Sex education has come a long way. Now, we can talk about and share all the fun, creative and different ways to achieve pleasure or have an orgasm—and often, it has nothing to do with penetration. When it does include penis-in-vagina sex, however, there are plenty of ways to maximize your pleasure and increase the possibility of reaching the finish line, especially for people with vulvas. Let's talk about one technique that prioritizes clitoral stimulation, known as the coital alignment technique.
The coital alignment technique, also known as CAT.
A variation on the missionary position, coital alignment technique (CAT) is a penis-in-vagina sex position where the penetrating partner grinds their penis up against the vulva owner's clitoris during penetration to help the vulva owner reach orgasm.
Originally defined by psychotherapist and sex researcher Edward Eichel1 to help people achieve more orgasms beyond penetration, this technique requires the penis-holder to move higher up on the vagina-holder until an erection points down and presses against the nerves closer to the clitoris, explains AASECT-certified sex therapist Bat Sheva Marcus, LCSW, MPH, Ph.D.
Sometimes referred to as "grinding the corn," CAT changes the in-and-out thrusting of traditional P-in-V sex to a rocking motion that more resembles dry humping. "The partner with the penis attempts to grind his pubic bone into the vulva of the woman," explains Marcus, "and since that stimulates the clitoris, it's more likely to create the possibility of an orgasm [for] the woman."
This position might be best for people who are more likely to experience pleasure and/or orgasms through clitoral stimulation, but public health practitioner and researcher Linsey Grove, DrPH, CPH, CHES, says it's also a great fit for people with mobility issues or those who simply want to get creative with missionary.
How is CAT different from missionary?
So, how different can a variation be? Not terribly so, but there's enough of a twist to help you and your partner experience pleasure in a new way.
According to Marla Renee Stewart, M.A., sexologist and expert for sexual wellness brand and retailer Lovers, the main difference between the coital alignment technique and the missionary position is that CAT sex mainly focuses on the clitoris, plus the penis is pointing downward in the vagina instead of upward.
However, it's similar to missionary sex because one person is on their back and the other person is on top, facing their partner. Breaking it down, Grove says, "With CAT sex, the partner on top—the one using their penis or dildo—focuses on clitoral stimulation while penetrating the vagina." With missionary, on the other hand, "The person on top may not use their weight to put pressure on the clitoris or may use their fingers to stimulate manually."
Look at it this way: CAT is the hands-free version!
Benefits of the coital alignment technique:
Elevates clit-focused pleasure.
Here's why the clitoris is such a pleasure button: The external part of the clitoris, called the glans or head, is partially covered by a hood and filled with more nerve endings than you can imagine. This hood connects to the labia minora (the inner lips of a vulva), and anything that stimulates the labia directly stimulates the clitoris, too.
Clitorises are considered one of the most sensitive erogenous zones, which makes it easy to understand why the grinding and rocking part of CAT sex is perfect for anyone who seeks stimulation that way. Plus, studies show2 that 81.6% of women don't orgasm from P-in-V sex without clitoral stimulation, and only 18.4% of women report that penetration alone is enough to orgasm.
You get (extra) close.
Like in the missionary position, exploring this sex technique means you and your partner are rubbing and grinding up against each other. But rather than being focused on thrusting, the heightened closeness of your bodies and genitals gliding against each other is likely to increase your pleasure and pull you deeper into the moment. That might make the sex feel more intimate, if that's what you're into.
To get even closer, the partner on the bottom can wrap their legs around their partner while slowly moving down as the penis owner grinds higher.
More variety, less hassle.
Who doesn't love enjoying something in more ways than one? The coital alignment technique enables tons of variety and caters to the multiple ways you can spice up sex. "If you love clitoral stimulation, toys, and mutual masturbation while watching your partner, this can be fun and physically easier for both partners," says Grove.
Practice makes perfect (wink).
Grove points out that the coital alignment technique takes practice, because "it requires knowing your and your partner's bodies well to apply pressure in the right areas and get the right amount of rocking and friction."
Because you have to try this technique repeatedly to discover the ways it works best for you and your partner, you get to have more time bonding together intimately and learning how to maximize your pleasure. Win-win!
How to do it:
Focus on the grinding.
To do the CAT sex position, one partner lies on their back with their legs open, and the other lays atop them. Instead of the thrusting common to the missionary position, the person with the penis (or dildo) grinds the penis against the clitoris until it penetrates it.
