Strap-On 101: A Complete Beginner’s Guide

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The strap-on is a shining example of everything I love about the modern, sexually liberated world. Thanks to these artificial appendages, anyone can experience the joys of hands-free penetrative sex, regardless of gender.

Whether you’re a straight woman interested in trying out pegging, a member of the LGBT community looking for new ways to have sex, or anyone else interested in using a strap-on, we’ve got everything you need to know right here.

In this complete guide, we’ll be covering what they are, how to use them like a pro, and where to buy them. We’ll also be sharing some top tips that will help you to get the most out of your new toy.

Let’s get started!

What Is a Strap-On?

In a nutshell, a strap-on is an artificial appendage worn on the groin in order to emulate a real penis. They come in lots of different styles, shapes, and sizes. At their most basic, they’re composed of three things: a dildo, a harness, and an o-ring.

The harness is worn around the wearer’s groin to hold the dildo in the right place. There are lots of different types of harnesses; some are literally ‘strapped on’ via adjustable straps; others are meant to be worn like underwear.

The o-ring is the hole in the harness that the dildo goes through. In some cases, it might be fixed into the harness. In other cases, it’s a flexible ring that you can attach to the harness.

The dildo is exactly what you think it is: a fake penis. They come in many different designs, shapes, sizes, and materials and are attached to the wearer through the o-ring. Some kits will include a harness with its own attached dildo. You may also be able to buy a dildo separately and attach it.

What They’re Used For

There is a common misconception that strap-ons are only for gay women or transgender men, but that just isn’t true. In reality, they are used by all manner of people and sexual partners, for all kinds of reasons.

Here are some of the main reasons you might want to invest in one.

Pegging

A strap-on can help you to subvert or play with gender roles in the bedroom if that’s something you’re into. Women can use them to penetrate their male partners and stimulate their P-spots, a practice called ‘pegging.’

Pegging can be incredibly hot for both of you. It gives her the chance to feel more dominant in the bedroom while he gets to enjoy the joys of prostate stimulation, and potentially experience a full-body male orgasm.

Obviously, it isn’t for everyone. But if you’re both open-minded, and he’s anally curious, it’s worth giving it a shot.

Oh, and absolutely don’t subscribe to the myth that being into butt stuff as a dude makes you gay, because it’s false. Lots of heterosexual guys enjoy pegging – it has no bearing on their sexual orientation.

Double Penetration

Guys can wear strap-ons too. Even if you have your own natural ‘equipment,’ you can wear one to open up the possibilities of double penetration.

Straight guys can use them to penetrate their female partners in both holes at the same time for some super kinky sex. Sounds fun, am I right?

Erectile Dysfunction

Another use case for strap-ons is to work around the challenges of severe erectile dysfunction. If you have trouble getting it up and you’d rather avoid traditional ED treatments like penis pumps and viagra, a strap-on might be just the ticket.

You can use the attached dildo to penetrate your partner instead of your penis either for fun or to satisfy your partner’s needs.

Packing

Some trans men use strap-ons to alleviate their dysphoria and help them to better connect with their gender identity. You don’t even necessarily have to use them for sex.

For example, some people wear them to masturbate, or in their day-to-day life, simply because they enjoy wearing it.

Penetrative Sex

Another obvious use case is to enable gay women or trans men to emulate traditional penetrative sex. Unlike other sex toys, a strap-on allows you to actually, physically thrust into your partner in the same way that you would with a penis. This adds an extra element of realism to the experience and can help you to feel more connected with your actions.

Why They’re Awesome

As you can see, there are lots of great ways to use a strap-on.

However, it’s also true that other handheld sex toys, like dildos and vibrators, can do much of the same, so what’s so great about a strapped-on sex toy?

Well, here are a few of the main benefits:

  • Hands-free – unlike other sex toys, strap-ons leave your hands liberated and free to use in other ways. For example, to hold your partner closer or explore their body (or yours).
  • Sexploration – they allow partners to give and receive pleasure in exciting new ways, which can bring you closer together.
  • Build intimacy – strap-on sex is a very intimate experience. You have to communicate openly with your partner and learn what they like and what they don’t, which really helps you to get to know them and builds intimacy.

