At Unbound, we get a lot of inquiries regarding strap-ons. From harness and toy compatibility to measurement tips, there's a lot to cover! For this guide, we hand it over to sex blogger June Pilote, whose website offers queer and trans-friendly advice on all things sex and sex toy-related. 

What is the difference between a strap-on, a harness, and a dildo?

A strap-on is a sex toy you attach to yourself to engage in (potentially) sexual activities, like penetrating another person, masturbating, or alleviating gender dysphoria. A strap-on is typically made up of two parts: a harness and a dildo. You can buy them separately or in a kit. 

The harness is the part you attach to your body. You will usually see harnesses that attach to the pelvic area, but there is also a wide variety that you can secure pretty much anywhere on your body, like your hands, chin, chest, back, or thighs. 

Blue silicone dildo named Pogo

The dildo is...well, a dildo! It’s a long and narrow sex toy that you use to penetrate an orifice, like the vagina, anus, or mouth. Dildos can sometimes be phallic, which means they imitate the shape of a penis. They can also be non-phallic—Unbound’s Pogo is a great example of a non-phallic dildo.

Sometimes, you will need to use an o-ring with your harness. An o-ring is a part of the harness that holds the dildo in place. It's basically a ring attached to the harness, made out of rubber, metal, or silicone. Some have interchangeable rings, some don’t! To choose your ring, look at the dildo you will use—if you tend to like a big variety of dildo sizes, you will need an o-ring assortment. Good news: o-rings are relatively easy to find because they are the same as cock rings and most sex shops will carry cock rings. Looking for a really specific o-ring? Gay sex shops usually offer a wide variety. 

Who can use a strap-on?

Anyone! There are harnesses made for every kind of body. 

For example, you can find harnesses with a penis pouch where the penis-owner can have an erection but penetrate their partner(s) with a toy instead of their genitalia. This can be awesome for folks who feel like they’re not able to perform due to mobility or erection issues (like erectile dysfunction), or for trans-feminine people who prefer to distance themselves from their biological genitalia because of dysphoria.

Another cool thing is that folks of all gender identities and sexual orientations can use strap-ons! Whatever your gender identity, you can wear a strap or be penetrated by a strap. It opens up possibilities for new sexual positions and can also sometimes be a fun power exchange.

Why do folks like using strap-ons?

People can enjoy wearing harnesses for multiple reasons! 

For trans-masculine folks, it can be gender-affirming to wear a dildo or prosthesis (a hyper-realistic dildo made to alleviate gender dysphoria) and penetrate someone with their pelvic area. 

Likewise, it can be gender-affirming for trans-feminine people to wear a non-phallic dildo to penetrate their partners. That way, trans-feminine folks can peg/penetrate/fuck their sexual partners without using their biological genitalia—a distance that can be really gender-affirming. 

Not everyone can or wants to use a harness attached to their pelvic area. Exploring different kinds of harnesses can be really fun! Someone riding your thigh or you face while you are wearing a strap-on can be an exciting experience (more on this below).

How can I figure out if a dildo I have is harness compatible?

To be compatible with a harness, a dildo needs some sort of flared base. A dildo with a suction cup or testicles will work as well, as long as you have a ring to hold it in place. 

You also don’t always need to use a dildo—any type of toy with a flared base can work! For example, any butt plug can be used as long as its base is flat enough.

How can I best measure myself to make sure I’m getting the right harness?

Illustration showing waist measurements

Most sex shops provide measurement information for their strap-ons, but most of the time, they refer only to hip sizes. So the first thing you should do is measure your hips with a soft measuring tape and from there you can choose the harness that will best fit. Like most clothing, harnesses are not made with fat people in mind. If you have bigger thighs, it can be harder to find a harness that fits. If possible, you can go in-store and ask to try them on. You can also contact the company that makes the harness directly and ask if the strap will fit. You can even ask some companies to make one that will perfectly fit your body! 

Any special tips for disabled folks looking for strap ons?

Not everyone is comfortable wearing a pelvic harness, the style that you attach around your pelvic area to penetrate a partner with a sex toy. However, there are different styles of harnesses, but most sex shops focus on pelvic harnesses and sell other types in the kink section. This can make it harder for folks with disabilities to access usable harnesses. It also plays into the fetishization of disabled bodies by associating them with kinks or fetishes.

