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What is Stealthing? Non-Consensual Condom Removal Explained

Sex should always be a pleasurable and safe experience for all parties involved. After all, sex has many benefits for a woman’s health. It can increase intimacy between you and your partner, boost your mood and self-confidence, and even serves as a workout!
A man holding a condom

Stealthing, however, is an act in which a man removes his condom during sex without telling his partner. It presents many complex physical and emotional issues. But what exactly does stealthing mean and what does it do?

What is condom stealthing?

Stealthing during sex is a hot topic of debate these days. Condom stealthing consists of secretly taking the condom off during sex, when your partner has only consented to having sex with the condom on.

This can lead to significant problems for the affected partner. Physical consequences include unwanted pregnancy or STI transmission.

Emotional consequences are more complicated, but may include psychological distress and a feeling of being violated. Stealthing is an act of sexual aggression that negates your right to consent and breaks trust.

Is stealthing sexual assault? 

Condom stealthing is commonly thought of as a form of sexual assault. When you consent to have sex with a condom, that consent only extends to protected intercourse. Removal of the condom means you’ve lost the ability to protect yourself from unwanted pregnancy or STIs.

Stealthing is a deceptive, non-consensual act. As such, it’s a type of behavior which should never be tolerated in a relationship.

Unfortunately, stealthing has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. This trend highlights the need to talk openly about consensual sex, both in interpersonal relationships and academic settings. Clearly, sexual violence must be destigmatized so that those who have experienced it can share what they’ve been through without fear or shame.

A woman upset over condom stealthing

Impact of stealthing 

In addition to emotional consequences ‒ like feelings of shame and a loss of trust ‒ condom stealthing also poses physical problems, such as:

Unwanted pregnancy

Each time you engage in unprotected sex, there is a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant. If you’re not using any other form of contraception besides condoms, then there is a possibility that stealthing will lead to unwanted pregnancy. 

An unwanted pregnancy can cause great emotional distress, and it represents a financial burden that many women aren’t prepared to take on. This is how condom stealthing negates your right, as a woman, to choose what happens to your own body.

STIs

Contracting a sexually transmitted disease is another potential outcome of stealthing. Keep in mind that condoms (male and female) are the only contraceptive methods which help protect you from most STIs.

When a man practices stealthing, he may knowingly or unknowingly pass a sexually transmitted disease on to his partner. The most common STIs include:

STIs and stealthing seriously jeopardize both personal and public health. If you believe that you are only having protected intercourse, you may not feel the need to get tested. This could allow an STI to remain undetected for a longer period of time. If you have an active sex life, it’s crucial to get tested regularly, regardless of the type of protection you’re using.

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The motivation behind stealthing 

Men who use this practice have said they do it because they prefer to have sex without a condom. However, experts agree the motivation behind condom stealthing usually runs deeper than that. Stealthing is often used to assert power and break the bonds of trust, which may, in some way, be thrilling for those who do it. 

That’s why it’s so important to remember the affected partner is not to blame, and that both men and women are vulnerable to condom stealthing.

Is stealthing legal? 

Laws aren’t always clear or universal when it comes to stealthing. Although debates on consent and sexual assault condemn it, this attitude is relatively new and most countries do not have laws against stealthing in place.

In some areas, laws are being created to classify stealthing as a form of rape or sexual violence. It may be beneficial to stay informed about these changes on the local level.

Canada and certain European countries have prosecuted men found guilty of stealthing under the concept of conditional consent. This means that even though you consented to sex, you did not consent to sex without exceptions, such as intercourse without a condom. Your partner could then face criminal charges because they changed the terms of your consent.

Even though there is no legal consensus on stealthing, knowingly transmitting an STI is punishable by law in most areas. A person who commits stealthing, carries an STI, and passes it on to their partner can be charged with a misdemeanor.

If you have ever experienced stealthing, the first thing to remember is that it’s not your fault. Your partner chose to break your trust and violate your boundaries. Seek support from those closest to you, and consider researching local laws on sexual violence to see if you can take legal action.

It’s also critical to get tested for pregnancy and STIs. The good news is that most STIs can now be easily treated. Furthermore, if you are having trouble dealing with your feelings about what happened, don’t be afraid to talk to a professional.

Remember that sex should always be consensual, enjoyable, and safe for everyone involved. There are many steps you can take towards a more pleasurable sex life, but the key is to always feel comfortable both with your partner and in your own skin.

https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-most-common-stds-sexually-transmitted-diseases-3133040

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/married-and-still-doing-it/201809/stealthing-what-you-need-know

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