The Drawbacks

That being said, for all their advantages, they’re not perfect. They have their own set of drawbacks too. It’s important to be aware of these drawbacks and to manage your expectations, so let’s take a look at them:

  • Less spontaneity – the reality of strap-on sex doesn’t quite match up to the scenes you might have seen on porn. Before you can begin, there is a lot of set up required. You have to put the harness on, fasten it up, and lube up, which kind of ruins the spontaneity a little bit. To make it work, both you and your partner have to go into it with patience, understanding, and reasonable expectations.
  • Challenging/awkward to use – if you’ve never used one before, it’ll definitely take some getting used to. You’re not used to thrusting, so the motion won’t feel very natural at first. Stick with it, practice, and it’ll get easier eventually!
  • Requires communication – obviously, you can’t ‘feel’ a strapped-on toy in the same way a guy can ‘feel’ his penis, so you won’t be as aware of where it is when you’re using it. As such, it’s easy to end up jabbing it in the wrong place in a way that doesn’t feel great for your partner.

That’s why it’s so important to communicate with each other so your partner can let you know how it feels and give you a little direction.

The Different Types Available

As I said earlier, there are lots of different types available on the market, so it can be tough to know where to start. To help you to sort through them, here’s a quick breakdown of each of the different types of strap-on available.

Harness

Harness strap-ons are the most common type. These consist of a dildo strapped to a wearable harness and come in three main styles:

  1. Jockstrap/three-strap — this type of harness loops around the waist as well as over each butt cheek/leg, much like a classic jockstrap. They tend to be very secure, can be customized to fit all sizes comfortably, and offer lots of control. The main advantage is that they don’t cover up any of your holes, leaving them open for business.
  2. Thong/two-strap — two-strap harnesses strap around the waist and between the legs, like a thong. The middle strap means you won’t be exposed, but some people enjoy the sensation it provides.
  3. Underwear-style — this relatively new style is increasingly popular. It’s worn exactly like a regular pair of underwear, except that it has a dildo attached. There are lots of variations available, from those that look like male boxer shorts to more feminine designs. They cover up a little more of your body and offer a little less support, but on the other hand, they’re easy to use, strap-free, and better suited to heavier toys.

There are also a few other types of harnesses besides the above, such as thigh harnesses, but these are less common.

Strapless

Strapless lesbian strap-ons don’t come with a harness. They’re essentially double-sided dildos that insert into both partners’ vaginas at the same time. The smaller shaft (known as the ‘pony’) ‘anchors’ into the vagina of the giver who then thrusts the other end into their partner.

As there are no straps, you’re relying on the strength of your vaginal muscles alone to hold the dildo in place, so you better get going with those kegel exercises if you plan on using one!

One advantage of going down the strapless route is that there’s less set up required as you don’t have to worry about attaching those straps beforehand. Another bonus is the fact that they provide some stimulation for the giver too.

Vac-U-Lock

Vac-u-lock dildos attach via a unique plug system, rather than through an o-ring. The advantage of this is that it makes the strap-on system more easily interchangeable. You can easily attach any dildo without having to worry about o-rings or sizing requirements. All vac-u-lock harnesses are compatible with every vac-u-lock attachment.

Vibrating

Some strap-ons have in-built vibrators at the base of the dildo or attached to the harness to provide added stimulation for the wearer. These are great because the wearer can give and receive at the same time. The vibrations against your clit feel great and give you more of a physical connection to the act.

Hollow

Hollow strap-ons are designed for male users, especially for those suffering from erectile dysfunction. They’re basically penis extensions and have a hollow middle so that you can insert your flaccid or erect penis into to bolster the size of your erection.

Double Penetration

Double penetration strap-ons are also designed for male users. Unlike the other types we’ve looked at so far, these models attach directly to your penis and are held in place via a cock ring. You can use them to penetrate your partner anally and vaginally at the same time.

A Buyer’s Guide

Buying a strap-on isn’t exactly like buying a personal sex toy, as it isn’t just for you. Your partner will be getting as much use (and pleasure) out of the sex toy as you will, so it’s important to include them in the buying process.

While you’re shopping around together, here are some of the factors you’ll want to consider:

Type

First off, figure out what type of strap-on you’re in the market for. Refer to the section above in this guide to learn about the different types available and use that to guide your search. This will help you to narrow down the pool of products to only those suitable for your needs.

Design

Many users feel a deep personal connection with their toy, so it’s important that it looks the way you want it to. Usually, the wearer gets to choose the design as they’re going to be the one using it as if it were part of their own body.

Strap-on dildos come in all sorts of designs and colors. You can be as conservative or as outlandish as you like. It doesn’t even have to look like an actual penis if you’d prefer something more exotic. There are lots of more sculptural, artistically-designed dildos out there to choose from.

Dildo Size

The next thing to consider is the dildo size. This should be the receiver’s call. While the wearer gets to pick the design, it’s better if their partner chooses the size as they’re going to be the one on the receiving end of it.

