A strap-on dildo (also strap-on, dildo harness) is a dildo designed to be worn (usually in a harness) by one partner and used to penetrate another partner vaginally, anally or orally, used by both heterosexual and homosexual couples.
For a woman, a strap-on can be used to anally penetrate a man (pegging), for vaginal or anal lesbian intercourse, or to simulate fellatio.
For a man, a strap-on can be worn for penetrative sex, and may be used in cases of erectile dysfunction or to penetrate multiple partners. A wide variety of harnesses and dildos are available, with different ways of fitting the wearer, attaching the dildos, stimulating the wearer or the receiver, and all with different features, advantages, and drawbacks for both users.
Types of strap-on harnesses
The first part of a strap-on setup is the harness, which connects the dildo to the wearer's body, usually in a position similar to that of a male's genitals. A good harness should be sturdy yet comfortable, and is often designed to provide stimulation for the wearer. Many different types of harnesses are available, with different features and drawbacks, and which harness is best is often a matter of taste, as there is no one "right" answer. Some dildos do not need a harness or are built onto one; for these, please see the sections on dildo types
and dildo attachment methods
- 2-strap- A 2-strap harness, in its most basic form, is similar to a g-string. One strap goes around the wearer's waist, like a belt, while the other goes between his/her legs and connects to the other strap in the middle at the lower back. While these are simple, many people find them uncomfortable because to the strap rubs against the anus and other areas, and they sometimes do not hold the dildo very firmly, causing it to sag, flop, or twist.
- 3-strap- 3-strap harnesses also have one strap around the wearer's waist, but instead of one strap between the legs, have two straps, one around each thigh, rejoining the first strap near the front. This design leaves the genitals and anus uncovered, and attaches the dildo much more firmly, giving the wearer more control. However, not all people find this design comfortable, and sometimes they are hard to make fit properly or tend to slip.
- *2 straps or 3? 3 straps or 4?- A variation on these designs, usually on harnesses which mount the dildo substantially lower (on or near the vaginal opening) rather than higher up, has a continual waistband that is not part of the dildo mount or backing, with a V-shaped pair of straps in the front, and either the single strap between the legs or the two straps around the thighs. The former of these is called a 3-strap, and the latter a 4-strap, however most of the aspects of their design and use (such as a strap over the anus, etc) are the same as 2-strap and 3-strap harnesses, respectively.
- Corsets and other clothing items- Strap-on harnesses built into various clothing items are available, most often as a corset or other item of lingerie. Some are designed to be worn underneath normal clothing for quick use (if done with the dildo in place, either to give the appearance of a penis or to be able to quickly initiate intercourse, this is sometimes called packing), while others take advantage of the additional strength and sturdiness an item of clothing can provide over a few straps, or just to integrate the strap-on into an erotic outfit.
- Thigh, Chin, Gag and other locations- Harnesses are not limited to the crotch, and indeed many types are available for other body parts. A popular one is a thigh harness, which attaches a dildo to the wearer's thigh (or other part of the legs or arms, though this is much less common), allowing for many unique positions, as penetration is no longer limited to what could be done with a penis. Another unusual design attaches a dildo to the chin of the wearer, allowing vaginal penetration while performing cunnilingus. Also, an additional design is a gag-style harness, in which a gag is inserted into the wearers mouth and a dildo protrudes at the other end.
- Furniture, beach balls, and other objects- Harnesses are available to attach dildos to just about any household object, allowing for many creative uses. A dildo could be attached to a chair, bed, or any other item of furniture, and penetrate someone during other activities, with or without a partner. Another item, while not technically a harness, but worth mentioning, is an inflatable ball, usually 9 to 18 inches (250 to 500 mm) diameter, made of sturdy rubber designed to support the weight of one or two people, with an attachment for a dildo on it. This allows many unique positions, such as double penetration for a woman by lying face down on the ball for vaginal penetration while her partner penetrates her anally doggy style, which is much more effective than a solid object due to the "bounce" of the ball. These inflatable balls are also quite popular for solo use.
