In Praise of the Missionary Position

So there I was, leaning into the wall at a precise sixty-degree angle, one leg balanced precariously on a too-high footstool and one hand grasping a too-low door handle, while my boyfriend squatted awkwardly behind me, trying desperately to get it in, and I thought, what's so wrong with the missionary position? Two minutes later, flat on my back on the couch and my boyfriend pumping away on top of me, I decided that nothing, nothing at all is wrong with it.

Saying that missionary sex is your favorite is kind of like saying that you like bread a whole lot. Sure, everyone likes it, but it's not something you spend a great deal of time thinking about or that you need to form an opinion on. It's just there. To all the sex gymnasts, this kind of banal preference looks lazy, unimaginative and uninformed. If they went to such lengths to determine that "Feeding the Peacock" is their favorite position (except on Saturday nights when they like "Congress of the Cow"), then shouldn't I, too? Shouldn't I get off my back a little more often before settling on doin' it like they do on the networks during primetime?

I'll admit that I'm a lazy fuck. I like being on the bottom. I'm familiar with its ins and outs. The missionary position is like a "You are here" marker, and I know how to get straight from there to my happy place. Which, of course, is exactly why I should be taking the scenic route more often. But when a position requires too many instructions, props, or readjustments, I tend to abandon it for something more comfortable. I'm a bit of a dreamer and I like to think that all the pieces should go together just so, without us having to move to a lower couch or a chair without arm-rests or a harder surface. I like to get swept up in the moment, and I find that harder to do when I'm trying to figure out if this angle is going to break off my boyfriend's penis or scratch his hardwood floors. And getting "swept up" when you're trying out a position for the third or fourth time that hour (because his thing keeps slipping out) feels like reshooting a badly written movie scene over and over. Or worse, it's like being the star of a porno: moving from couch to kitchen to stairwell to doggie style just to keep it interesting for the viewers. If I ever left my bedroom curtains open, my neighbors would be bored limp. (They might also observe that my self-love habits are equally, well, habitual: My vibrator is built by Hitachi, five years old and going strong — no garish "Hello Kitty" logos or gratuitous cheap plastic attachments. Like the missionary position, it's my workhorse; it gets the job done.)

The problem with being a missionary position enthusiast is that my fellow evangelists are not the type I like to associate with. A recent article in Redbook magazine, that bastion of good wifedom, praised it thus: "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." Another fan, the inventor of the "coital alignment technique" (a.k.a. the supersized missionary position) has called simultaneous orgasms achieved during MP sex the only "truly satisfying" kind. The idea is as old as Freud: Normal women should enjoy normal copulation (but not too much!) with their providers, the way our good Lord intended it.

And over in TV land, doggiestyle = animal passion with no love or affection; woman-on-top = she's a very together, but slightly cold, sexpot and he's a little freaked out by her; and missionary = one-true-love sex. In a recent episode of Six Feet Under, Nate rushes home to his fiancé after chatting with a rabbi about "soulmates." His beloved, kinky Brenda tells him, "Go away and come back in as an intruder. And take me. I'll be naked." But Nate just wants to do it missionary style 'cause he rilly rilly loves her (and he says so as he comes). Brenda rolls her eyes over his shoulder mid-missionary, and we're led to believe she has "intimacy issues." It's an insidious thing, like associating names with the character traits or physical attributes of people you've known by those names; we just can't help it. And producers use our shallow cultural assumptions as short-cuts to explaining a character: If I lived in TV land, my bedroom behavior would identify me as intimacy-issue-free. It would demonstrate what a good little, slightly submissive, loyal girlfriend I was. I would probably be a good cook.

What the short cut doesn't tell you is that positions aren't submissive, people are. If you think missionary sex puts a woman in her place, then you must not think much of women. If you think it's lazy, then you're obviously not working hard enough at it. And if it's not doing it for you, then maybe you just need a little more practice. If you must reject it, at least reject it for legitimate reasons — because you don't like the view, or it doesn't hit your G-spot — not simply because it was once (okay, still is) embraced by prim housewives, religious types, and uptight sexologists as Proper Sex.

Missionary is kind of like tofu: You have to add your own flavor. If she lines up just right, his pelvic bone presses her magic button better than any reach-around, and if she puts her hips into it, she can thrust with as much gusto as he does. It's the most skin-to-skin contact for your money; if he doesn't prop himself on his elbows, it's the good kind of smothering, too, like a heavy blanket or having your blood pressure taken. And if you're the type to get easily distracted on the road to paradise, being on the bottom frees you from the responsibility of maintaining the rhythm and pressure. It's all about me-time down there.

But I don't enjoy being a selfish lay. (Not all the time, anyway.) So I am learning to find the sexiness in the attempts. I'm beginning to understand the animalistic appeal of shove-your-face-into-a-pillow doggie style, the power trip of being almost fully clothed on top of your naked boyfriend, and the exhibitionistic buzz of doing it against the kitchen wall in front of an open window. These corporeal alignments are like a dirty weekend, a vacation from vanilla sex. But damn if it doesn't feel good to come home again.  

Rebecca Archer is a contributing writer at This article originally appeared in's Missionary Issue.


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