For heterosexual couples, just making sure that both partners reach orgasm during vaginal intercourse can be difficult. Achieving orgasm at the exact same moment (i.e., “simultaneous orgasm”)? That’s even more of a challenge. Why? Because the typical motion of penile thrusting does not seem to provide adequate sexual stimulation for many women. In fact, only about half of women report being able to climax from penile movements alone during sex and, even among those women, many of them report that they do not experience orgasm reliably.1 As a result, many women find that adding clitoral stimulation to intercourse (e.g., with the use of one’s hand or a vibrator) or attempting different sexual activities is necessary to help them climax. However, it turns out that you may not need to do these other things if you can better align your own and your partner’s genitals during sex.
In the 1980s, a few sex researchers proposed something known as the Coital Alignment Technique (CAT)2 as a way of remedying the difficulty so many heterosexual couples have when it comes to not only achieving female orgasm, but timing it to co-occur with the male orgasm. The CAT is a method of providing the female partner with more sexual stimulation during intercourse by aligning the male and female genitals with the goal of producing a “no hands required” orgasm. Here’s how the CAT works:
“The positioning for coital alignment requires a shift forward by the male partner from the standard missionary position to the male ‘pelvic-override’ position, in which the base of the penis makes direct contact with the woman’s clitoris. This makes vaginal penetration with constant clitoral contact possible in coitus, completing a fundamental genital ‘circuitry.’ The genital contact is maintained by a coordinated form of sexual movement in which the woman leads the upward stroke and the man the downward stroke. The partner moving his or her pelvis backward exerts a slight but firm counterpressure. The penile-clitoral connection is held together by pressure and counterpressure simultaneously exerted genitally by both partners in a rocking motion rather than the familiar ‘in and out’ pattern of coital thrusting.”3
To put it more simply, the CAT is a modified missionary style position (i.e., man-on-top) in which he angles his body forward such that the base of the penis touches the clitoris. The partners then “grind” or rock their pelvises back and forth so that his penis and her clitoris stay in constant contact. The goal is to counteract the common tendency for the man to simply thrust aggressively while the woman plays a relatively passive role, a style of sex many therapists believe is a recipe for male premature ejaculation and female anorgasmia (i.e., lack of female orgasm).3 The CAT recognizes that both partners must work together to achieve mutual pleasure.
To master the CAT, it takes a bit of practice and it requires partners to break the mentality that sex is all about the man pretending he is a high-powered piston. Thus, the CAT looks like nothing you’ve ever seen in porn. However, research finds that coital alignment significantly increases the likelihood of female orgasm during intercourse above and beyond just adding manual clitoral stimulation with the hands, plus it has the added benefit of increasing the odds of simultaneous orgasm.3 So, if you’re looking to make your Valentine’s Day extra special this year, you and your partner might want to consider rethinking the way that you typically have sex.
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1Fugl-Meyer, K., Oberg, K., Lundberg, P., & Lewin, B. (2006). On orgasm, sexual techniques, and erotic perceptions in 18- to 74-year-old Swedish women. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 3, 56-68.
2Eichel, E. W., Eichel, J. D., & Kule, S. (1988). The technique of coital alignment and its relation to female orgasmic response and simultaneous orgasm. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 14, 129–141.
3Pierce, A. P. (2000). The coital alignment technique (CAT): An overview of studies. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 26, 257-268.
Dr. Justin Lehmiller - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Lehmiller's research program focuses on how secrecy and stigmatization impact relationship quality and physical and psychological health. He also conducts research on commitment, sexuality, and safer-sex practices.
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