Violet Blue: The Golden Guide to Strap-On Shopping

You'll need the right gear to make your strap-on play partner sing the dulcet tones of sweet, penetrative pleasure. That means selecting a strap-on harness form the oodles of models to choose from, getting the right dildo -- or dildos, as you'll likely want more than one size or shape -- and any other accessories to make your strap-on fantasies come true. Accessories can include vibes for in-harness clitoral stimulation, sleeves that make for simultaneous penetration, and even clever double dildos that thrust in and out of both of you time with your gyrating endeavors. Oh -- and don’t forget the lube! 

Shop, Select, Smile

Are you coupled? Shopping for strap-ons together is an experience many couples find to be a sort of intellectual foreplay. Together, you assess your options and the imaginations run wild. Would she look better in a black leather harness or a red vinyl sparkly number with shiny silver buckles? Considering the myriad function options on harnesses can be pretty hot, too -- do you want one that leaves her "open" for genital access, or one that you know will rub her clit when when's thrusting?

Shopping solo? You'll find it very, very -- ahem -- exciting. It's all about location. Where you shop is important, especially if you want quality toys that will be hygienic, be worth the money, will perform as expected and will last more than a few encounters. You also want to have a comfortable shopping experience; for this reason many people prefer the privacy of online shopping but you want to choose a reputable store that will have good products and respect your privacy. Do a little research before you visit a store (online or in person), and definitely check privacy policies -- and see how discreetly they ship packages --before you pull out your wallet for an online transaction.

When choosing a strap-on, take into account and what kind of strap-on fantasy scenario you have in mind -- pretty much any fantasy can be realized if you know the limitations of the market and how to get around them.

Newcomers to strap-on play will want to make their first purchase an inexpensive harness made of fabric or nylon and a one-off rubber dildo in a pleasing and reasonable shape. Options for harnesses range from neoprene and nylon to glittery vinyl, rubber, see-through plastic, leather and velvet. Many online retailers have beginners' strap-on kits, though I suggest you purchase these from reputable (non-novelty) retailers so you get quality products that will actually do what it's supposed to, even if it's inexpensive.

All too often, novelty toy retailers will mass-produce badly made harnesses out of fabric and elastic straps, which tend to fit terribly, have the dildo rest in the wrong place, and often the elastic straps are so loose the dildo winds up doing embarrassing things when you're trying to thrust and pull out, and repeat. A good harness will have a solid method of attachment, as in straps with wide elastic, leather or nylon straps with buckles or D-rings so you can tighten the harness to your body.

Harnesses come in two general styles: a single-strap that is worn like a G-string panty and two-strap models, which have two straps running from the pubic bone, along the crease between the inner thigh and genitals, underneath the buttocks and attach to the waistband in back. Some prefer the G-string style, saying it's a very stable base for the dildo and that it rubs the clit nicely when thrusting; others complain of "buttcrack rash" from the center string rubbing on their anus and tailbone. Another complaint about the G-string style is that it limits access to the wearer's genitals, so if a girl wanted to be penetrated or massage her clit, it would be difficult. Also, they're not adaptable for male wearers.

Two-strap harnesses allow for plenty of genital access so the wearer (of any gender) can masturbate or penetrate themselves, or be penetrated by another, while wearing the harness. For instance, a girl can jack off her cock with one hand or get a blowjob, while rubbing her clit or fucking herself with a dildo at the same time -- increasing her chances of fulfilling the fantasy of coming "with her cock".

You'll also face choices when selecting a harness when it comes to how the dildo is attached to or worn in the harness. Some strap-ons will have a simple hole in the middle, where the dildo is pulled through from the inside; while these are the easiest to get dildos in and out of, it's a "one size fits most" hole that will have smaller dildos sliding around and bigger dildos difficult (or impossible) to squeeze in. A harness with a hole is especially suited for (dildo and harness) manufacturer Vixen's unique double dildos that penetrate both partners at once with the thrusting of the harness. Versatile harnesses have four straps that come through a triangle-shaped base and attach to a removable rubber O-ring in the center. This style provides the most stable base for a dildo, period, and different O-ring sizes are available for purchase (many of these harnesses ship with three ring sizes), and cleanup is a snap.

Web site Stockroom.com has a very specialized harness called the "Double Penetration Harness" just for men who want to wear a harness to provide double penetration to their female partners. Of course he doesn’t need to be hard when he wears it, this specialty harness really just makes ot more comfortable for a guy to wear an extra cock while having space for his own (attached) cock and balls to hang while he fucks his girlfriend (or anyone else, for that matter). It's essentially a single-strap nylon harness with a cockring for the wearer's penis and testicles (providing a contriciton that some men find pleasurable and may help maintain an erection longer), with another ing just above it for the dildo.

Harnesses come in a variety of shapes, styles, sizes and can be tailored to fit virtually any fantasy scenario you and your lover have in mind. Strap-ons are for women, men and trans people of all genders and orientations who want a little (or a big) something extra in their pants. There are strap-ons made just for men, harnesses for female-to-male trans people, strap-on rigs made for a variety of functions like double penetration, and much, much more.

The material you choose for your strap-on is up to you; I prefer leather for warmth and appearance, and buckles for no-slip fastening, but for airports or travel you might want a fabric or neoprene model; machine washable which is very nice for cleanup. Leather should always be cleaned according to leather care instructions (search online or follow manufacturer's care instructions), and rubber, plastic and PVC strap-ons can be cleaned with an antibacterial wipe-down. 

