Type “sex positions” into Google and you’ll get 530 million results (give or take) in about half a second. Ever heard of the YMCA? How about the erotic rollercoaster? And what, pray tell, is the praying mantis?
Trying out these kinds of gymnast-level contortions in the bedroom isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, but consumer culture has conditioned us to constantly seek new stimuli.
“One glance at the magazine rack at a local grocery store will tell you all you need to know about why so many people believe that they are missing out on better sex,” said Ashley Sweet, a Richmond, Virginia-based licensed psychotherapist specializing in sex and sexuality. “It's cultural messaging that something better is always just one purchase, diet, vacation, book or relationship away.”
Being inundated with options can make you rather anxious that your sex life isn’t stacking up, but even though there are endless sex positions to try, it’s normal for couples not to veer too far from a few satisfying go-tos. Two-thirds of couples reported sticking to the same two to four positions in the bedroom, according to a 2013 survey by Durex and YourTango, and just 27 percent of respondents rotate through five to seven positions, occasionally trying new ones.
Most couples opt for a few tried-and-true positions, such as missionary, cowgirl, 69 and doggy style. If your preferred arrangement isn’t one of the big four, chances are it’s a slight variation of one: For example, the wheelbarrow is a popular twist on doggy style for those with a bit of extra arm strength.
It’s better to focus on participating in sex rather than performing what you think makes you 'good' in bed.
The number of position switches per encounter might also depend on the stage of your sexual relationship. If you’re in the exploratory beginning phase, you’re more likely to attempt a bunch of positions until you get into a groove. More seasoned couples might enjoy a rotation of favorites that they know will maximize pleasure for both partners.
If you are looking to add some new tricks to your sexual repertoire, there are plenty of ways to shake up your usual rotation without forgoing your favorites. Sweet suggested experimenting with sex toys and focusing on foreplay, but even shifting the location of your encounters can feel new and exciting if things seem stale. This could be as simple as heading to the living room instead of the bedroom or could involve a bolder move such as splurging on a hotel room for a sex-fueled staycation.
Communication issues with your partner can also be an obstacle to getting what you want, and raising your desire to switch things up can be intimidating. If you're experiencing some tension (not the good kind) while discussing sex, it might be time to consult a sex coach or try a new conversation strategy.
When Juliette Karaman, a UK-based sex coach, works with couples lamenting their unfulfilling routines and bedroom frustrations, she walks them through body mapping—a process in which couples explore what extragenital erogenous zones and types of touch are most pleasurable to them. This decenters the pleasure-seeking from intercourse alone.
“When I speak to my clients about expanding their range of sensations, of emotions and pleasure, the actual sex positions don’t have that much to do with it,” Karaman explained. “This is often an eye-opener, and they see where they have been touching their partner on their own blueprint versus the blueprint of their partner.” She added that “willingness is what is most needed in all of these cases—wanting to try new types of touch, wanting to understand what turns your partner on and what turns you on and then communicating it to each other."
Ultimately, it’s better to focus on participating in sex rather than performing what you think makes you “good” in bed. Sticking to your go-to positions is fine, and small tweaks can make them even better. As long as you and your partner are satisfied, whatever you consider your go-to position (or positions!) is a keeper.