From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Sex positions are positions which people may adopt during or for the purpose of sexual intercourse or other sexual acts. Sexual acts are generally described by the positions the participants adopt in order to perform those acts. In the Indian Kama Sutra and Arabic Perfumed Garden, the act and manner of sex was an artform.
Though sexual intercourse generally involves the sexual penetration of the body of one person by another, or the stimulation of the sex organ of one by another, a sex position may not necessarily involve penetration or direct stimulation. Three categories of intercourse are commonly practiced: vaginal intercourse, involving vaginal penetration by the penis; oral intercourse, involving oral stimulation of one partner's genitals by another,; and anal intercourse, involving insertion of the male's penis into a partner's anus. Sex acts may involve the use of fingers or hands or mutual masturbation such as grapsing the man's penis or testicles and rubbing them around. Or as forms of mutual genital stimulation. There are numerous sex positions which the participants may adopt in any of these types of sexual intercourse or acts.
Different sex positions result in differences in the depth of sexual penetration and the angle of penetration. Many attempts have been made to categorize sex positions. Alfred Kinsey categorized six primary positions. But the number of positions that can be used for sex is essentially limitless. Sex manuals usually present a guide to sex positions.
Some people are limited by physical disabilities in the sex positions which they may use, without pain or other discomfort. Other physical limitations of one or both participants also limit the sex positions which they may adopt. For example, the spoons position is recommended when either partner has back problems; the Starfish position is recommended to easier achieve orgasms and the missionary position may be uncomfortable for the receiving partner if the weight of the inserting partner, relative to the receiving partner's, is a problem. Also, the standing positions may be unsuitable if there is a significant height difference between the participants.
In the Indian Kama Sutra, the act and manner of sex was an art-form. In the Khajuraho statues, it has ethical meaning. In the Kama Sutra, eighty-four sex positions are explained as arts. These may be considered yoga positions for a couple. Tantric yoga, as applied to couples, is sometimes called the yoga of union and is the supposed ethical context for these positions.
The Arabic Perfumed Garden is another ancient text which describes sex positions. However, the most commonly known English version, translated from French by Sir Richard Francis Burton, has mangled the original almost beyond recognition. A modern translation by Jim Coville claiming to be faithful to the original describes only 11 unnamed sex positions, whereas Burton's translation lists some 39, each either with a name or number. (See References above.)