Sex position

Not to be confused with Sexposition.

A love scene sculpture from the Sunga period (ca. 1st century BCE).

A sex position is a position of the body that an individual or couple people may use for 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 penetration of the body of one person by another, sex positions commonly involve penetrative or non-penetrative sexual activities.

Three categories of sexual intercourse are commonly practiced: vaginal intercourse (involving vaginal penetration), anal penetration, and oral sex (especially mouth-on-genital stimulation).[1] Sex acts may also involve other forms of genital stimulation, such as solo or 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. The act may also involve anilingus. There are numerous sex positions that participants may adopt in any of these types of sexual intercourse or acts; some authors have argued that the number of sex positions is essentially limitless.


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.[2][3]

Exclusively penetrative positions

These positions involve the insertion of a phallic object(s) (such as a penis, strap-on dildo, plug, or other nonporous object(s)) into a vagina, anus or mouth.

Missionary, the most commonly used sex position[4][5]
Tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix by the Triptolemos painter, ca. 470 BC, Tarquinia National Museum
A rear-penetration position, commonly referred to as 'doggy style'. Penetration of the woman can occur vaginal or anal.

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 their back with legs apart, while the penetrating partner lies on top. This position and the following variations may be used for vaginal or anal intercourse.

Penetrating from behind

1st century AD depiction of 'spooning'

Most of these positions can be used for either vaginal or anal penetration. Variants of the doggy style or doggy position include:

In the spoons position both partners lie on their side, facing the same direction.[11] Variants of this technique include the following:

Woman on top position in the Kama Sutra

Receiving partner on top

See also: Woman on top

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

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

A couple performing sexual intercourse from a seated position

Sitting and kneeling

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 anal penetration; detail of a painting by Paul Avril

These positions involve anal penetration:

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.


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 sexual activity where sperm comes in contact with the vagina; this is typically during vaginal sex, but pregnancy can result from anal sex, digital sex (fingering), oral sex, or by another body part, if sperm is transferred from one area to the vagina between a fertile female and a fertile male. Men and women are typically fertile during puberty. Though certain sexual positions are believed to produce more favorable results than others, none of these are effective means of contraception.

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.[20]

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.[21]

Modern drawing of fellatio
A late 19th-century Beijing hand scroll depicting fellatio
19th-century depiction of cunnilingus (detail) by Paul Avril


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


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


The 69 position

Simultaneous oral sex between two people is called 69. Partners may be female or male. They can lie side-by-side, lie one on top of the other, or stand with one partner holding the other upside down.


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. Anilingus can be performed in a number of sex positions including:

Other positions

Non-penetrative positions

Main article: Non-penetrative sex
Drawing by Franz von Bayros showing an act of fingering

Non-penetrative sex or frottage is generally sexual activity that excludes penetration, and often includes rubbing one's genitals on one's sexual partner. This may include the partner's genitals or buttocks, and can involve different sex positions. As part of foreplay or to avoid penetrative sex, people engage in a variety of 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

Main articles: Intercrural sex, Frot, and Tribadism

Genital-genital rubbing (often termed GG rubbing by primatologists to describe the behavior among female bonobos[31][32]) is the sexual act of mutually rubbing genitals; it is sometimes grouped with frottage, but other terms, such as non-penetrative sex or outercourse, are also used:

Group sex

Depiction of a 'spit roast' on the rim of an Attic red-figure kylix, c. 510 BC
19th-century depiction of a "sandwich" by Paul Avril
A 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.[33]

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


Main article: Threesome

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

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Multiple penetration.

A person may be sexually penetrated multiple times simultaneously. Penetration may involve use of fingers, toes, sex toys, or penises. Scenes of multiple penetration are common in pornography.

If one person is penetrated by two objects, it is generically called double penetration (abbreviated DP).[42] Double penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth can involve:

Number of positions, and effects on physical abilities

Sex manuals usually present a guide to sex positions. Sex manuals have a long history. In the Graeco-Roman era, a sex manual was written by Philaenis of Samos, possibly a hetaira (courtesan) of the Hellenistic period (3rd–1st century BC).[44] The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, believed to have been written in the 1st to 6th centuries, has a notorious reputation as a sex manual. 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,[45] Alex Comfort categorized more than 600[46] and Gershon Legman categorized 3,780.[47] However, the suggestion that the number of positions that can be used for sex is essentially limitless also exists.[48]

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.


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