The Sacred Institution of the Cosmo Sex Position List is Busting Up The Patriarchy, Bitches.
Now, I know that there is nothing more fun for snarky feminists and misogynist-ish women's magazine haters to do than to make fun of the Cosmo sex position lists. I get it. I've been reading Cosmo on and off my whole life, and I assure you there has at times been some ignorant, thoughtless-ass shit in those lists.
However. Shit. Is. Changing. It has changed. The Cosmo Sex Position Lists are not the same P-in-V obsessed listicles that I remember from my teen years...or from just a few years ago. Granted they do still embrace the light-hearted, absurdity that has always made them something you want to read to your friends - I mean, that's part of the fun. But, my people, these motha fuckin' lists done got woke these days. Woke about the clit.
Our culture in general - even the sex-positive and progressive parts, are far, far from being Clit-Lady-gasm-Woke, so it seems insane to hope that a huge mainstream magazine like Cosmo would just be miles out ahead of the greater culture on this. And to be fair, it's not miles ahead, but when it comes to these sex position lists, they are out ahead, and that's amazing and important.
To me there has been a real shift in those Cosmo sex position lists towards a more realistic clit-based understanding of female orgasm. And BTW saying clit-based female orgasm is like saying penis-based male orgasm. It really should go unsaid, and sexual encounters and sexual advice for clit-bearing people really should seamlessly include the clit (the glans and outer parts in particular) in the same way that sexual encounters and sexual advice for penis-bearing people seamlessly include the penis.
A Quick Orgasm Equality Primer - Revo-fuckin'-lucion!
As my loyal readers know, there is no such a thing as an orgasm (physically measured through rhythmic muscle contractions) caused by stimulation to anything inside the vagina anywhere in the scientific literature. There's just not. It seems like there would be, but there isn't...the inner vagina does not seem to include anything that can be stimulated to orgasm (ejaculation, yes. orgasm, no.) - not the "g-spot," not special parts of the vaginal wall, not the cervix, not the inner clitoral legs that are real hip to talk about currently - none of them. You know what can be stimulated to cause orgasms? The clitoral glans. The reality is that there are lots of places on the male and female body that can cause heavy arousal, but in the end, to really get the orgasm job done, the penis or the clit need to be involved.
Sadly, though, the clit (and thus the female orgasm) is often not involved - in the conversation, in depictions or in actual sexual interactions. As a result female sexuality is twisted as hell and way too many women are not orgasming way too much of the time...like...there's WAY too few clit orgasms out there compared to penis-gasms.
It's bullshit and we need to revolt because there is no biological reasons women should be orgasming so much less than men, but I digress.
Why I'm Serious About These Lists
Cosmo is a serious player when it comes to our cultural understanding and knowledge of female orgasm. All women's magazines are, but I think Cosmo has a particularly strong rep when it comes to sex. It's incredibly popular, and I venture to say girls and boys in their teens as well as all types of grown people, some time in their life, have taken at least some bit of cues about sex from reading a Cosmo article...even if it was second hand cues. What Cosmo writes about sex matters. It does. Period.
Who's Behind This And Why She's Killing at Orgasm Equality
I suspect that Jill Hamilton has quite a bit to do with that. Jill was one of the very first women I online met through my blog, and she got it. She got Orgasm Equality, and she was on board. She was writing her own hilarious and sometimes quite honest sex related blog (In Bed With Married Women), and I know I have at least 1 or 2 emails from her that end in something like 'Viva the Fucking Revolution!' She's bad ass.
Now, I knew she had been writing some of these lists. I was even consulted for one (and it's been on my list of things to blog about since then), but I really didn't realize that she was basically like the writer of these lists for a bit over a year now.
I hadn't realized she made it to the big-time. And, I'm not really talking about career (although that is a super sweet gig). I'm talking about the big-time in terms of taste-making and reach when it comes to sex advice. For all the reasons I talked about above, Cosmo sex writing means something in the culture, and I know the lists aren't really sex advice, but in practice they act as such. So, given that sex and orgasm are in all reality a huge and deeply important part of women's lives, bad sex advice is damaging (or I should say -continues to be damaging given most advice about female orgasm is already shitty), but good, scientifically sound, realistic advice can heal and enlighten. It can change lives, change the way women fit into our world, and bust up the patriarchy, people. I think particularly because these lists are such an institution and such punchy, fun reads, it's quite possible they touch more people than just about any one sex advice column out there. and that is nothing to sniff at.
