What is the cowgirl sex position? Plus, 7 variations on the move to try for maximum pleasure

The cowgirl sex position is a famous one but what are the fun variations? Two experts reveal all the benefits of mixing things up

Woman sitting behind a man, arms wrapped around him, laughing and smiling, representing the cowgirl sex position
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The cowgirl sex position is easily the most famous one out there aside from missionary. It's easy to do and versatile, as the person on top is truly in control the whole time. 

Whether you like to switch up the pace, and intensity, or add toys into the equation, it's all a possibility from this classic woman-on-top position. But the cowgirl sex position is famous for a reason - it's one of the most popular moves out there, which is great, but repeating the same move can get a little tiring sometimes. 

The cowgirl is undoubtedly one of the best sex positions out there with so many benefits to be enjoyed. So here,  to help you get the most out of it, we've consulted two certified sex experts. So, regardless of whether you're looking to spice up your relationship with a new move or learn fun variations that could work better for you, we've got you sorted. 

What is the cowgirl sex position? 

The cowgirl sex position is a great move for couples who want to prioritize dual stimulation and intense intimacy, explains sex and relationship psychologist Jo Hemmings. "The classic cowgirl position, also known as 'woman on top' to some, is a move where one partner straddles the other. Your partner lies on their back, while you position yourself on top, straddling their hips [during penetration]."

From here, the top partner can move either up and down gently or grind up against their partner, whatever feels good. "A few moments taking it slow as you lift up and down is enough to add variety, but be aware it's not all about this," sex expert Anna Richards says. "Rocking back and forward helps to prevent any thigh burn and will extend the fun for longer."

Cowgirl sex position illustration

(Image credit: H. Maddison)

While the cowgirl is primarily a penetrative sex position, there is plenty of room for the bottom or top partner to incorporate manual stimulation of the top partner's clitoris using fingers, hands, or one of the best sex toys. As an estimated seven in 10 women require some form of external stimulation to have an orgasm, according to research by Emory University, it's a standard addition to the cowgirl for many people.

The top partner typically sits with their knees resting against the surface of the bed in cowgirl, letting their hands fly free to caress themselves or their partner, but there are several variations to this that can also work. Changing the leg and foot positioning may help to increase or subdue the intensity of the movement, for example.

If you like the idea of the cowgirl sex position and want to explore all the alternatives, take a look at the ones recommended by Richards and Hemmings: 

Cowgirl sex positions 

1. The squatting cowgirl

Squatting cowgirl sex position

(Image credit: H. Maddison)

The squatting cowgirl is perhaps the most common variation of the classic sex position. It's where the top partner sits on top of the bottom partner with their feet flat against the bed, instead of resting on their knees, explains Richards, who is also the founder of audio erotica platform FrolicMe. "Lift your legs so your feet are flat as you literally squat down. Here, you can really thrust deep and your partner can grab your buttocks to give some support." 

It's a variation that does require a degree of leg strength and balance, warns Hemmings, who also works with Knect, a water-based lubricant brand, but it allows for deep penetration. "The angle can also be adjusted by raising or lowering the body," she adds. "And it helps if you grind against your partner, which can also feel deeply erotic and pleasurable."

2. The leaning cowgirl

Leaning cowgirl sex position

(Image credit: H. Maddison)

For those looking to stretch out, there's the leaning cowgirl. "In this variation, you start in the classic cowgirl position but lean backward, supporting yourself with your hands on the bed or between your partner's legs," explains Hemmings. "This position creates a different angle of penetration and it can provide intense G-spot stimulation for you."

It's also the best move for those looking to focus on clitoral stimulation during penetration, as leaning back opens up the vulva for the bottom partner to see. With your best vibrator in hand, this can make all the difference. 

3. The sitting cowgirl

Illustration of the face off sex position with man and a woman

(Image credit: H. Maddison)

Otherwise known as the face off sex position, the sitting cowgirl move is suitable for both inside and outside the bedroom. It's also one of the best positions for sex on the sofa, given all you need is a chair-shaped base to make it work. 

Here, the bottom partner sits down and rests against the back of the couch or chair. The top partner straddles them, placing their feet on either side of the sitting partner if they can reach them, and their hands around the back of their neck for support. Using the legs to lift, the top partner can gently move up and down or grind against their partner as usual. 

4. Reverse cowgirl

Reverse cowgirl sex position illustration

(Image credit: H. Maddison)

The reverse cowgirl sex position is another popular variation. "Just as it sounds, it's the same position but facing away from your lover so that they get the pleasure of watching the booty bounce," says Richards. "The deep angle of penetration helps to hit the G-spot perfectly and gives a better vaginal sensation." 

To support yourself on top, place your hands over your partner's thighs or knees. They, in turn, will be able to help keep you stable by holding onto your hips and lower back. 

