Life

A Definitive Guide to Getting Into Strap-Ons

Here's everything to consider, whether you're young and queer and looking for new ways to have sex or interested in pegging your boyfriend.

by Daisy Jones; illustrated by Marta Parszeniew
Jul 29 2019, 8:15pm

Lead illustration by Marta Parszeniew, credits at the bottom of articleImages for collage used: Purple dildo via; Pink strap-on harness via; Black strap-on and dildo via.

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

So you’ve decided to get into strap-ons. Good for you. It’s the best thing I did, other than learning how to cook Iranian rice properly (leave and don’t stir, only use basmati) and investing in a good feather duvet. Maybe you’re a young LGBTQ person who wants to explore new ways of having sex, maybe you’re thinking about pegging your partner, or perhaps you just want to wear a strap-on because it's a look. Either way, you’ve come to the right place because today I am going to tell you everything you need to know before venturing into wearable appendages.

Firstly, strap-ons aren’t necessarily an easy or beginner move. They can initially be awkward, and it may take time and practice before they become something you feel entirely comfortable using. Adding any kind of toy or “hardware” (LOL) into sex takes adjustment and communication between partners, so don’t be perturbed if your life doesn’t transform into a scene from The L Word overnight.

Remember: The sole purpose of strap-on sex is that it’s supposed to be fun. As long as you prioritize that fact and don’t take anything too seriously, the rest should fall into place. Now that I’ve stopped talking like your mom’s 2006 issue of Cosmo, let’s get to it.

What Is Everyone Into?

Strap-ons aren’t just a physical thing. They’re a mindset, an e n e r g y, and they can be really empowering. Before you invest in the right gear, have a think about your expectations and what you might be into, before communicating this with your partner (or partners). Who would like to give, who would like to receive—or are you both versatile? That sort of thing. If you feel like experimenting to find out, voice that too. Maybe you’ve been giving off bottom energy for years, when deep down in your soul, you know you’d like to top. All of this needs to be brought to the table before the strap is brought into bed.

Reneé Denya, sex educator and store manager at Sh! Women’s Erotic Emporium, also emphasizes the need for communication. “Before choosing a strap-on, the very first thing to do is chat with your partner,” she tells me over the phone. “Make sure this is something that they also want. Coming home waving a dildo in the air might go down well, but it also might not, so having some conversations is a really good idea. It’s also important to talk about whether it’s vaginal or anal penetration that they, or you, want to experience.”

Shop Around for Gear That Fits

Remember when you had to buy new shoes for school and the shop assistant measured your foot with one of those weird plastic measuring devices? This is kind of like that, except instead of shoes it’s a strap-on, and instead of a device, you have to just figure out what works for your body (or theirs).

There are two things to consider when it comes to strap-on shopping. The first is the dildo itself, and the second is the harness you want to wear with it.

Let’s start with the dildo. Denya recommends using fingers as a size guide. “Think about how many fingers you’re comfortable with: two fingers, three fingers, a whole fist? That’s the size to go for,” she says. “If you’re choosing between sizes—a slimmer one or a girthier one—go for the slimmer one, as it’s better to leave them wanting more than feeling like it’s too much. When it comes to length, you can probably go slightly longer than you think because once the dildo’s in the harness, you lose about an inch of playable length. Also, for curvier people you might need a slightly longer dildo, whereas for two very slim people you might not.”

The harness, too, depends on your body type and what feels comfortable. “The first thing to think about is whether it’s for you only, or whether you want to share it,” Reneé explains. “If you want to share, it might need to fit somebody with wider hips. You want it to fit tight and snug, and be able to put it on properly. A slim-backed harness is better for smaller dildos, and a wider backed one for girthier ones.” In other words, it’s probably a good idea to physically go into a shop and try on a harness. This might seem long, but what’s longer is buying a harness online, then realizing it fits like an elastic band around a guinea pig.

When it comes to brands, I personally swear by everything at Sh!'s east London store because their harnesses are made from soft vegan leather and you can see the silicon dildos actually being created on site (they have an online shop if you live far away). Plus they sell strap-on briefs by RodeoH, which are great if you feel a bit more casual. Other brands that are worth checking out are Lovehoney, anything by Sportsheets, or downstairs at CyberDog in Camden (I'm not joking).

