“Stealthing” refers to the act of deliberately removing a condom during sex without your partner’s knowledge or consent. It’s illegal in many countries, and is a form of sexual assault. This catchy phrase doesn’t actually mean it’s a new trend but coins a new term for a kind of sexual assault. Women are being warned against this horrifying practice of men secretly removing their condom during sex without consent. The disturbing sex trend was examined by Alexandra Brodsky for the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law who said the practice is “not new” but is rarely spoken about. Even more troubling is the online community Brodsky uncovered, where men encourage other men to “stealth” their partners. These perpetrators — both gay and straight — believe it’s a man’s right to “spread one’s seed.”
Stealthing leaves a victim vulnerable to pregnancy or STIs, and can cause emotional, physical and financial harm. What is more worrying is that victims don’t always notice the perpetrators’ covert actions until it’s too late. Non-consensual condom removal is considered by most to be sexual assault, as it forces an individual into a sexual situation they did not agree to. It is commonly practiced, but was mostly dismissed as “bad sex” instead of “violence”.
What are the risks of Stealthing?
There are quite a number of risks involved when an individual has sex without a condom. There’s a chance of a woman getting pregnant and the possibility of getting or passing on STIs, including:
- genital herpes
- genital warts
Several women who’ve been victims of stealthing agree that it is a form of rape that threatens their agency, leaving them feeling victimized and powerless. Many of them are too ashamed to talk openly about it. There are a multitude of reasons why victims of rape don’t report the crime, ranging from shame and embarrassment, to fear of retaliation by the perpetrator, as well as doubt from police and attorneys as to their credibility. Reporting sexual assaults does not always result in prosecution, let alone conviction.
With no successful convictions for stealthing, even though wider society may be catching up with the idea that rape is about consent and not force, law enforcement still needs to rid itself of pervasive stereotypes about sexual assault. If awareness around stealthing improves, and it is recognized as a crime, then we need to ensure that those who come forward are supported.
- The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/22/stealthing-sex-trend-sexual-assault-crime
- The Sun: https://www.thesun.co.uk/living/3488839/what-is-stealthing-sexual-trend-assault-risks/
- Birmingham Mail: http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/xxxx-sex-stealthing-assault-condom–12941977