Why is it Called Missionary?

My husband and I were laying in bed last night, post-coital bliss, and we had the weirdest thought. “Why is the missionary position called Missionary?” Here’s why!

by Kimberly Pangaro | Kimberly is a mom of four daughters and the owner of the lifestyle parenting media company Atomic Mommy. When she’s not running her company or momming all day, she’s writing about family life.

UPDATED: February 20, 2023.

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My husband and I were laying in bed last night, post-coital bliss, and we had the weirdest thought. “Why is the missionary position called Missionary?” Then he fell right asleep. The researcher (that’d be me), was left awake in bed for hours trying to look this up.

This one image kept replaying in my head, “I get why doggy style is called doggy style and why reverse cowgirl got its name, but I still don’t get why it wasn’t called reverse horsegirl?” Naturally it brought me to my next questions, “Why missionary and who invented it?” The thoughts kept racing until 4 a.m. when I finally passed out.

This morning I woke up only to be plagued by the same dumb thoughts again. I decided to continue on my hunt and here’s what I found out.

The Kama Sutra is Not the First Manual for Sex Positions

Steamy, hot sex positions were already in play long before the Kama Sutra was created. Approximately 1,500 years before the Kama Sutra, the Babylonians had sexual positions carved into clay plaques that would make you blush. This plaque is around 4,000 years old — Those kinky Babylonians!

Kama Sutra Sex position
Photo Credit: Times of Israel

Who Called it Missionary?

Christian Missionaries who explored the different parts of the world, came to view indigenous people’s sexual positions as sinful. As such, they believed the more appropriate and holier-than-thou sex position of what they witnessed was the missionary position. Eventually, this position became known world wide, and was later termed as the English-American position for superior sex. So while Christian Missionaries would like to be credited with having discovered the missionary position of sex, it was in fact indigenous people who coined the now-famous term. But it turns out that the most natural way to have sex was invented by a 385 million year old fish and the act of sex wasn’t missionary at all!

A missionary discussing scripture
Photo Credit: How Stuff Works

Origin of Sex Came from a What?

In 2014, a 385 million year old fish helped scientists discover the origin of sex as we know it and the first position used was not missionary! According to the findings, copulation occurred in a sideways position, similar to a square dance style.

The Takeaway

So you see my friends, missionary is not the original form of sexual relations and it’s thanks to a 385 million year old fish fossil that we have all been given a guilt-free green light that sideways, reverse cowgirl, doggy style, and missionary are all acceptable forms of sex and not deviant.

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