What is the Cowgirl Position?

Medically Reviewed by Gabriela Pichardo, MD on July 02, 2023
4 min read

Many people describe the cowgirl position as mutually satisfying, yet also empowering for the person on top. This sex position is popular among some people with vaginas, as they might find it easier to orgasm.

This position may be best known as the cowgirl position, but it can also be called the cowboy, rider, or cowperson position for people of all gender identities.

The cowgirl position requires a partner. It's generally described by experts as a position for two people, including one person with a penis and one person with a vagina. However, with the right accessories, any gender pairing could work.

The position requires the person with the penis to lie down with their legs straight, while the person receiving penetration kneels on top with their legs out to either side of the person lying down. The partners face each other. 

Reverse cowgirl and horizontal cowgirl are variations of the traditional cowgirl sex position.

In the reverse cowgirl position, the person on top straddles the person with the penis while facing their feet. According to Ian Kerner, Ph.D., as quoted in Men’s Health, this should be done slowly as the angle in this position is slightly unnatural. This position gives the person lying down a view of their partner's buttocks.

According to certified sexuality educator August McLaughlin, as quoted in Shape, if the traditional cowgirl position is too deep or painful for you, try reverse cowgirl with your partner's knees propped up so that you have something to hold onto.  

The horizontal cowgirl position starts with the person with the penis lying down with their legs straight while the person on top straddles them, like in a regular cowgirl position. The difference is that the person on top then slowly lowers themself until the partners are chest to chest.

The Person on Top Does All the Work

The person lying down during the cowgirl position doesn't have to play a passive role. They can help lift the hips or thighs of the person on top to support them. They can also lift their pelvis and thrust. Doing this also means that the person on top won't tire as easily. 

Another way for the person on bottom to play a more active role is by having the person on top lean on their forearms, curve their belly under, and hold this position. Their partner then lifts their pelvis to thrust. 

It Pleasures the Person with the Penis More

In a study, researchers found that 75% of women are unable to have an orgasm with just sexual intercourse, and 83% usually need clitorial stimulation to orgasm. The clitoris is sensitive tissue that can be stimulated when someone with a vagina is aroused. 

There are a few ways to adapt the cowgirl position so that the clitoris gets more stimulation. One way is by having either person stimulate the clitoris while in this position. The person on top can also lean forward so that their clitoris rubs on their partner's pelvis.

Another way is by using sex toys like vibrators or penis rings.

Cowgirl position takes some concentration to make the experience safe and enjoyable. Partners should talk to each other about what they’re comfortable doing and watch out for potential injury risks.

Talk to Your Partner about Trying the Cowgirl Position

Sex is psychological, says certified sex coach Layla Martin in Cosmopolitan. Being on top puts the person with the vagina in a vulnerable position, so it might be intimidating for some people. It's important to communicate with your partner about trying new positions.

You could also discuss trying the different variations — traditional, reverse, or horizontal cowgirl — to see what feels most comfortable to you. The person on top might say that they feel more comfortable with reverse cowgirl as it takes away the eye-contact.

Someone who is self-conscious about their chest or stomach may also prefer reverse cowgirl since it allows them to face away from their partner, certified sexuality educator Ellie Chase says in Shape. 

Possible Risks

In the cowgirl position, there is potential for the penis to slip out and push against the partner's pelvis or buttocks, causing possible injury. There is a higher likelihood of this happening in the reverse cowgirl position.

A study in Brazil found that about half the number of people with penile fractures had sustained the injury while in the cowgirl position.

A penis has no bones, but when erect, it has two cylinders of erectile tissue that fill with blood. If an erect penis is bent forcefully, the outer lining of these cylinders can tear, making a popping or cracking sound along with swelling, bruising, discoloration, and pain.

To keep this from happening, the person with the penis can hold onto their partner's hips to help control penetration. The person on top can also focus on grinding or rocking instead of bouncing up and down. 

If this position is new for you and your partner, take it slow and first and communicate to minimize the risks and maximize your enjoyment.