The most noticeable feature of any strap-on setup is the dildo
used. A wide variety of dildos are available, and while the choices may be limited by the type of harness in use, generally one can choose from several common types. This section discusses the shape and features of the penetrating end of the dildo, not of the entire dildo or how it's attached, which can be found in the section on dildo attachment methods
for the double dildo and strapless dildo.
- Standard- The "standard" dildo has a non-tapered or slightly tapered shaft, and often has an enlarged head, similar to a penis. The shaft may be slightly curved, but if it is strongly curved, it is often classified as a g-spot/prostate dildo as well. This type is by far the most popular, both for vaginal and anal use, although some beginners prefer a probe type dildo. Depending on the type of harness the dildo is meant for, it may have molded testicles as part of the base, which many people say gives more pleasure and helps keep the dildo from "bottoming out." Standard dildos are the most common by a large margin, and are available in virtually any length and width, material, texture, etc.
- Probe- A probe dildo is often highly tapered, and many resemble a cone in overall shape, or may have a narrow diameter its entire length, although ones resembling an elongated butt plug are also common, their defining feature being a bulb in the middle which tapers down again towards the harness before flaring wider. These dildos are often advertised as being for beginners, especially newcomers to pegging, who may find a narrow, tapered dildo easier to start with if they've never had anal penetration before. Many people find that once they're familiar with the activity, the probe dildos are inadequate and unsatisfying, and purchase a standard dildo to use with their harness. Due to this, many kits include both a probe dildo and a standard dildo, so it's not necessary to purchase another.
- G-spot / prostate- Dildos designed for g-spot or prostate stimulation often have a sharp upwards curve at the head, or gradual but still strong curvature the entire length. When used in many sexual positions, the curve causes strong pressure against the g-spot in women or the prostate in men. Some men report that strong prostate stimulation is important for an anal orgasm, while others report it as a distraction rather than a help. When using one of these dildos for the first time, care should be taken at first to make sure it's comfortable for the receiver, as the strong bend can be difficult to insert or control. For many positions, such as doggy style, the curved tip should point downwards, as otherwise it points in the wrong direction for either g-spot or prostate stimulation.
- Bulbs, ripples, and other shapes- For added stimulation, many dildos for harness use are manufactured with bulbs along their length, or having ripples, bumps, or other shapes on the surface to increase the stimulation given to the receiver. A bulbous dildo causes repeated expansion of the vaginal opening when used for vaginal penetration or of the anus when used for anal penetration, and causes a unique pulsating effect and additional stimulation. Ripples along the length of the dildo increase friction and cause a washboard effect, which some people find increases their pleasure, while others find tend to cause numbness. Individual bumps or a water droplet texture on the shaft also causes extra stimulation, and often avoids the washboard effect of evenly spaced ripples. Some dildos modeled to be realistic penises contain very heavy vein textures on the surface, causing a similar effect.
- Rotating, clitoral stimulating, and other features- Some dildos, especially recent ones, may have rotating beads along the shaft, a wiggling shaft, vibrating ticklers or other clitoral stimulation devices, or other features to give more pleasure to the user. While their effectiveness is a matter of opinion, they are becoming increasingly popular. An inexpensive design is basically a standard rabbit vibrator designed for harness use (often the exact same toy with a slightly different base), while more expensive dildos are designed from the ground-up for harness use and are usually superior. Rotating beads provide extra stimulation of the vulva and vaginal opening when used for vaginal penetration or stimulation of the anus when used for anal penetration, while the various clitoral stimulation devices are generally intended only for vaginal intercourse. These dildos are often bulky or heavy, and like all other vibrators need a power source (usually batteries in a pack that clips onto the harness or slips into a pocket on it), but can provide additional stimulation for those who desire it.
