How to choose a harness
If you don’t own a harness, it’s a great thing to add to your sexual arsenal. People of all genders and orientations can wear them, and people of all genders and orientations can enjoy the pleasures of being penetrated by a partner wearing one.
Harnesses open up a whole world of possibilities, too, giving you the tools to explore activities like pegging, double penetration, penetration independent of an erection, safer sex, and experimentation with different sizes, shapes, and textures of dildo.
There’s a lot to consider when picking out a harness — it’s sort of like finding the perfect pair of jeans. Of course, you want a harness that excites you and makes you feel sexy, but you also want stability, fit, comfort, and compatibility with your favorite toys. Don’t worry! We’re about to cover all the bases.
The two main styles of harness are the one-strap and two-strap, but they have some stiff competition these days in the form of underwear style harnesses and thigh harnesses. There are also a few harnesses out there designed specifically for those with penises.
One-strap (thong/G-string style): True to the name, one-strap harnesses fit much like a thong — with a strap running between your legs. This style of harness is easy to put on and take off, and you tend to feel the weight and movement of the dildo more. Because of the way the strap lays, it can cause friction and pressure against your clitoris, butt crack, and/or balls, which can feel either stimulating or annoying, depending on the person. But the middle strap has a bonus use: it can hold a butt plug or vaginal toy securely in place!
Two-strap (jock strap style): This style of harness has adjustable straps that wrap around your upper thighs, right under your butt. The biggest benefit to this design is that it leaves your genitals free — creating many possibilities for stimulation. Two-strap harnesses tend to provide more stability and more control during thrusting, and they also won’t cause chafing if used for longer periods of time. If genital access is important to you, this is a good style to choose.
(If you can’t decide between the one-strap or two-strap styles, the Commando and Simple Harness can be worn as either!)
Underwear style: This modern and fun style of harness looks more like underwear than anything else — and that’s the appeal. Underwear harnesses are very comfortable, form-fitting, and awesome for packing (wearing a non-biological soft penis) and playing. The Sasha and Tomboi currently lead the pack in this department. The downside to underwear style harnesses, however, is that they are not adjustable, so getting the perfect fit is essential.
Thigh harnesses: Perfect for having sex in a sitting up position, thigh harnesses allow one partner to straddle the other’s leg. Perhaps the most versatile style of harness, thigh harnesses are not just for thighs — they can also be strapped onto chairs, pillows, or other stable objects to make your dildo hands-free. Thigh harnesses are an ideal choice for those with mobility issues, including pain in the hips or lower back. We carry thigh harnesses made of leather, rubber, elastic, and neoprene. One of them even vibrates!
Folks with penises can use any style of harness, of course, but the Deuce and Menage a Trois Double Penetration Harness & Dildo Set are specially designed to accommodate a penis and balls.
Leather: A classic material choice for harnesses, leather has a telltale smell that many associate with strapping it on. It is a durable material with a sensual, buttery feel. Aside from offering a secure fit, leather actually softens and molds to your body over time. However, leather harnesses should not get very wet — and cannot be fully disinfected. They must be cleaned with a damp cloth and antibacterial soap (or a leather cleaner), then thoroughly wiped dry. With proper care, however, leather harnesses can last many, many years.
Aslan is the cream of the crop company to produce leather harnesses, and their Jaguar is one of the most popular harnesses of all time — so popular it comes in a one-strap style as well! Aslan also guarantees all their harnesses for life.
Rubber: Rubber is a solid and form-fitting material that provides some flexibility, but doesn’t breathe as much as leather and fabric do. Unlike leather, it is waterproof, so you can use it in any watery locale you desire — the only thing we don’t recommend is frolicking in the ocean, as the salt can rust the metal. You can also jump in the shower after you use it to rinse it off (just be sure to wipe the metal parts dry). The Rubber Jock is an excellent two-strap rubber harness, while the Slick G is a good one-strap.
Fabric: Harnesses made of nylon, spandex, and other fabrics, like those made by Spareparts Hardwear, have been gaining traction in recent years, as they are both comfortable and hygienic. Fabric harnesses are great for water play and, because they don’t have any metal or leather parts, can be thrown in the washing machine or hand washed. They are also vegan-friendly. If you travel a lot, fabric harnesses are an ideal choice, as they are very lightweight and will not set off any metal detectors!
Strap adjusters, buckles, D-rings, and more
Harnesses are fastened a variety of ways: with plastic strap adjusters, buckles, D-rings, and fabric straps, depending on the harness. Harnesses with plastic strap adjuster s– like the Simple Harness — can be adjusted with a quick, one-handed tug (think backpack straps), so they’re easier to fix during sex and a piece of cake to take on and off. However, strap adjusters may loosen with a lot of movement.