Think about both what kind of length and girth you prefer to work with and, on a more practical level, size compatibility with your harness. Different harnesses and o-rings have specific dildo size requirements, so you’ll need to choose one that fits.

A lot of dildos will specify girth in terms of the circumference at the thickest part of the shaft, whereas o-rings usually give their diameter.

To work out if the dildo fits, you can divide the circumference of the dildo by Pi (yep, bet you didn’t think you’d be doing maths right now, huh?) to get the diameter and compare it to the diameter of your o-ring. In some cases, it can be hard to find the right strap on if you’re thinking of using an extremely large dildo.


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Material

Consider the material of both the harness and the dildo. For dildos, rule number one here is that it should be body-safe. This is important for any penetrative toy. I’d recommend going for a medical-grade, non-porous silicone model if possible. Make sure you avoid any dildo made from porous materials.

For your harness, comfort is key. Look for adjustable straps made from leather or nylon that aren’t too thick.

Firmness

The firmness of the dildo is important for both the giver and the receiver, so make sure you both have a say. You might want to invest in both a firmer model for when you’re having sex and a softer dildo that more closely resembles a non-erect penis for when you’re packing.

Features

Some strap-ons come with a few added extras that you might be interested in. Look out for novelty features and functions, like built-in butt plugs or vibrators, while you’re shopping around and factor them into your final decision.

Price

Price really matters when it comes to strap-ons, more so than other toys. I’d really recommend spending as much as you can reasonably afford here as you don’t want to skimp out on something you put in your body (or your partners).

The extra cost will be worth it to get something well-made. You don’t want to end up with a cheap piece of garbage that breaks during sex the first time you use it. Expect to pay at least $25 for a decent strap-on and as much as $100 at the top end of the market. I’d be wary of anything that costs less than around fifteen bucks.

A Buyer’s Guide

The best place to buy a strap-on is in your local sex shop. I say this because it really helps to be able to shop in person and physically see what you’re buying. You can look at and feel the different options to really get an idea of what they’d be like to use, which is super important. It beats shopping online by a long shot.

Plus, you can ask the sales clerk for recommendations and to explain the difference between different products, or help you to find products that are body-safe. They might even be willing to show you how to put it on and wear it. It beats shopping online by a long shot.

If there aren’t any sex shops near you, or you’re too nervous about going in, there are plenty of places to buy them online too through websites like:

  • Sextoys.com
  • Amazon
  • Simply Pleasure
  • Love Honey

If you must go down the online-shopping route, make sure you look at the reviews of any product you’re interested in before you buy it. Product descriptions are designed to make a sale, so they can be misleading and biased, but reviews aren’t. You can get some really useful and detailed first-hand information about the strap-on in the review section.

Getting Familiar With Your Strap-On

Before you use your new toy, you might want to take some time to get familiar with how it feels by wearing it outside of the bedroom. It might sound weird to wear your strap-on when you’re not getting busy, but it makes sense.

Think about it: you’re basically going to be using this sex toy as if it were a brand new appendage, and that isn’t easy if you’re not used to it.

The first few times you use it, it’ll feel completely alien. But by taking the time to familiarize yourself with it beforehand, you can reduce that feeling and begin to feel more accustomed to it. That way, when you do take it to bed, you’ll be able to thrust more naturally and confidently.

Another reason to familiarize yourself with your new toy is that it’ll help you to feel like it’s an extension of your body, which plays a big part in the physical and mental stimulation of using it.

Here are some ideas for things you can do to explore your strap-on in your day-to-day life and get more connected with it:

  • Walk around the house wearing it
  • Wear it in the bath and wash it as if it were a body part
  • Stroke it like you’re jerking off to have fun with it as if it were part of you
  • Have your partner jack it off or go down on it

Some of these ideas might sound a little wacky, but they all help you to start seeing your sex toy as an extension of yourself. Feeling like it’s a part of you will help you to get more pleasure out of using it, so try not to overthink it and give it a shot.

How To Use A Strap-On

Once you’ve got acquainted with your new toy, it’s time to try it out properly. When you’re ready, here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to use a strap-on.

Note: this guide assumes you’re using a harness strap-on. Instructions may differ between products, so always refer to your product handbook or manufacturer’s guidelines as a first resort.

The Preliminaries

Before you get started, make sure you and your partner are both on the same page regarding expectations. As I’ve mentioned already, strap-on sex isn’t as easy as it looks on TV and porn.  You’re going to make mistakes the first time around, so you need to communicate throughout.

The receiver will have to tell the wearer what feels good and what feels bad, and the giver has to listen to their reactions and instructions. Make sure you’re both aware of that. Go into it with humor, patience, and understanding, and make sure you take it slowly. 

