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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 a man sits or lies on his back with his legs closed, while the female partner straddles him usually in a kneeling position facing either forward or back, and either the man or woman inserts the man's 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.

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 and because it gives them control over the rhythm and pace of vaginal stimulation and the extent and duration of penetration.[1] In any of these positions, the woman is usually the active partner during the sexual activity, and in addition to satisfying herself can stimulate or massage the man's scrotum, especially if his legs are spread.



Initially, the man typically lies on his back with his legs together, while the female partner straddles him in a kneeling position.[1] With the woman’s legs open, either the man or woman would insert the man's erect penis into the woman's vagina.[1] Once the woman has attained sufficient vaginal lubrication, she feels comfortable in thrusting up and down the penis and is in a position to vary her position for variety and enhanced pleasure. She can, for example, tilt her body forward towards a full lying position or backwards, or rock sideways. It is advised that the woman should not lean too far back as this has the risk of breaking or bruising the penis.[2] The woman has control over the rhythm and speed of her thrusting. She can also spread the man's legs and position herself between them. In this position she can tighten her legs at will, to increase the pressure on the man's penis and on her crotch, and the man can also tighten his legs to increase the pressure. In this position the man’s legs are free to raise, as high as the Amazon position, with his legs rolled up towards her chest, but this also should be done with care. These changes can alter the depth and angle of penetration.

The woman can sit backwards on the man and alter her position similarly.

Pompoir sex is usually performed with the woman on top. This position is also used as a precursor to the lateral coital position.[3] In all these positions, the woman will usually prefer to kneel, as a squat will usually place a significantly greater stress on her legs.[4]

Cowgirl positionEdit

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,[5][6] controlling the rhythm and pace of vaginal stimulation and the extent and duration of penetration.[1] The woman is free to change her position; possibilities range 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.,[5][6] 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[5] or the couple may change to a position which enables the man to continue thrusting, such as the missionary position.

A woman may also engage in pegging (penetrating a man with a strap-on dildo) while being on top.[7]

Reverse missionary positionEdit

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[5] 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.[5] 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,[8] which also increases the man's sexual stimulation by increasing tightness on his penis.

Reverse cowgirl positionEdit

Agostino Carracci (1557 - 1602), Angelique et Medor, two characters from the opera Roland
Depiction of reverse cowgirl position by Mihály Zichy (c. 1911)

In the reverse cowgirl or amazon position, 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 lie 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 simultaneously stimulating her clitoris or an area termed "the G-spot". When planting her feet instead of kneeling, still facing away from her partner, the position is known as reverse Asian cowgirl.[4]

The reverse cowgirl has some risks to it though, such as breaking or bruising to the penis; half of reported penile fractures occur due to this position.[2]


An advantage of the woman-on-top positions is that the man's weight is not on the woman. These 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. They are also useful if the man is recovering from a serious illness or surgery or if the woman has recently given birth.[5]

Comparison to the cowboy positionEdit

The cowboy position is the equivalent for sex wherein the man is being penetrated; in the LGBT community, the major difference is that it is usually anal sex in which the bottom straddles the top, who otherwise assumes the same role as the male does in the cowgirl position.[9] In addition to sharing many of the same advantages as the cowgirl variant, the position is often cited as being advantageous for bottoms who are new to anal sex, as it allows the receiving partner to lower himself on to the other's penis at his own pace.[10]


Sex with the woman on top has been known in most cultures in all times, and has been depicted in art:

Sitting on lapEdit

Unidentified soldier in uniform with unidentified woman
A female patient sitting on her doctor's lap

Among adults, a female sitting on the lap of another person usually indicates an intimate or romantic relationship between the two, or may be regarded as flirtatious. In public, such behaviour may be regarded as a public display of affection. In private, sitting on a man's lap or being pulled by the man onto his lap, especially if she straddles his legs or waist, may be regarded as showing either's interest in sexual activity or as foreplay. It is rare for a man to sit on a woman's lap, though not for him to lay his head there.

The erotic significance in sitting on a lap is a factor in the erotic activity in strip clubs such as a lap dance, where one person (usually a woman) straddles the lap of the other and gyrates their lower extremities in a provocative manner.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Discovery Health Sexual Positions". Retrieved 2010-10-22.
  2. ^ a b Knapton, Sarah (14 March 2016). "'Woman on top' is most dangerous sex position, scientists conclude". The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  3. ^ Masters, Johnson (June 1970). Human Sexual Inadequacy (1st ed.). Little Brown and Company. p. 54. ISBN 0-316-54985-1.
  4. ^ a b Reverse Asian Cowgirl Sex Position
  5. ^ a b c d e f Nilamadhab Kar, Gopal Chandra Kar (2005). Comprehensive Textbook of Sexual Medicine. Jaypee Brothers. pp. 108–109. ISBN 8180614050. Retrieved February 10, 2014.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  6. ^ a b "Sex Positions For Better Sex". Retrieved 2010-10-22.
  7. ^ Why All Men Should Try Pegging. Esquire. Retrieved 2018-08-27.
  8. ^ Kratochvíl, S (1994). "Vaginal contractions in female orgasm". Československá psychiatrie. 90 (1): 28–33. PMID 8174183.
  9. ^ The Vada Guide to Anal Sex for Men Vada Magazine. Retrieved 2018-08-27.
  10. ^ Pink News Explainer: The Best Gay Sex Positions Pink News. Retrieved 2018-08-27.
  11. ^ Colosi, Rebecca (2017). Dirty Dancing: An Ethnography of Lap Dancing. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 1351569406. Archived from the original on 2017-11-13.