Drawing of a sleazy sex store with cheap strap-on dildos in the parking spaces outside the store. A neon billboard reads "My Terrible Early Experiences" and the text continues on a green DVD that says "with STRAP-ONS!" on the cover. A cartoon person with orange hair is on the cover looking unhappy.

My Terrible Early Experiences with Strap-Ons

My First Nightmarish Experiences and Why I Feared the Strap for Years

CONTENT WARNINGS: Abusive relationship dynamics, particularly emotional and financial abuse, and sexual assault.

In modern queer culture, it seems like “the strap”–or, excuse me, I should probably say “THE STRAP!!!” so everyone knows exactly what I’m talking about—is one of the most coveted concepts, one of the most praised symbols of desire and sexual prowess.

Maybe it’s just a consequence of the Twitter circles I’m swimming in on my alternate account, but strap-ons seem to be a universally adored concept. From what I’ve seen, they’re extremely popular in fandom communities as well as a sought out characteristic in real life.

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve seen “she has the strap” listed as one of the most desirable traits in a potential girlfriend. I see this mentality in memes, in fanart, in TikToks, you name it.

I struggled a lot with the strap-on hype that dominated (and continues to dominate) online queer spaces. For years, the concept of “the strap” has been difficult and triggering for me.

I know other people haven’t had the same experiences as me, but a combination of an abusive ex, poor quality sex toys, and negative cultural factors made “the strap” something I backed away from, not something I ran towards.

Why? Read on to learn a slice of my XxX__TrAgIC__BaCKStOrY__XxX!

 

SETTING THE STAGE WITH BACKGROUND CONTEXT

CHARACTER ONE, ME, AGE 18, ABSOLUTELY NOT INTERESTED IN STRAP-ONS:

People young and old seem to love the strap these days. When I was first coming into my own as an eighteen year old baby lesbian, by all accounts still a teenager, I had no interest at all in strap-ons. For one, they were expensive and I had no money. For two, I had no desire to purchase a strap-on. They just didn’t appeal to me or interest me.

When I was 18 (in 2011), pop culture/fandom culture wasn’t nearly as saturated with strap adoration as it is today. To be fair, since porn was still allowed on Tumblr at that point, I had seen…quite a bit of lesbian porn that featured strap-ons. It wasn’t like I was unfamiliar with the concept. But it also wasn’t something I wanted to do.

CHARACTER TWO, MY SHITTY EX-GIRLFRIEND, WHO DEMANDED WE GET A STRAP-ON:

My girlfriend at the time (aka my Demon Ex) thought differently from me on the topic of strap-ons. In contrast to my squeamishness, she was overly enthusiastic, and demanded we get one as soon as possible.

She was my first ever serious relationship and the first person I had sex with, and even though we were the same age, she constantly weaponized my sexual shyness against me. Ultimately, this was the beginning of what would become an abusive relationship spanning nearly three and a half years, but I of course didn’t know that at the time.

Because I had really low self esteem, especially in terms of my sexuality, I thought I was just lucky to have someone who was interested in me at all. Because I lacked education on what healthy queer relationships look like, I thought that her behavior was normal and I was the one who was at fault.

My Demon Ex took my sexual shyness and weaponized my hesitant, squeamish attitude against me. She demanded we purchase a strap-on, and told me I was just a “prude” who needed to “get over how I was raised” when I protested this demand.

Was this true?

Was I really just the worst “prude” ever?

I’ll strongly argue “no.” I simply had things I was and wasn’t interested in.

In a healthy relationship, a partner would have listened to me and respected my boundaries. But, like I said, this wasn’t a healthy relationship.

My Demon Ex wasn’t interested in listening to me. She was sick and tired of me “being a prude,” and she had been counting the days until she turned 18 so that we could go to a sex store together.

For clarification, we were both 18 on the day we at last walked into that tacky, sleazy sex store–literally, we went on the calendar date of her 18th birthday. I had turned 18 three months earlier, but I didn’t have any aged wisdom to guide me through the experience I was about to have.

