Autostraddle Strap Week 2021 – All Images by Demetria.
In this series, two babes chat through both sides of one strapping topic — sharing personal narratives with you on their perspective at this point in their queer story. Last up — Are your straps proudly on display or tucked away for a ::ahem:: rainy day?
Katie Alafdal, Author
Queer Cuties Can Proudly Display Their Straps… As A Treat
“...Perhaps proudly displaying your strap is not only fulfilling but also a major time-saver.”
My first strap-on was neon purple, bulbous, and impressively double-sided. After my partner picked it out, we paid for it in cash so the evidence wouldn’t show up on either of our respective credit cards. The name of the game, back then, was secrecy. She wasn’t out, and so I kept our new dildo ironically stored away in a closet, behind a pile of old clothes. The idea of someone, anyone, happening upon an object so personal, was enough to make me slightly nauseous.
There are so many ways for an object to be intimate. I’m thinking now of diaries, of well-worn photographs, of jewelry, and yes, even tentacle dildos. After all, the strap-on is an externalization of queer vulnerability — an openness to the other that is its own kind of madness and ecstasy. The dildo, then, might be at once construed as absurd, and simultaneously, a very sincere physical assertion of identification and yearning. Because that’s what a sex toy is at the end of the day; an acknowledgment of desire, and sometimes desire can feel a little bit embarrassing.
My last girlfriend had a collection of dildos displayed prominently in the center of her living room. When I reported this tidbit back to my straight friends, they were mortified.
“I mean, it’s like a giant dick right in the middle of your apartment. I don’t want that staring at me while I’m eating takeout, or watching Squid Game. Sort of messes with the vibe,” one explained in horror, as though it were obvious.
I nodded, trying vaguely not to laugh.
“So you associate all dildos with specifically male anatomy?”
“Hard not to, don’t you think?” she returned, shrugging as her brow furrowed.
“I don’t know. What if the dildo sort of destabilizes the entire idea of the penis, and recenters queer pleasure? When you consider it that way, it becomes a kind of subversion. And then there’s the fact that genitals don’t necessarily equate to gender.”
“You’re way overthinking this,” she said as she rolled her eyes.
And perhaps she’s right. Donning the strap-on is an action of considerable philosophical gymnastics (in addition to any obvious physical acrobatics). But even so, I feel a special sense of camaraderie with folks who treat their straps as works of art, as beacons of raw and radical queer creative potential. An old roommate ordered a twelve-inch sword-shaped dildo at the height of the Game of Thrones craze and displayed it proudly in an elaborate frosted-glass case when it was not in use, an altogether fitting storage unit for her weapon of choice. Another friend of mine likes to retire dildos from previous partners and (after extensive cleaning) repurpose them as jewelry holders and hat stands.
But let’s say that you’re still unconvinced, that the accessories of the bedchamber are too bogged down in long-standing Puritanical associations of sex for you to flaunt with any degree of comfort. Fair enough! There has always been something a little erotic about secrecy, after all. Perhaps it has to do with the conflicting urges to (1) keep sex, especially historically marginalized forms of pleasure, private, and (2) express some kind of pride in a hard-won queer sexual positivity we are only just beginning to enjoy. We are met with the usual chicken and egg quandary: do we hide our sex toys because they are absurd, or are sex toys slightly ridiculous because they are sexual? Perhaps Foucault could answer this question, but I cannot.
Here’s what I do know: one of the lesser-known corollaries of Murphy’s law is that if you have any sex toy in your possession, someone (no doubt an aging, easily-scandalized family member, or judgmental acquaintance who had no business being in your apartment in the first place) is going to find it. It doesn’t matter the lengths that you go to obscure said strap-on. Whether you stuff it in the bottom of your sock drawer or store it locked away under your bed, the truth will out. With that understanding, perhaps proudly displaying your strap is not only fulfilling but also a major time-saver.
Besides, humans have a slightly pathetic and altogether admirable tendency to ascribe the inanimate with meaning, whether or not said meaning is real or imagined. The dildo, in effect, becomes anything that the wearer wants it to be: a phallic incarnation of imagination, pleasure, and potentiality. I suppose I will always think there is something simultaneously sacred and irreverent in centering desire, be it in quiet moments with a lover, or in the act of creating flagrant, slightly amusing altars to your favorite strap-on.
Ashley Broadwater, Author
Hidden Gems — I Keep My Strap Tucked Away
Listen, a strap-on is a special, valuable thing. While clitoral play is my favorite bedroom activity with my girlfriend, I appreciate the flexibility that comes with a strap-on. Frankly, my arm appreciates not being worm-like afterward, absolutely worn out and sore. Despite my appreciation for what a strap-on can do, it’s not something I want sitting out and about. There’s really no room for anything else on top of my bedside table. At any point in time, there are at least two drink bottles, four bobby pins, the fan remote, and the TV remotes. Aside from there being no space on top, I keep my strap on inside because the mystery and excitement of a sex drawer makes me feel hot.
Before I get into the hotness it makes me feel, I want to chat about how I grew up. I grew up in a community that was conservative and hush-hush about sex. So, some of my urge to keep it hidden lays a bit in that. I also just generally appreciate a sense of privacy. When my mom comes down to visit, I don’t particularly want to have a conversation about the strap-on she’d see if it were suctioned to my tabletop. I’ve already left my Pride flag out on accident when she visited one other time when I was still “straight” to her — and I don’t need to experience that intense level of anxiety again. I’m not trying to feel so exposed, especially in front of a parent.
I appreciate sex-related privacy for those reasons, but also — back to the sex drawer just being so hot. Like way hotter than it should be. Not just because only my girlfriend and I know it’s there, but because I only open it when we’re hitting the sheets. In my sex drawer, you’ll find my small black strap-on, the 5-ounce bottle of lube, the rainbow-colored vibrator that’s sadly on its last legs, and the pink Satisfyer vibrator with 11 (11!!) settings.
When I open that drawer, I know something amazing is about to go down, and I feel even more excited. When we’re making out on the bed, about to have sex and I ask — “Want me to get the strap-on?” — and she breathlessly says yes, the sensations start. I turn over to open it, and I see our curated collection of toys, and what’s about to happen intensely hits me: I’m about to have incredible sex. It’s that time of the week. I’m finally getting to open that spicy, exciting drawer and have the time of my life.
The secrecy feels straight-up erotic. It’s the mystery of the hidden items. Every time I walk past it, or we’re getting ready for bed, I feel an urge to open it. The idea that maybe I’ll use them that night is so alluring. The drawer and the strap-on inside represent a special secret only my girlfriend and I share. Since I don’t get to see those beloved products daily, I’m not desensitized to their glory. I only see them when I’m feeling turned on and about to have sex filled with long and intense orgasms. This means a strap-on is no longer just a strap-on — it’s a good time I get to have every so often, making each time even hotter and more special. Every time, I feel excited about getting to have sex and open our personal treasure chest. It’s mental foreplay, and the magic will never be lost on me. I enjoy sex that has a suspenseful and electrifying buildup, and as a visual person, my sex drawer fulfills that need for me perfectly.
My strap-on will always stay hidden inside and tucked away because I refuse to give up the intrigue and thrill that comes with opening the drawer and seeing so many fun possibilities. The secrets it holds and the memories that come flooding when my hand touches the handle make my strap far more than just something I use to get off. It’s a special gem reserved for me and my girlfriend, that helps to deepen our intimacy on those special nights full of hard-hitting orgasms and other tangible pleasures.