Lots of people assume that being on top during sex makes everything feel better. Even the sex position name "cowgirl" summons images of a tough, carefree, confident, proud, and experienced rider. But having to mount your partner and be fully on display can be awkward, especially if you feel kind of meh about your body to begin with.
Partnered sex is a very vulnerable experience. So having to confront your own body insecurities on top of whatever you're already feeling can be tough and interfere with your sexual satisfaction, says Megan Stubbs, EdD, a sexologist in Grand Rapids, MI.
In fact, studies suggest that there's a link between body image — including weight concerns, physical condition, and physical attractiveness — and sexual satisfaction. We know that poor body image can negatively impact arousal and desire, and positive body image is associated with better sexual performance. Of course, feeling more comfortable with yourself and your body is a process that takes time.Everyone is at a different stage in body acceptance, because everyone has a different relationship to their body.
But when it comes to feeling comfortable while on top during sex, most of the time people are just worried about what they look like, Stubbs says. "If a partner is looking at us from the bottom, we’re thinking, They’ll see up my nostrils. Can they see my rolls?," she says. "Those are things that are manifested in our heads." In reality, your partner is most likely just thrilled to be having sex with you at all, she says. They might be excited that they have both hands free to touch you, or relieved that you're doing most of the work. "Take yourself out of the position, and look through your partner’s eyes," she says.
To that point, it's also important to remember that your partner is probably dealing with their own body image issues or performance insecurities during sex, Stubbs says. "Don't think that if your partner comes off super confident, they're not worried about anything," she says. We all want to feel accepted during sex, so it might be worth it to talk to your partner about these concerns. That means literally telling them what makes you feel affirmed during sex, and also what makes you uncomfortable, she says.
Sex positions should feel good, and you have a right to speak up when something doesn't feel right. "There’s no rule that says you have to like every single position," she says. For example, doggy style can be physically painful for some people, because of the amount of penetration involved. Or, some people actually don't like receiving oral sex because there's too much pressure to orgasm. Besides feeling like you're on display, you might not like being on top because you don't like being the dominant partner.
The point is, there's absolutely nothing wrong with you if you don't like a position — what matters is that you feel good.