Consent is a vital part of any healthy relationship, particularly in the context of sexual activity.
The act of stealthing is a violation of consent, whereby the victim is exposed to unprotected sex without their knowledge or agreement. Even though it’s common for men to complain about condoms, it’s unacceptable for this barrier to be removed without prior agreement.
Due to the rise of stealthing in recent years, it’s important to be aware of how to deal with this breach of trust and to understand the motivations behind it.
Note: This article includes information on the topic of consent and sexual assault. Please be mindful of your own history as you continue reading.
Stealthing refers to the act of removing or tampering with a condom during sexual intercourse without the knowledge or consent of one’s partner.
Non-consensual condom removal exposes the partner to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or unwanted pregnancy. Removal of a condom in this way is also considered a violation of sexual consent and a breach of trust with your sexual partner.
With a rise in stealthing in recent years, several studies have looked into the act of condom use resistance through both coercive and non-coercive tactics. Recent research shows that 35% of men reported using coercive tactics to obtain unprotected sex, such as emotional manipulation or deception to negate the use of a condom.
Stealthing shouldn’t be confused with consensual condom removal, which involves open discussion and agreement to remove the condom with your partner’s consent.
Due to the nonconsensual nature of stealthing, some legislators in the US have recently introduced bills that would class this behavior as a form of sexual assault.
Owing to the work of Californian Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, California was the first state to make it illegal to remove a condom without consent in 2021. In this case, stealthing is classified as a civil offense rather than a crime.
While legislation has been proposed to make stealthing illegal in states such as New York, no laws are currently in place.
Despite some positive developments, Alexandra Brodsky makes a case for a new cause of action in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law.
This study emphasizes that the current laws fail to condemn stealthing, since few recognize condom removal as a kind of legal wrong. Due to this lack of legal clarity, Brodsky emphasizes that victims of stealthing are themselves unsure whether or not this was merely boys behaving badly or a true moral wrong.
Therefore, even though this is commonly considered a type of rape-adjacent behavior, this form of sexual violence often goes unpunished from a legal perspective.
Victims of stealthing are subject to several sexual health risks and other serious consequences as a result of this non-consensual act.
“Stealthing breaks down trust in the relationship,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.
“Especially when a partner addresses it or shares feelings about the experience the other partner is dismissive, defensive, or gaslights their partner in their response.”
If you’re a victim of stealthing, first be kind to yourself as it can be a very overwhelming and disconcerting experience. Not only do you have to deal with the potential physical side effects, but also the long-lasting psychological side effects as a result of this violation of trust, autonomy, and consent.
“Due to the social stigma and shame that surrounds sexual betrayal and abuse it can feel isolating, lonely, and hard to bring up in conversation,” says Seeger DeGeare.
“It’s important to have some support from either a trusted friend or therapist knowing you do not have to navigate this alone.”
According to research, 12% of women have experienced stealthing in their lifetime. However, it’s important to remember that consent and communication are part of any healthy relationship and therefore, all victims of stealthing should seek support.
If your partner has removed a condom without your consent, it’s important to take a number of steps to safeguard your health and well-being.