Why is it called missionary position?

March 13, 2013 | By

Question by Cali: Why is it called missionary position?

Best answer:

Answer by andreashatz
Before the release of Alfred Kinsey's work, the missionary position was known by several names, including "the matrimonial", "the Mama-Papa position", "the English-American position", and "the male superior position".[24] In 1948, Kinsey published the male volume of the Kinsey Reports, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. He described the American preference for the position and called it "the English-American position." Discussing Malinowski's The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Wester Melanesia, Kinsey wrote, "It will be recalled that Malinowski (1929) records the nearly universal use of a totally different position among the Trobrianders ... [and] ... that caricatures of the English-American position are performed around ... campfires, to the great amusement of the natives who refer to the position as the 'missionary position.'"[24] To date, lexicographers and sexologists have not found use of the term "missionary position" prior to Kinsey.[25]

In 2001, Robert Priest examined the origins of the term and concluded that Kinsey had confused several factors in accidentally coining the term.[24] First, according to Malinowski, Trobrianders played and sang mocking songs under the full moon, and not around a campfire. In Sexual Behaviors, Kinsey wrote that the Trobrianders mocked face-to-face man-on-top woman-below intercourse, but does not give context. He mentioned the position was learned from "white traders, planters, or officials", but does not discuss missionaries. Kinsey also recalled that the medieval Catholic Church taught the position, and upon seeing the natives mocking it, assumed that missionaries had taught it to them. Finally, Malinowski wrote that he saw an engaged Trobriand couple holding hands and leaning against each other, which the natives described as misinari si bubunela — the "missionary fashion." Upon accidentally combining these similar facts, Kinsey invented a new phrase despite believing that he was reporting an old one.[24]

From then on, the story of the name's "origin" was retold until it became largely accepted, and its connection to Kinsey and Malinowski faded. Writers began using the expression for intercourse in the late 1960s, and as Alex Comfort's bestseller The Joy of Sex (1972) and the Oxford English Dictionary (1976) spread the term "missionary position", it gradually replaced older names.[26] By the 1990s, it had spread to other languages: Missionarsstellung (German), postura del misionero (Spanish), missionarishouding (Dutch) and position du missionaire (French).[27]

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