- Double penetration- Double penetration dildos are generally two dildos molded onto a common base, designed for simultaneous vaginal and anal penetration, not to be confused with a man using a strap-on along with his penis for double penetration, which is discussed below. A typical double-penetration dildo has a longer, thicker main shaft for vaginal penetration, and a shorter, thinner, often more curved shaft for anal penetration, although while rare, dildos with the anal shaft being equally as large as the vaginal shaft are available for women who find a larger anal dildo more satisfying. These dildos tend to greatly limit the possible positions they're used in, as the angle has to be right for both vaginal and anal penetration when thrusting, however they can provide a unique experience for couples to try.
- Inflatable, enema nozzle, and other exotics- Many specialty dildos are available, such as ones that expand when an attached inflator bulb is squeezed, ejaculate warm water on demand by compressing a reservoir, or function as enema nozzles, allowing an enema to be given while using the strap-on for anal intercourse. Inflatable dildos generally expand in girth when inflated (they usually come with a simple hand-squeeze inflator bulb), allowing the dildo to keep expanding during intercourse as the receiver slowly stretches, giving a unique completely filled feeling which is hard to obtain using normal dildos. Ejaculating dildos contain a squeeze bulb or other reservoir, which when filled with hot water beforehand, allows the wearer to "come" into the receiver at the right moment. Enema nozzle dildos contain tubing connections, and when used for anal penetration (most often with silicone lube, as water soluble lube would quickly break down when combined with an enema) allow the receiver to receive an enema during the intercourse. Some BDSM mistresses specialize in offering this service. A relatively new product in this field is dildos with electrodes for erotic electrostimulation, further increasing the range of sensations the receiver can experience.
- Penis extensions and dildos for erectile dysfunction- Hollow dildos are often sold as penis extensions, but the most common use is for men with erectile dysfunction. The penis is inserted into the hollow inside of the dildo, then the harness is put on, allowing the man to penetrate his partner with the dildo, the thrusting of which is transferred to his penis.
Pleasure for the wearer
Pleasure for the wearer of the strap-on generally comes from pressure against the genitals, particularly the clitoris, during use and from psychological arousal. Many designs of strap-on have various features to increase the stimulation of the wearer.
- Internal plugs- Many of the "professional" harnesses have one or two plugs (vaginal, anal, or both) on the inside of the harness, to penetrate the wearer. These plugs (may be shaped either like small dildos, the standard butt plug shape, or a combination/hybrid thereof) are usually firmly attached to the harness, and provide stimulation to the wearer as he/she thrusts with the main dildo. Harnesses made for men usually only come with the anal plug, while ones for women come with both plugs, which most women report provides the most pleasure using one.
- While a plug can be used in combination with most any harness, just by inserting the plugs before putting on the harness, all the harness tends to do is push the plugs in, and not move them as to provide stimulation when the wearer thrusts. Depending on the type of harness, different ways are used to properly attach plugs to the harness. A common type consists of an opening or rubber ring with a cloth or leather back, similar to what might be used to hold the main dildo to the front of the harness, but positioned over the anus, vagina, or ones for both. A dildo/plug with a wide base is inserted through the ring, then when the harness is put on, the material pulls tight against it, holding it firm. For vac-u-lock harnesses, one or two additional vac-u-lock plugs are mounted on the inside of the harness, allowing any vac-u-lock attachment to be used. Most vac-u-lock harnesses that have the connectors for internal plugs come with two plug-shaped vac-u-lock attachments, a smaller one for anal use and a larger one for vaginal use. Like other types of harnesses, both plugs may be used at once, and often are separately adjustable on the strap to fit the wearer's body.
- Vibrators- Another means of providing stimulation to the wearer is a vibrating egg, "clit blaster", vibrating gel pads or whiskers, or other device mounted on the inside of the strapon. These are most always intended for use by women, as the external vibrator is rarely positioned well nor provides stimulation to males. These devices provide external stimulation to the clitoris, vulva, and other parts of the vaginal opening, but do not provide any penetrative stimulation or anal stimulation.