And frankly Jill is killing it - as is her editor - Senior Sex & Relationships Editor, Ali Drucker and the two women who illustrate them Marcy Gooberman and Katie Buckleitner. (I learned about them all and their creation methods in a podcast interview that I will discuss below).
What's The Difference
If I were to sum up my personal perspective of the change (and I'm talking general change) in these lists it'd be kinda like this.
- It would focus on how the dick moved inside the vagina and insinuate - sometimes specifically say - that the movement would give the orgasms.
- The clit was mentioned in these sex positions quite sparsely and almost always in the same way one would mention any other erogenous zone like the breasts or the neck. Like, if an intercourse position happened to also allow for the clit to be stimulated (and honestly it was usually intermittent clit stim that would happen as a side effect of whatever intercourse thrusting was being recommended), it would often be phrased kinda like, 'Bonus! Your clit gets a little love every time he thrusts upward!' It was no different than saying, 'Bonus! you get to stare lovingly into each other's eyes the whole time!' (Let me be real clear. The clit is as important as the penis and should be discussed as such. Have you ever heard sex advice that said *Bonus! His penis will get a little stimulation too!*??)
- The G-spot is spoken about All. The. Time. as something that will cause orgasms though being stimulated by PinV sex. For real. Stimulation of the G-spot or anything else inside the vagina, has NEVER EVER been shown to cause orgasm in all of scientific literature. It's unbelievable given everything you see and read, but it is absolutely true, and it means insinuating to women that they will orgasm because a penis rubs their 'G-spot' is scientifically inaccurate...and kinda mean.
- Clitoral stimulation is often mentioned, and often in a casual way as an obvious part of intercourse or other sexual encounter.
- It is often mentioned how normal not coming through P-in-V alone is.
- The G-spot is quite rightly not mentioned in relation to orgasm (as far as I can tell I haven't seen that mentioned anywhere in lists written by Jill).
- I also feel there is something special here, and I guess the best way to describe it is that these lists seem more self-aware, but not in a cynical way.
What Jill Hamilton and the rest of the Sex Position List Team are doing is like my SSL dream come true. They are a force of change within a big, ingrained institution of defacto sex ed.
You see, I used to think that change would be more like an explosion. When I first started this blog and released Science, Sex and the Ladies the movie, I assumed that if I could just get people to take a different perspective, it would be obvious how messed-up, misinformed and ignorant our culture was about lady-gasms. and people/media/education/advice would start to change. That's super naive, though. It doesn't work that way. Our misunderstandings and ignorance about female orgasm, our deep erasure of the clit, and our reliance on the false but comforting story about intercourse being as orgasmic for females as it is for males exists deep deep in our culture and our psyche, and that doesn't change so easily.
The reality is that the march towards Orgasm Equality is a long, slow one, and it will be won not in this generation, for we, sad to say, are already too broken, but in the future generations. It will be won because people today (like Jill Hamilton) will speak in big, mainstream venues (like Cosmo) about sex and orgasm from a different, Orgasm-Equality-style mindset and will create a different tone to the lady-gasm conversation that will seep into the next generation. Change like this is slow and imperfect and frankly a little frustrating, but the fact that the writer of the sacred and time-tested Cosmo sex position lists is a full-on, kick-ass, Orgasm Equality Activist and that the other women working with her on these seem to be in a similar mindset as well, means that we are going in the right direction. This is true even if for now all their wild revolutionary ideas won't always get greenlighted by the big mainstream venue they work for. Their intentions are still going in the right direction, and that gives me a shit-ton of hope. It makes me really excited in only the way that someone geeking out on their obsession can be excited.
The Cosmo Sex Position Team
So, I listened to an interview with the Cosmo Sex Position Lists creative team (Jill, the writer, Ali the editor, and Marcy and Katie the two women who illustrate them) on the Cosmo podcast, and realized these women were doing god's work (because part of god's work is in fact doing sex lists).
