ⓘ Non-consensual condom removal, or stealthing , is the practice of a man covertly removing or damaging a condom during sexual intercourse, when his sex partner h ..


ⓘ Non-consensual condom removal

Non-consensual condom removal, or stealthing ", is the practice of a man covertly removing or damaging a condom during sexual intercourse, when his sex partner has only consented to condom-protected sex. Such behaviour may be regarded as sexual assault or rape and is a form of reproductive coercion.


1. History and practice

In an article about stealthing published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Alexandra Brodsky described victims experiences, legal implications, and legal avenues to address stealthing. The term stealthing has been in use in the gay community to describe this practice since at least 2014.

Brodsky described how the practice of stealthing is discussed, described, and advocated for on various websites and forums. These forums are sometimes used to brag about committing stealthing and to share tips on how to do it. The practice has also been described as "a threat to bodily agency and as a dignitary harm", and men who do this "justify their actions as a natural male instinct". Columbia Law School professor Suzanne Goldberg says that the practice of stealthing is likely not new, but its promotion on the internet among men is new. How-to guides have been posted to social media platforms like The Experience Project.

Condom negotiation is often silenced by male partners in adolescent relationships, partially due to the females fear of her partner’s response, a feeling of obligation, and a lack of knowledge or skills in negotiating condom use. To prevent this, it is important that male partners are reached with the information as to why condoms are beneficial for them as well. Forums for this outreach could include community-wide interventions fostering discussion of healthy and unhealthy relationship practices and prevention programs for HIV/AIDS and STIs. Schools can provide a safe site for prevention interventions, but high-risk adolescents who are not in school must be reached through additional means, such as in community centers or detention centers.

Statistics on the prevalence of stealthing are limited. However, a 2014 study by Kelly Cue Davis and colleagues reported that 9.0% of participants in their sample of young men reported having engaged in condom sabotage, which included non-consensual condom removal. The National Sexual Assault Hotline reports receiving calls about stealthing. A recent study from a Melbourne based sexual health clinic asked women and men who have sex with men MSM attending the clinic whether they had experienced stealthing, and analysed situational factors associated with the event. Thirty-two percent of women and 19% of MSM reported having ever experienced stealthing. Women who had been stealthed were more likely to be a current sex worker and MSM who had experienced stealthing were more likely to report anxiety or depression. Both female and male participants who had experienced stealthing were three times less likely to consider it to be sexual assault than participants who had not experienced it. Two other studies were recently published with U.S. samples. One study found that almost 10% of young male non-problem drinkers reported having engaged in nonconsensual condom removal since the age of 14. Men who had engaged in this behavior reported higher rates of STI diagnoses and partners with unplanned pregnancies than men who had not engaged in nonconsensual condom removal. In another study of young adult women, 12% reported that they had experienced nonconsensual condom removal by a male partner, while none of the participants reported engaging in nonconsensual condom removal themselves.


2. Legal and ethical concerns

In UK law, consent to a specific sex act, but not to any sex act without exceptions, is known as conditional consent. In 2018, a man was found guilty of sexual assault in Germanys first conviction for stealthing. In 2017, a Swiss court in Lausanne convicted a man for rape for removing a condom during sex against the expectations of the woman he was having sex with, but in another case in 2019, the cantonal supreme court of Zurich disagreed. The cantonal supreme court held that such conduct was not illegal, albeit with regret. A 2014 Supreme Court of Canada ruling upheld a sexual assault conviction of a man who poked holes in his condom.

Existing laws in the United States do not specifically cover stealthing and there are no known legal cases about it. In her research on stealthing, Brodsky noted that Swiss and Canadian courts have prosecuted cases of condoms broken or removed by men unbeknownst to their partners. Brodsky describes stealthing as legally "rape-adjacent" and akin to rape.

An Australian court case is underway regarding stealthing. The president of the NSW law society has described stealthing as sexual assault because it changes the terms of consent.


3. Impact and risks

Removing or damaging a condom during sex increases the risks of unintended pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections STIs. Victims may feel betrayal and many victims see it as a "grave violation of dignity and autonomy". Many may also experience emotional and psychological distress, especially those who have experienced sexual violence in the past.

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