THE WORST SEX STORE I HAVE EVER VISITED:

The sex store we visited was the physical embodiment of every bad stereotype. It was positioned just off a major road with an embarrassing name lit up in bold 80s neon, and sun-faded pictures of bleach-blonde Jazzercise-styled porn babes emblazoned on the building’s exterior.

I had driven past it many times at that point, and I cannot emphasize enough how much of a tacky eyesore this place was. It was the worst. But, it was the only gig in town, so in we went.

Literally, it was the only gig in town.

For the sake of my privacy I won’t share exactly where this story took place, but it was in a relatively large city and this store was at the time the ONLY sex store within city limits.

The store still exists, and has terrible Yelp reviews citing a diverse range of complaints–from overpriced merchandise, to transphobia, to racism, to the owner’s felonies. It’s not just me who thinks it’s a nightmare. It is genuinely that bad.

The place was blessedly empty, probably because it was early in the day on a football Saturday. The lights buzzed fluorescent above us, and we were mostly surrounded by sad lingerie wilting off of hangers. The pitiful selection of sex toys mostly consisted of oily, jelly dildos with orgasmic women of the 90s plastered on the packaging.

For just $80, you, too, could receive a jelly-dildo induced yeast infection guaranteed to make you cry out, overcome with orgastic emotions and, y’know, the sensation of your genitalia burning. I didn’t know anything about sex toy safety at the time, but some primal survival instinct was still firing off in the back of my mind, yelling at me, “YOU DO NOT WANT THIS IN YOUR VAGINA!!!”

THE DEPRESSING DILDO KNOWN AS THE DOORSTOP:

Despite the poor quality of all the sex toys available for purchase, the majority of them were still significantly out of our paltry budget. My ex and I were both broke, unemployed students. Aside from a crumpled $20 in my wallet, we were limited to a meager $50 she had been given for her birthday that day.

Between our limited funds and my firm resistance to any strap-on that was too penis-like, we wound up with arguably the worst harness/dildo combination….ever.

The harness itself was weak, flimsy, and pathetic. As I remember it, it was like straps on a typical Walmart back to school backpack, but worse, somehow.

As for the dildo, well…we went on to call it the “door stop,” and that’s truly what it was.

It was completely without texture. It was simply a limp, floppy, beige-colored tube. It would’ve been less awful if it was literally any other color, but the pathetic imitation of “skin” added an additional layer of misery to it. It looked like a pitiful memory of some high school medical biology lab. Honestly, it looked more like a toilet plunger than a dildo.

The dildo’s lack of phallic characteristics didn’t prove to be a problem at the checkout, though. To the cashier, it was still more than enough of a penis.

This interaction will haunt me until the day I die. You have to picture me purchasing this dildo, clearly awkward and shy and uncomfortable, and the woman working the register shouting:

“WOW! Look at that DICK!!! You’re going to go home and have an awesome time with this big ol’ COCK, am I right? Wow! What a big ol’ dick! What a JUICY PENIS! Bet you’re going to have fun tonight!” the woman laughed, clearly finding my discomfort to be hilarious.

Imagine being a wimpy little 18 year old, who already didn’t want to be in this environment, who already didn’t want to be purchasing a dildo. It was like a bad dream, but real.

Like, if you work at a sex store and you use it as an opportunity to taunt teenagers, please reconsider your life. I am now 27 years old and this interaction STILL makes me want to die when I think about it.

Looking back, even though I was shy in regards to sex toys, I’m certain I would’ve at LEAST preferred something that vibrated. But no.

Instead, we were stuck with the Doorstop.

THE WORST POSSIBLE FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH A STRAP-ON DILDO:

Using the Doorstop was miserable in every possible way. Since I was usually tasked with topping, I was the one who first donned the strap. I remember the harness being extremely uncomfortable. It was thong style and rode up in my vagina and ass crack in a way that was humiliating, not pleasurable. Additionally, having such an ugly, clinical looking dildo hanging off of my hips felt profoundly demeaning. I felt like a pathetic fool, not like a confident top.

