Edward Eichel’s work on the coital alignment technique began back in the 1980s.
Even then most sex therapists knew not many women have an orgasm during intercourse – at the time most people believed only 30% of women achieve orgasm regularly from intercourse.
In fact we now know that this estimate of 30% is way too high. Some experts think less than 10% of women achieve orgasm during intercourse.
And oddly enough, although many women will claim that they prefer oral pleasure to intercourse, or that they don’t want intercourse to last too long, the most common complaint in sexual therapy is about this lack of orgasm for women during intercourse.
It’s No Mystery Why Women
Don’t Reach Orgasm!
Eichel wrote that researchers were “perplexed” by the lack of coital orgasm for women – but really it’s no mystery!
To start with, we know that most women reach orgasm because of clitoral stimulation, not vaginal stimulation.
We also know that one of the factors which controls whether a woman will reach orgasm during intercourse is the distance between her clitoris and her vaginal opening.
Where the distance between the clitoris and the vagina is shorter than average, women are more likely to reach orgasm during intercourse, presumably because the clitoris is stimulated by the activity of the penis as it thrusts in and out the vagina.
Or perhaps it’s just the pressure of the man’s body on the clitoris as he thrusts… Whatever, we know that women whose clitoris is comparatively closer to the vagina have more orgasms during intercourse than women where the clitoris and vagina are further apart.
(Oddly enough, another factor in helping a woman reach orgasm is the distance between a woman’s urethral opening and her clitoris. And this historical account comes under the heading of “you couldn’t make it up”!)
Aligning Expectations and Reality
Another important aspect of this whole debate, as you might know, is that having vaginal orgasms has been seen by so-called “experts” as the “normal” outcome of intercourse between a man and a woman.
Indeed, some early 20th-century “experts” went so far as to say that simultaneous orgasm was the outcome of “normal” coitus.
Maybe a lack of research, and a lack of openness around sex, led various therapists and researchers to this conclusion.
Whatever the origin of this belief, we now know it’s completely wrong – very, very few couples achieve simultaneous orgasm, and it has to be regarded as a possibility rather than normal in male-female
PIV sex (which stands for penis in vagina sex).
Alfred Kinsey, the famous sexual researcher of 1950s America, made the interesting observation that he’d found there was no difference in the timing of male and female sexual responses during masturbation, so the question arose whether there was something missing in “the coital technique” which was responsible for a woman’s slower sexual responses during intercourse.
Obviously, as we now know, that something could be the absence of clitoral stimulation.
Indeed, in the normal missionary position, or the man on top sexual position, there is a real lack of contact between the penis and the clitoris; so much so, that the amount of clitoral stimulation a woman receives is just not enough to trigger orgasm.
(Another thing that seems to play into women’s difficulty reaching orgasm during intercourse is the fact that when a woman is extremely aroused, her clitoris retracts under the clitoral hood, which makes clitoral contact between penis and clitoris even more difficult.)
All of this led Edward Eichel to come up with a new idea about how couples who were regularly enjoying intercourse together could experience female orgasm during lovemaking.
And he called it, as you probably know:
The Coital Alignment Technique (or CAT)
Video – Simplified Alignment Technique
The first step in making love in the CAT, which is designed to ensure that woman reaches orgasm during lovemaking without manual or oral stimulation of the clitoris, is for a couple to establish the basic position correctly.
Since the coital alignment method is a variation of the missionary or man on top sex position, a couple starts making love with the man positioning himself on the woman in the normal way.
And then, he shifts his body forward on the woman so that he is “higher” than in the conventional man on top position.
Apparently this is what is known as “riding high” – it means that the man’s pelvis is at least as high, and possibly higher, than the woman’s. In this context please understand that “higher” means further up her body, not elevated vertically.
This makes the shaft of his penis press up against his partner’s mons veneris or pubic mound.
Another, perhaps slightly surprising, requirement of the alignment position is that the man rests the full weight of his body on his partner – which means he’s not propping up his torso on his elbows.
As Eichel put it in his original paper, “the weight of his torso gravitates forward towards her shoulders and head; he should not slide backwards, which causes his pelvis to slip down under hers. The woman’s legs are wrapped around the man’s thighs with her ankles resting on his calves. Her thighs are bent at an angle not to exceed 45 degrees because her pelvis becomes immobilized if her knees are raised at an angle perpendicular to her torso.”
The coital alignment technique requires sexual movement from the pelvis by both man and the woman.
