Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sex Positions by the Book

I’ve been wondering why so many books are published about sex positions. My own professional library includes the Kama Sutra; the Cookie Sutra (gingerbread cookies having sex); books with positions during pregnancy; for arthritis sufferers; for straight, gay and lesbian couples; for people into kink…just to name a few.

I highly value sexuality education — some people need help figuring out how to work around arthritic joints, pelvic pain, disabilities, pregnant bellies, or hip replacements. And I’ve consulted with people new to the game who wanted ideas about sexual possibilities prior to having partnered sex for the first time.

But wouldn’t it be great if everyone without specific health concerns felt free to toss out the manuals and enjoy the process of experimenting? After all, it shouldn’t matter whether you know the name “Reverse Cowgirl” if you already enjoy the woman-on-top-facing-her-partner’s-feet position.

The U.S. is one of the most sexually conservative Western cultures in the world, despite our highly sexualized media. As a result of this conservatism, we have distressingly high rates of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection. Shame, embarrassment, poor body image and performance anxiety are a nasty mix that keeps people from fully enjoying their sexuality. The concerns people express to me often relate to issues like these: “How do I know if I’m doing it right?” “How can I tell if my partner enjoys what I’m doing?” “If I don’t orgasm every time, will my partner stop trying?” “How can I get my partner to…?” “Do women really like that position where we…?”

In most cases, the answers can be found through experimentation. If you do A, and your partner moans with delight, you can bet you’re “doing it right.” If you and your partner talk during lovemaking – or at a neutral time before or after – you’ll learn the answers to the other questions. A playful attitude can go a long way, too. If you’ve always wanted to try having sex standing against a wall, go for it! You just need a partner and a wall – you’ll figure out the mechanics once you take your height differential into account and face each other, then both face the wall, or support a leg on a nearby chair, or not. You get my point. Sex position drawings can give you a hint of what’s possible: The rest is up to you, your partner, your creativity, and at times, your flexibility.

Toss out the shoulds, the oughts, and the doubts, and focus on what feels good for both of you. If a new position feels awkward, shift your weight, move your limbs differently, lean forward or back…and if it still doesn’t turn you on, chalk it up as a position that just doesn’t interest you, at least for now. If a position causes either of you to feel pain other than a little strain from stretching unfamiliar muscles, visit your doctor because painful intercourse can be a sign of potentially serious health problems.

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