Seriously, though, anyone who wants to poo-poo the current feminist and orgasm equality power of the Cosmo Sex Positions Lists has to go through me first.
Here are some of my fave take-aways from this podcast:
1 Ali the editor, Jill, and the host were talking about the writing and creative process for these lists, and in the conversation, all 3 were in agreement that most women don't come from penetration (I mean, I personally would say all, not most...sure women can come during penetration, but not as a result of it...but again, I digress).
Listen, any topic could have been a addressed here by these 3 women, but the whole penetration is shit for lady-gasm thing was the one that came up. That, my fellow revolutionists, is a fantastic sign.
2 The editor also called bullshit on the oft-spoken idea that 'getting on top' is all a woman needs to come. Yas y'all! That lame idea is not given the shitty advice certification it truly deserves. I've long been in agreement with this lady.
Here's the deal, it's stimulating the clit (aaaand of course being properly aroused and having masturbated to orgasm at some point so you know what your body needs and all that too) that gets ladies off - not some magic element of being in the 'dominant' position during intercourse.
Now, I will agree that being on top may allow more pelvic freedom during intercourse so that you may better grind your clit against your partner to orgasm, but then again maybe not. Maybe you, like me, prefer to have his full pelvic weight on top of you so you can grind up against him in order to come (if he'd stop moving for one fucking second while you do what you need to do to get off, of course).
Anyway, my point is that telling women that getting on top is the way to orgasm is like saying that going on a date is the way to see a new movie. I mean, yeah, you very well might go to a new movie on your date, but the advice is shitty, misleading. and confuses anyone who is really looking for a realistic way to see a new movie. It misses the one important advice about seeing a new movie - which is that you should go to a movie theater, and you really don't need to be on a date to do that. In the same way, the 'on-top' advice is shitty, misleading, and confusing. It misses the important part a lady would need if she was actually wanting good advice on how she might realistically get to orgasm - which is that you need to stimulate your clit...which you might do on top, but it's not the only way to do that. Anyway, loved her comment on that.
3 When Jill Hamilton asked why she wanted to do these, she said the most perfect thing I could imagine her saying. She said, "I want to be part of the discussion about sex and...I want to tell women that most women don't come from penetration and that they can be honest about what they need."
Yes, sweet tiny baby jesus, yes. She has accurate, orgasm equality style knowledge about how women actually orgasm, and she wants to make room for that in the cultural conversation. That's what I'm talking about. That's the real Orgasm Equality Revolution, baby; a slow, informed, push back from inside the commercial and popular taste-makers of the sexual culture. I couldn't be happier.
4 I also really liked their discussion about ridiculousness. I thought their perspective was spot-on and thoughtful about the element of humor and absurdity in these sex position lists. It's not that they don't take these seriously, in fact I think it was clear they do take the responsibility of these quite seriously, but that there is a playful humor they all accept and enjoy that makes these lists the institution that they are. I think these ladies quite thoughtfully and actively work to balance the fun/absurd/hilarious element of these with the reality that people actually learn and are influenced by these. It's a tricky rope to walk, but when done right it can push boundaries, change minds and revolutionize the way future generations interact with female orgasm...all while sliding it easily into people's minds with the slick lube of humor.
And you know what? I think largely, they're getting it right. There are lots of lists that speak specifically to the clit as the orgasm maker, and in almost every list there's at least one mention of getting some clit stim so that you can come. It's a far cry from what was going on there in my teen years.
*Bonus* Some Sex Position List Examples For Your Enjoyment
I've looked at pretty much every one of these from the last yearish, and here's some of my fave Orgasm Equality highlights. All the quotes are from Ms. Jill Hamilton.
5 Sex Positions For Enhanced Clitoral Stimulation
"Because just getting on top doesn't magically give you orgasms " - right?
6 Sex Positions To Try If You Can't Orgasm From Penetration Alone: Because Very Few Women Can
"If you can't have an orgasm through P-in-V alone — which, by the way, means you're completely NORMAL — you're going to need to get a hand or toy involved so your clit gets the love it needs."
