Consent is:

  • Freely Given
  • Reversible
  • Informed
  • Enthusiastic
  • Specific

Sex without consent is rape. We are aware of the many different types of non-consensual sexual harassment – unwanted groping, stalking, coercion, cat-calling – the list goes on. However, there is a lesser-known form of sexual assault that you should definitely be aware of, and that is – stealthing.

What is stealthing?

Stealthing is when a partner removes a condom mid intercourse without the other’s knowledge or clear consent. It can happen to both men and women, however, women are often the victims of stealthing. This non-consensual act is reported in straight and gay communities, and even among committed, long term relationships and married couples. This so-called “sex-trend” has been increasing in recent years. As a matter of fact, stealthing is not something new; such an act has probably existed as long as condoms themselves were invented. According to Wendasha Jenkins Halls, who is an independent sexuality researcher and educator with expertise in women’s sexual and reproductive health stated that, stealthing is labelled as sexual assault as it essentially turns a consensual sexual encounter (protected sexual intercourse) into a non-consensual one (unprotected sex).

Why on earth would a someone stealth their partner?

There are a few reasons why a person might commit stealthing.

Stealthing perpetrators claimed excuse seems to be that sex felt better for both parties without protection. But as with any kind of sexual assault, it’s not about preference or pleasure. The real desire that these perpetrators feel is, in fact, the pleasure created by the assertion of power combined with risking a violation. Sadly, people who twist sex in such a way often have a shrewd, internal plumb line of what is morally wrong. Breaking boundaries create a thrill for the perpetrator as he or she exercises their domination over the autonomy of another.

Furthermore, perpetrators of stealthing use this as a manipulative technique to get their partner pregnant as a mean of control, which is basically a form of reproductive coercion. When the partner finds herself pregnant, with no resources or anyone to turn to, the perpetrator has succeeded and can continue exercising power and control over his partner by fabricating this lifelong bind between them. In a study conducted on stealthing by researcher Alexandra Brodsky, it was discovered that stealthing perpetrators often felt that their actions and behaviors are justified by their investment in male sexual supremacy and by using misogynist rhetoric such as “it is a man’s right to stealth” , “it is a natural instinct for men to stealth”, or “a woman deserves to be impregnated”. Stealthing is also a form of emotional abuse. When a woman or man consents to having sex, with the knowledge that it will be with protection (condom), there is a moral responsibility to uphold that understanding.  Even if consent is granted to the partner for having sexual intercourse, it does not imply that the partner has the right to sidestep the given consent and violate your body by removing a condom during intercourse without your permission or conscious knowledge. Removing the condom means that a different sex act is occurring, and informed consent needs to take place once again. Stealthing basically violates your body by breaking the trust you placed in your partner and the mutual agreement you had to respect each other’s physically and emotionally. It involves a decision to expose you to risk without you being aware of it at all. As a result, when someone does this on purpose to harm you, it’s crystal clear that it is also emotional abuse.

The Aftermath

There is no good excuse to stealth. There isn’t a single valid reason to assault someone. For many people, sex is considered intimate in both physical and emotional contexts. Stealthing is betraying the trust of your partner, as a result leaves them suffering from betrayal trauma, which may echo throughout the victim’s future sexual experiences such as avoiding or excessive concerns about sexual experiences and other forms of intimacy. Similar to rape, the damage to victims of stealthing could be severe. Purposefully and secretly removing a condom opens up both parties to the risk of contracting STDs, like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes, and HIV. Even if ejaculation did not occur, fluids that can pass along STDs are still being exchanged. Some STDs can cause infertility and other long-term health implications if left untreated. Remember: even though some STDs may be treated, others might not and can stay with you without showing any symptoms for a long time. In addition, for women relying on condoms as their primary or only method of contraception, stealthing puts them at risk for pregnancy.

What Can You Do To Protect Yourself?

Given its fraudulent and manipulative nature, stealthing is intrinsically difficult to avoid. Nevertheless, there are a few ways to decrease your risk of being a victim of stealthing.

First and foremost, make sure to express your boundaries prior to any sexual encounter. Make it clear that you are only giving consent to sex with a condom. Even when a condom may look brand new, they can still be broken inside, therefore, it is strongly advised to bring your own condoms to make sure they aren’t damaged or expired. Check that the condom remain on throughout sex and even with a condom, you can request your partner to ejaculate outside of your body. It is important that the condom used can be easily felt by you. Wondaleaf Unisex Condoms provide barrier protection and you can feel it if your partner tries to pull it off! (also fyi, this applies to any condom, never ever open a condom with your teeth). If you fear or are suspicious that your partner may be capable of removing a condom without your consent, trust your gut, and keep an eye out for it. It’s okay to keep the lights on if you need to. Remember that you always have the right to say “no” to sex regardless of where you are or who you’re with. It’s your body and you do not have to do anything you’re not comfortable with! If you don’t feel safe asserting your rights with your partner, that is a red flag telling you that you may be in an abusive or relationship (get of it ASAP!)

If You’ve Been Stealthed

Although you may have consented to sexual intercourse, remember that you consented to having protected sex! If your partner removed the condom mid sex, the most important thing to remember is that it’s not your fault! Pay no attention to people that engage in victim blaming saying, “these people signed up for it”. You should immediately seek medical treatment by getting tested for pregnancy and STDs. Getting screened for STDs is the only way to know for sure if you contracted an STD or if you became pregnant as a result of stealthing. Keep in mind that even though certain things may fall out of your control, you always do have control over your body and reproductive rights. Stealthing is likely to generate physical, psychological, and relational consequences. If you or someone you know who is a victim of stealthing and is not at a good place mentally or emotionally, you can always seek support from a mental health professional or rape crisis helpline. No one deserves to be stealthed – you deserve to be in healthy relationship where your partner respects you and is worthy of your trust and time!