If you’re a feminist, like I am, you probably spend a lot of time thinking about sex and relationships. And, while you know that consent is important to any sexual interaction, you may not have thought beyond that when considering what makes sex a feminist act. Empowered sex is feminist, sure, but what about positions themselves? What makes a sex position feminist?
To answer this question, I did what any person in 2015 would do: I asked my Facebook friends. It turns out that the answer is way more complicated than just, “Woman on top.” Oh boy, is it more complicated than that, because sex itself is more complicated than penis-in-vagina intercourse being had by a cisgender man and a cisgender women. That notion of sex, along with the patriarchal ideas contained within it, is outdated and oppressive. So in order to answer the question “What sex positions are inherently feminist?” we need to move beyond a heteronormative understanding of sex in general.
Still with me? Good. So if you want to be a feminist in the streets and in the sheets, it’s less about what position you find yourself in and more about the motives and meaning behind the position. With that said, here are the things that my Facebook friends and I decided make a sex position feminist.
1. Any Position That All Parties Consent To
The cornerstone to all feminist sex is consent, whether it’s a nude photo share or in-person romp. This means that a sex position can’t be feminist if at least one party has not consented to it (in fact, that’s rape.) So that means that even the standard missionary position between a cis man and cis woman can be feminist if both partners are into it. Because consent isn’t just sexy — it’s necessary.
2. Positions That Center The Pleasure of Women and Non-Binary Partners
Because sex is often framed as being about the pleasure of straight, cis men, any sex that centers the pleasure of marginalized partners is radical. But I’d even go a step beyond equal pleasure for all parties and say that, particularly in a heterosexual relationship, sex that prioritizes pleasure and orgasm for bodies that are often denied that pleasure is inherently feminist. Unless, of course, it's happening out of a selfish motivation or from a place of toxic masculinity, because ew.
3. Any Position That Subverts Cissexst, Heteronormative Assumptions
Most of what we learn about sex is steeped in patriarchy and heteronormativity, so bucking that is a good place to start to find sex positions to classify as feminist. One of my Facebook friends had this answer to the question of what makes a sex position feminist: “I feel like it's inherently feminist to do your own thing and find what works for you instead of going along with what society says you're 'supposed' to be doing.” That means that anything you come up with that's about pursuing your own desires — without caring what society would think — is feminist.
4. Positions That Are Not Phallus-Centric
The messages we get about sex are all incredibly phallus-centric, whether it’s about sex only being defined as penetrative and the idea that a cisgender woman who has never been penetrated vaginally with a penis is a “virgin,” to the idea that lesbian sex always involves strap-ons or double-ended dildos (which it can, but doesn’t have to.) The idea that, in order for sex to be valid, legitimate, and pleasurable, there has to be penetration with or focus on a phallic object is crap. So, particularly where cisgender folks are involved, positions that eschew a focus on phallic penetration, and center vulvas, vaginas, and clitorises, are generally feminist (it's a little more complicated than that when trans and non-binary people are in the equation).
5. Positions That Take Into Consideration The Abilities of All Parties Involved
Not every body can do every thing, and that’s perfectly wonderful. But feminist sex makes no assumptions about what partners’ bodies can do, and instead asks and makes accommodations for them. Feminist sex ensures that all parties are comfortable and not just tolerated and accepted, but actively taken into account.
6. Any Position That Gives Women and Non-Binary Folks Agency In The Moment
Does the position you’re in give a woman or non-binary partner agency and control — that means an ability to use their hand to provide additional stimulation wherever they might want it, or easy access to moving or disengaging from the position? This wouldn’t apply, of course, in a kink situation where someone has consented to being restrained — but that’s still a feminist position that allows for agency because the person who has been restrained has (hopefully) asked for it and requested that their agency be removed. Plus, if they have a safeword (as they should if they are engaging in kink play), their agency is not actually removed because they have the power to take it back whenever they want.
7. Not Assuming That Everyone Wants to Have Sex, Period
Often left out of conversations around sex and relationships are asexual people. What can make this confusing for folks who don’t identify as asexual is that some asexual people do like sex, some enjoy it under certain circumstances, and others don’t have any at all. Feminist sex makes no assumptions about what partners might like, and is open to negotiating boundaries and relationships with people they care about in ways that may not look “traditional.” But anything that feels good for all parties involved is valid — and, ultimately, feminist.