It is a universally acknowledged truth that achieving orgasm during penetrative sex isn't inherently easy for heterosexual women. In fact, 95 percent of heterosexual men claim to orgasm during sex, compared with just 65 percent of heterosexual women, according to a study published in 2017 in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.
According to University of Florida psychology professor Laurie Mintz, this "orgasm gap" boils down to our cultural confusion about female genitalia, namely, the clitoris. As Mintz explained to NBC News, heterosexual women are less likely to orgasm during penetrative sex because most women benefit from clitoral stimulation—not just penetration.
However, according to a 2022 study published in Sexologies, researchers at a gynecology clinic in New York City found there may be a scientifically proven way to improve your chances of reaching orgasm during sex as a heterosexual woman. Apparently, these two researchers have identified the optimal sex position.
The science behind the 'best sex position'
In order to examine the best sex positions for heterosexual women, researchers examined blood flow in the clitoris both before and after sex. In total, they examined five positions: face to face/female on top; sitting/face to face; missionary style, or face to face/male on top (with and without pillow); and doggy style, or kneeling/rear entry.
All of these positions (with the exception of doggy style) resulted in contact with the clitoris and, therefore, increased blood flow to the clitoris.
So what is the best sexual position for heterosexual women overall?
Out of these five positions, the researchers found face to face with the male on top with a pillow positioned under the pelvis generated the most blood flow in the clitoris. In other words, the good, old-fashioned missionary-style position with a pillow may be the best position for achieving orgasm.
Is this really the best position for women?
While this study is certainly interesting (and an important step for heterosexual women), it isn't conclusive. After all, the study involved only one couple, and instead of measuring orgasms, it measured blood flow.
"This pilot study is a great start," said Nan Wise, Ph.D., a neuroscientist, licensed psychotherapist and certified sex therapist, and an AASECT-certified relationship specialist in New Jersey. She is also the author of "Why Good Sex Matters." "A dearth of research is devoted to exploring female sexual response, and much more work needs to be done."
The findings make sense, she said, explaining that, yes, missionary style with a pillow is a great position to try.
"From a biomechanical perspective, different coital positions would likely have different results in terms of blood flow to the clitoris," Wise said. "The results match what we know from behavioral data in which face-to-face positions which maximize clitoral stimulation and blood flow are more likely to elicit an orgasm."
Linda Weiner, M.S.W., L.C.S.W., owner of Sex Therapist St. Louis, agreed missionary-with-a-pillow is a great position to try, especially if you struggle to reach orgasm or feel stimulated.
"The woman on top face to face and the missionary position with a pillow under the hips both provide more direct clitoral stimulation and the proper clitoral alignment with the mons area of the partner for greater friction," she said. "Plus, the face-to-face position might also feel more personally connected for the female partner."
Weiner added that other positions can still be fun, but additional clitoral stimulation would probably be needed for the woman to reach orgasm.
"Any position that does not provide that direct stimulation can still be highly arousing or erotic," she said. "But simultaneous clitoral stimulation by the woman or her partner may be needed to produce an orgasm—or two, or three!"
The future of sex science
What's next? This study is only the start of the work that needs to be done to further our understanding of female pleasure.
"It’s wonderful that the researchers devoted the time and energy to conduct this study," Wise said. "Sex science matters: It can help us learn more about maximizing pleasure and, as I write about in my book, pleasure is not a luxury but a necessity for a well-functioning emotional brain and physical well-being."
She summed up: "What’s essential is legitimizing and prioritizing sexual medicine research dedicated to exploring female sexual pleasure."
Here's hoping more researchers delve into the science of female pleasure in years to come.