We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Please send your sex and relationship inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, onto today’s topic: how to talk to your partner if you're interested in trying strap-ons.
Q: “I am a lesbian, and I am super interested in sex with a strap-on. I’ve always imagined using it with someone penetrating me, but I would be open to trying the reverse as well.
How do I bring this up with potential future partners? How many dates do I go on before I ask about it? So far, I’ve always chickened out. I know there are lesbian women who are opposed to the masculine-centric image of a strap-on so I don’t want to offend them or turn them off. Any guidance you can offer would be super helpful.”
A: Thanks for the question! You’re right that there are some lesbian women who don’t like using strap-ons — but I don’t think it’s as divisive of a topic as you might believe. Here are six things you need to know if you want to talk to your partner about using a strap-on.
Give Yourself Permission To Explore Your Desires...
First, I just want to offer you some validation: it’s perfectly fine to want to have sex with a strap-on! Many people feel that strap-ons are sexy, they’re fun to play with, and they can bring a lot of pleasure. Don’t be ashamed of your desires!
I would encourage you to take some time to think about how central strap-on play is to your sex life. Is this a deal-breaker for you? In other words, if a potential partner was not at all interested in using one, would that be enough to disqualify them as a potential partner? Or is this a “nice to have” interest? Is it something that you want to play with the majority of times you have sex, or is it a "special occasion" type of thing? Getting this clarity about your desires will help you figure out how to talk to a partner about it.
...And Permission To Ask A Partner To Explore With You
It’s also OK to ask your partner to play with a strap-on with you; you’re allowed to ask for the things you desire.
Yes, you’re right that there are some lesbian women who don’t like the masculine-centricity of strap-ons. There are also lesbian women who just don’t get a lot of excitement or pleasure out of strap-ons. You very well may come across women who aren’t interested in exploring them, but it’s not very likely that you’ll actually offend someone by asking. As I said above, in my experience, it’s not as divisive as a topic as you might think.
There’s also a big difference between someone personally not being interested, and someone getting offended or judging you for wanting to play with them. How a partner responds to your request can actually be a good litmus test in a new relationship, in fact. It’s perfectly OK for your partner to say they’re not interested in playing with a strap-on; we’re all entitled to our own sexual boundaries. But if they judge you or get angry with you for asking, that’s probably not someone you want to be involved with anyways. If you like, you can give them the benefit of the doubt and a second chance by saying something like, “I’m asking because I’m trying to get a sense of your boundaries. It’s perfectly fine if you’re not interested, but I don’t want to feel judged for my desires.” But if your partner keeps being angry that you asked, it's worth thinking about what that reaction means.
Don’t Overthink The Timing
In general, I’d say there’s no need to get too strategic about the timing of when to bring up the topic with a partner. Bring it up whenever you feel excited about the possibility of trying it out — that might be the first date, or it might be months into a relationship. If strap-on play is a deal-breaker for you, or something that you want to be very central to your sex life, it’s probably best to bring it up earlier rather than later, so you can make sure to find compatible partners. If it’s not a deal-breaker, you can bring it up whenever you’d like to try the actual act itself.
Do Plan Beforehand
Keep in mind that actually playing with a strap-on requires a fair amount of legwork beforehand — especially if you want your partner to be the one to use it. They’ll need to get fitted for a harness, and find one that feels good on their skin; they'll also need to pick a dildo that they want to use. They’ll probably need a little bit of time getting used to the strap-on, and figuring out how it works, as well. (They might want to do some of this exploring on their own, too.)
The two of you will also need to do some experimenting together to figure out how to make it work with your bodies. Unless your partner is already into strap-on play and has their own set, this isn’t something that you’ll be able to do the same day you bring it up.
When it comes to figuring out exactly how to bring the topic up, keep it simple. Say something like, “I’ve always fantasized about playing with a strap-on. In my fantasy, it’s me being penetrated by my partner. But I’m happy to switch hit if you were interested in exploring it, too! What do you think?”
If you’re feeling really nervous or shy, you can always ask it as a more general question. Say something like, “So how do you feel about strap-ons?” If your partner isn’t interested, you can always brush it off as you just asking because you were curious. (Of course, this reaction only applies if strap-on play wasn’t a deal-breaker for you.)
Ease Your Way Into It, If Necessary
If your partner isn’t sure about whether or not they want to play with strap-ons, one way you can introduce them to the idea is by playing with dildos together. Have your partner take one in their hand and penetrate you with it. If you want, talk dirty to your partner about the toy. Your partner can even hold the dildo close to their pelvis, to more closely simulate what a strap-on would be like. You can also try watching porn where strap-ons are used, and see how you each respond. Or you might have a partner who would feel more comfortable with you trying the strap-on first. Of course, none of these suggestions are going to be the same as the real thing, but they’re good first steps for someone who is unsure.