Things to keep in mind when choosing a harness

Hi! I'm a transmasculine person, and my partners and I got a strap-on recently. It's been really helpful in having gender-affirming sex, but we've also had some technical difficulties, namely that it keeps falling out of the harness. I think it's actually because the harness is a little too big for me––I am a small boi, and one of my partners who's bigger than me hasn't had the same problem. (It's a universal size.) Do you have any recommendations for affordable smaller harnesses? Or other ideas about what the issue might be?

—Petite Polycule

Post guest-authored by Killian Ruck

Size is actually pretty important when it comes to harnesses. If it’s too large for your body everything slides around (or even falls out!) and it’s hard to have the kind of minute control over motion and direction that you really want to have when you’re strapping on a dildo. And if the harness is too small the straps or waistband can dig into the skin very uncomfortably. What you want is something snug but comfortable. Get your tape measure ready.

There are two overarching types of strap-on harness: strappy style or underwear style. They both have advantages and disadvantages. Strappy harnesses are adjustable, which means that if you and a partner are taking turns wearing the harness it can adjust to the right size for each of you; or if your own body changes size or shape (I just started testosterone, so I’m expecting some of that to happen soon), the same harness will continue to work for you through these changes. The downside of this is that you will have to adjust it to your exact specifications EVERY time you put the harness on, which is an extra fiddly step that can be kind of frustrating or even mood-breaking in the heat of the moment. Strappy harnesses are often made of leather, which is kind of the classic strap-on harness look. I, however, would recommend that beginners go for a fabric harness. Leather is a very long-lasting material, but it is not waterproof so it’s very hard to keep clean. Leather is also a little bit porous, so it can trap bacteria, making it less than ideal if you plan to use the harness with more than one partner, or trade off wearing the harness with any partner you aren’t fluid-bonded to. Strappy fabric styles are often machine washable, making cleanup a breeze.

Underwear style harnesses have the ease and convenience of just being able to pull them on and go, but you do need to make sure these fit your body exactly right. I would not recommend sharing an underwear harness with a partner unless you are the exact same size, and it is really hard to buy one of these harnesses online because of the sizing issue. Good Vibrations’ policy is to let customers into the bathroom to try harnesses on over their underwear (like you would with a swimsuit), so if going to a physical location is feasible for you I would at least go there to find your size, even if you make your final purchase online. The other thing to keep in mind with underwear-style harnesses is that they prevent direct access to the genitals of the wearer (because you are, essentially, having sex with your underwear on). Underwear styles are usually machine washable too.

Keep in mind also the size of the o-ring! Underwear-style harnesses have stretchy o-rings, while strappy styles sometimes have stretchy o-rings but sometimes have a snap-in system that allows you to change between different ring sizes. The o-ring is what holds your dildo in place against your body and keeps it from sliding around, so it should fit the dildo as snugly as your harness fits you. If the dildo you have is at the upper limits of what your o-ring can stretch to accommodate, there is a trick you can do to help ease the dildo into the ring. Put a plastic bag over the dildo before you slide it in. This will reduce the friction, allowing it to slide in with ease, then you can pull or cut the bag off once the dildo is firmly situated.

Other things to be aware of: choosing a dildo could be a whole other post, but some dildos have comfier bases than others. This will be the part that’s against your body, so it is often a good idea to look for a harness that has fabric behind the o-ring so the dildo doesn’t chafe the skin. On the other hand, if you’re using a double-ended dildo (or “strapless strap on,” as they are sometimes called, though I recommend using a harness with these anyway), you want to avoid harnesses with fabric behind the o-ring, as that will get in the way of inserting the wearer’s end of the dildo. The compromise that many harnesses make to get around this is to put two overlapping bits of fabric behind the o-ring, so that, much like the fly on a lot of mens underwear, it covers the area but can be parted if needed. Also, if your dildo is too small for your o-ring and is sliding around a lot, there are stabilizer bases available: cushy bits of foam that serve as an extra, larger base for the dildo, holding it in place.

Product recs:

Strappy, low-cost: Lush Strap On by Sportsheets (called Plush Peek-a-Boo harness on Good Vibrations’ website) - $36-$42

            This is a no-frills strappy style fabric harness that still manages to be comfortable, cute, and easy to clean. Comes with 3 sizes of interchangeable o-rings. Available in 2 sizes, both highly adjustable.

Strappy, high-quality: Joque by Spareparts - $125

            The Joque is made of a nylon blend that is moisture-wicking, durable, and long-lasting. It has the stretchiest o-ring I’ve ever seen and I have yet to meet a dildo it can’t accommodate. It adjusts on the waistband and the legs for a perfect fit every time, and it has a pocket above the dildo AND a pocket below for small bullet vibrators. Available in 2 sizes, both highly adjustable.

Underwear, low-cost: RodeoH, multiple styles - $50-$55

            RodeoH makes their harnesses out of double-layered cotton. It holds up a dildo well and is machine washable, but it won’t last forever. The styles they have available are ADORABLE though, and many of their boxers make my gender do a happy dance, so check them out.

Underwear, high-quality: Tomboi by Spareparts - $90

            The Tomboi (or the Tomboii--2 letters i--if you want the more expensive boxer style with 2 o-rings) is made of the same nylon blend as the Joque, so it is moisture wicking and has better longevity than RodeoH’s styles.

Honorable mention: if you have a biological penis but want to strap on a dildo and use that for penetration instead, I recommend the Deuce harness by Spareparts ($140-$145), which has extra room below the o-ring as well as a second smaller, less stretchy ring that can function as a cock ring. The marketing for this product is unfortunately very much geared towards cis men, but that’s really a shame because the product itself is great for all genders.