Text your group chat about mixing up your sex life and they’ll recommend it. Do a quick online search and you’ll be directed to it. Ask your sister (if that’s the kind of relationship you two have) and she’ll send you a link to order it online. Yep, I’m talking about the Kama Sutra, an ancient Sanskrit text that, over the years, has become the go-to guide for intricate sex positions.
The Kama Sutra, written by Indian philosopher Vatsyayana, has garnered a lot of attention for acting as a guidebook to what seems like every sex position ever (some waaaay more adventurous than others). But that’s not really the point of it.
“The Kama Sutra has been quite distorted in how it has circulated in translation in the U.S. and other parts of the western world,” says Durba Mitra, PhD, an assistant professor of women, gender, and sexuality at Harvard University, and author of Indian Sex Life: Sexuality and the Colonial Origins of Modern Social Thought. “Kama Sutra is a book of philosophy on ethics and aesthetics, never just an ancient text on sexual positions and sexual pleasure.”
The original set of texts that became known as Kama Sutra “were actually about everything from urban living to statecraft, from perfumes to gardens,” Mitra says. The “distortion” of the book happened “in part because the first edition of Kama Sutra in English was done by colonial enthusiast—and Orientalist—Richard Burton in the late nineteenth century,” Mitra says. Burton “wanted to create a fantasy for his English-speaking audience by portraying people of the East as hypersexual and unchanging, without history,”Mitra says. But, she adds, “unfortunately people still use these reductive, racist ideas to think about Indian sexuality in the past and present.”
The Kama Sutra does address sex positions, but it’s really only in one section, points out Gigi Engle, a certified sex coach. Kama Sutra “is about the art of living and loving well and obtaining and maintaining the pleasures of life—including sex and love,” says sex therapist Debra Laino, D.H.S.
That said, the section on sexuality is packed with a number of sex positions that promote emotional intimacy between partners by way of touch and physical connection. The ancient text even teaches that men should prioritize a woman’s pleasure over their own (hear hear!), by focusing on making sure she climaxes before even thinking about their own orgasm. Kama Sutra also emphasizes being present and making eye contact during sex, Laino says.
“It’s not so much about going in and being able to do all of these different positions,” says Engle. It’s more about finding techniques and moves that you can connect with and that allow you to connect with your partner on more than one level.
Now that you’re call caught up…ready to give these 13 Kama Sutra sex positions a whirl?
This position gives you the perks of a doggy style position while allowing you to gaze into each other’s eyes. “Make it a sensory experience and caress your partner’s backside, reach around and stimulate the nipples and breasts, and amplify the pleasure in this position through direct clitoral stimulation,” says Shannon Chavez, PsyD, a licensed psychologist and K-Y’s sex therapist. You can crank things up even more by experimenting with different angles to find the one that’s just right for you, she says.
Do It: Lie on your right side. Your partner kneels, straddling your right leg and curling your left leg around their left side.
Sure, ~technically~ you’re not face to face when you do it doggy style, but Laino has a hot workaround: Use a mirror. “Looking in a mirror while doing it doggy style can aid in the presence of the sexual experience, as well as the eroticism and pleasure,” she says. “There is also a very real trust emotion that comes from doing this as the person in the ‘doggy’ position is in a passive vulnerable position.” Whether you and your S.O. engage in a more aggressive or gentle tempo, both “fall in line with Kama Sutra as they are allowing for different types of pleasure-giving and receiving to and for each other,” Laino says.
Do It: Get on all fours. Then, have your partner kneel behind you, with their upper body straight up or slightly draped over you.
The face-to-face element is great here, Laino says. She recommends talking and sharing fantasies—yup, even while you’re having sex—“for the ultimate intimacy experience.” You can also rub your partner’s nipples, lock eyes, and kiss to ramp up the intimacy, Chavez says.
