The Underappreciated Versatility of Strap-On Sex

Why everyone can (and should) try strapping on at least once.

HEADS UP – NSFW: This post contains historic erotic illustrations.

It’s easy to think that strap-ons are only for lesbians and pegging. If that’s all that comes to mind when you hear about strap-on sex, though, buckle up. You’re in for a ride.

First, let’s go over some basics.

A Brief Overview of Strap-On Sex

Watch my video and/or read more information below!

Strap-on sex involves affixing a dildo to oneself, usually with the help of a harness, to use during sexual activity. Strap-on sex does not require penetration, but many people do use the dildo for vaginal, anal, and oral sex.

Strap-on sex has likely been around for thousands of years, as evidenced by the existence of early dildos with drilled holes or attached rings. These holes and rings are theorized to have been used for tying the dildos onto a person’s body with string, straps, or other materials.

Our earliest probable written evidence of strap-on sex comes in a court case from the Medieval Ages. Bertolina Guercia was charged in the 13th century with using a phallus-like object with two silk testicles to conduct herself “as men do with women”.

Today, there are countless harness and dildo options for people interested in strap-on sex.

  • Harnesses can be made of nylon, cotton, lace, latex, and/or leather. They may use velcro, straps, or elastic to stay attached to the wearer, and can look like anything from a pair of underwear to a delicate climbing harness.
  • Dildos can be made of silicone, stainless steel, glass, or lucite. (They may also be made of jelly, rubber, or PVC, but these are less body-safe.) They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and with or without vibration settings.

In recent history, strap-on sex started gaining extra attention in the U.S. in the late 1990’s with the rollout of “Bend Over Boyfriend.” The series of sex-ed videos focused on cisgender women using strap-ons to perform anal sex on their partners—typically cisgender men. This has since come to be known as pegging.

Since then, sales of strap-on harnesses and dildos have risen in sex toy shops and online adult stores. People of all sexualities, genders, and inclinations are experimenting with strapping on.

Lesser-Known Uses for Strap-Ons

While the popular understanding of strap-on usage is that it’s for lesbian sex or pegging, there are actually many other uses for strap-ons that people tend to overlook.

Here is an overview of some of the ones I’ve come across in my research and work:

Strap-Ons for Erectile Dysfunction

Strap-ons designed to fit over the penises of people living with erectile dysfunction have helped countless individuals continue to enjoy an active sex life despite ED. The dildos are hollow inside but still firm enough to penetrate a partner, and many look realistic. These are often sold in a variety of flesh tones, but colored options and shape variations are available for the adventurous.

Doubling Down on Penetration

Double penetration strap-on harnesses accommodate people looking for hands-free thrusting DP without the help of a third partner. These can be used by people with or without a penis, as the two O-rings of the harness (typically used to hold dildos in place) can be left empty to accommodate any existing anatomy.

Thigh and Foot Strap-Ons

Shunga 1839

One of my favorite moments hanging out at Talisman Leather’s workshop in New Orleans was when one of the smiths demonstrated the uses for a foot strap-on.

“It can be attached to the top of the foot for foot worship,” they explained, “or to the back of the heel, which is great for self-pleasure.” The wearer then demonstrated by lifting their leg up behind them as if stretching their quads, showing how the back of their heel could provide self-penetration with a strapped-on dildo.

Foot and thigh strap-on harnesses help people get creative with fetishes, self-pleasure, and exploration that isn’t possible with a cock stuck to the groin. They also create more accessibility for people who may have more control and reach with a thigh- or foot-attached dildo.

Gender and/or Power Play

For those interested in exploring the gender and/or power dynamics of penis-wielding, strap-ons are an obvious choice. In fact, many people who wear strap-ons don’t use them for penetration at all. Wearing strap-ons as a symbol of virility, masculinity, or power whether for performance or self-expression isn’t unheard of.

Bringing it back to sex, asking a partner to give you a hand job or perform oral sex on a strap-on dick certainly brings enough power play to the table to make for an erotic experience, no thrusting necessary.

Still others use strap-ons all alone, whether to wear under their clothing while in public (known as ‘packing‘) or to masturbate with via penis-stroking. The base of a well-placed dildo can feel quite good for stroking vulva-owners, even orgasmic.

For those uninterested in phallic representations of power or gender, strap-on sex can simply just feel good. This is something I’ve heard from a number of straight cis men who enjoy being pegged: “I don’t really care about my partner having a dick—anal penetration just feels good and I like feeling good with my partner.”

Gender Affirmation

Finally, strap-ons are often a source of gender affirmation for the person wearing one. While this doesn’t mean every person who wears gender-affirming strap-ons uses them for sex, it is an important thing to be aware of. Not everyone uses these “sex toys” for sexual activity.

Ready to Strap Up?

Sex Coach Shannon with the Adventurous Couple’s Guide to Strap-On Sex and Come As You Are

Here are my top 7 tips for strap-on sex:

  1. Talk first. What is each person interested in getting out of the experience? What has drawn them in? Make sure you’re on the same page about desires and boundaries when it comes to this often vulnerable form of play.
  2. Keep it simple. Start with a harness and dildo that are affordable easy to wash and maintain. I can’t tell you how many people I know who have dropped major cash on stuff they just couldn’t keep clean and had to throw away.
  3. Get the right equipment. Silicone dildos are best, but don’t use silicone lube on them unless you’re sure both the lube and dildo are high quality. For larger-bodied folks, a longer dildo can provide the reach needed for penetration, and the Joque harness is a popular choice for fitting a variety of bodies.
  4. More on equipment… You may still need a harness even if you get an insertable, ‘strapless’ strap-on dildo. Wearing tight jeans and letting the external part stick out through a zipper works, too (can you say jeans kink?).
  5. Practice. Putting the harness on won’t come naturally or feel sexy at first, so practice. It also might help to have a few non-penetrative play sessions with the harness and dildo on just to get used to it being a part of your body and play.
  6. Lube. Use lube, and a lot of it if you’re engaging in anal play. If engaging in anal play, be sure to slowly experiment with fingers and small toys with a flared base until anal play feels good before moving up to strap-on penetration.
  7. Go slow. Again, this goes especially for anal play, but for other forms of play as well. Moving too fast can mean racing past boundaries…spoken or unspoken. Pay special attention to checking in if you’re very excited or nervous.

Want more? Check out my free live stream on Strap-On Sex Basics, or register for my advanced “Strap In for Strap-On Sex” class.

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Published by Shannon Burton

Sex educator and writer by day, poet and flash fiction author by night, I occasionally manage to get out of the house to enjoy New Orleans as it's meant to be.

3 thoughts on “The Underappreciated Versatility of Strap-On Sex

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