Woman on top

This article is about the sex positions. For the film, see Woman on Top.
A couple engaged in sexual intercourse in the cowgirl position
Édouard-Henri Avril - Les Sonnetts Luxurieux (1892) - depiction of reverse cowgirl position

Woman on top, also called the cowgirl or riding position, is a group of sex positions in which the man lies on his back or sits, the woman straddles him facing either forward or back, and the man inserts his erect penis into the woman's vagina or anus.[1]

The cowgirl name derives from the image of the receiving partner "riding" the partner as a cowgirl rides a bucking horse. It is one of a number of receptive-partner-superior sexual positions, another being the reverse cowgirl position. It is fairly simple to achieve and maintain and pleasures both partners. This position is also used as a precursor to the lateral coital position described by Masters and Johnson.[2]

This position is commonly cited as one of the more popular sex positions, especially by women, because of its ability to adequately stimulate the clitoris. In this position, the woman is usually the active partner during the sexual activity.

Cowgirl position

In the cowgirl position, the man lies on his back or sits, with the woman straddling him across his pelvis facing forward, either in a kneeling or squatting position. The woman will align her vagina with the man's erect penis, and lower herself onto the penis with either the man or the woman guiding the penis into the woman's vagina for penetration.[1] With the erect penis inside the woman, the woman can glide up and down the man's penis,[3][4] controlling the rhythm and pace of vaginal stimulation and the extent and duration of penetration.[1] The woman is free to change her position ranging from leaning back to stretching out on her partner's chest to rocking from side to side or in a circular motion. Each of those changes would alter the angle and depth of penetration and which part of the vaginal area and sex organs are stimulated. The man's hands are free to reach and touch the woman's breasts, clitoris, buttocks, face etc.,[3][4] and the partners can maintain eye contact. With the woman in the sitting or leaning back positions, the man may also stimulate her nipples and clitoris with his fingers, or suck on her nipples if she inclines towards him or he raises his torso towards her.

In this position a woman can continue with the up and down motion after the man has achieved orgasm until she reaches orgasm. Afterwards, she may collapse onto the man's chest, with her vagina being very sensitive to further stimulation. On the other hand, if the woman reaches orgasm before the man, the woman may raise her pelvis to enable the man to actively thrust upwards[3] or the couple may change to a position which enables the man to continue thrusting, such as the missionary position.

Reverse missionary position

Depiction of reverse missionary position by Johann Nepomuk Geiger (1840)

When the woman lies on her partner's chest, a better description is the reverse missionary position. Stretching out with her legs on the man[3] puts more pressure on the woman's mons pubis and clitoris. If the man separates his legs, the woman can put her legs between his.[3] In this position she can increase the tightness on the man's penis by pressing her thighs together, or the man may press the woman's thighs together. This increases vaginal friction but she can still control the pace and rhythm of her thrusts. As most women approach orgasm, they experience acute vaginal contractions,[5] which also increases the man's sexual stimulation by increasing tightness on his penis.

Reverse cowgirl position

Reverse cowgirl position, from I Modi, mid-16th century

In the reverse cowgirl position, also known as crab sex, the woman straddles the man facing the man's feet in a kneeling or squatting position. After either she or the man has guided the penis into the woman's vagina, the woman can keep her torso upright, or she can lean forward or back to lay on the man's chest or move sideways at will. The man's legs can be flat on the bed or arched. The woman also has control over the pace, rhythm, depth and duration of penetration. By changing her position and thrusts, the woman can change the level of stimulation for the man, while at the same time stimulating herself by rubbing her clitoris or G-spot area simultaneously.


An advantage of the woman on top positions is that the man's weight is not on the woman. The woman on top positions are ideal during pregnancy as there is no pressure on the woman's abdomen, and it is easy for her to control the depth and speed of penetration. It is also useful if the man is recovering from a serious illness or surgery or if the woman has recently given birth.[3]

A drawing from the 15th century sexual book in Iran, depicting the woman on top position 
The "riding" position (Mulier equitans) was popular in ancient Roman erotic art (wall painting from Pompeii, 62–79 BC) 
Édouard-Henri Avril's image of the woman on top position 
Image of reverse cowgirl position by Édouard-Henri Avril 

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Woman-on-top positions.


  1. 1 2 3 "Discovery Health Sexual Positions". healthguide.howstuffworks.com. Retrieved 2010-10-22.
  2. Masters, Johnson (June 1970). Human Sexual Inadequacy (1st ed.). Little Brown and Company. p. 54. ISBN 0-316-54985-1.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Nilamadhab Kar, Gopal Chandra Kar (2005). Comprehensive Textbook of Sexual Medicine. Jaypee Brothers Publishers. pp. 108–109. ISBN 8180614050. Retrieved February 10, 2014.
  4. 1 2 "Sex Positions For Better Sex". Retrieved 2010-10-22.
  5. Kratochvíl, S (1994). "Vaginal contractions in female orgasm". Československá psychiatrie. 90 (1): 28–33. PMID 8174183.
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