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So much more than a toy: the healing power of wearing the strap

I came out as queer in my thirties, and even though I’d had queer sex before that point, I didn’t discover my relationship with my strap-on, or ‘strap’, until later. And that  relationship is something extraordinary. My strap makes me feel sexy and empowered – and that’s just wearing it, let alone using it with another person. What I share with you here, is a story of discovery, and learning how the strap can be much more than a toy, or an object attached to a body, or even a tool for fucking – it can send its wearer on a path toward healing their relationship between self and sexuality.

Desire outside of the cis-male imagination 

I’m a white bisexual cis woman, who may also be non-binary (more on that later) who has complex PTSD, OCD and anxiety as a result of decades of physically, psychologically and sexually abusive relationships. I’ve also always loved fucking – all kinds of people, in all kinds of ways. Yet over the years, my queerness has been pushed aside – for either being too much, or not enough. It wasn’t until I discovered the strap that I discovered the expansive dimensions of my sexuality, and learnt what actually turns me on. Although I’ve always enjoyed penetration, sex, for me, has always meant performing for others, pleasing others – and ultimately, letting my body be the scene of heterosexual cis-male pleasure, and sadly, a site of abuse too. 

I’ve always thought how delicious it must be to penetrate someone else, but never thought of it as possible for me, or even allowed. Clearly I was wrong, but I didn’t feel how right it was to put on a strap until I felt safe and able to give space to my own desires. During my healing process through therapy, I felt my queerness expand multi-dimensionally, and at an extraordinary rate. I began to see being bisexual as the not only the fulfilment of my desire for people of all genders, but as a way of reclaiming my sexuality for myself, outside of anyone’s gaze. 

Finding the perfect strap

While watching queer porn one evening, mid-way through watching an encounter between an exquisite femme fucking a sumptuous butch, I pressed pause – not to titillate myself further by observing their delicious bodies, but to appreciate for a second the femme’s perfectly fitting strap harness which secured in place a smooth, purple, fairly girthy 6-inch dildo. I admired how confident she looked, and how beautifully the harness fitted against her skin – like a glove. I zoomed in and thought about how good it must feel against her, down there, as she penetrated her partner. I felt desire, a rush of blood to my clit, but also jealousy. I wanted to be her. Then it hit me – I could be her. 

I opened Safari and felt a thrill as I typed in ‘buy strap on.’ I browsed sex shops – I zoomed in on the pictures – wondering at the array of different harnesses – did I want pull-on strap-on briefs, a buckle-up leather one, or maybe a strapless-strap? I lingered on the different dildos – did I want something smooth and small sticking out of my harness, or something ridged, or curved? Which colour did I want? I didn’t want flesh, I wanted something else – I wanted to grow a new appendage never seen before on a human. Maybe gold, maybe sparkling? Then there was the lube. We know ‘the more the better’, but which? 

Looking in the mirror

The choice can be overwhelming, but I did manage to decide. And deciding was one of the best parts – at last I had chosen for myself what shape I wanted to be. When it arrived, I went straight to my bedroom and shut the door. I tore away the discreet packaging to reveal a hot pink box, about the size of a shoe box. I opened it to reveal a neatly folded leather strap harness with silver buckles at the side. In the middle was a hard leather triangle with a hole in the centre, through which the soft silicone curved purple dildo would slide, and sit against my body. I undressed, eager to get strapped in, and look at myself in the mirror. 

This would be a new way of getting ready to fuck. Less shaving my legs, arms and pubic hair, no choosing of the perfect uncomfortable lacy lingerie, no lipstick, no expensive perfume. Or maybe I could have all these things, but differently. I stood in front of the mirror, moving around, watching the purple silicone dildo bob and twang with my movements. I contorted to see how the straps looked criss-crossing my butt. It was like being reborn – no longer did I have to be this or that shape, endure the relentless pressure of performing womanhood and a sexuality that was never mine. I was glad I’d tried it on by myself first – I think I’d have felt self-conscious struggling with the buckles and transforming in front of a partner. This intimate time with myself was important – I was able to take my time to feel comfortable – something so far away from what I was used to feeling about my sexuality. 

Once I started to grow into it, not only did I feel overcome with the urge to fuck, to top for the first time in the sack, but crucially, I felt soft power, as well as vulnerability. I felt dominance over my wounds and my shame, watching it fall away as I submitted to healing, to my own strap, and becoming whatever shape I please. The strap brought out my ‘top’ side, which is not simply about penetrating rather than being penetrated, but about reclaiming my desire and creating my own stories, my own adventures, of how and who I fuck from now on. 

Finding my new body

Perhaps what I’m describing is some kind of bodily euphoria – perhaps even gender euphoria. It’s well known that once we think we’ve come to grips with our sexuality, that we are brought face to face with the possibility that our gender is also more multifarious than heteronormativity would have us imagine. For me, the strap allows me to cast aside the limits of my body and my desire, as well as the limits others have imposed. I love the idea that our genitals can wander, always resisting the ties they’ve been given to a particular gender or orientation. The strap I had chosen was for me not to emulate flesh, it wasn’t representational, it was some other part altogether.

So what I’m saying is the strap is glorious, even before using it with a partner. But what became clear when I did use it with a partner is that its function is not to emulate cis hetero-sex, but to add to the glorious mixing up that sex can be – troubling our relationships with our genders and our sexuality. I’m still discovering, as much as I’m still healing, but what the strap has taught me is that I can be whatever shape I choose, both inside and outside of the bedroom. Traumatic memory is like water – it floods into everything, especially sex which can become highly triggering. But the strap has changed sex for me – it means I’ll be more likely to be there – not disassociated, being myself, rather than watching myself – present to myself, and therefore my partner too. 


Victoria Brooks (they/she) is a writer interested in trauma, time-travel, ethics, and trans-dimensional sexuality. They have published two nonfiction books and various short form pieces. Her passion is the healing possibilities of queer sci-fi and her first novel, SILICONE GOD (MOIST Books) was published on 30 December 2023.

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