A person's sexual preferences are as unique as the person themselves. Some people like to be in control, while others prefer to let their partner take the reins. Others are down for a little bit of both, depending on their mood that night (or day — no judgments here). Some people are happy with one partner, some enjoy several. So whether you're trying to make a baby, get your partner(s) off, or learn how to have better sex, you can find the best sex positions for any and all needs you may have between the sheets.
While every body, every relationship, and every sexual encounter is bound to be different, there are a couple of things every sexual relationship should have in common: consent and communication. "Research shows that couples who can communicate openly about sex have better sex than those who don't," Isiah McKimmie, couples therapist, sexologist, and coach, tells Woman's Day. "Voicing what you want and like is important."
It is also helpful to expand your definition of sex from simply penetrative intercourse to any consensual interaction for the purpose of pleasure, sex and relationship coach Ashley Manta says. "Stop focusing so much on penetrative sex as 'sex,' and start focusing on what feels good," she tells Woman's Day. Removing the pressure you or your partner may feel about climaxing is another thing that could make your sexual activities more enjoyable. "Orgasm is not a benchmark for success. Sometimes it's elusive, and that's OK," Manta explains. "Sex doesn't have to end just because the penis ejaculates. There are still lots of other avenues (hands, toys, oral, kissing, caressing) to make sure everyone leaves feeling satisfied."
To figure out what sex positions work best when, Woman's Day asked some of the top female sexual health experts to share their tips, tricks, and expertise. Here are the sex positions they say are the best for a variety of settings, body needs, and personal preferences:
When you have back pain: sitting.
By sitting on a chair, you give yourself to a chance sit upright while simultaneously enjoying sex with your partner and without increasing your back pains. "You might also consider using a 'sex pillow' or 'sex chair' that helps you find positions that take pressure off your back and knees," McKimmie says.
Manta echoes McKimmie's sentiment, explaining that wedging a pillow under your hips can make things even more comfortable for someone with back pains. "With the wedge under my hips, I lie face down with my legs straight and pressed together and my partner straddles me," she explains. "My legs pressed together keeps the penis from penetrating too deeply, and the wedge under my hips helps to support my back."
You could also put a heating pad under you if your back pains are acting up a bit, but you still want to have sex.
When you're postpartum: spooning.
Spooning doesn't have to only be a post-coital activity. Spooning sex is a great postpartum option: by lying down on your sides, you don't add pressure to your probably tender belly. "It really supports slow, nurturing sex and allows you to control the depth of penetration," McKimmie says. She also suggests side-by-side, which is similar to spooning, but you and your partner are facing each other.
It's important to note, however, that before having sex postpartum you should not only have the go-ahead from your physician, but also check in with yourself and make sure you have the physical and emotional energy to engage in sex. "It is perfectly OK to say 'no' to having intercourse but still engage in mutual self-pleasure or self-pleasure, or to be with one's partner while they pleasure themselves," Dr. Stephanie Buehler, psychologist and AASECT certified sex therapist, director of The Buehler Institute in Orange County, CA, and author of Counseling Couples Before, During, and After Pregnancy, tells Woman's Day.
When you have a tilted uterus: on top.
Depending on which way your uterus is tilted, there may be different sex positions that work better for you. "Woman on top is a great position because it gives you complete control around the depth and speed of penetration," McKimmie says. Oral sex is another great way to achieve orgasm with a tilted uterus, without penetration, she adds. Experts also recommend using the Ohnut donut-shaped rings. "That allows the receiver to find comfort in any position as it limits the depth of penetration, whether with a penis or a dildo if the partner is strapping on," sex and relationship coach Ashley Manta tells Woman's Day.
Girl on top is also an excellent position if you sometimes feel a little insecure between the sheets but want to put that problem to bed. "It can be confidence-building because it physically helps women to be in control," Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction, tells Woman's Day. Just make sure you do it in a way that makes you feel best. "Woman on top can be done kneeling, squatting, facing forward, or facing backward," she adds. "Show off whatever you or your partner loves most about your body."
When you're in a same-sex relationship: sitting on face.
There are plenty of positions that work in same-sex relationships that also get their fair share of action in heterosexual relationships. Sitting on your partner's face is great for all kinds of stimulation, primarily oral, but it makes way for fingering or using sex toys in your vagina or anus.
"She'll have one or both hands free to hold your hips or caress your butt," sex therapist Vanessa Marin tells Woman's Day. "You can control the pressure by pulling your body away or pressing down." Not to mention, orgasms in this position can feel very intense, Marin adds. "It will bring a whole new meaning to 'weak in the knees.'"
Scissoring is another classic position same-sex couples can find lots of pleasure in. "You lie facing each other with legs intertwined," McKimmie says. "This allows you [put] pressure on both your clitorises." She also recommends you and your partner try doggy style with your fingers or a strap-on. "It really allows for a different angle of penetration and makes the clitoris available to direct stimulation," she adds.
When you want to build intimacy: seated lotus.
Whether you and your partner are still new and trying to build intimacy, or you've been together for a while and are looking to rekindle the flame that may have dwindled over time, the seated lotus is a great place to start.
"The penetrating partner sits with their crossed legs in front, the other person sits on top legs wrapped like a koala bear," Gigi Engle, SKYN Condoms Sex & Intimacy Expert, tells Woman's Day. "Physically speaking, this position is optimal for clitoral stimulation." The seated lotus is also excellent for nuzzling, eye-contact, and lots of kissing, she adds.
Dr. Rachel Needle, licensed psychologist in West Palm Beach and the co-director of Modern Sex Therapy Institutes, echoes Engle's sentiment. "This position encourages bonding and can build intimacy," Dr. Needle tells Woman's Day. "You are face to face, your bodies are touching fully, you can gaze into each other’s eyes, breathe, or whisper into each other’s ears, are so close you can kiss each other's lips or neck." If you and your partner want to increase the intensity of the sex position, she suggests that the person on top move more slowly and sensually at times.
