How to choose a harness

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Dear Sex Counselor,

I’ve seen harnesses on your website. What are they, and how are they used? How can I choose one that’s right for me?


Harnesses are used to hold a dildo against the wearer’s body. Together, a harness and dildo (a.k.a. “strap-on”) can be worn by a woman or man to penetrate a woman, a man, or oneself. Sex play with a harness and dildo offers a multitude of options for pleasure and safety. For example:

  • A woman might use a harness and dildo to penetrate her male or female partner, or to penetrate herself and her partner simultaneously (using a harness cuff or double dildo).
  • A man might use a harness and dildo to penetrate a male or female partner independent of an erection, or if his partner prefers to be penetrated by something of a different size than his penis.
  • Men and women can use a harness to secure a dildo to a chair, wheelchair, or other stable object for self-pleasuring. Thigh harnesses can also be strapped to other parts of a partner’s body for creative sex play.
  • Men and women can use a harness and dildo to have safer penetrative sex.

Also see our How to Choose a Dildo brochure for related information.

How to Choose a Harness

To pick the harness that’s right for you, consider the following questions. You don’t have to know all the answers, but the clearer you are about what you’re hoping for, the easier your choice will be.

1. Where do you want the harness to be strapped?

A hip harness works best when the harness wearer wants to thrust, or when you wish to explore penetration in a variety of positions.

A thigh harness allows you to penetrate someone who is riding your thigh. This works well when you want to penetrate a woman vaginally (it’s a little harder to use for anal penetration) and when the person being penetrated wants to control most of the movement. Most thigh harnesses will also fit around a pillow, chair, or wheelchair seat for penetration during solo or partner play.

2. Do you prefer one strap between your legs (thong style) or 2 straps, one around each leg (jock-strap style)?

Some people love the one-strap thong feeling and look, while others prefer to have a strap around each leg. Keep in mind that someone who dislikes the feel of thong underwear may still like the feel of a thong harness, because that single strap can provide more stimulation to the vulva and anal area.

On the other hand, a two-strap style leaves the wearer’s genitals available for other stimulation. Men tend to prefer two-strap models, and a two-strap harness can provide more stability during vigorous thrusting. There are good choices available in each style, so you can be comfortable as you play.

3. What size dildo(s) will you use?

Most of the harnesses we carry are fitted with an O-ring that will fit most mid-size dildos (those that are about 1 1/2 - 3 fingers wide). Some harnesses have snaps so that you can remove and change O-rings, allowing you to use different sizes for different dildos. If you know that you will be using a large (about 3+ fingers wide) or small (about 1 finger wide) dildo, or if you will be using dildos of different sizes at different times, choose a harness that has interchangeable O-rings.

4. Who will wear it?

All of our harnesses adjust to fit a variety of body sizes, and some are available in “Xtra Lusty” sizes, as well. The descriptions in our store and on our website tell you the size range each harness can fit comfortably. Although some people may choose to share their harness, many people like to have their own harness to suit their own preferences and to avoid the possibility of transmitting STIs.

5. Would the person wearing the harness enjoy extra stimulation?

If so, you may want to consider:

If you want to use a double dildo, be sure to choose a harness without a backplate, with a removable backplate, or with a hole in the backplate for the dildo to fit through.

6. Do you prefer leather or synthetic material?

Harnesses made of synthetic materials can be cleaned in the washing machine (it’s best to put them inside a pillow case or lingerie bag so the ends don’t get wrapped around the agitator). Leather requires a little more care: wipe it down with a damp, soapy washcloth, don’t put it under water. However, leather is also incredibly stable and will soften and mold to your body with use.

7. Does it match!?!

Perhaps this is a small matter, but this is an opportunity to accessorize!  Some people think that black leather matches pretty much everything; others prefer bright colors or glitter. Sometimes having the right color combination can allow the inner you to express yourself more fully as you prance around in front of the mirror in the privacy of your own bedroom.

Suggested Resources:

Nina Hartley’s Guide to Strap-On Sex DVD:
Light-hearted and fun informational movie with demonstration.

For those interested in exploring penetration of a male partner by a female partner:

The Adventurous Couple’s Guide to Strap-On Sex, by Violet Blue:
Great information plus erotica.

Bend Over Boyfriend 1 + 2 DVDs:
Sex educator Carol Queen and others talk about and demonstrate how to incorporate anal penetration into your partner play.

Expert Guide to Anal Pleasure for Men DVD:
From Tristan Taormino’s excellent instructional series, this DVD covers a lot of information complete with sex scenes.