Sh! Corset Strap On Vegan Leather Harness
Image courtesy of Sh!

Get to Know Your Strap-On

This may sound odd, but get to know your strap-on before using it. Wear it around the house. Keep it on while cooking pasta. Hang your laundry up to dry with a huge pink dildo fastened to yourself. Granted, this is 2019 and most of us live in a tiny box with five other people, but if your roommate Steve takes issue with your new silicone dick when he comes home from work, just shout “gay rights!” at him.

Queer sex educator and pegging enthusiast Ruby Rare agrees that getting familiar with your strap-on can be really helpful, as you're essentially introducing yourself to a new body part. “Get comfortable wearing it. Actually wear it around the house. I’ve done this before. Particularly if you don’t own a penis, it can help to get used to the idea of being like ‘I’ve got a dick now! What does it feel like?’ For me it’s exciting, and there’s an element of it that really makes me laugh. And then once you’ve done that, try getting used to wearing it around your partner.”

Ruby also points out that it helps to get used to the idea of certain motions. "If you don’t own a penis, and you’re not used to being the penetrator, it’s physically a very different sensation. Have realistic expectations about what that’s going to be like," she says. "Initially, it might be very hard work and you’re not going to be able to do as much as you want to, or as much as your partner wants you to. As lame as it sounds, practice thrusting! Get used to those movements.”

Apply Lube Liberally

Do I need to tell you this? Maybe I need to tell you this. Too much lube is better than not enough lube. No one wants to try strap-on sex for the first time and end up feeling as though they are undergoing a cervical screening

A few things to consider when it comes to lube: Water-based lubes are great. They come in jelly or liquid forms, and work with most condoms and toys, however they do tend to dry out quickly. Oil-based lubes are mega slippery and won't dry out, but they aren't compatible with latex condoms as they erode latex and rubber. Silicone-based lubes are super versatile and also won't dry out, but they erode silicone sex toys, so I wouldn't recommend using this with a silicone dildo. You can also get natural, organic and vegan lubes, which are perfect all rounders IMO, plus you get to sleep safe in the knowledge that your strap-on sex is not killing the planet one thrust at a time.

During the Act

Now that I have prepared you to become the human dildo wearer or human dildo taker that you were always destined to be, it's time to engage in the sexual intercourse. If it's your first time, it's good to start off with the strap-on wearer lying down and the other person on top—that way you'll both get an idea of what's comfortable. Ruby also recommends the strap-on wearer standing up while the other person is on all fours, or else have them bent across something higher for the angles.

“If you’re using a harness, make sure it’s tightened,” she adds. “Sometimes people want the aesthetics of it to look pretty, but you want it to be tight with bulges coming out all over the place because if it’s going to move around—that might inhibit the fun you can have. Also don’t make it all about the strap-on! There are lots of other lovely things you can be doing. Maybe put it on early when you’re having sex, but wearing it doesn’t mean that’s the only thing you’re going to be doing. You can incorporate it into the rest of your play.”

As always, keep the communication going. “If you’re the one using the strap-on, you don’t have nerve endings in your penis, so you can’t feel what you’re doing,” Ruby says. “Which means it’s really important to keep the communication between you and your partner open all the time. They’re the one who knows what it feels like and can guide you. Ask questions and give them space to offer advice, so you can both get the most out of it. ”

Keep It Clean

These aren't items of clothing we're talking about—you're literally putting things inside your body, so keep the gear clean before and after. This doesn't mean you have to wipe everything down constantly while wearing surgical gloves (unless that's your kink, in which case yes fine), but make strap-on maintenance a habit at least. No one wants an old dusty stick up their vag or asshole.

Luckily, maintenance is easy. As Reneé explains: “For silicone dildos—which I'd recommend—you can use toy cleaner, antibacterial hand wash and water, or you can boil it on the top of a dishwasher or a pan for 3-5 minutes. With leather it's different—you can't pop it in the washing machine. Give it a gentle wipe and dry it properly before putting it away.”

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