Types of underwear harnesses

Underwear harnesses can be more comfortable than other types of harnesses for people with chronic hip or back pain. They are also softer, which can be good for folks with hypersensitivity. My three favorite brands are RodeoH, Spareparts Hardware, and Origami Customs. They make underwear harnesses in many styles, including brief, boxer brief, and lingerie. 

It’s important to note that you do not need to be on top to be dominant. It can be easier (and really fun) to lay down and have your partner ride on top of you. Sometimes being physically on top can get really painful. Companies like Sportsheets make different tools to facilitate sex positions, like to hold your legs up while being penetrated or maintain a better grip during doggy style. 

Thigh strap-on harness by Sportsheets

Thigh strap-ons are also really cool. They strap onto your thigh, allowing someone to sit on and ride it. Usually amounting to around $30, they are typically cheaper than pelvic harnesses. Thigh strap ons will have one strap with an o-ring for attaching the dildo, and usually, you can strap them onto other parts of the body as well. For example, many folks use them on feet or boots. Unicorn Collaborators makes gorgeous hand and thigh harnesses. Activest Project also makes affordable and good-looking thigh harnesses.

Can you recommend any harnesses that work for plus-size people?

Working in a sex shop, something I realized early on was that the sex toy industry really doesn’t operate with fat people in mind. In a society where the “perfect body” is a thin body, fat bodies are not seen as sexual or desirable—they are either fetishized or erased. This reality is predominant in the lingerie industry, where almost nothing fits and the things that do fit tend to be ugly. This phenomenon is reflected in the sex toy industry as well, particularly with strap-ons and harnesses because, again, nothing fits!

To find a harness that will fit, my first recommendation would be to check out Early to Bed because they have a category specifically for “plus-size” harnesses!

The whole Spareparts Hardwear line goes up to 5X (56-60 in or 142-152.4 cm waist). Their products are amazing and they make solid and functional harnesses. They are on the pricier side, but they are sturdy and long-lasting. For fancy leather harnesses (vegan and non-vegan) the ASLAN Leather line goes up to a 56 inch (142 cm) waist. 

If you’re looking for an underwear harness tailored to your needs and specific size, Origami Customs is an awesome queer and trans owned business that makes custom and handmade swimwear, lingerie, gender-affirming gear, and underwear harnesses.

For a cheaper option, Sportsheets makes good quality harnesses that fit folks with waist sizes up to 60 inches. They have a couple of corset-like harnesses that are well made, adjustable, and offer a nice femme touch. These harnesses have more straps than similar cheap options, making them feel more stable. They’re also padded on the sides, which is nice because straps tend to get scratchy. They also have a “plus-size” harness line that can fit folks with waist sizes up to 72 inches, which is the widest size on the market! Their pricing ranges from $40 to $60, which is on the cheaper side for a well-made harness.

Any advice for a first time pegger?

Pegging is a sexual activity in which a cis woman penetrates a cis man

For this, I would recommend that cis men start by exploring their prostate, also known as the p-spot. This is something you can do alone or with a partner(s), if you want. The p-spot is approximately two finger joints-deep, pointing inside, on the same side as the genitalia. 

The Pogo is an amazing beginner dildo for pegging because of its small size and advantageous angle!

Remember to always respect your limits when exploring new desires and be sure to go slowly, gently, and with a lot of lube.

About the Author:

June is an enthusiastic, playful, and generally cute human. Their passion is to learn as much about sex toys as possible and to make all that knowledge available to trans and queer folks. They are in fact a little queerdo themselves—a non-binary trans-masculine queer human. As you may have guessed, June uses They/Them pronouns!

Their knowledge of sex toys and sex ed mostly comes from working in a sex shop for three years, as well as their own personal experiences. They also facilitate workshops here and there, and they love to mix trans/queer theory with sex toys and sex ed. They really hope you learn a whole lot from their blog & Instagram (@june.pilote), and that you enjoy your little selves!

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Photography by Awa Banmana.