Stealthing is a term that describes when a man removes a condom during sex despite agreeing to wear one, and unbeknownst to his partner. There’s a lot of discussion on social media about stealthing right now. Here’s what you need to know:
A recent report US report which found cases are on the rise by Alexandra Brodsky in Columbia Journal of Gender and Law says stealthing is a growing issue. Victim right groups are saying stealthing must be treated as rape, and that stealthing is a largely under-reported problem that’s been occurring for much longer than the term has been around.
More about the study by Columbia Journal of Gender and Law:
“Interviews with people who have experienced condom removal indicate that non-consensual condom removal is a common practice among young, sexually active people,” Brodsky explains. She says that stealthing “exposes victims to physical risks of pregnancy and disease” and is “experienced by many as a grave violation of dignity.”
Brodsky has already been contacted by lots of victims since the conversation began.
Is stealthing rape?
“That person is potentially committing rape,” says Sandra Paul, a solicitor who works at Kingsley Napley and specializes in sexual crime. She adds: “There has to be some agreement that a condom is going to be used or there is going to be withdrawal. “If that person then doesn’t stick to those rules then the law says you don’t have consent.”
In non-legal language, it means that if you agree to having sex with a condom and remove it, without saying, then you no longer have consent.
Then it is rape.
What impact does stealthing have on victims?
Brodsky speaks to a range of people who say they’ve been “stealthed”.
One student confided that the harm mostly had to do with trust. “He saw the risk as zero for himself and took no interest in what it might be for me, and that hurt.”
The report said that “apart from the fear of specific bad outcomes like pregnancy and STIs, all of the survivors experienced the condom removal as a disempowering, demeaning violation of a sexual agreement”.
Is talking about ‘stealthing’ a good thing?
Sandra Paul deals with a lot of sexual assault cases and thinks “discussing it is a good thing”.
“Starting a conversation has got to be the right thing to do,” she explains.
However not everyone is sure that it is a good idea to call it “stealthing”.
“I always find it quite surprising when new phrases like this come up for things that are effectively just a form of sexual assault,” says Katie Russell from the Rape Crisis centre. In other words, why are we labeling this act ‘stealthing’ when it should just be called what it is: sexual assault.
What should you do if stealthing happens to you?
“It can be really helpful to talk to someone in confidence like a trusted friend, or family member, or a specialist confidential independent service like a Rape Crisis centre,” Katie Russell says.
“They can just listen to you, support you and help you think through your options and what you might want to do in order to be able to cope with and recover from the traumatic experience.”