- Open crotch / crotchless- Some harnesses intentionally leave the genital area and anus open (either intentionally with an opening in the material or by the design simply not having any straps that would cover it), which allows any toy to be used for the stimulation of the wearer, or even for the wearer to be penetrated while wearing the strapon. This can often be useful when the partners wish to switch roles during their play, as the strapon can be put on before hand without interfering or needing to be taken off for play to continue. This type of harness is ill-suited for using toys, however, as the harness would not touch the toys, both preventing them from falling out while thrusting and not providing movement to them from the harness.
- Double-ended attachments- While a double dildo obviously would provide stimulation to the wearer as well, the standard straight dildo is very poorly suited for harness use. To overcome this, many dildos are available for harness use that have an offset in the middle, with the main attachment and a smaller vaginal attachment for the wearer having a flat vertical section between them. This way, the main attachment is at a good angle and position for thrusting, while its movement is transmitted directly to the vaginal plug and clitoris of the wearer.
- A special example of this is Feeldoe, Super Strapless Silicone Dildo, Share, Nexus Maximus and Transfer, which has an egg shaped bulb designed to be inserted into the vagina or anus of the wearer. Due to the shape of the dildo, thrusting on the main dildo translates to lateral movement of the plug, providing great stimulation to the wearer. Additionally, the shape of the plug allows it to be used without a harness in many instances.
- Nibs, bumps, or other clitoral stimulators- Some harnesses and dildos provide raised bumps or other features designed to rub against the clitoris of a female wearer, either attached to the inside of the harness, or on the back of the base of the dildo. Harnesses that work with such dildos have to have an open back, where the base of the dildo presses directly against the woman's body. As high-quality harnesses usually have padding or other means of attaching the dildo to the harness than a simple opening, these features are usually only seen on low-quality, inexpensive dildos. They provide only limited stimulation, and while better than nothing, are usually considered inferior to other types.
Dildo attachment methods
The principal feature of any strap-on setup is the attachment -- the dildo used to penetrate the other partner. While there's a huge array of different dildos available, most are attached to the harness in one of several ways. All methods have tradeoffs, and many couples will have different harnesses depending on which type of dildo they want to use.
- Ring / Wide base- The most common means of holding the dildo to the harness is to have an opening or ring in the harness through which a wide-based dildo is inserted. Inexpensive harnesses tend to just have a round hole in the fabric or leather, while more expensive ones will use a steel or rubber ring. The advantage of this method is that dildos which fit are widely available and inexpensive, and even many dildos not meant for harness use will work in one of these harnesses, such as most dildos with testicles. The major disadvantage is the dildo is often held loosely (especially on cheap harnesses) and tends to flop downwards, and the dildo often can rotate in the harness, making it difficult or impossible to use g-spot or other shaped dildos.
- Vac-u-lock- Used primarily by Doc Johnson, Vac-u-lock dildos have a rippled hollow in their base, which fits onto a matching plug on the harness or other toy. The advantage of this design is the dildo is firmly attached and can not easily rotate, and does not tend to flop downwards or slip like ring harnesses, as well as there being a wide variety of other devices the dildos can be attached to, such as handles and inflatable balls. The disadvantage is the relatively low availability and high cost of compatible attachments. A number of brands have non-compatible clones of the vac-u-lock system, but dildos and accessories for them are virtually unavailable.
- Strapless (Feeldoe)- A recent design is a strapless strap-on, designed to hold itself in a woman's vagina with an egg-shaped bulb, and does not require the use of a harness. This differs from a double dildo, in which both ends are symmetrical, as a double dildo can not hold itself in place in one partner while penetrating the other partner. The advantages of this design is that it can be used without any preparation, making using it much more spontaneous, that it provides deep internal thrusting to both partners, and that it can be more comfortable than having to wear a possibly bulky harness. However, it has the disadvantage that it may require strong muscles to use, and it may take practice to be comfortable with one.
- Double dildos- A double dildo can be used with or without a harness, although most provide no means of using them with a harness. A double dildo, as its name implies, is a dildo in which both ends are designed for insertion, and often is 18 inches (500 mm) or more long. While special ones meant for use with a harness do exist, a normal double dildo is straight, is rarely at a comfortable angle for intercourse, and jabs into the cervix of a woman using one. However, double dildos can be used for a variety of creative positions for which a harness would be awkward, such as both partners in doggy style positions or sitting facing each other.
