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What to Know About Buying Your First Strap On

Penetrative sex is hardly the only kind or the definition of what sex is; our sexual experiences can be completely fulfilling and legitimate with dozens of ways to have sex some of which might involve penises or penetration, and some of which might not. However, there’s no reason to ignore the fact that for many of us, penetrative sex feels really good, both for the giver and the receiver. It may also feel special, intimate, or arousing for reasons related to our own relationship to sex or gender. For some people, strap-on sex is their preferred or even only way of having sex, and a core part of their sexuality and dating life.
But strap-on sex for penetration and any kind of relationship can feel intimidating if you’ve never tried it before. How do you know what to use? How do you know if you or a partner will like it? How do you get good at strap-on sex without being able to practice with a partner?
The first step to having strap-on sex is having a strap-on itself; the process of buying one can help you learn a lot about what you’re interested in what you like and how you want to drop onto part of your sex life. But there are so many options, and they can be pricey – to make the process as accessible as possible, here’s what I think is most important to know before buying your first strap-on.

Get up to speed

Breaking it down to basics, when people refer to a “strap-on” they’re generally talking about 1. A harness that goes over the pelvis of the person who does the penetrating, and 2. A dildo that gets inserted into and held in place by the harness so it can be used to penetrate someone else. These can be sold together like a matching set or bought separately to use in different combinations.
Both of these elements can vary widely. Harnesses can be a series of straps attached with D-rings and rivets that buckle around the body, like an Aslan leather harness; a more spare garment that clips at the sides; or an underwear-style garment like a Rodeoh with a special ring attachment at the front to put a toy into. Harnesses can also be made for body parts other than the pelvis, for accessibility, or for just fun — thigh harnesses are a popular option if that’s of interest to you.
Dildos come in many shapes and sizes, as well as a huge range of textures, from very smooth to very textured, super-pliable silicone, or something more rigid. Visually, they can be hyper-realistic in look and feel, or come in neon colors and imaginative shapes. To use with a harness for strap-on sex, you want to look for something with a wide, flat base, so it can be held inside the harness securely. (The exception is something like “double dildos,” which can penetrate both partners at once; many can also be worn with a harness for increased stability.) If you’re interested in a dildo or harness for gender affirmation purposes as well as for sex, you might be interested in a “pack n play” dildo like the New York Toy Collective’s Shilo, perhaps worn in an underwear harness. It’s important to make sure the materials are body-safe and can be cleaned thoroughly; pure silicone is always a good bet.
Think about how you’ll use it

Maybe you have a long list of specific fantasies or sex acts that revolve around a strap-on planned out ahead of time, but maybe it’s just something that you’re interested in trying out and don’t have a clear set of desires around. That’s a great attitude to have and a very healthy way to approach a new sex act; thinking through the different options and choices for a strap-on might help you consider some ways that you might be interested in using it.
Are the harness and strap-on something that you imagine wearing to penetrate another partner or as a different part of sex? Do you want to buy a harness with the hope that a partner might use it to penetrate you? Is there a specific partner that you’re planning on using a strap-on with, or do you want to own one, in general, to use with future partners? Is this harness something that more than one person might use; do you and your partner want to take turns with it? Would you prefer something that you can also wear out of the house as a gender-affirming experience, or is your strap-on strictly for play in the bedroom?
The answers to these questions might help determine the size or material you need your harness made out of, whether it needs a certain look or feel, and whether you’re looking to buy a penetrative element like a dildo to fit your own preferences, someone else’s or to keep your options open.
Decide your priorities

Think about what feels most important and exciting to you about the experience of owning or using a strap-on. Is it the reactions of your partner? How good do you imagine a specific element will feel for you? Is it the feeling of how it will look and feel on your body when you first put it on? Are you simply feeling excited about having strap-on sex as accessible as possible, and the most important aspect to you is an affordable price?

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