Do It: This is similar to a cowgirl sex position, but slightly different. You kneel on top, pushing off your partner’s chest and sliding up and down their thighs. Your partner helps by supporting some of your weight and grabbing your hips or thighs while they rise to meet each thrust.
Called Padmasana or Lotus in the original Kama Sutra text, this passionate position is one that, according to Engle, is best done by grinding against your partner for clitoral stimulation, rather than bouncing up and down. If you’re on top of your partner you can lower yourself onto their penis or a dildo, or if penetration’s not your thing, you can rub up against them for outercourse.
Do It: Your partner sits cross-legged (yoga-/pretzel-style); you sit in their lap facing them. Wrap your legs around them and hug each other for support.
This is a good choice if you and your partner aren’t especially flexible, since the move only requires that you can bend at the waist. And “if you have a height difference, you can put a couple of pillows underneath the other person, or you can utilize a sex pillow,” says Engle.
Do It: With your partner sitting on their knees, lie back with your legs resting on each of your partner’s shoulders.
Do It: Your partner sits, legs bent, leaning back on their hands and forearms. You do the same, and then inch toward them until you make contact.
This is another sex position where you might think bouncing is the right move, but grinding is definitely the way to go, says Engle. The Chairman is a great starter move for deep penetration, having your partner kiss your shoulders and your neck, and for nipple play, too.
Wanna take things up a notch? Bring in a sex toy and have your partner reach around you for manual stimulation.
Do It: Your partner sits on the edge of the bed and you sit on them, facing away.
“Missionary is one of the most underrated positions,” says Engle. Sure, it’s basic but that doesn’t mean it won’t make you feel closer to your partner—after all, that’s why it’s in Kama Sutra. “There are so many different variations,” and it’s very intimate thanks to all that close eye contact and all those ~feels~, she adds.
Try stacking pillows underneath your pelvis so that your partner on top can thrust in an upward diagonal direction, grinding against your clitoris.
Do It: Lie on your back while your partner lies facedown on top of you.
This is a primo Kama Sutra move for deep penetration, says Engle. However, if you can’t hold a bridge position, or your partner can’t support your lower body with their arms, maybe move on to something else (because over-exertion is not sexy).
Do It: You get into a partial bridge position (like a pinball machine), with your weight resting on your shoulders. Your partner enters you from a kneeling position.
This one’s a little more of a challenge, says Engle, since the natural curve of most penises or strap-ons don’t really accommodate this position, but it’s doable. (No wonder women tend to hate on this sex position.) Once you get your groove, it’s a good time.
Pro tip: To up your range of movement when you’re on top, Engle suggests putting a pillow under each knee.
Do It: Your partner lies on their back; you straddle them, facing their feet.
If you’re feeling especially adventurous, try the Stand and Deliver. It’s a Kama Sutra–approved move that’s good for shallow penetration as is. If you’re looking for deeper penetration, you can take it down to your knees instead—an adaptation which, Engle says, is a great way to compensate for a height difference.
And if you’re the person on the receiving end and you’re worried about falling when things get sweaty, Engle says to lean on a table or a chair for support.
Do It: With both of you standing, you bend over at the waist; they enter you from behind.
If balance starts to get tough while you and your partner are going at it in this sex position, don’t get frustrated, says Engle. Instead, pivot. “Drop to your knees, and you can give that person a blow job or cunnilingus, or vice versa.” The important thing is that you gave it a go.
Do It: Standing on one foot, face your partner and wrap your other leg around their waist while they help support you.
This intimate position is easier than it looks, says Engle. “It’s a great opportunity to bring in something like a wand vibrator” for you to use on yourself at the same time. And whoever is in the seated position, rocking back and forth, might also consider using a butt plug for added stimulation.
Do It: Sit on the bed facing each other with legs forward. Lift your partner’s right leg over your left and lift your right leg over their left. Come together so they can enter you. Now, both of you lie back, your legs forming an X. Slow, leisurely gyrations replace thrusting. Hello, intimacy!