3 Women and Femmes Discuss the Appeal of Strap-On Sex

Rachel Charlene Lewis
3 Women and Femmes Discuss the Appeal of Strap-On Sex
Photo: Allison Kahler.

With more and more women talking openly about sex, there’s one phrase that continues to delight, confuse and raise a few eyebrows: strap-on sex.

Strap-on sex tends to be thought of as controversial. Sex toys themselves are still controversial, with heteronormative myths giving them something of a reputation. I’ve heard everything from dismissals like, “You’re just using them until you can get the real thing,” to insecure statements like, “Well, my penis can’t vibrate and remain erect endlessly, so cis men are going to be useless eventually.”

These are loaded, complicated statements, but at the end of the day, whether you choose to use strap-ons, how you choose to use strap-ons and how you think of your own experience and identity as influenced by strap-ons is hugely personal—and really not anyone else’s business. It’s not something you need to defend.

MORE: How Masturbation Helps 9 Women and Femmes Cope with Anxiety

They may have a negative reputation, but that doesn’t mean strap-ons aren’t popular. Autostraddle’s 2015 Ultimate Lesbian Sex Survey lists strap-on sex as number 6 out of 15 when it comes to queer women’s favorite sexual activities. Out of 13,000 queer women, 58.8 percent reported that strap-on sex was a regular part of their sex life, with 22 percent indicating that oral sex on said strap-on was a piece of the activity.

While many queer women enjoy strap-on sex, so do many straight women and women of other sexualities. Some lesbians like strap-ons. Some bisexuals like strap-ons. Some cis women, some trans women and some gender-nonconforming people also enjoy strap-ons.

So What Is Strap-on Sex?

Typically, strap-on sex involves one or multiple partners using a combination of a harness and a dildo (and/or vibrator) to interact sexually. I’m keeping this vague because what you can do with a strap-on really is pretty endless: anal sex, vaginal sex, oral sex, hand jobs—you get the picture.

What many women who enjoy strap-on sex want you to know is that it has nothing to do with penises—unless it does. While one person might see a strap-on dildo as a clear replacement for a penis, as they might think it’s penis-shaped, another person might approach it entirely differently and say that, actually, strap-on dildos come in a huge range of shapes and sizes, taking little to no inspiration from the penis itself.

What many women who enjoy strap-on sex want you to know is that it has nothing to do with penises—unless it does.

Dildos come in so many materials, and so many shapes, and the process of finding the right one can be a really good opportunity to bond with your partner—or even connect more deeply with your own sexuality.

“I think the secret for helping strap-ons work for you is to be vocal about your preferences and find the hardware that works for your body and those preferences,” Cameron, a writer and sex educator, explains. “So for me, I’m not a fan of flesh-colored dildos because of how they can reinforce racism and fetishization; so dildos for me have to be non-flesh toned.”

Cameron notes that the shape and girth of the dildo is also important. “If you’re using it with a partner, you could always make it fun by shopping together,” she says. “If it’s primarily to use on someone else, I’d even recommend letting them pick out the dildo themselves to meet their preferences.”

I think the secret for helping strap-ons work for you is to be vocal about your preferences and find the hardware that works for your body and those preferences.

Too, Cameron explains, the harness plays a large role in your overall experience with strap-on sex. “Harness shopping is probably the most important part: You want to find one that sits comfortably on the hips, can be adjusted well, and will stay put during thrusting and moving around.”

You can find harnesses in really any material, from faux leather to modified lace underwear or boxers, so you can afford to be a little picky. They also tend to be pretty expensive, so it’s worth spending some serious time doing your research.

The Actual Experience of Strap-On Sex Varies

You may enjoy the thought of using a strap-on like a penis, or be more comfortable thinking of it as something totally different. “I never really connect strap-ons or dildos as being connected to a penis—or necessarily as a ‘re-creation’ of heterosexual sex,” Marissa, a writer, says. “I don’t see whoever is wearing the strap-on as the ‘man’ during sex, for example.”

Marissa says she prefers strap-on setups that are “far from being anatomically correct”—for example, a pink dildo or lacy strap-on harness. “But even with a really realistic dildo, I never feel like what I’m doing is ‘basically the same’ as hetero sex,” she adds.

Even with a really realistic dildo, I never feel like what I’m doing is ‘basically the same’ as hetero sex.

“Of course, sometimes the allure [of strap-on sex and pegging] does tie into a desire to step into a different sexual role,” Alicia Sinclair, certified sex educator and CEO of sex toy company b-Vibe, explains. “[You may want] to alter standard power dynamics or to play with perceptions of gender—when done in a safe, consensual setting, the bedroom is a great place to explore these fantasies and desires.” But very often, she says, these exercises prioritize pleasure and stimulation above all else.

Strap-Ons Can Make Participants Feel Rebellious, Radical or Just Really Damn Good

Depending on what you enjoy most during sex, they can take your orgasms and your sexual experiences to new heights, especially if you combine sex toys. ”The appeal for me really is the ability to use a vibrator during sex hands-free,” Alaina, an editor, explains. “It allows me to also place smaller bullet vibrators in the strap-on that work to pleasure me while we’re having sex.”

Marissa says she loves using them during sex, as well. “I enjoy stimulation both on my ‘G-spot’ and clitoris at the same time,” she says. “So combining a strap-on and a vibrator, for example, is great for me.”

The appeal for me really is the ability to use a vibrator during sex hands-free.

A common theme around the appeal of strap-ons is that they can make you feel powerful in a new and exciting way. Marissa says, “In my experience, strap-ons can work well if you’re exploring any kind of BDSM play, like with submission or other power play.”

Cameron largely attributes this feeling to strap-ons not being a “norm” in the mainstream. “Strap-ons are fun because they’re this way of making fantasies that seem more taboo actually attainable for many people,” she says. “Many of us are attracted to things within sex and sexuality because they play with expectations and societal norms, and to do so with sex toys can be incredibly sexy and powerful. Plus, it can be a great ego boost.”

Strap-ons are fun because they’re this way of making fantasies that seem more taboo actually attainable for many people.

Again, this doesn’t even have to involve a partner. Many people who are curious about strap-ons will try them out by themselves at first to get a sense of it: the weight of it, the actual practice of putting on a harness, what thrusting an object around feels like if they’ve never tried it before.

“I actually used [a strap-on] for the first time not too long ago, and even just wearing it around the house, I felt something in me change,” Cameron says. “I loved the power that I felt with wearing it, but also juxtaposing it with my presentation and incorporating it into sexual play was incredibly hot.”

I actually used [a strap-on] for the first time not too long ago, and even just wearing it around the house, I felt something in me change.

Strap-ons help with making new, exciting sex acts more accessible. “It’s really convenient and gives us more flexibility in our positions, as well as more mobility to move around and try new things,” Alaina notes. “It’s especially helpful because I have a physical disability, so I’m somewhat limited in what I can do without assistance.”

Using a Strap-On Doesn’t Define Your Sexuality, or Your Sex Life, Even

It can be an option, a routine, a special occasion or a daily habit. There’s no wrong or right way to use them (as long as consent is involved!), and that’s what makes it so fun.

Promoted Stories

share