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What is Missionary Position?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 29, 2021

The missionary position is one of the most basic sex positions. The term started back in the late 1960s or early 1970s. It was used to describe heterosexual intercourse in which the man is on top and the woman is on the bottom, both facing each other. Today, the term has a broader and more inclusive meaning that goes beyond heterosexuality.

In this position, one partner is on top of the other so that they are face to face. The penetrating partner, or the one who’s on top, usually has more control than the partner underneath them.

How Does It Work?

The missionary position requires a partner. Generally, this position is described as having the female partner lying flat on her back with the male partner on top, facing her.

It can be done in a similar way even if the couple isn’t heterosexual. One partner lies flat on their back and the other can be on top of them, facing them. This creates close contact between the partners for either vaginal or anal penetration.

The partner on top is between the legs of the partner on the bottom. Because of this, the partner on top usually has more control when it comes to speed and depth of penetration. But the partner on the bottom can also change the position of their hips and legs to create different sensations for both partners.

The partner on top can prop themselves up on their arms, or they can lie down a bit and put more of their weight on their partner.

Myths About the Missionary Position

As popular as it may be, even the missionary position has some myths and misconceptions surrounding it.

It’s Boring

The missionary position might be one of the most intimate sexual positions you can try with a partner.

Since you’re face to face, you can maintain eye contact with them throughout intercourse. As both partners are quite close, this means that you can easily kiss or touch your partner and maintain skin-to-skin contact.

This position remains popular because it is low-effort and does not require a lot of skill or experience. It’s comfortable and not intimidating. And since one partner is lying down and doesn’t need to move much, it can be relaxing.

There’s Only One Way to Do It

The missionary position is defined as the penetrating partner on top of the partner being penetrated. But there are different ways that you or your partner can position yourselves to create different sensations and angles.

For example, the partner on the bottom can rotate their hips up or down to create different points of stimulation. They can also try adding a pillow under their bottom, which creates deeper penetration. Many couples find that starting in the missionary position can lead to trying other positions throughout intercourse.

How to Safely Try the Missionary Position

If you want to try the missionary position with your partner, the first thing you need to do is talk with them. This position is quite intimate, so both you and your partner need to be on board.

This position is so popular because it’s one of the easiest to do. But if you have back pain, you may want to be the one lying on your back. If you can, hold your legs at a 90-degree. This can help keep your back muscles relaxed.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

Bedsider: “10 ways to make missionary position feel amazing.”

Dictionary.com: “missionary position.”

Current Anthropology: “Missionary Positions: Christian, Modernist, Postmodernist.”

Cosmopolitan: “5 Blissful Sex Positions for When You Have Back Pain.”

Sexual Health Resource: “Sex Positions - Photos, Tips & New Ideas.”

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