romantic, mushy eye contact. Rediscover the lost art of the sloppy high school make-out. When you’re ready for penetration, have your partner slide in slowly and intentionally. Start with slow thrusts and build up the speed.
Why you’ll love it: This sex position is a good strategy for trying out anal sex or a new strap-on, because youcan communicate face-to-face and monitor for discomfort. “You can easily maintain a level of communication between the two of you that can lead to incredibly passionate and intimate sex,” says Brooks. Or you can stare behind their head into the ceiling. The choice is yours!
5. Put Your Legs on Their Shoulders
This one’s pretty self-explanatory: Put your legs up on your partner’s shoulders for an elevated missionary position experience. If you need more room to move or less pressure on your hamstrings after leg day, move your legs down onto your partner’s upper arms. Or, hold your legs up spread eagle. If your partner is well-endowed, ask them to go slow, at least at first.
Why you’ll love it: Getting your legs up allows for deeper penetration or easy access to the clitoris with a finger or vibrator.
6. Lift One Leg Up (Impaled)
From the missionary position, lift one leg up onto your partner’s shoulder. This is a good alternative to the “both legs in the air” if you have limited flexibility or mobility. For variety, switch your legs back and forth and let them know how you really “can-can” feel the difference. Then, suggest you both fly to Paris so you can repeat this move in the powder room of the Moulin Rouge.
Why you’ll love it: Impaled sounds bad, but it’s got all the benefits of “Legs on Their Shoulders,” with only half the need for athleticism.
7. Flip Over (Lizard)
Usually in the missionary position, the person penetrating is on top. Throw your thing down, flip it, and reverse it by having your partner lay on their back with their legs together. Lie down face to face with your legs spread over their hips. It also leaves your partner’s hands free to explore your hair, back, and butt.
Why you’ll love it: From on top, you have more control over the pace and intensity.
8. Do a Bridge
Use your legs to lift your lower body up off the bed (or floor, or couch, or subway turnstile). A hard flat surface can actually make it easier to hold yourself up. If you’re planning ahead, place a yoga mat on the floor.
This one requires some muscle, but your partner can support your body by wrapping their arm around your waist. Or you can use a pillow or stack of towels to support your lower back.
Why you’ll love it: Your partner can penetrate deeply and gets more access to your body to give it extra attention.
9. Wrap Your Legs Like a Pretzel
In the missionary position, wrap your legs around your partner’s waist like a pretzel to pull them closer and deeper. Experiment with having your partner place their arms on your arms to hold you steady or for a bondage experience. Do not experiment with mustard.
Why you’ll love it: You can use your legs to control the speed and depth of penetration, and hold the penis or strap-on in place when it hits just the right spot.
10. Use Restraints
Have your partner tie up your hands over your head, or consider buying a pair of sex handcuffs, which dig less into the wrists than regular metal cuffs. If you’d rather go DIY, try a scarf or a robe belt.
If you want to get close, loop your arms over your partner’s head to pull them close — who’s trapped now? If your partner wants “revenge” for trapping them, have them tie your hands to the headboard.
Why you’ll love it: Power and control play is one of the most popular sexual fantasies for women. If you’ve never tried it, missionary position is a great way to test it out. Being face to face with your partner makes it easier to make sure you’re both having a good time.
11. Spreader Bar
While you’re shopping for your sex handcuffs, add a spreader bar to your shopping cart. A spreader bar is an adjustable metal rod that you can attach ankle cuffs on the end. Strap in, adjust the bar so you’re comfortable, and have your partner lift the bar over their head.
Why you’ll love it: The spreader bar helps keep your legs open and provides support to hold them in place.
Illustrations by Joe Oliver
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