When’s the last time you (or your partner) climaxed from vaginal intercourse alone? If you’re having trouble finding the answer, you need to read this article.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “it’s not the size of the boat; it’s the motion of the ocean.” At face value, this seems like a shallow attempt at coddling a man’s sexual ego. But as it turns out, there’s more truth to this old saying than we thought.

If you or your partner find yourself never quite able to get off...er, the ship...you might need to check your alignment—more specifically, your coital alignment.

Solving the Mystery of the Female Orgasm

Close-up of the feet of a couple on the bed

Unsurprising to women everywhere, the idea that female orgasms (or lack thereof) were the woman’s responsibility was coined by ~drumroll please~ a man! Psychologist and vaginal conspiracist Sigmund Freud introduced the idea that a woman’s sexual evolution involved the erotic zone moving from the clitoris to the vagina. Clitoral orgasms, Freud explained, were "infantile."

Those who couldn’t climax vaginally were deemed “frigid,” and thus, women everywhere began faking orgasms for fear of seeming sexually unevolved, stingy, or even homosexual. We’re talking a lot of faking—a study published in the Journal of Sex Research found that 67% of heterosexual women have faked an orgasm.

In her book The Case of the Female Orgasm, Elizabeth Lloyd compiled data from 33 studies spanning 80 years to find even more shocking statistics: About 20% of women seldom have orgasms during intercourse 5% never have orgasms, period.

Women aren’t inherently less sexual or incapable of orgasming; we’ve just normalized the prioritization of the male orgasm so much that we assume the problem must be us—our vaginas, bodies, or minds.

The CAT Revolution

Romantic couple in bed enjoying sensual foreplay

The idea of female frigidity and sexual dysfunction largely stems from a deeply rooted misunderstanding of the female anatomy, orgasms, and how the two relate.

As Anne Koedt put it in her 1970 essay The Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm, “although there are many areas for sexual arousal, there is only one area for the sexual climax: that area is the clitoris.” Her essay effectively tore Freud’s frigidity theory to shreds. Yet, it wasn’t until the late ‘80s that a group of New York scientists researched a more effective way to stimulate the clitoris during sex.

The Coital Alignment Technique (CAT) was first published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy in 1988. The study hypothesized that a slightly modified version of the missionary position could correlate with a high frequency of female orgasm, decrease premature ejaculation, and increase partner simultaneity.

Despite test groups confirming these hypotheses, the Freudian emphasis on the male orgasm caused the CAT to fade into the background shortly after its discovery. No longer, ladies—it’s time to bring the CAT back for kitties everywhere.

Coital Alignment Technique: The Who, What, and Where

man and woman having sex. Intimate young couple enjoying on bed

AASECT-certified sex therapist and neuroscientist Dr. Nan Wise explains that the CAT is “just like standard missionary position” in that the penetrating partner lies on top. However, two things set CAT apart from good ol’ missionary: riding high and rocking.

“Riding high” refers to the penetrating partner’s position. In CAT, the penetrating (or top) partner slightly shifts their body’s position up the receiving (or bottom) partner’s body. The goal is to align the top partner’s chest with the bottom partner’s shoulders. From here, the top partner rests their weight on the bottom partner.

Next up, rocking—remember the old “motion of the ocean” adage? Here’s where that comes in. Rather than thrusting in and out, CAT uses a rhythmic, coordinating rocking motion. The receiving partner leads on rocking with the upstroke, the penetrating partner, the downstroke.

By riding high and rocking, the shaft or sex toy base places gentle and consistent pressure on the external clitoris during sex. This increases the likelihood of a “vaginal” orgasm stimulated by the clitoris. Because this sex position is less about thrusting and creating friction on the penis, it can also help curb premature ejaculation.

In summary: teamwork makes the dream work, people.

Elevate Your CAT From Meow-diocre to the Cat's Pajamas

Rear view of a couple having sex in bed

Gigi Engle, certified sex educator and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life, offers troubleshooting tips for couples struggling to reap the rewards of the coital alignment technique.

“Instead of a hammer pounding a nail, it’s more like a zipper sliding up and down,” Engle explains. But since every penis and vagina is shaped differently, you might need to adjust the size and angle of your “zipper.” Try the CAT with side-to-side, circular, deep, and shallow motions to see what works best for the receiving partner.

The receiving partner can also modify their body’s angle by placing a pillow under their butt to lift the hips and make the clitoris more accessible. Any appropriately sized pillow will do, though sex pillows are specifically designed to provide firm support to the stomach, back, butt, and pelvis.

While the coital alignment technique is often referred to in the context of PIV intercourse, a penis need not be present to enjoy the benefits of this slow-rocking sex. Sexual partners who both have vulvas can experiment with sex toys and dildos to supplement penetration while both enjoy the benefits of external clitoris stimulation (the ultimate win-win).

Curiosity Killed the CAT? Nope, Not This Time

Happy loving couple have fun in bed, look from under blanket, enjoy romantic moment at home, have good relationships, spend leisure time weekend together, wake up after passionate night or sex

Sex positions and techniques are not one-size-fits-all. For both partners to receive full benefits of play, experimentation, and execution, time must be taken to fully understand each person’s particular preferences.

Trying new things in the bedroom can be awkward at first, but in our humble opinions, a few minutes of awkwardness is infinitely better than a life of unsatisfying sex. Dr. Laurie Mintz, author of A Tired Woman’s Guide to Passionate Sex and Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters and How to Get It offers several helpful tips on Psychology Today for those who still blush beet-red at the thought of direct sexual communication.

If, after experimenting, adjusting, and repeating, you still don’t find success with the CAT—don’t lose hope. Some folks just don’t climax during vaginal penetration, and there’s nothing more to it. Sex isn’t about what’s supposed to work best for everyone; it’s about what does work best for you.

No amount of scientific studies, peer-reviewed journals, or tabloids will be able to find that out for you. So, go ahead and explore—in this case, curiosity definitely won’t kill the CAT.

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