How Your Strap-On Should Fit

If you're shopping online you won't get a sense of how your strap-on is going to fit you, nor will you be able to ask questions about function and comfort -- and no one will tell you about the fact that strap-ons are actually worn lower than you think. When you try on a harness for the first time, it feels a little weird -- until you understand that it's designed to hold the dildo at precisely the same spot as a penis sits on a man's pubic bone. When you first slip into it, you'll likely think that it's too low, like a pair of lo-rise jeans, rather than a standard set of Levi's. However, that's exactly how it's supposed to fit, and once you tighten down the straps, you'll get a sense of the pubic snugness required to make a stable base for your new dildo, and also how your pubic bone will provide the foundations for your thrusting.

Slip into your harness before you actually use it, alone, so you can get familiar with the way it fits, how to tighten it, and how it looks and feels. The straps should be tight enough to withstand thrusting, but not so tight they pinch or cut into your skin; give the dildo a few tugs to see how it feels. The dildo shouldn’t slip out, or around too much (though a little movement is fine). The dildo should rest right on or just above your pubic bone; if you worry about it getting sore from thrusting, you can buy a specially made pad of thin foam to cushion your pubic bone. 

Hooray for Dildos

While it's important to get the right harness, it's equally important to get the right dildo. If you're just testing the waters on this whole pegging thing, you'll want to start out with an inexpensive, small model -- that way you don’t wind up with a toy that's too big for a nervous playmate, nor will you be out serious cash if you both decide that pegging isn’t for you. You can spend serious money on nice dildos, but that's something you'll only want to do if you know you're going to try this more than once, and if money is no object and you'd like to ride in a Mercedes the first time around, rather than a sensible economy compact.

My recommendation is actually to get two dildos for your first purchase if you can; it's difficult to judge size and shape until you actually get to play with a dildo and see how it fits (in them, and your harness), and with two you have the option of trading up or down in size depending on how they're feeling. If it's too much, trade down; if they're greedy, give 'em more. Everyone's happy!

Shopping for dildos to play with other women may also have you buying more than one cock; whereas with beginning mal anal penetraiton you'll want to be sure and get a small, smooth model, with another woman you'll want to get a couple different sizes as not all women are going to have a "one size fits all" approach to what size and shape dildo they want to be penetrated. Of course, shopping together is ideal or at least finding out beforehand if she has preferences on size (big, thick, thin, short) or shape (realistic, ridged, pink glitter, dolphin-shaped).

Before you shop for dicks, know what you're looking for. A dildo is basically defined as any penetrative, non-vibrating device -- but aside from the clinical definition of what makes a dildo not a vibrator, dildos comprise a vast category of wonderful, whimsical, bizarre and sometimes-scary penetration toys. Dildos are mostly marketed for vaginal and female anal penetration, though they can also be used for wonderfully intense mock blowjobs, especially when worn in a strap-on harness.

In general, there are two styles of dildo: representational and non-representational. Representational is a loose term here, as even the most realistic dildos tend to look like bizarrely colored doll parts, though the dildo manufacturing industry is where some of the more incredible innovations have occurred in realism -- most notably with Vixen Creation’s incredibly realistic feeling silicone Tex dildo (made with VixSkin). But representational dildos all usually look penile in shape, whereas non-representational dildos can be anything from smooth shafts in pearlescent turquoise, to mermaids or bumpy sculpted figurative works of art.

Some dildos have a suction cup base, allowing the user to stick them on smooth surfaces like bathroom tile or tub, or even a hard barstool. Dildos made for harness use have a flared, flat base so they fit into the harness base, and these dildos are also suitable for safe anal use as the flared base can be sued as a handle to retrieve the toy. They’re also great for practicing deep throat fellatio, as you can again use the base as a handle as you explore the comfort zone of your gag reflex. Extra long dildos (and double dildos) are great for when you need a little extra reach, when you have mobility issues or wrist injuries, or when a long handle makes penetration more comfortable. Or, of course, when you like really deep penetration.

Selecting the best dildo for male anal penetration will of course be up to him, but I recommend getting a dildo that is not contoured, bumpy or wider at the base than the top. Pick a smooth, slender dildo for your first strap-on adventures. The sphincter muscles are a ring about 1-2" in depth, and wide based dildos put uncomfortable stress on the (possibly already tense and worried) muscles by stretching them on the "in" thrust. A bulb at the end is fine, and can be helpful for prostate stimulation, but remember you'll then be putting the biggest part in first, which might be too intense if he's your virgin.

Happy shopping!

Violet Blue (tinynibbles.com) is a Forbes "Web Celeb", notorious blogger (Laughing Squid), high-profile tech personality and one of Wired's "Faces of Innovation." She writes for outlets ranging from Forbes.com to O, The Oprah Magazine. She is regarded as the foremost expert in the field of sex and technology, a sex-positive pundit in mainstream media (CNN, The Oprah Winfrey Show) and is interviewed, quoted and featured prominently by major media outlets. Violet has many award-winning, best-selling books, a famous podcast, is fun to follow on Twitter, and is a San Francisco native. Blue headlines at conferences ranging from ETech, The Forbes Internet Leadership Conference, LeWeb and SXSW: Interactive, to Google Tech Talks at Google, Inc. Her tech site is Techyum; her audio and e-books are at Digita Publications.