Even so, neither the man nor woman will use any kind of leverage from pushing, pulling or bracing with their arms and legs. Indeed, Eichel made the point that any movement of any other part of the body would inhibit the focus of movement in the genital area which was essential for this technique.
I think one of the issues we see over and over again in sexual intercourse these days is that it’s become – or perhaps it always was – an activity in which the man enters the woman then thrusts until he ejaculates, while she lies passively.
Even in the face of a large quantity of erotica on the Internet which shows how a woman can move her pelvis in synchrony with the man during sexual activity doesn’t seem to have changed the way most couples make love. The woman passive, the man active. Thrust – thrust – thrust – ejaculate. Almost like vaginal masturbation…. that kind of thing.
Against this background, it might be difficult for some couples using the coital alignment technique to establish the correct rhythm and synchrony of sexual movement.
This isn’t just moving in synchrony; it’s also moving at the same pace.
So once again, to quote Eichel: “the woman leads in the upward stroke of sexual movement forcing the pelvis of the man backward; he allows his pelvis to move backward while providing a resistant counter pressure against the woman’s clitoris. As the woman’s pelvis moves forward and upward, the vagina engulfs the male penis more deeply. In the downward stroke of sexual movement, the process reverses with the male forcing the female pelvis backward. The woman provides a resistant counter pressure by pressing her clitoris against the external base of the man’s penis. As the woman’s pelvis moves backward and downward, the penis shaft rocks forward against the female mons, sliding to a shallow position in the vagina.”
That may sound technical enough, but Eichel made it sound even more difficult: he went on to say that the forces exerted by the man or the woman initiating the forward thrust pelvic movement, and by the partner who was providing resistance as they moved with the initiating partner, should respectively exert pressure and counter pressure in approximately a 60% to 40% ratio.
But a couple aren’t expected to make big movements during lovemaking in this alignment: only to the extent that the natural interplay of penis and vagina will allow them.
It seems that one of the effects of moving in this way is that the spine of the partner who is responding to the initiating partner extends in elongation rather than in an arching movement.
Couple making love using the coital alignment technique.
You can imagine that this is not the easiest set of instructions in the world to follow!
And certainly although you see the coital alignment technique described in many places on the Internet offering advice to improve lovemaking, none of them really seem to explain it very clearly.
Going back to Eichel’s original paper, it certainly becomes obvious why this is: the coital alignment technique wasn’t very clear even when he wrote about it in 1988!
But the basic principles are these:
- While the penis is in the vagina, there’s obviously sexual contact between partners.
- In addition, the penis is moving in such a way that the base of the shaft, or that general area, makes contact with the clitoris, or that general area.
- Basically the penile shaft is pressing up against the place which would represent 12 o’clock if the opening to the vagina was marked with a clockface.
- This means that the base of the penis shaft on the top surface comes into close contact the clitoris, or at least is positioned up against it. (Just make this clear, as a man stands with his looking down onto his erection, that would be the top surface in this context.)
Eichel’s theory was that this contact between penis and clitoris could remain constant and steady during intercourse because of the pressure and counter pressure which was exerted by both partners throughout intercourse.
As he put it, “the penile clitoral connection is held intact and rocked upward and downward in a small, even paced, lever -like motion in sexual movement.”
If it helps you to imagine what this motion might be like, Eichel described it as similar to the beam of the balance oscillating on its pivot.
And yes, this is indeed a very different form of movement to the conventional thrusting of the penis in and out of the vagina, where there is very little clitoral stimulation or contact.
In essence, when a couple have mastered the coital alignment technique, the sensation that the clitoris receives is much more one of vibration, or rhythmic repetitive stimulation.
Eichel pointed out that for his technique to work, both partners must be equally physically active during coitus (intercourse).
They must also make sure that their movements do not overextend or underextend, and they must achieve perfect timing, and a continuous rhythm.
Apparently in conventional intercourse, most couples find the man speeds up as he approaches orgasm, moving harder and faster, while the woman slows down and even stops moving.
The coital alignment technique requires that both partners maintain a steady and even pace of movement, and in particular, when either of them is approaching orgasm, neither of them must speed up or slow down, and neither must they tense their muscles.
The certainty of orgasm appears to depend on both partners moving in a regular and steady rhythm. This allows, so Eichel claimed, a reflexive and involuntary movement during orgasm which allowed stimulation to continue, perhaps deepening the orgasm as it did so.
He also made the observation that free expression of any noise that a couple wanted to make also helped the orgasmic process.