[First, a quick note on terms: I am a queer, cisgender woman and am writing from that perspective. However, I have used the term “vulva-owners” and gender-neutral pronouns in this piece as much as possible in order to be more inclusive in my language. Not everyone who has a vulva is a woman, and not all women have vulvas!]
Strap-on sex is amazing. I love both giving and receiving penetration with a strap-on, regardless of the gender or genital configuration of my partner. But how can you get the best out of this often misunderstood sex act?
Let’s Bust Some Myths!
“Queer women who want to be penetrated with a strap-on are actually straight.” Nope! The sex acts you engage in (or the toys you use) have precisely nothing to do with your sexual orientation. A queer-identified person who wants to be vaginally penetrated with a strap-on isn’t secretly wishing they were having sex with a cis man, I promise. Orientation is based on who you do the things with (or don’t,) not on the things you do.
“Using a big dildo will stretch out my vagina permanently.” Again, no. Vaginas are muscles and muscles are pretty incredible things – they stretch and then spring back to their original state. No sex toy – or bio cock – can permanently stretch your vagina.
“The person doing the penetrating doesn’t get any pleasure.” In my experience, this is absolutely not true. There are all kinds of ways to ensure the penetrating partner gets pleasure too – some harnesses have little pockets where you can put a small vibrator to stimulate the wearer’s clitoris, and you can even get “strapless strap-ons” (think the Feeldoe) where one end sits inside the giver’s vagina while they penetrate their partner with the other end. (Note: I do not recommend these for beginners as they’re more difficult to use and control than standard strap-ons.) There’s also pleasure beyond the physical. For me, the “thud” of muscle on muscle as I fuck my partner, and the sounds and expressions of pleasure they make, are hugely gratifying in and of themselves.
Now that we’ve got those out of the way, let’s move on.
Picking the Right Gear
Godemiche recently published a fabulous piece on picking the right harness so do check that out. Personally I recommend picking something comfortable, adjustable, and with the ability to change the ring size so that you can use different dildos with it.
The next step is choosing your dildo. There are four main things to consider:
- Body safety! You want a non-porous and non-toxic material. For a strap-on dildo, that means going for pure silicone. Buy your toys from a reputable manufacturer or retailer, not on eBay or Amazon!
- Size. I recommend starting small if you’re not used to being penetrated regularly. You can always work up. Another option, if you can afford to, is to buy a selection of dildos of different sizes to play with.
- Texture. Some people love being penetrated with textured dildos – think ridges, bumps or realistic “veins”. Others, like me, find it painful. If in doubt I recommend starting with a smooth toy.
- Base. Your dildo needs to have a wide enough base to hold it securely in your harness. Look for words like “flared base,” “strap-on compatible” or “harness compatible” in the product listing.
And finally, don’t forget lube! If you’re using a silicone dildo, you need a good quality, water-based lubricant. Even if you or your partner produces a lot of lubrication naturally, a little extra can’t hurt and will help prevent any bad pain from happening. I recommend Sliquid.
Now the Fun Part!
Okay, you’re all set and you’re ready to have some strap-on fun! I hope these tips will help you and your partner get the most out of the experience.
First, try to take the pressure off yourselves. The goal shouldn’t be for the receptive partner to have taken your biggest dildo up to the hilt by the end of the night. The goal should simply be for you both to have a lovely, connective, sexy time together.
I don’t like the term “foreplay” (the acts we usually refer to as “foreplay” are part of sex!) but for want of a better term, it will have to do for now. So: plenty of foreplay. Start with cuddling, kissing, making out and touching each other until you’re both really turned on. Some people like to have an orgasm – or several – before being penetrated at all. If that’s the case, you can do hand sex, oral sex, play with toys, or masturbate together.
When it’s time for penetration, positioning is important – and what’s comfortable will depend on the size, shape and ability level of your bodies. I’m quite short, so I like to kneel between my partner’s legs and use a pillow or two to lift their hips up, giving me better access to their vagina. You can also use a piece of sex furniture such as a Liberator wedge, if that helps – this can be particularly useful for those in bigger bodies or with limited mobility. Other positions include the receptive partner on their back on the bed while the giving partner stands; missionary; doggie; or on your sides in the “spooning” position. Let your imaginations run wild and position yourselves in whatever way feels natural and comfortable.
You may need to guide the dildo into your partner’s vagina manually. Don’t be afraid to do this – better to have a little help from your hand than to go in at the wrong angle and cause them pain. Slide inside slowly at first, and give them time to adjust to the sensation.
The main tool you need is, of course, communication. Don’t be afraid to communicate verbally before, during and after strap-on play. You don’t need to carry on a full conversation during (unless you want to!) of course, but using your words is an important and underrated skill. Phrases like “How does that feel?” “Are you ready for me to go deeper?” and “Please let me know if anything hurts” are really useful for the penetrating partner. And phrases such as “Harder,” “Slow down a bit” and even “Can we change position, my leg’s going to sleep?” are useful if you’re the one being penetrated.
Try different types of movement. It’s not all about pounding! Try thrusting, try moving your hips in circles while your dildo is inside your partner, try moving the dildo very slowly just a few inches in and out, and try holding still and having your partner clench their vaginal walls around the dildo. Pay attention to the reactions you get and, again, communicate.
Let’s Talk About Orgasm!
The vast majority of people with vulvas do not experience orgasm from penetration alone. This doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, and it doesn’t mean they’re broken! If you’re struggling with this, read Emily Nagoski’s amazing book, Come As You Are. In general, I don’t recommend making orgasm your main or only goal, because goal-oriented sex tends to feel too pressured to be fun. However, if the receiving partner would like to try to reach orgasm during your strap-on play and doesn’t get there just from penetration, you’ll need to introduce some clitoral stimulation. (Even if orgasm isn’t necessarily your aim, lots of people really like having their clitoris stimulated while they’re being penetrated!)
Rub your partner’s clit with your fingers while you fuck them, or have them touch themselves if they prefer – or you could use a vibrator, from a small bullet vibe right up to a mains-powered wand. Whatever feels good for you both, do it. Some people will want you to thrust hard and fast as they get close to orgasm, and others will want you to stop moving and just hold your dildo inside them. The only way to know your partner’s preference is to ask and to follow their body language, so do that!
What if it goes wrong?
In sex, as in life, sometimes things won’t go the way you want them to. Perhaps the receiving partner experiences pain as soon as you try to penetrate them (if this happens regularly, see a doctor.) Or perhaps you just bump their cervix or go in at slightly the wrong angle and it hurts. Perhaps everything’s going well, but one or both of you just can’t quite get off. That’s okay! Things might not go perfectly, the first time or any subsequent time. The key to good sex isn’t everything being perfect, it’s learning how to roll with the punches and adjust.
Good sex should never hurt unless it’s consensual, safely applied pain. So if it hurts, stop! Receiving partners, listen to me: please do not endure pain because you think it’s what your partner wants. No-one who loves you will be okay with hurting you in a way you don’t like.
Try not to see needing to stop or change something as a failure. You’re exploring each other’s bodies and this new activity. If you need to switch position, switch position. If you need a break, take a break. If you need to stop and do something else… you see where I’m going with this. Everything that goes wrong is a learning experience. With tonnes of mutual respect, affection, good communication and emphasis on consent, nothing truly terrible is going to happen – promise.
Congratulations, you’re done! I hope you had a wonderful time. Now have a long cuddle, tell your partner they’re awesome, and sterilise that dildo! (Boil it in a pot of water on the stove for about ten minutes.) Next time, maybe the other person will wear the cock…?