What is Stealthing?


[content warning: rape, sexual assault]

“Stealthing” is a word that has been seen increasingly on social media in recent weeks. Officially, it has been referred to as the non-consensual removal of a condom during sex, and non-officially as a “sexual trend”. But organisations and activists have been pushing for it to be referred to as what it really is: a form of sexual assault.

We are taught (at least I hope most of us are) the importance of conscious consent. However, some often forget that there is more to consent than a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It comes with conditions, and protection is one of the most common ones.  The reasons for protection, between STDs and pregnancy risk, are pretty clear. So why do so many guys think it’s ok to just slip it off? In a study conducted by National Women’s Law Centre, men name reasons such as an increase in physical pleasures, or excitement from degradation and domination. These findings are immensely worrying, as they reflect a horrifying lack of respect for women and the threat that our society’s rape culture poses to real people.

The best way to fight this is to begin raising awareness of this disturbing practice, and make it clear that stealthing is a form of rape, which is both socially and criminally unacceptable. Hopefully this isn’t too far away; The President of the Queen’s Bench Division, Sir John Thomas, stated that having sex without a condom, in a case when the other person makes it clear that (s)he would not participate otherwise, is an offense under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. Earlier this year, one man who removed a condom without his partners’ knowledge during sex was charged of rape in Switzerland – but the verdict was recently overturned. However, Switzerland is still much more progressive than the rest of the world, where this disturbing practice has not received much attention until now.

I conclude this article by quoting a statement from the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre:

“Consensual sex is contextual. If you have consented to sex with a condom and someone continues to have sex with you without a condom or deceives you into believing he is wearing one when he is not, you have not consented.”

[Zad Novak]

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