Is your sex life pleasure-centred? While some of us may take for granted that sex and pleasure are intrinsically linked, the reality is that sex isn’t always accessible or pleasure-centred for everyone. However — with a shift in mindset and an openness to exploration — that can be the goal.
At its core, sex is about exploring and experiencing pleasure for all consenting adults who want it, and yet many people struggle with barriers that limit their access to the satisfying, pleasure-centred sex that they desire.
While the underlying sources of these roadblocks can be wide-ranging and complex — and may include factors like limited mobility, physical distance and neurodiverse challenges — they don’t have to be exclusionary when it comes to your sex life. Shifting our focus towards a more comprehensive understanding of sex, and towards ideas of sex that serve everyone who desires it, can create more “inclusive” experiences.
However, it’s also important to consider the language of the term “inclusivity” as a stepping stone to open the door to a more comprehensive understanding of sex, but not as an all-encompassing term. As sexual health and consent educator (and the host of our Sex Sessions series) Samantha Bitty says, “I think that the word ‘inclusive’ is useful for a lot of people because it connotes what we’re trying to say, which is sex that exists outside of the hetero norm, but in doing so it’s reaffirming that hetero able-bodied norm.”
Put simply, “Sex is for everyone who wants it, [who] experiences it,” Bitty says.
What is pleasure-centred sex?
So, if consensual sex is for everyone who wants it, where does pleasure-centred sex fit into the picture? It all starts with rethinking what we think of as sex.
“I think the first step to talking about sex in a comprehensive and pleasure-centred way is broadening our definition of sex with ourselves,” Bitty says. “So knowing that sex is anything that brings us sexual pleasure, as long as it’s consensual — that can be anything from fantasy to role-play to reading erotica to watching porn to massage.” She adds that all these forms of sexual expression are valid, and “having sex be self-determined is the first step towards pleasure-centred sex.”
What are examples of sex positions for inclusive pleasure-centred sex?
If you’re looking for ideas to inspire pleasure-centred sex, experimentation and exploration are key to learning what works best for you. And, as Bitty notes, keep in mind that sex positions aren’t limited to just the physical.
“When I think about positions, to me, sex is physical, emotional, spiritual and mental,” Bitty says. “We focus a lot on our physical position, but let’s ask ourselves: what’s our spiritual position? What’s our emotional position? How are we positioning ourselves in those ways?”
With that said, to help get your creative juices flowing, we’ve rounded up the following examples of sex positions that might bring more pleasure into your sex life.
Related: 21 sex myths everyone thinks are true.
When one partner has limited lower body mobility or is a wheelchair user, a position that incorporates a seated position can allow both partners to engage. As shown in Cosmopolitan and YahooLife, this position (which is an especially good option for interabled couples where a partner has a penis, or if a sex toy is available, if penetration is desired) allows one person to straddle the seated person.
Sometimes, extra support can make a big difference. Another option featured in Cosmopolitan and YahooLife, this position makes use of ties — whether that means a sex sling or scarves or ropes to tie the legs — to support one partner’s legs. This can allow a partner who is unable to or has difficulty holding their legs up to enjoy a missionary-style position.
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Time to recline
As the GetBumpin’ blog explains here, a power wheelchair user can use their chair to assist with their exploration. If you’re able to do so safely, you can use the recline function to explore different seated angles. For those without a power chair, this could be an option to explore on a safe, sturdy reclining chair.
Related: 10 ways to show your clitoris some love.
Love the feel of a riding position, but struggle to get comfortable? A classic position can be made more comfortable with a little cushioning. Adding pillows under the hips of the person laying down in this position, for example, can provide a more plush ride for all (particularly if the rider struggles with limited lower body mobility or flexibility).
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Pillow-propped doggy style
Similarly, as the RO Health Guide shows, pillows and cushions can change the comfort game for partners who have pain in a traditional doggy-style position. As Bitty explains, using things like pillows to change angles can also be especially useful for finding pleasure in any position.
“Pleasure, particularly for penetration, is an angles game,” Bitty says. “So you can play around and see which angles, which firmness of pillow, all those things, you can explore, and that’s the thing… pleasure-centred sex is about curiosity and exploration. And it’s about making mistakes a lot of the time, and being like, ‘oh, this doesn’t work for me.’”
See also: Destigmatizing anal play.
For people who have limited mobility or back pain, a classic spooning position can bring comfort and pleasure. As detailed on this RO Health Guide post, spooning or side-lying with both partners facing the same direction can also be a supportive position for a pregnant partner.
At any angle, a 69 position can allow for pleasure for any combination of genitals. This version detailed in Women’s Health incorporates angles (whether via resting a head on a pillow or a partner’s thigh) for added comfort and easier positioning.
Missionary position can be more versatile than you may think. As the RO Health Guide details, a modified missionary position (where one partner stands and the other partner lays at the edge of a bed) allows for more flexibility for situations where a partner has limited lower body mobility, one or both partners have larger bodies or one partner is pregnant.
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Partnered sex doesn’t necessarily have to mean touching another person’s genitals — especially at a time when virtual sex is more common (and sometimes necessary). As Bitty says, “a lot of people, for many different reasons, are still having sex virtually, and I think it’s very important to name it as a valid form of sexual expression.”
(Supported) solo cuddle
Of course, not all pleasure-centred sex has to involve a partner at all. Using a full-body body pillow or a toy like the Bumpin’ Joystick for a supported cuddle can enhance solo play or make it more comfortable when hand dexterity or physical mobility are more challenging.