- One-piece latex- Some harnesses and dildos are made of a single piece of molded latex, with the dildo permanently built into the front. These are often inexpensive, shoddy products, although higher quality ones are available. The advantages are simple use and an appearance some people find erotic, but this is often outweighed by the inability to use a different dildo, the often weak, floppy nature of the dildo, the inability to adjust to a given person for a comfortable fit, and their relatively short lifespan.
- Straps directly attached to the dildo- Some very cheap "strap-on dildos" have straps or attachments for straps directly molded into the material of the dildo. This design is very flimsy, and is only used on the cheapest of cheap products. They are essentially useless for the traditional purpose of a strap-on dildo (one partner penetrating another using a dildo in a position similar to a penis), but can be strapped around chairs and other objects for a variety of interesting activities.
Harnesses are available in many different materials, and the choice of which to use depends greatly on individual preference.
- Leather- Leather is generally considered the best material, and most professional harnesses use it. It is comfortable, adjusts to the wearer's body, soft, and fits well, but still is strong and not prone to stretching during use. Leather may be slightly harder to clean and require a bit more work to take care of than other materials, however this is usually only a problem with very heavily used harnesses.
- Synthetics (Nylon, synthetic leather, foam)- Nylon webbing and soft foam-like synthetic leather are also common, and while not as comfortable as leather, are often much more affordable and may be more durable than leather, as well as being easier to clean and not needing any maintenance.
- Cloth- Cloth is used mostly for clothing harnesses such as corsets and other lingerie, although is occasionally used by extremely inexpensive harnesses, which are often uncomfortable or useless. Construction of lingerie harnesses is similar to most normal items of clothing, although they may use substantially thicker material to give the strength needed to support a dildo firmly.
- Plastics- Some harnesses are made with soft plastic, such as flexible vinyl. These are often available in unique colors, such as completely transparent, which is not possible with other materials. The downside is they're possibly less comfortable than other materials, and may be difficult to make fit well, however they tend to be very easy to clean and reasonably rugged.
- Latex, rubber, and PVC- Latex harnesses usually cover the entire area, rather than just using straps. They tend to be medium-priced, and have a limited lifespan, especially if used with oil-based lubricants. Latex can require much care, such as special cleaners or shiners to keep it from turning dry and dusty. Latex harnesses may or may not have the dildo(s) molded as part of the harness, and in either case, they tend to be floppy due to the flexibility of the latex. Similar harnesses are also available made of rubber or PVC, and are similar to latex harnesses, although PVC tends to be much less flexible and elastic.
List of sex positions includes other strap-on adaptable positions.
A number of positions can be performed using a strap-on dildo. These include:
- Doggy style- Doggy style is popular as it's simple, easy, and allows deep thrusting. The receptive partner kneels down with his or her face against the bed (or other surface), and is penetrated from behind. This position works well for both vaginal and anal penetration, and allows deep, smooth strokes, however it sometimes stimulates the prostate less than other positions during pegging.
- Missionary- The missionary position is also popular, and allows both partners to cuddle, see each other, kiss, or perform other activities during intercourse. When used for anal penetration, a pillow or other object placed under the buttocks of the receiver will elevate the anus to a comfortable position and angle.
- Bent over- Usually used for pegging, the man stands or kneels while leaning forwards, supported by the bed, chair, wall, or other object. Similar to doggy style, he is then penetrated from behind. This position angles the dildo such that it typically strokes firmly across his prostate, and for some men can lead to an anal orgasm much more effectively.
Even more than the different types of harnesses and dildos, there are different ways to make use of a strap-on setup. Generally ways of using them can be divided into several broad categories, however there are infinite variations.
- Pegging- Pegging is when a woman uses a strap-on dildo to penetrate her partner anally, usually a man. While this practice is not commonly mentioned due to the various taboos many cultures have against receptive male anal sex, and statistics are hard to come by, many people believe it is the most common use of strap-ons, and often manufacturers use images of a woman with a strapon and a male on the advertising or packaging for strap-on dildos and harnesses.