Both my ex and I were ultimately penetrated with the Doorstop at one point or another, and neither of us enjoyed it. Because my ex and I were so uneducated about sex toys and how to use them, we didn’t even have any lube to ease insertion of the Doorstop. Without the assistance of lube and without any texture or vibration to make the Doorstop feel somewhat more pleasurable, it felt about as good as you could expect shoving a cold, thoughtless glob of toxic plastic into your vagina would feel. 

We eventually “graduated” from the Doorstop, but the dildos we purchased to replace it weren’t any better. Still, the Doorstop is notable simply because the environment in which we purchased it was so nightmarish.

Maybe we were dumb 18 year old kids, but do amateurs not deserve healthy starter dildos and strap-on kits? Do youngsters really deserve the humiliation and degradation that I experienced in my first visit to a sex shop, and subsequently my first sex toy purpose?

Even though my ex was a horrible person in her own regard, her directing me to the sex shop against my will wasn’t the worst part of this interaction. The worst part was how embarrassing the staff made me feel, and how terrible it felt that there weren’t any safe, approachable, non-phallic, non-heteronormative dildos or strap-ons available. The best we could do was literally that hideous, passionless Doorstop. 

THE SECOND STRAP-ON: A SIMILARLY SHITTY SEQUEL

For a few months, we were stuck with the Doorstop as our only option. Then, for Christmas that year, my ex received a $50 prepaid Visa gift card. This was like a brick of gold to a young, broke couple who didn’t have credit or debit cards at their disposal.

As soon as the gift card was in her hands, she rushed to her computer to pull up the website of a less-than-reputable online retailer. We were about to purchase our second strap-on, and this one wasn’t of any less questionable quality than the Doorstop.

From what I can remember, the dildo of the second strap-on was permanently trapped within the harness. They were one singular, complete item, with no way to remove the dildo to clean it. While I think it may have been labeled “silicone,” there’s no way our foolish selves would’ve scored a $50 body safe all in one strap-on harness/dildo combo in 2011, for fuck’s sake. Affordable silicone dildos just weren’t a thing back then like they are today.

Plus….my vagina speaks, and I listen. 

SUSPICIOUS STRAP-ON DILDOS DELIVERING DISGUSTING RESULTS:

Bringing this up is humiliating, but if I don’t share my mistakes, there’s no opportunity for someone else to learn from them.

I got yeast infections more than once as a result of being penetrated with this dildo.

My ex and I didn’t live together at the time, and we only saw each other on the weekends when I came home from college. So, storage and sanitation of the dildo was her responsibility.

This is a girl who allowed mold to grow in the trash can in her room, so you can imagine how well she cleaned that dildo.

When I go to sleep at night, even now, nearly ten years later, the visual of the lint and hair collected on that dildo still haunts me. Not to mention, the general gunk on it was just a garnish sprinkled atop the overall unsafe material it was surely constructed of! AUGH!!!!

Because my ex didn’t clean this dildo properly, and she also didn’t store this dildo properly, the unsanitary environment combined with the porous, unsafe material the dildo was made of to create a perfect storm of infection. I had received an all-American sexual education, so I didn’t know anything about STDs/STIs in female/female sex. I didn’t even know it was possible to GET a sexually transmitted disease or infection in female/female sex.

SAFE SEX FACTS I WISH I HAD KNOWN EARLIER:

Sex toys made of unsafe, porous materials harbor bacteria, and there’s no way to ever fully clean them. With a lot of unsafe sex toys, particularly “jelly” sex toys, the material itself can be responsible for irritating the genitals and provoking infections such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.

Sharing sex toys between partners is an easy way to transmit disease and infection. If you’re using a sex toy with a partner, you MUST use a toy made of body-safe, non-porous material. This is especially important if you’re using the same toy for anal penetration as vaginal penetration—a porous sex toy can NEVER be fully cleaned.