So, full disclosure, I was a guest consultant for this one, but prior to that, these Cosmo gals decided they should be doing a list of this kind, and that's truly awesome, my friends.
11 Orgasmic Sex Positions That Are Even Better With A Vibrator
"For those of us who don't have one of those magic, super-sensitive vaginas that's multi-orgasmic with a few thrusts of the P-in-V, the next best thing — and possibly an even better thing — is bringing a small, bullet vibrator into your sex life. The combination of feeling him inside you, plus the dependable love of your vibrator on your clit is ... well, it's fucking amazing, my friends."
I mean, what I love most about what Jill said here is that she wasn't all like, 'this could work for you people who can't come the right way and need 'extra' ' - which is how the clit is normally brought up in intercourse advice. No, she was all like - 'for all of us who aren't special snowflakes of sex, we get the privilege of enjoying a vibrator during intercourse...and it's hot.' That's the kind of tone I'm talking about, people.
Three-some positions that are actually good for her
I guess I just love this because MMF threesomes are always depicted as sooo male centric. Numbers 1, 2, and 3 here all specifically put the clit into play.
5 Dorm room sex positions that every college student needs in her life
From #3 'Twin Bed Tryst'
"He'll come in from behind, doing a reacharound for you if he's a keeper."
#5 'Desk-side Get-down' was a doggy over the desk that included using a vibe
New-Parent Sex Positions
Both 1 and 3 include some mutual masturbation, baby! You know how much I love mutual masturbation.
This is one about deep thrusting, and I do enjoy that it mentions that too much is too much, because that is just plain true.
#1 'Deep Impact'
"He may find spots you didn't know you had, and if he doesn't, squirt a little dollop of lube on his fingers so he can cup his hand over your clit, giving you a long smooth rub with every thrust."
#2 'The Wheelbarrow'
Since it's a bit athletic, Jill gives another modified version and says, "Best rec with this is trying the first version, just to have done it, but finishing in the second way, so you can relax and give yourself some clit love."
5 Sex Positions You Need In Your Life If You Love Cookies
Umm, this is just kinda hilarious - embracing the absurd. Also, I do love cookies and would love to eat them while I orgasm, so bravo...although I really would have liked to see one that was just him eating her out while she ate a cookie. In fact, that should be in every list...but sometimes it should be ice cream maybe.
5 Positively perfect period positions
From #3 'Red Team Rocker'
"He opens your legs slightly to enter you from behind. Feel free to rub yourself with your hand, grind against a pillow or pop a bullet vibe between your legs."
From #4 'Ride The Cotton Pony'
"He can rub your clit or hold a vibe onto you as he thrusts."
Jill also says something to the effect of 'fuck it - do whatever you want because periods are normal,' in this list, which I appreciate as well.
5 Sweet and sultry sex positions for your first time
From #2 'Lovin' Spoonful'
"...plus if you'd like, you have a free hand for rubbing yourself at the same time."
From # 3 'The Lap Waltz'
This is a woman on top position meant to help the newly intercoursing lady control the depth and angle and thus not induce pain, but it also says something quite clit-useful, "Once you get the hang of it, you can gyrate, grind against him..." -with your clit!
5 Positions to try if your partner is smaller than you
3 of 5 of these positions specifically mention getting at the clit during it, and a 4th one is said to position you "for whatever mouth, fingers, strap-on or penis is headed your way"...so oral sex counts as clit love too.
5 Perfect positions for pegging your man
From the intro:
"Also — v. important! — make sure you get equipment that's going to do something for you too. Try a harness with a spot to hold a bullet vibe against your clit (like a Corsette.)"
5 Rusty trombone positions that will change EVERYTHING
Given the reality of the rusty trombone situation, most of these involve one's mouth on a dude's butthole and a hand on his dick. Butt :), as a final example of Jill's style, I'd like to point out that position #5 is described as, "you getting yours," and involves a mouth on a lady's butthole with a hand cupping the vulva (specifically thumb in the vag and a few fingers rubbing the outside). That's keepin' it real, Jill.