Harnesses with metal buckles and D-rings — like the Crystal Blue Jaguar — are more sturdy and will never jiggle loose. Waist buckles are fastened the way one puts on a belt — once you find the right hole, you’re set. Metal D-rings are used to adjust the leg straps.
Some harnesses opt for adjustable fabric straps adorned with velcro. The Joque, Deuce, and Theo are adjusted this way (although Joque and Deuce also have plastic strap adjusters on the leg straps). Once you secure your straps, they will stay that way, and you’ll be able to step into your harness like a pair of underwear.
O-rings and dildo considerations
The O-ring is the ring or hole at the front of the harness that the dildo threads through. Some harnesses have a permanent O-ring, while others offer a snap-out, removable O-ring that can be swapped for various sizes. The O-rings on all the harnesses from Spareparts are permanent but flexible, to accommodate dildos from up to 2″ in diameter (and even thicker with some tricks!). Some harnesses, like the Slick G, Rubber Jock, and Undercover Jock, have built-in O-rings that do not stretch.
If you already have a favorite dildo you’re planning to use in your harness, it’s imperative that it fits through the O-ring! Measure the thickest part of your dildo by wrapping a measuring tape around it and dividing that number by 3.14. This gives you the diameter of the widest part of your dildo, and you’ll need an O-ring that is that diameter or larger. Measure your dildo’s base as well, as you’ll want an O-ring that is smaller in diameter than the base — so the dildo won’t slip out.
Want to use a heavy or especially small dildo in your harness? Spareparts makes an amazing little device called the O-Stabilizer Ring. This donut-shaped foam ring allows you to easily anchor dildos or widen the bases of them. An O-Stabilizer Ring usually rests behind your regular O-ring, but it can also be used on the shaft of a dildo to limit the depth of penetration.
Keep in mind that some harnesses include a barrier or panel between your skin and the dildo. Some people love the sensation of the dildo pressing against their skin and genitals (especially if it vibrates!), while others experience pinching and pubic hair pulling. If you plan to use a double-ended dildo, you will want a harness with no panel or a panel with an O-ring cut-out.
If you’ll be using many different dildos, especially of varying sizes, you’ll want a harness with an expandable O-ring, or you’ll want to buy a set of O-rings.
Additional stimulation options
Up the ante on the stimulation front by acquiring a vibrating dildo like the Mistress or Wilde, which will transfer vibrations to both the harness wearer and the person being penetrated.
Or perhaps you’d like a harness with built-in support for a vibe? The Joque, Theo, Tomboi, and Sasha all have internal pockets where mini vibes can be tucked, while the Vibrating Leather Harness, Vibrating Velvet Harness, and Vibrating Thigh Strap On go a step further by including a vibe for their pockets.
A popular option is to use a double-ended dildo so that both participants are penetrated simultaneously. Some double dildos, like the Nexus Junior and Senior, are specifically designed to be used in a harness. Others, like the Tango and Share, are actually designed to be used in lieu of a harness, but can be used successfully in some harnesses.
The harness wearer can also achieve stimulation through anal play, or by using a shorter dildo, like the Little Hottie, as a vaginal plug. If you have a Jaguar harness, you can snag the Double Up Dildo Cuff to hold your toy in place.
You’ll want your harness to be snug — but not too tight or uncomfortable. We carry all the sizes that our harnesses are available in, so you can find anything from a 20″ hip measurement to 65″. Certain harnesses, like the Joque and Theo, are particularly well-suited to larger hips. Harnesses are meant to sit low on the hips, so measure around your hips when establishing your size.
If you’re in the Portland area, you can visit us and try on harnesses over your clothes in our dressing room. There you can ensure that the harness is tight enough to securely thrust with (but not so tight that it pinches), and that the dildo will rest in a desirable spot against your body. Otherwise, you can always call or email us with specific questions about sizing!
If you’re new to strap-on play, you may want to start out with an inexpensive option to test the waters, such as the Latigo Leather Harness, Vibrating Velvet Harness, New Comers Harness & Kit (which comes with a dildo to get you started!), or Thigh Harness.
It can be hard to take the plunge into more expensive harnesses, but it helps if you consider it an investment. Higher-end harnesses are often more comfortable, stable, and durable. They are infinitely adjustable as well, and over time, they will conform to your body and become like a second skin.
Need some inspiration for your strap on adventures? Our bookshelves contain The Adventurous Couple’s Guide to Strap On Sex and The Big Book of Sex Toys, while our DVD selection includes Tristan Taormino’s Expert Guide to Pegging and Nina Hartley’s Guide to Strap-On Sex.