It’s also super important to use barrier methods like condoms if you’re not fluid bonded to your partner. If a sex toy touches your partner’s genitals, then touches your genitals, it can transfer STDs. If a sex toy goes into someone’s anus, don’t use it for vaginal penetration and don’t put it in anyone else’s butt until it’s been thoroughly cleaned.

If a sex toy is made of body-safe, non-porous material, cleaning it is easy. The most common, easiest method is to just use mild soap and warm water. If a toy doesn’t have any internal electronic parts, you can boil it to sterilize it, or even run it through your dishwasher on the top rack.

But again, I have to emphasize: a sex toy made from porous material CAN NEVER BE CLEAN.

Imagine if you ate dinner off of a plate that never got washed! It’s the same concept! Don’t do it!!! ONLY PURCHASE sex toys made of safe and non-porous materials! PLEASE!

THE LAST LAMENTABLE STRAP-ON:

Anyway, with my Demon Ex, we had ONE MORE “upgrade” in strap-on before our relationship finally ended.

She coerced me, yet again, into forking over my hoarded cash for this dildo (in a different small town sleazy sex store), even though the money desperately needed to be saved for more important things. But, because of the abusive dynamic, if I didn’t agree with what she wanted, there would be consequences,

This time, the dildo could be detached from the harness. It was a Doc Johnson “Vac-U-Lock” configuration, and I fucking hated it.

I absolutely detested using this dildo, largely because of the weird powder involved in facilitating the Vac-U-Lock “feature.” I’m going to eventually post about how my OCD (diagnosed, I’m not making a tasteless joke) affects my sex life, but this was definitely a moment where “texture hell” made me want to die and absolutely not have sex ever again in a million years.

Using a POWDER to lock a dildo into place??? Kill me. Just fucking kill me.

Aside from how unpleasant it was to configure, this harness was—yet again—thong style. While the harness was uncomfortable, the dildo just plain HURT. We had at least picked up lube this time, but it did little to dull the pain. This dildo hurt–there’s nothing else to say about it. I remember experiencing it again, a few months later, and it hurt just as badly.

These are memories I’ve mostly blocked out because of how painful they are.

TRAUMA FROM BAD STRAP-ON SEX FUCKED ME UP FOR YEARS:

As you can see from my non-stop ranting that might be better suited as a personal diary entry, my experience with strap-ons and dildos in my younger years was fucking horrible.

My Demon Ex was only interested in strap-ons and dildos as a way of manifesting humiliation and inflicting pain. It wasn’t pain associated with any kind of structured, healthy, consensual BDSM dynamic.

It just sucked. It was miserable. It was traumatic.

It was sexual assault on the worst occasions. On the best occasions, it was just miserable sex facilitated by a shitty strap-on dildo.

When all my strap-on experiences had been a combination of unsafe, degrading, and generally unpleasant, it was impossible for me to consider introducing a strap-on into my sex life again.

For years, even the word “strap-on” just slapped me in the face with those memories.

Trauma.
Infection. 
Shame. 
Abuse. 

But….rationally, I knew there were better strap-ons out there.

GIVING STRAP-ONS A SECOND CHANCE:

Rationally, I knew my bad experiences were primarily because my ex-girlfriend was abusive. Being broke and uneducated about safe sex toys caused us to purchase bad strap-on dildos, but ultimately my trauma resulted from her actions.

After my ex and I broke up in 2014, I couldn’t see myself ever considering using a strap-on again. It was triggering for me. The thought of it brought only distress to my mind.

But…time passed and things changed.

Eventually I found myself standing on the precipice of January 2020, holding hands with my new partner of one year, a genuine angel to contrast my Demon Ex, and I realized….I wanted to give strap-ons a second chance. 

But how the fuck was I going to do that?

More on this in my  next post, because this has been long enough already! See you next time or whatever!

6 comments

  1. First, I am genuinely sorry you went through this. But thank you for writing this post! The whole narrative is well-written, and I love your illustration at the top, and oh my god the actual events are so visceral.

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