Let me say here and now, without shame or blush, that I like the missionary position. Making love while lying on my back with my husband on top is familiar, comfortable. It’s the meat loaf and mashed potatoes of the sex manual. If you’re hungry, it fills you up; if you’re tired, you can still manage a morsel. Beluga caviar it ain’t, but like a Quarter Pounder with cheese, you know how it’s going to look, how it’s going to taste, and how long it will take to eat. And if you want to make it fancy, you can always add fries and a salad.
At one time the missionary position was sex. As a kid, if I read about sex or glimpsed a love scene on TV before my parents switched channels, that was the position the couple was in—the man on top, the woman gazing up at him adoringly. But then came the ’70s. The hemlines went down and women went up. Indeed, woman-on-top was virtually compulsory, and anyone who didn’t have a sexual repertoire to rival the Kama Sutra had to hang her head in shame. Feminists and sex experts united in the view that the missionary position made a woman passive and subservient to her man. And no wonder we didn’t always climax—in that position the clitoris probably wasn’t stimulated, and neither was the G-spot!
Overnight, lying on your back was OUT. If you wanted to be cool and empowered, you had to get out from under and take control or throw away your chances of the Big O forever. But are we having more or better orgasms with the wealth of positions we’ve cricked our necks and twisted our limbs to get into? Has our athleticism and improvisation improved the quality of our lovemaking? A reconsideration…
It’s Girl’s Best Friend
Think of it this way: Do you look better leaning over your husband with your stretch marks glistening and everything drooping and jiggling—or reclining with your face turned up, lips parted expectantly, and your hair arranged over a bank of snowy white pillows? The missionary position is feminine; it’s alluring. And don’t try telling me that it’s not erotic. Arch your back, give your husband your best “Come get me” look and just watch that man move.
Of all positions, this is the most aesthetic. You don’t have to be self-conscious about your body because most of it is covered by your husband’s. And, for women anyway, there’s no performance anxiety. This is a position everyone knows how to do. Lying on your back with nothing on your mind other than, say, how that stain got on the ceiling, you’re in the ideal position to unwind and enjoy yourself. As my friend Joanne remarks, “I find it easier to have an orgasm in that position, because I’m more relaxed. With the others I’m constantly thinking about what I should be doing.” It’s the perfect position for the coy, the shy, or the just plain lazy. “I can concentrate on me,” says another friend, Beth.
No other position makes you feel so loving, affectionate, and close to your partner. Face-to-face you can kiss and explore each other. You can watch the expressions on his face—an erotic experience in itself—and your hands are free to caress or grip him tight. The missionary position is also the most comforting to finish in—you’re cuddling already, for heaven’s sake.
Some women, however, are put off by the position’s simplicity. If just anyone can do it, they don’t want to. And its name doesn’t do it any favors either, as it was reportedly introduced by missionaries to inhabitants of the old European empires as a “respectable” position—a history unlikely to make you paralyzed with lust.
“It’s boring,” says Patricia, who clearly never wrestled with some of the missionary’s variations. “Sideways-facing positions or being on top gives him better access to all my important parts.”
“Being on top makes me feel aggressive, which is erotic,” says Rachel. And some women, says Shirley Zussman, Ed.D., a New York sex and marital therapist, may feel pinned down in the missionary. “They’re not as free to move around as they are in other positions.