The Cowgirl Position: What It Is And What The Risks Are

Just because something is a classic, doesn’t mean everybody has heard of it. You might want to give the cowgirl position a spin in the bedroom (though please dismount before you do) but aren’t quite sure how to get started; you might want an explanation that doesn’t require clicking an “I am over 18” button; heck, you might just be hoping to better understand your pals’ dirty jokes. Whatever the reason, we’ve got you. Saddle up.

What is the cowgirl position?

It’s no coincidence that the cowgirl position – also known as the cowboy or rider position – is named after a profession famed for sitting on top of things. It’s a penetrative sex position, in which the receiving partner (or should that be… pardner) sits on top of the one penetrating – it’s usually thought of as a penis going into a vagina, but with the right combination of accessories, angle, and attitude, any combination of gender and genitalia can make it work.

To do so, the partner doing the penetrating lies down on their back, while the receiving partner kneels over the top with their legs to either side. In the classic cowgirl, the partners are facing each other, but flip the rider round to face their partner’s feet, and you’ve got the reverse cowgirl; alternatively, the person on top can lower themselves until they’re chest to chest with their partner, and assume the so-called horizontal cowgirl.

Whichever way you choose, you’ll next need to engage those thigh muscles: the movement aspect of the cowgirl position is not unlike doing a 5.4-minute squats-only HIIT session. That’s not to say the partner on their back must be totally passive (and, in fact, they’ll probably be thanked if they’re not) – they can thrust from below, or use their hands and body to help give some leverage and stability to their rider.

Benefits of the position

According to sexperts (sex experts) and sexveys (sex surveys… okay we’re still working on that one), the cowgirl is the second favorite sex position out there for men. But the pros of the pose aren’t one-sided: read just one line further, and you’ll see it’s also third best for women, too.

Why? In a word: orgasm. In two: clitoral stimulation (don’t worry, that’s SFW). “There aren’t many positions that truly provide the ability to grind the clitoris against the pubic bone for stimulation during the natural motions of sex,” Jill McDevitt, resident sexologist at sex toy company CalExotics and author of Sex Positions for Every Body, told Women’s Health. “[But] cowgirl is one of them.”

Not only that, but the position is highly versatile. We’ve already touched on a few variations on the classic version, but even more subtle changes can make all the difference: the depth of penetration, the speed, even the angle are all in your hands – or, we suppose, between your legs. “The same position can have different movements that totally change the experience,” McDevitt said.

Is it dangerous?

When people talk about “risky sex”, simply putting the receiving partner on top isn’t generally what they mean. But the cowgirl position doesn’t come without a little danger: according to one 2014 study, 50 percent of penile fractures sustained during sex occurred while enjoying this most erotic form of dressage.

Reverse cowgirl might be even more of a worry for those with penises: “The angle is a little unnatural,” sex therapist and author of She Comes First Ian Kerner told Men’s Health, “[so] take it slow.”

Most of these injuries associated with the position come down to “erratic thrusting,” according to doctor and influencer Karan Raj, when “the movements of the two parties are not in sync”. This can lead to the rider’s pubic bone crushing the penis, and yeah, we bet you just crossed your legs in sympathy, too. Luckily, there’s an easy way to reduce the risk – and, as with pretty much everything sex-related, it’s communication.

But by making sure everybody involved is comfortable and enjoying themselves, you can avoid an X-rated trip to the emergency room, and discover just what makes this position one of the most universal favorites. 

Happy trails, partners!

All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at time of publishing. Text, images, and links may be edited, removed, or added to at a later date to keep information current.

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