Here's where the coital alignment comes in: The top partner should angle their hips so their pelvis is directly on top of the bottom partner's pelvis. During penetration, the penis-holder should have their chin above their partner's head and their chest in the other's face. With this alignment, the base of the penis can create pleasurable friction against the vulva and clitoris, and the penis will be angled slightly downward, which makes it easier to hit the back wall of the vagina.
The coital alignment technique is perfect for a slower pace that heightens clit-focused pleasure. While many people can enjoy the missionary position at a slow and intimate pace, it typically gives way to deep, aggressive thrusting—and no shade to the pros of rough sex, but sometimes the best way to stimulate a clitoris is to take it slow (...then speed it up).
Start with oral sex.
Before you get to the penetrative part of the coital alignment technique, Stewart says to have oral sex first. Oral is a great way for you and your partner to open yourselves up to each other before exploring other kinds of sex, especially if you're trying something new. Plus, with the heavy grinding and rubbing involved in CAT sex, it might help to engage in an activity that'll increase lubrication. (Here are some oral sex techniques to play with.)
Grab a pillow.
For people with back-facing vulvas, Stewart recommends "using a pillow to angle the vagina and vulva upward to gain better access." To do this, place a pillow under the tailbone of the bottom partner to help tilt their hips up at the right angle.
Pro-tip: Sex pillows often have a supportive wedge that easily slides beneath your lower back, enabling deeper penetration and comfort and possibly unlocking your ability to try new angles and positions.
Incorporate toys and varied stimulation methods.
CAT sex can be as versatile as you and your partner want it to be, so don't hesitate to incorporate any or all of these sex toys and enhancement practices—or get creative to find what works for you.
You might consider:
Risks and challenges.
While CAT might work for some, Stewart believes the technique is "a rather aged technique that hasn't shown promised results."
Additionally, Marcus explains that the problem with it is twofold:
- Different men have different sizes and shapes of penises, and vaginas are often tilted in different directions and have different distances from the clitoris. "There's absolutely no one-size-fits-all to intercourse success," she says, explaining that the angle of the penis also depends on how tight the connecting muscles are. "The angle you need to achieve for this whole endeavor is questionable and can possibly even cause pain, or in the worst situations, damage to the penis."
- CAT perpetuates the belief that orgasms from penetrative sex are better than orgasms from a hand, mouth, or vibrator. Marcus says the reality is that seven out of 10 women don't achieve orgasm through penetrative sex. "Our sex lives would be best off if we accepted that and moved on."
Despite the realities of this technique, give it a try if you think it'll lead to more pleasure for you and your partner.
"If a couple thinks it would be a fun experiment to try CAT, go for it!" Marcus tells mbg. "Think of it as another sexual adventure, like dressing up as Bridgerton characters and meeting at a motel. But an obsession with orgasm from intercourse will only lead to disappointment and trouble."
Other positions to try.
Here are some other clit-focused sex positions to consider once you've gotten yourselves through this technique:
- Lotus: If grinding brings you pleasure, Stewart recommends a position where you sit on your partner's lap. The lotus sex position can be a particularly romantic one, or make your own variation: "The person with the vulva finds the best possible position, whether that's sitting on the lap of a partner or grinding their clitoris against their lover's thigh."
- Tabletop: Sit or lie back on the edge of a table, bed, or chair while your partner stands in between your legs, holds your waist, and penetrates you.
- The Seashell: You lie back with your legs raised up and your ankles crossed behind your head, and your partner will enter you like they would in a missionary position.
- Reverse coital alignment: Grove recommends reverse coital alignment, where the vagina-holder sits atop the person with a dildo or penis. "This gives the top person more control in aligning their clitoris with the pressure points of the person on the bottom," she explains.
- The Sitting V: To pull this off, sit on a high surface (table or countertop) while your partner stands in front of you with their feet spread. After you align your pelvises, place your ankles on and around your partner's shoulders until you're in a "V," then receive penetration.
- Scissors: Lie on your side with your legs open and knees slightly bent and your partner will enter you by sliding in between your legs while theirs are folded in an upside-down "V." (If you find yourselves in a right angle, you got this one right.)
The bottom line.
The coital alignment technique is a great option for any couple who wants to explore clit-focused sex. However, if you come out on the other side and realize it's not for you, that's fine! What's important is you were both open-minded to try something new, which often brings couples together and strengthens your relationship.
Farrah Daniel is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a bachelor's degree in Digital Media Studies from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Her work has been published at The Penny Hoarder, The Write Life, and elsewhere. Daniel manages and creates content for small businesses, nonprofits, and lifestyle publications. With five years of professional writing under her belt, her diverse portfolio includes topics such as wellness, personal finance, sales and marketing, shared micromobility and equity, and more.