- Pegging can be done for a variety of reasons, but probably the most common is that it allows a heterosexual male to receive anal pleasure. Both partners may enjoy pegging, and many men have an anal orgasm from it. Many people, such as advice columnist Dan Savage, believe all men should try pegging at least once, as it may introduce them to a new enjoyable sexual activity and illuminate them to the receiver's perspective in sex. This perspective can also be gained by the female cross-dressing the man in lingerie - usually particularly feminine lingerie such as stockings, garters and high heeled shoes. This completion of the role reversal can be deeply erotic.
- When pegging, even more than for other forms of anal sex, proper selection and quantity of lube is extremely important. Many dildos do not "hold" lube as well as a penis would, and a thicker or better adhering lube will likely perform much better.
- A number of how-to videos about pegging have been made, for couples interested in trying it but not sure where to start, however most people feel a few minutes of experimenting to be plenty to learn the basic "ins and outs" of pegging.
- Sex between women- Female, same-sex intercourse is one of the more common uses of strapons. Strap-ons are one means for women to enjoy penetration with their sex partner.
- Erectile dysfunction- Men with erectile dysfunction may use a strap-on to help satisfy their partners, either by using one with a hollow dildo, or by having their penis hang beneath the dildo.
- Double penetration- Some women find simultaneous vaginal and anal penetration to be enjoyable, and aside from using a double-penetration dildo discussed previously, can experience this with a male partner using a strap-on. A harness is selected that allows the man's penis to extend under the dildo of the harness, thereby allowing him to insert both his penis and the dildo into his partner. In a face-to-face position (such as the missionary position) the penis would penetrate the anus and the dildo the vagina; in a position such as doggy style the penis would penetrate the vagina and the dildo the anus.
- Masturbation- Non-traditional harnesses, such as furniture attachments and ride-on balls, can be used for masturbation by both men and women. A ride-on ball can take the position of another person, in that it can be on bottom for most positions that have the person being penetrated on top, and furniture harnesses can be attached to many objects, an example being a bathtub, to penetrate the user doggy-style before or in a bath.
- Transsexual people- Some transsexual people use a strap-on to provide the function of a penis, for example an FTM, as he was not originally born with one. This option may appeal to people who have not undergone surgery, for any one of many reasons. Strap-ons may also be used by MTF transsexuals, who are either genitally post-operative or not using their own phallus.
- Other- Many people, using a strap-on for any of the above purposes, often like to either suck or have a partner suck a strap-on, performing fellatio on it. The reasons given vary, but mostly have to do with power or role reversal, however, this activity is less common than simple penetrative sex.
Almost every position associated with "normal" sexual intercourse (or not, in the case of simultaneous penetration) can be performed with a strap-on. Indeed, with other harnesses that allow a dildo to be mounted on inanimate objects, endless new positions can be conceived.
Due to the often taboo nature of strap-on activities, information on their history is hard to find. An 1899 report by Haberlandt
documented current and historical use of double-ended dildos in Zanzibar
, and is one of the few historical documents of this kind. Female-female dildo usage in ancient China
has been documented, but it is not clear if this was double-dildos, strap-on dildos, or just a simple dildo being used by one woman on another. In ancient Greece
, dildos were made of stone or padded leather, and some evidence shows aforementioned leather was used to make a harness as well, with olive oil
used for anal penetration. A double-penetration dildo was found in ancient France
, but its use is lost to time. A 19th century Chinese painting shows a woman using a dildo strapped to her shoe, showing that creative use of strap-ons was already well under way. Many artifacts from the Upper Paleolithic
have been found that appear to be dildos, including a double "baton" with a hole in the middle, theorized to be for a strap to hold it to a wearer. The Kama Sutra
includes mention of dildos made from a wide variety of materials, and used by hand, with ties (straps), or in a harness. It is likely the history of the strap-on parallels the history of the dildo, and given the age of many discoveries, is a rather long history.