The Six Basic Sex Positions

Young woman straddling man on bed
David Jakle/Image Source/Getty Images

Sex positions are a commonly searched for topic by couples looking to switch up and spice up their sex lives. I’ve always been a bit leery of the power given to sex positions in any discussion about having better sex. It’s true that changing your sex position can be a way to bring a new awareness to your sex play and experience new physical sensations. But the benefit of a new sex position comes less from the position than it does from the different energy partners can bring to a new position.

Also, while there are dozens of books, DVDs, and websites devoted to thousands of different sex positions (this one included) the fact is that while there may be a limitless number of variations, there is a limited number of basic sex positions. So far I’ve identified six basic positions. If you’ve got others, or favorite variations feel free to share them below.

Lying On Top of Each Other

The two most popular examples of this basic position are the missionary position and the woman on top position. The basic position involves one person lying on top of another, either facing each other or facing the same way. Most variations on this position involve changing the angle of penetration by changing the physical orientation of partners (as in the bum lift, right angle, and knees on chest positions). The position can also be modified by having one partner not lie down at all, as in the above-mentioned woman on top position, and the less common reverse cowgirl.

Sitting Sex Positions

Sitting sex positions, where both partners are more or less in a seated position with one partner in or on the other’s lap, figure largely in film depictions of spiritual sex, as well as in sex position books trying to fill pages. While a few seated positions can work, they don’t provide a lot of movement possibilities as neither partner has much leverage. Variations, such as the raised kneeling position offer more possibilities and for some sitting upright will be the most comfortable or possibly only position that works.

Side by Side Sex Position

The next position archetype is one where both partners are lying on their sides. This position can either be face to face or face to the back of the head, more affectionately known as the spooning position. The side-by-side position may work for people who have difficulty getting comfortable as pillows can provide support and keep you in place. The position is also great if you’re feeling tired or lazy and don’t want to do too much moving. The drawback is that neither partner has a lot of leverage. Some variations, like the kneeling ball, can address this.

Hands and Knees

In most surveys of favorite sex positions, after the “woman on top” the top chosen position tends to be rear entry or doggy style. The basic position though involves one partner on their hands and knees with the other penetrating from behind. Most variations on this position (like the doggy style hands and feet) change the angle of penetration or the extent to which the partner being penetrated is up or down.

Standing Sex Position

Another basic type of sex position is the standing position. Any position that takes you off a bed or other flat surface can be a dramatic shift and even though many find standing sex positions too tiring to maintain for a long time, getting your body and mind off the bed and dealing with gravity can be a good change for some.

You, Me, and Some Object We Know

This final basic position is less about a particular physical configuration than it is a nod to the many large props we can use in sex positions. One of the most common and popular of these is the edge of the bed, but people also use chairs and sofas as a way of supporting their weight for comfort but also to increase movement possibilities and change the angle of penetration. There are many variations on this position some of which, like the leg action position involving using the edge of the object and your body to create extra movement.