5. The leaning reverse cowgirl

Leaning back reverse cowgirl sex position

(Image credit: H. Maddison)

The leaning reverse cowgirl is a great spin for anyone looking to maintain that all-important intimacy in the bedroom. "Lean back against your partner’s torso, so your back is now resting on their chest and their arms are by your sides," explains Richards.

"This is a great one as puts your partner’s arms back in business and they can reach around, caress your body, and explore your vulva and clitoris. Maneuver yourself carefully you will find you get a mix of vaginal sensations with multiple erogenous zones too," she adds. 

6. The butterfly

Butterfly sex position illustration, one of the best variations on the cowgirl sex position

(Image credit: H.Maddison)

There's no reason why you can't explore some of the best standing sex positions with variations of the cowgirl. Only the penetrating partner is standing here, giving them a great view of the receiving partner's body as they lay back against a flat surface - like a table. 

Another adventurous one for those looking to spice things up in the bedroom by having sex outside of it, the butterfly sex position has one partner laying down with the other standing between them. If it's comfortable, the receiving partner can rest their legs and feet up against the penetrating partner's chest and neck for deeper stimulation. 

Benefits of the cowgirl sex position 

1. Offers a stimulating viewpoint

Whatever variation of the cowgirl you go for, it's going to be a winner for the person on the bottom thanks to the uniquely sexy viewpoint it offers. "This position allows them to watch the action and see their lover's facial expressions while they writhe in ecstasy as their orgasm grows," explains Richards. 

"Seeing their body moving, breasts gigging is very sexy with some rotational hip action as they grind on their lover," she continues. "That in itself keeps the bottom partner at a state of peak arousal." 

2. Added intimacy

The real benefit of the cowgirl sex position comes from the intimacy it offers partners though, argues Hemmings. "There's direct eye contact, where your partner can see your pleasure," she says. And thanks to this direct eye contact, it's easier to understand how your partner is feeling in the moment, even if they say nothing. 

For the person on top, this can be useful non-verbal communication as they can see whether they should speed up, slow down, change things up, or whether a verbal check-in is needed. The same goes for the bottom partner. 

3. Easy position to get into

There's no need to stretch before getting into the cowgirl sex position, many will be pleased to hear. Unlike more difficult moves, such as the helicopter sex position, the cowgirl is pretty much what it says on the tin. 

For the person on top, it also offers an easy way to take charge of the rhythm and speed of sex - something that's often left up to the penetrating partner. "This is as well as the level and angle of penetration to ensure comfort and pleasure at all times," explains Richards. "They can feel what's best for them and move to experience more satisfying stimulation."

4. Extra clitoral stimulation

As noted, the cowgirl is a great sex position for those looking to add a little clitoral stimulation. But this really shouldn't be undervalued, the experts say. 

"Not only is it easy to maneuver into, but bending forward a little allows the clitoris to get the extra stimulation and friction it loves. It's available to pleasure with a bullet or wand vibrator, or the top partner can bring their partner's hand to show them how they like them to pleasure and stimulate the clitoris," says Richards. 

5. The cowgirl is a workout

It should come as no surprise that with all that rocking, grinding, and lifting yourself up and down, comes a decent workout. Sure, it's hardly Reformer Pilates, but many people feel the cowgirl sex position in their abs not long after it's done. 

Tips for improving the cowgirl sex position 

  • Thrust from the bottom: We've talked a lot about the movement the top partner does in the reverse cowgirl but the bottom partner shouldn't take this as their chance to relax, says Richards. "Caress your lover's breasts, add extra pressure to the clitoris with one of the best bullet vibrators, or just grab your partner's buttocks and thrust from the bottom," she says. 
  • Make sure you choose a flat surface: For the cowgirl to be comfortable, the bottom partner needs to be lying down on a flat, soft surface like a bed - otherwise, a couch or chair if you're going for a sitting variation. 
  • Have some of the best lube on hand:  "There's lots of movement in any variation of the cowgirl position and you want to make sure you are as slippery as possible to avoid friction," says Hemmings. "Lubrication makes all the difference between pleasure and unwanted pain."
  • Go slowly at first: The reverse cowgirl hasn't been dubbed the 'most dangerous sex position' for no reason. For those with a penis, too vigorous a movement has been known to cause penile fracture.
  • Remember to check in with your partner: When it comes to sex, the most important thing you can do is continually check in with your partner to see how it's going for them - especially if they're not the talkative type during sex. From here, you can change things up as needed. 
Grace Walsh
Health Editor

A digital health journalist with over six years of experience writing and editing for UK publications, Grace has covered the world of health and wellbeing extensively for Cosmopolitan, The i Paper and more.

She started her career writing about the complexities of sex and relationships, before combining personal hobbies with professional and writing about fitness as well. Everything from the best protein powder to dating apps, the latest health trend to nutrition essentials, Grace has a huge spectrum of interests in the wellness sphere. Having reported on the coronavirus pandemic since the very first swab, she now also counts public health among them.