Everything you need to know about stealthing: The disturbing new sex trend

The term ‘stealthing’ has hit the news hard this week. The so-called sex trend describes when a man removes a condom during sex without his partner’s consent.

A report published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law states that the number of “young sexually active people” experiencing stealthing is growing yet it is severely under-reported.

<i>Non-consensually removing a condom during sex has become a worrying new trend [Photo: Getty]</i>
Non-consensually removing a condom during sex has become a worrying new trend [Photo: Getty]

The study spoke to a number of women. “Some realised their partner had removed the condom at the moment of re-penetration; others did not realise until the partner ejaculated or, in one case, notified them the next morning,” it reads.

Not only does non-consensual removal of a condom put women at a much greater risk of unwanted pregnancy, it also exposes people to life-long STIs including HIV and herpes.

If you’re unclear whether this disturbing practice is illegal, then rest assured that it is. Under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, consent is defined as requiring individuals to be “in a position to make that choice freely. The crucial question is whether the complainant agrees to the activity by choice.”

“That person is potentially committing rape,” a solicitor specialising in sexual crime told the BBC. “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.”

<i>The illegal practice has been dubbed ‘stealthing’ [Photo: Getty]</i>
The illegal practice has been dubbed ‘stealthing’ [Photo: Getty]

A number of online communities exist full of men defending stealthing. You may think men are choosing to do this as a way of increasing physical pleasure or a simple (yet misguided) thrill but forums suggest otherwise.

Many ‘stealthers’ see their actions as a “natural male right”, labelling it as a way of a man “spreading his seed.” Some commenters even state that women have no right to complain and should just put up with this “male instinct.”

Although it is primarily a male phenomenon, women have been known to commit stealthing by piercing a hole through condoms in a bid to trick a man into getting them pregnant.

<i>Some men believe ‘stealthing’ is a natural male right [Photo: Getty]</i>
Some men believe ‘stealthing’ is a natural male right [Photo: Getty]

Experts believe labelling the practice ‘stealthing’ trivialises the issue. “I always find it quite surprising when new phrases like this come up for things that are effectively just a form of sexual assault,” Katie Russell from the Rape Crisis charity commented.

“Giving it a term like ‘stealthing’ sounds relatively trivial. It’s a very acceptable term for something that’s extremely unacceptable and actually an act of sexual violence.”

In fact, calling it a trend completely undermines the women who have experienced the blatant violation. Alexandra Brodsky, the woman behind the study, told The Huffington Post that it all began after realising her female friends had been “struggling with forms of mistreatment that weren’t considered part of the recognised repertoire of gender-based violence.”

Several rape charities are demanding the non-consensual practice be treated as rape. In January this year, a 47-year-old Swiss man was convicted of rape after taking off a condom during sex with a woman he met on Tinder.

The court ruled that if a condom was expected but not used, having sexual intercourse without one legally counts as sexual assault.

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