Me and My Strap-On

I wasn’t born with my dick. In fact, it took me about three years, lots of money, and a lot of emotional baggage to get it. Now I have it, and I love it, and as I write this, it’s sitting happily on my nightstand: my own phallic muse.

As a budding bisexual at 18, I thought I had done my research on my new queer world. Really, I was just starting to learn about the infinite possible ways to describe myself. I picked up fun words like “queer,” “transgender,” “genderqueer,” “femme,” “butch,” and all sorts of different definitions that people give them. My partner at the time was female-bodied and male-minded, so a lot of my first sexual experiences focused on how to make her dick real for both of us. It was actually really easy. Pretty much anything we wanted could become her dick, given the right mindset. Being incredibly broke lent itself to great ingenuity on both our parts: fingers, cucumbers, even double-bagged rice-stuffed condoms became the dick-fantasy part of our play. (It should be noted that much of this ingenuity stemmed from my then-partner’s punk-DIY attitude, and although it is possible to make a strap-on harness out of bike tires, I would not recommend it.) It wasn’t until we broke up and I delved into an exploration of my new self outside of this relationship that I found some really important literature.

By literature, I obviously mean smut. Smut that triggered all of the internal stuff I’d been deliberately ignoring since I was six years old. After years of playing with trans-masculine folks and helping other people realize that their non-biological dicks were real and felt good and could induce orgasm, I read a smutty story and realized…. I wanted a dick. I get mentally sucked into stories easily, and this one felt so natural that it freaked me out. The characters in the story switched genders halfway through: the Big Bad Daddy became submissive, and the Femme Bottom became the Bad Boy topping. I went right along with that switch: I was the Femme Bottom who started topping halfway through the scene, her dick pumping in and out of her partner’s ass. I wanted to feel my dick during sex. Part of me really was that boy that I’d been ignoring for so long. I promptly freaked out, started crying, and put the book away, as one does when one is closeted from oneself.

Here’s the thing: strap-ons can be a pretty complicated issue, especially in the world of queer women. Some people are strongly in the camp of no-penetration; some people like it but would never in a million years want anything that looks remotely realistic; some people will only strap on if it is realistic. Not everyone who straps on is genderqueer, but it’s been consistent in my experience that if a female-bodied person is in the genderqueer (GQ) realm—that is, not strictly identifying as female—they are more likely to want or have a realistic-looking dildo. And everyone I had seen who identified as GQ had been masculine-presenting. So I was freaking out because I didn’t meet that idea of what I thought “genderqueer” was supposed to look like. But I was genderqueer. I knew I was because of how scared I felt to tell anyone. I look like a girl. I call myself femme. How could I come out as genderqueer? No one would believe me.

I felt ridiculous. Here I was, one of the most active queer students on my college campus, having defended time and time again people’s right to express who they are with whatever word fits for them, and I was scared to tell my best friends that I was genderqueer. I felt like a hypocrite: all that talk of being myself and living my truth, ffttt—gone. It took a little while, and some reading, and some emailing with the author of that smutty story, for me to come out to my friends, but eventually I did. It got easier each time, but I was still nervous about incorporating this part of me into sex.

As I got more comfortable with my identity, I started to think about getting my own strap. I’d strapped on with other people’s harnesses before, at their request, but this was the first time I was thinking of getting one for me. I was nervous. I’ve gone shopping for harnesses a few times now and, every time, I get embarrassed. I always walk in and head straight for the vibrators; for some reason, I’m much more comfortable around vibrators. After a little while, with much hand-holding from my designated support person, I walk over to the harnesses. Then, only after much staring and hand-holding, do I go to the desk and ask the staff for help.

