Stealthing: the act of a male secretly removing a condom during sex without the consent of his partner.
What if your boyfriend stealthed you? He’s not a sexual predator. He’s someone you trust and love very much. It’s not your first time together, but it’s the first time THIS has happened. The condom accidentally slipped off, he says. The more he talks, the more you realize something’s not right.
You call him out and his tone changes. He smiles sweetly, admitting finally that he wanted to have sex au naturale, without a barrier or restrictions. He did it for both of you, he says, wanting you to experience the freedom of it, the ultimate closeness a couple can share. Having intercourse the “natural way” proves your love for one another.
You feel the “love” all right and it’s running down your thigh. Alarm bells are now going off in your head. When was your last period? What about him? Hasn’t he slept with others?
You start explaining away his actions. What you two share is real, right? He only wanted to have sex au naturale with you, only you. It must be the real deal.
Stealthing is sexual assault and is “rape-adjacent” according to Yale Law School graduate Alexandra Brodsky’s published paper in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, because it nullifies your original consent to having sex with a condom.
Though someone may try to justify it when you’re in a relationship, stealthing is never a compliment. Your boyfriend chose to take advantage of you, your trust, your feelings for him, and your body. For someone to glamorize stealthing as a representation of committed love is manipulative. It’s predatory behavior that can result in anxiety and depression for its victims—not to mention unwanted pregnancy and STIs.
A landmark case in 2018 found a police officer in Germany guilty of sexual assault for removing a condom during sexual intercourse. He received an eight-month suspended jail sentence and was fined $3,400 in damages along with have to pay for his victim’s sexual health test.
There are no existing laws in the United States against stealthing mainly because it goes unreported. Thanks to Brodsky and others, awareness of this new sexual “trend” is gaining momentum. In February 2019, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney’s efforts to pressure the Department of Justice to clarify its stance on stealthing and to recognize that its sexual assault.
As a parent, I admit I was naïve about stealthing. I especially didn’t know that it was an online game where guys boasted and shared tips on how others can try it. The first time I heard of the sexual trend was when it came across my social media feed two years ago, the same year Brodsky published her article.
I have three boys, two of them teenagers. I started wondering if they’d heard of it. That wasn’t a fun conversation to have; no boy wants to discuss dating, sex, and especially condoms with his mother. I hardly think that my sons are capable of such a repulsive act. However, it’s important that all young men be taught the impact that sexual assault has on a woman and that sex in general is a very big deal.
Giving consent doesn’t mean consent to sex without exceptions, such as intercourse without a condom. Sexual consent doesn’t give someone an all-access pass to put your body and health at risk.
It takes an amazing amount of courage to admit that someone you love and trust has sexually violated you. If your boyfriend secretly removes the condom during sex, what other disturbing behavior is he capable of doing in the name of love?
Contraception is an important conversation to have with someone you’re thinking about having sex with or if you are already intimate. Keep talking about it to ensure that both of you are on the same page. Also, it’s more than okay to check that his condom is intact and in place—prior and during sex. It’s your body and your right.
If you feel you’ve been a victim of stealthing or another form of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673, available every day 24/7. For more resources on sexual assault, visit RAINN or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Heather Cumiskey is an award-winning author of the YA duology, I Like You Like This and I Love You Like That, a poignant coming of age story about addiction, peer pressure, sexuality, and first love. Connect with her at Heather@HeatherCumiskey.com.