Whether you are shopping for a harness or just purely curious about strap-on sex, there are a few critical things to know: what shapes there are to choose from; which dildos are compatible with harnesses; and, how best to move while wearing a strap-on. Before we explore these essentials, let’s define what a harness is exactly.
As its nickname strap-on implies, a harness is made up of straps that fit around a person’s hips and thighs, allowing a dildo to be attached to the body in a hands-free manner, giving the wearer a mounted penetration device. This is especially useful for women who wish to add to their options for penetrative sex. Men can also use harnesses to create a double-decker effect, wearing the dildo above their own package. This can be great for the woman with a double penetration fantasy but the couple is not into sharing with a third partner. Harnesses are also useful when male erection is hindered by medical or physical restrictions. (This may include erectile dysfunction, diabetes, prostate cancer or removal, blood pressure and heart disease, and some transgender FTM.)
Strap-ons are most commonly split between three styles: thong, jock-strap and underwear. Thong and jock-strap styles have a strap that sits on the waist like a belt and an O-ring to hold the dildo in place against the wearer’s pubic bone. Underwear harnesses look like men’s underwear with an O-ring sewn into the front to hold a dildo.
Thong harness (Also called T-strap): The thong style has one strap between the legs, like a g-string, that attaches to the belt. People who love the thong style like the familiarity of a panty shape, and often enjoy the pressure against the external genitalia and anus. Those that dislike this style refer to this effect as ‘butt floss’ and may complain about the lack of sexual access to the wearer.
Jock-strap harness (Also called a two-strap): The jock-strap style has straps that wrap around each thigh and attach to the belt, leaving the between-the-legs region open. Folks that prefer the Jock-strap style rave about its sturdiness and its accessibility. This style can be left on through an entire sex session, since no parts are blocked. Some people like its tougher or more masculine look too. If you’re considering a heavy dildo, or one with balls, this shape of strap-on will hold it best. Those that dislike this shape complain about too much gear and no longer feeling naked with each other.
Underwear harnesses: These look like regular underwear, in brief and boy-short styles. They are sized by waist measurements like men’s underwear. Unlike other harness styles, the O-ring is sewn into the harness and can not be switched out, so a dildo must fit perfectly into this kind of harness. Getting the right fit is imperative for this style. However, they are extremely comfortable and the lack of straps make them an aesthetically-pleasing choice.
O-Rings: The size of the dildo at the base of its shaft determines the size of O-ring the harness needs to hold the dildo on. A proper fit allows the dildo to stay firmly in place through every kind of movement. Typically O-rings come in three sizes: 1 ¼”, 1 ½”, 2”. They are made of rubber, silicone, metal, or stainless steel. Rubber and silicone rings will stretch slightly, but metal rings don’t give at all, so checking the fit is important.
Harness versatility: For the greatest range of dildo options, buy a harness that uses snaps to attach the O-ring. This way you can trade out the O-rings to accommodate different-sized dildos. One of the coolest things about harness play is the versatility, allowing you to alter the shape and size of dildos according to what you’re in the mood for right now.
Dildos, or dongs, are harness-friendly when they have a flared base, most often with a flat bottom to better lie against the wearer’s body. Some dildos don’t have this kind of base but are still compatible because the base of the shaft has enough material around it to prevent pulling through the O-ring during sex. Dildos with suction cup bases sometimes work, but play may cause the suction cup to tear away from the dildo. This reportedly happens usually in the midst of great sex, killing the moment completely.
The number one rule for picking out a dildo for strap-on sex is that the receiving partner should have the most say in the choice. Oftentimes the wearer goes for a particular look, while the receiver is drawn to a shape that appears pleasurable. These two perspectives don’t always match. My ideal solution is to own several dildos in varying sizes, allowing for image-play for the wearer and penetrative comfort for the receiver. ‘Cause listen: if you want to strap on the biggest, baddest schlong you can find, but your partner won’t touch it, then you’re not having sex! However, if your budget doesn’t allow for multiple dildos, then the receiver’s dildo preference wins every time. Period.
The second rule of dildo choosing is to consider a longer version for strap-on use. Between the O-ring and strap connectors, the harness itself often eats up ½”- 1 ½” at the base of the toy. If the harness play is going to include anal sex, the partner’s cheeks may use up some more of the toy’s length. So if the receiving partner is interested in a full sensation of complete penetration, you’ll need a toy no less than 5” for vaginal sex or 6” for anal play. The girth is up to the preference of the receiver. Again, if you own a range of girths in your toy chest, you can always trade up when your partner asks for more.
Now that you know how to choose your harness and dildos, let’s review the keys to beginner harness usage.The first time is likely to be kind of funny. It’s important to be okay with some silliness as you get used to putting on the new gear. Trying the harness on before a sex session will build up your confidence in wearing it. You may like like to look in the mirror once it’s on to check yourself out. Sharing this newness with a partner can build intimacy, but staying playful will help minimize any embarrassment or performance anxiety.
Giggling aside, it’s time to put the harness on. Put the dildo in the harness first. Depending on the design, it may be impossible to put the dildo into the harness once the harness is on your body. Harnesses go on like underwear: step into it, sliding your legs through the leg straps, and pull it up. Hold the dildo low on the front of the body so it rests on the pubic bone, and then tighten the waist straps. Once the harness fits snugly on the waist, tighten the leg straps. Wiggle around to see if the dildo moves or the harness slides on your body, and adjust accordingly.
When it comes to using the strap-on dildo with your partner, the most common insecurity is how to thrust smoothly. Since the dildo has no nerve endings, it can be hard to tell exactly how you’re moving, or if what you’re doing is fun for your partner. Thrusting is really just a tilting back and forth of your pelvis/hipbone. Clench your buttocks, allowing yourself to tilt your hips forward. Then, relax the muscles and your body will naturally tilt back.
Many people make the mistake of moving too much or too hard (that lack of nerve endings can be problematic). Thrusting is a simple, subtle movement; we don’t have to move nearly as much as we think we do to have a big effect on a partner, especially with anal penetration. Keep the movements small until your partner indicates otherwise.
As you gain confidence, try out different speeds, depths, and timing of thrusts. The Taoist monks used to teach combinations of short to long, shallow to deep, and quick to very slow thrusting to heighten the lover’s pleasure. Thrusting for long periods of time can be a test of physical endurance. It’s helpful to remember that men have biologically stronger arms, and women have stronger legs. Choosing positions that use your physical strengths will assist you in keeping up with your partner’s pleas for more. Also try variations in positions, which will demand different angles for you to be moving from, and change up your partner’s sensory experience. If you discover a favorite position that you can’t maintain for a long time, start an exercise routine that builds those sex muscles! And have a whole lot of fun practicing and experimenting together.
Contributed by Jace, staff member and sex educator. Jace is a regular presenter of our Frisky U sex education class series.