Here’s some of what I learned during the search for my perfect strap:

  • Which material? Harnesses typically come in leather, but there are also fabric and rubber ones out there. Many times, the fabric and rubber ones are advertised as “vegan.” Fabric’s easier to clean, and sometimes the metal on the leather ones rusts after several uses.
  • Briefs, one strap, or two? Briefs come in your standard XS-S-M-L-XL, but they might stretch out a little depending on how much you sweat during sex and how often you use it. One strap means that the harness fits like a thong; two means it fits more like a jock strap. With one strap and brief styles, there’s limited access to the goodies underneath. Two straps opens up access to the goodies, and they tend to be more adjustable, but they don’t always have as much control.
  • Dildo: Realistic or not? For me, obviously, I wanted the realistic one, but some people like sparkly better. Texture is another big consideration: there’s more variation in non-realistic dildos, and the materials tend to be easier to clean than imitation-skin.
  • Material? Most dildos designed for strapping on are silicone, because it holds its shape under a variety of stressors, but other materials are available. “Dual-density silicone” is also out there, which means the inner core is hard and the outer layer is a little squishier, so it keeps its shape, but it’s not as hard going in. Anything silicone can be cleaned by boiling or with warm water and a sex toy cleaner, but the tricky part about imitation-skin is that everything sticks to it (pet hair, dust, etc.).  Elastomers and “gellies” are tricky that same way, but if you boil them, they’ll disintegrate. Unfortunately, because these materials are more porous, any cleaner will stay on them as well, so always use a condom with these ones. (Using condoms over any dildo will extend the life of the toy, too, so that’s just good practice.)
  • Lube? Choosing the right lube depends on the material of the dildo and in which bodily orifice you’ll be playing (i.e. silicone-based lube should not be used directly on silicone toys because it will disintegrate them, and only water-based lubes should be used with vaginas). Ask the staff for help if you’re uncertain. Dildos tend to dry up lube a lot faster than flesh-dicks do, so make sure you have some handy.
  • Dimensions? Choosing the girth is more important than the length, because you can control how much goes in, but if it’s too wide, it won’t fit at all.
  • O-rings? O-rings are the rings that hold the dildo in place. In most one- or two-strapped harnesses, the ring snaps on and you can change it out easily, which is nice if you have more than one dildo you want to use. O-rings for briefs are not easily changed out, but they are pretty flexible and can accommodate several sizes.

For beginners:

  • Start with one of the cheaper styles of harness and dildo so you don’t spend inordinate amounts of money only to find out you’re rather have another style.
  • Go to sex-positive stores, like Good Vibrations or Babeland, where the staff understands that sexy things can be embarrassing sometimes. Friendly and nonjudgmental staff went a long way to helping me feel comfortable when shopping for my still-slightly-closeted intimates.
  • Ask to try on whatever harness you’re considering in the store (over your clothes!) so you don’t go home with the wrong size. But not every store will let you, so know your hip, butt and thigh measurements before you go in.
  • You can buy harnesses online, but you won’t get a feel for the material, which can be important since it will be rubbing on sensitive skin, even when worn over undies. I suggest finding one in-store and looking for the same brand online to save your pockets from too bad a burn—straps can get expensive fast.
  • Jump-start your search:
    • Briefs: Rode-oh (for those with smaller hips) or Tomboi (for those with curvy hips)
    • One-strap: Simply Sexy
    • Two-strap: Malibu Terra Firma
    • Dicks: Silk (3 sizes, smooth), Mistress (smooth), Cadet (realistic silicone) and Mustang (realistic VixSkin)
    • Remember: searching for the name of your preferred dick or harness with “sale” and checking out online warehouses will also likely save you a couple bucks!

Ultimately, coming out as genderqueer has done wonders for my sex life. I was actually able to be upfront when I started dating the person who is currently my partner, which worked out even better than I expected because she turned out to be GQ, too! Sex with her sometimes feels like that movie Zerophilia (the main character switches sexes every time they come). I’ve gone through two harnesses and I’ve found the dick that fits me perfectly. It’s amazing how much better everything gets when I’m actually honest about who I am and what I want.

If a strap is what you want, I encourage you to strap on and enjoy the ride!

Photo by Sara Slattery
Photo by Sara Slattery
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2 Comments

  1. This was fun to read but like clothes for me, I have to try it out first to see if it fits. It’s unfortunate that we can’t take our potential dicks for a test run before full committing to them. I would definitely take it for a spin, literally. They are expensive! When you find the strap and dick that fit you right, it’s one of the greatest feelings. I go to Good Vibrations and have yet to be disappointed with service or products.

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