‘Stealthing’: Why Non-consensual Condom Removal Is A Big Deal

24/04/2021
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“Stealthing” or non-consensual condom removal, is when one person secretly and purposefully
removes the condom during intercourse, while their partner has only consented to condom-protected sex. Victims of stealthing are exposed to potential pregnancy and STIs, unbeknownst
to them—selfishly for their partner’s increased pleasure or thrill. In countries like Canada and
Germany, stealthing is punishable by law and is regarded as a form of sexual assault, akin to rape.

In 2016, Germany’s sexual crime laws were reformed, placing greater weight on consent. Since
then, in the country’s first steal thing case, a 36 year old policeman was found guilty of sexual
assault by a local Berlin court. The victim “explicitly requested” that the man wear a condom
during intercourse, and had given no consent to sex without protection. It was only after the man
ejaculated, that the victim realized he had not been wearing a condom. The defendant was fined
€3,000, along with €96 for the victim’s sexual health test; he also received an eight-month
suspended jail sentence.

 

The concept of stealthing is definitely not new, but the term for this practice has been used since
2014 by the gay community. Either way, it’s still a big deal and a form of sexual abuse. In
adolescent relationships, condom negotiation is often silenced by male partners—partially due
to a lack of knowledge in negotiating in this area, a feeling of obligation and the fear of the
condom-wearer’s response. To prevent this from happening in the first place, it’s important that
gay and straight males are taught that wearing a condom is beneficial for them as well.

A recent study in the U.S. found that “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.”1 In another recent 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”.1

While the majority of stealthing is practiced my men, it needs to also be noted that it is possible
for females to also ‘stealth’ their partners, by removing or damaging the condom without their
partner’s consent.

So, what to do if you are a victim of stealthing?

Many victims report feelings of betrayal and a violation of trust—and most importantly, it is never
the victim’s fault. In 2018, a man was found guilty of sexual assault in Germany’s first conviction
for stealthing; but in neighboring Switzerland, the supreme court disagreed—saying that it was
regretfully, not illegal.

So basically, when it comes to the legal action you can take as a victim, it really depends on the
country you are in. If you want to press charges, go to a nearby police station where they can
collect physical evidence. Even if pressing charges isn’t an option, you can still file a civil case.
Either way, we must take matters into our own hands by getting tested, removing harmful
relationships from our lives, practicing open communication and always expressing boundaries.
Oftentimes the mental health ramifications are the greatest, in which case—try not to withdraw.
Seek guidance from a friend, rape crisis hotline or mental professional.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of stealthing and don’t know where to turn,
contact the sexual violence resource center or sexual assault hotline in your country.

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