When you're shy: doggy style.
Unlike girl on top, if you're on the shier side of things when it comes to sex, doggy style is an ideal position for you. "You can simply reach down and touch yourself," Marin says. "Your partner can't see what you're doing with your hand, so this is a great option for women who are on the shy side" and don't necessarily feel comfortable telling their partner what they want in bed yet (or ever). It also gives your partner an easy way to reach down and stroke you, she adds.
Doggy style is also a great option if you want to have sex but prefer your partner take control while you sit back and enjoy the fruits of their labor, Dr. Needle points out. "Bent over the side of the bed or couch or any surface for that matter – the surface allows you to prop yourself up and allow your arms to relax and dangle," she says. The position also allows for deep penetration, if that's your cup of tea, and gives your mind a chance to focus on your arousal, not any possible discomfort.
When you want to make a baby: missionary.
Obviously you can get pregnant just by having sex. But if you're trying to really increase your odds of putting a bun in the oven, health experts will tell you again and again to go with missionary. But not just plain ole' missionary. In this situation, you should mix in a pelvic tilt, Amy Levine, founder of SexEdSolutions.com, tells Woman's Day.
"Putting a pillow under the tush can help elevate your pelvis and create a slide effect, providing an easy path for his swimmers to make their way through your cervix [and to] your ovum," she says. "Typically, women who try this tend to maximize the ejaculation, since it stays in the body a little longer compared to positions in which you're upright [that allow] the semen to drip out of the vagina."
Another helpful tip: Make sure he works to get you off, Ava Cadell, a sex educator and founder of Loveology University in Los Angeles, tells Woman's Day. Not only will it feel amazing, but also a woman is more likely to get pregnant if she climaxes, she says.
When getting off is your biggest concern: CAT.
Ladies, the time has come for you to stop missing out on the sensational feeling of an orgasm. While you may have tried a position or two that gets you off, Dr. Herbenick says there's one that's been scientifically proven to be helpful for reaching orgasm: CAT, or the coital alignment technique. "This is a wonderful variation on missionary," she says. "It involves the guy sliding himself forward, with his shoulders past yours, and your pelvic areas grinding."
That skin-on-skin action means CAT is super heavy on the clitoral stimulation, and since 37 percent of women need some of that to climax, according to Taylor & Francis Online, a collection of peer-reviewed journals, it's no wonder this sex position gets the stamp of approval.
When you want him to last longer: fox.
While premature ejaculation is a medical condition, according to Mayo Clinic, that your partner may need to seek treatment for, there are a few sex positions that can help increase his staying power. First, there's good ole' missionary, which Levine says works because he can stop and start when his arousal increases, making it easier for him to take it down a notch and last longer. But if you've done that position one too many times lately, try the fox position instead, Cadell suggests. It's a variation of missionary, but instead of your legs lying flat on the bed, they go up and over your partner's shoulders.
"Penetration is very deep in this position ... and he can dive totally inside her, maintaining his arousal and lasting longer,"Cadell says.
When your partner is well-endowed: criss-cross.
Even though the porn industry may try to convince you that a very well-endowed man will only increase the amount of pleasure you feel, the fact of the matter is that it can be downright painful — but only if you're not in the right sex position, which would basically be any one that allows for super deep penetration. Why? If he has a large penis, it could hit your cervix during intense thrusting, and that kind of contact doesn't usually feel good, Levine says.
So if you're looking for more of an "ooh" than an "ouch," here's your move: "The guy lies on his side; she lies perpendicular to him with legs spread as they [drape] over his body," Dr. Herbenick says. "This allows her to hold the base of his shaft if she wants to limit his range of motion, and allows her to use pelvic rocks to create an in-and-out sensation."
When your partner isn't well-endowed: cowgirl.
Experts are quick to point out that penis size is a very minor part of a satisfying sex life, yet there are certain positions sex therapists recommend more often when a man has a smaller penis. The best? Cowgirl, Levine says. Instead of moving up and down, like you traditionally would in girl on top, this position calls for lots of hip circles. It works well because it allows for deep penetration and, honestly, makes it less likely for him to slip out, Levine explains. If you prefer missionary, throw your legs up on his shoulders, so he can really get in there and make the most of his size, she adds.
Cowgirl also works for those who sometimes experience pain from deep penetration, Manta explains. Marin agrees, adding "It gives you complete control over the pace, angle, depth, and level of stimulation. It's very easy for you to find that stroke that works for you." If you like clitoral stimulation during intercourse, cowgirl also makes it easy to use your hands, your partner's hands, or a toy, in addition to anal or vaginal penetration.
When you're experiencing unusual pain: foreplay.
First, it's important to know that pain during sex is not OK, nor is it something that you should have to "deal with." So if you're feeling pain during sex, consider talking with your OBGYN to make sure there aren't any health problems at play, like a yeast infection or endometriosis, as both of these can cause intercourse to feel painful.
Once more serious concerns are ruled out, there are a few quick fixes that make sex more pleasurable. The first: lubricant. Lots and lots of lubricant. Dr. Herbenick says water-based ones works best, as oil-based options can deteriorate the latex in a condom, potentially making it break, and silicon-based versions can cause sex toys to break down.
Then, make sure there's plenty of foreplay involved. Not only can it help increase your arousal — in turn making you wetter and lowering the odds of painful entry — but oral sex can obviously be its own form of lubricant. And as far as sex positions go, any one that has you on top is probably best, Dr Herbenick adds. "It gives the woman more control [to take] sex at a pace that is comfortable for her," she says.