You’re going to want to warm up first, too. Don’t just go from watching TV to strap-on sex straight away, spend some time engaging in a little foreplay first. Use your fingers or smaller toys to play with each other and only move onto strap-on penetration when you’re aroused and ready.

Step 1: Get The Equipment Ready

Attach the dildo to the harness before you put it on, not afterward. The way you go about this will depend on the type of harness and dildo you’re using. In most cases, you’ll have to attach the o-ring to your harness first.

After that, put the dildo into the o-ring. You might be able to just slip it straight in if it’s long, smooth, and with a flat base. However, if it’s large, unusually-shaped, or has a non-flat base or testicles, you might have to work it through gently from the other side.

If you’re really struggling to make it fit, you can use a little water-based lube to help it to slip in.

After that, secure the straps and adjust them to fit your body. If you’re using a three-strap or two-strap harness, secure the waist strap last. If you’re using an underwear-style harness, this part should be pretty self-explanatory.

Here’s a video that walks you through this whole step.

Step 2: Apply Lube (Liberally)

Next, you’re going to need to lube up. I’d consider lube pretty essential to strap-on sex, especially for anal penetration, but also for vaginal sex. Dildos are different from penises (duh) and can easily dry out your vagina, so you need to add a little extra moisture to help minimize friction.

Also, be wary of the type of lube you choose. Using a silicone dildo, you shouldn’t use silicone-based lube as they can react together, thus damaging your toy. Water-based lube is usually a safer option. 

Apply it directly to the dildo, and also to the opening of the receiver’s vagina. When it comes to lube, the more the merrier, so don’t be shy and layer it on there thick.

You might also want to put a condom on your dildo if you’re using it with multiple partners as a safeguard against STIs.

Step 3: Choose the Right Position

It’s important to choose the right position when you’re using a strap-on. Ideally, you want to choose a comfortable position that doesn’t require a lot of hip strength and puts the receiver in control. I’d recommend doggy-style for thrusting for newbies as it’s easy on the hips.

Step 4: Practice Your Thrust

Time to get down to business. I’m not going to give you a detailed explanation of exactly how to thrust; it should be pretty intuitive – just move your hips back and forth. However, what I will say is it’s okay to be terrible at it.

If you don’t have a penis and this is your first time using a strap-on, it’s likely that you’ve never had to use thrusting motions before, and you won’t have the muscles that thrusting regularly develops. As such, it’s going to feel weird and may be very challenging.

My advice is to not go overboard. A lot of first-time thrusters go in way too hard. Your movements shouldn’t be dramatic and cartoonish; they should be subtle. If you’re using a strap-on with a male partner, you could always ask him for tips.

Because the dildo can move around a little more than a penis, you might also find it more difficult to guide it neatly into the hole. Or even worse, end up in the wrong one. To avoid this, use your fingers to locate the hole of choice first and then use your hand to guide the tip of the dildo in before you start thrusting.

There’s a definite learning curve to the whole thing. Ask your partner for feedback and go nice and slow until you get more comfortable with it.

Step 5: Clean Up

It’s important to practice good hygiene with your sex toys to minimize the risk of UTIs. For that reason, when you’re finished with the fun, you’ll want to clean your gear as soon as possible.

Follow your manufacturer’s instructions for the best way to clean your specific strap-on. There may be a specific cleaning solution you’re supposed to use. If not, you can often use antibacterial hand wash and warm water to clean silicone dildos. Alternatively, you might be able to boil it, put it in the dishwasher, or use a toy cleaner.

If you’re using a leather strap-on, you can’t wash it in the machine, so just give it a wipe down and dry it before you store it.

Bonus Tips

Before we finish, here are a few final bonus tips to help you to make the most of your strap-on:

  • Use different types for different purposes – you might, for example, want to have a leather harness for when you’re in the mood for a little BDSM and an underwear-style strap-on when you’re in a more casual mood or for use with heavier toys.
  • Consider using a condom condoms aren’t just for penises. You can use one on your dildo to make clean up easier and provide added lubrication.
  • If things go wrong, move on – strap-ons can let you down from time to time. If a harness snaps, or it just isn’t working the way you’d imagined, don’t let it ruin the moment. Move swiftly on to something else and carry on!
  • Get the angle right – if you’re in a doggy-style position, try positioning the dildo downward. It’ll be easier to thrust with and will better target your partner’s G-spot or P-spot.

Final Thoughts

That pretty much covers all there is to know about strap ons in theory, but, of course, you’ll learn a lot more through practice!

All that’s left to do now is to get your hands on a new strap-on and try it out. Have fun!

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