January 22, 2020

Can It Actually Be Harder to Orgasm from Missionary?

If you’re having trouble reaching orgasm in the missionary position, you’re not alone.
Written by
Rebecca Koon
Published on
January 22, 2020
Updated on
What's changed?
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If you’re wondering if you can orgasm from missionary — a face-to-face sex position with one partner on their back and the other lying on top while penetrating —the answer is: maybe!  Everyone is different, and what does it for some may do nothing for others. That’s because orgasms depend on a lot of different factors, not just the sex position you use. They can depend on your particular anatomy, how comfortable you feel in the moment, how well you know what you like, how well you communicate with your partner, how responsive your partner is to your desires, whether you use certain prescription drugs, and whether Mercury is in retrograde. Okay, not really the latter, but you get the idea. 

Orgasms can be finicky little things, especially for people with vulvas, but certain positions can make them easier to achieve. While it’s totally possible to orgasm during missionary, some clitoris-owners find this position particularly difficult. 

Why can it be harder to achieve orgasm from missionary?

Lots of people with vaginas need clitoral stimulation to orgasm and the missionary position doesn’t allow many options for that. It can also be difficult for some to orgasm during missionary because the receiving partner may have less control over the depth (how deep the penetrating penis or toy goes) and thrusting pace. For some, that might be a good thing, but others may need more control in order to get off.

It’s not just physical, either. “Sometimes our brains can get in the way of orgasm – being distracted or stressed can inhibit orgasm,” Julie Jeske, a sex and relationship therapist and host of the podcast Swoon, tells “A history of trauma can make it hard to be present and relax into orgasm. Sometimes focusing on orgasm can make sex really goal-oriented and then less pleasurable and less likely to lead to orgasm. Also lack of sex education or not knowing our own bodies and what feels good can make orgasm more elusive.”

So, how can I increase my chances of orgasming in the missionary position?

The fact that missionary is face-to-face means you can make eye contact with your partner, which can be super intimate and erotic. This closeness can allow for some intense deep kissing, dirty talk, ear biting and neck kisses.

But, Jeske says, it might be useful to think about whether it’s really important to you to orgasm in that position, or if there are other things you can enjoy about it. “If missionary position feels great, awesome! Keep doing it! Things can feel great and not result in orgasm. Maybe you want to feel close or eye gaze or you like the weight of your partner's body against yours, all of those are wonderful reasons to relish sex in the missionary position.” 

You can try adding toys to the mix.

You can also try slipping a hand or slim toy between your bodies for extra clitoral stimulation. Some options that work well for partnered sex are vibrating cock rings like the TOR™ 2 from Lelo or the ICONIC RING from Jimmy Jane for a more affordable option. You can also try hands-free vibrators from We-Vibe or try the Eva II by Dame.  For a more traditional external vibe that will still fit easily between bodies, the NEA™ 2 from Lelo is a good option, as is the Iroha Mini Vibe from Tenga.

Making some minor changes to your body position may also help. “You can try arching your back or using a pillow under your bottom to shift how the penis [or toy] makes contact with your body,” Jeske says. “You may be able to get more clitoral stimulation that way (or you may be able to get g-spot stimulation).”

Some people also like the Coital Alignment Technique, which is a version of missionary where the partner on top aligns their body so that the penis or dildo stimulates the clitoris on its way in and out of the vagina, or the pubic bone rubs against the clitoris. It’s a little tricky to imagine how this works, but basically, the penetrating partner “rides high” or moves their body up until their erection is pointing more down than up, then rocks their pelvis in rhythm with the receiving partner rather than thrusting in and out. This allows the base of the penis and pelvic bone to rub the clit. However, this technique may not be as effective as using a hand or toy on the clit because the attention the clit is getting is less focused and precise, and there’s not as much control over speed and rhythm.

“Take your time. Play. Masturbate. Learn what turns you on. Learn what gets in the way of your arousal. Explore,” Jeske recommends. And remember, you can enjoy missionary as part of the fun and then switch to a position that is better at getting you off when you feel like you’re getting close or want to come. A position that gives good clit access like doggie style or cowgirl might work better, but you’ll only know that if you allow yourself to try different things and see what works for you. 

Orgasming in missionary really comes down to the same thing that all other orgasms come down to: knowing your body and what gets you off, telling your partner about it, switching things up when they’re not working for you, experimenting, and just enjoying the ride. But if you can’t get off in missionary, it’s not because you’re doing it wrong. Some bodies just can’t, and that’s okay.

It’s also important to remember that orgasms, though amazing, are not the only reason to have sex. Getting too goal-oriented can actually make it harder to come. Focusing on what feels good and how you can give each other pleasure in the moment can actually help you and your partner enjoy sex more, rather than chasing that sometimes elusive O.

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Rebecca's been talking to folks about sex since she was a peer educator in high school, and she's never looked back. She's worked with people of all ages as a sexuality educator, supported pregnant folks as a childbirth educator and labor doula, and trained teachers, social workers and other youth-serving professionals to talk with young people about sexuality. She believes everyone has a right to medically accurate, shame free information about their bodies, and she loves digging into the juicy conversations and positive change that can happen when we talk honestly about relationships, feelings, bodies, and sex.

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