The Problem with Stealthing: An American Epidemic
Trigger Warning: This blog contains graphic details regarding sexual assault and may be disturbing to some readers.
In 2006, the #MeToo Movement was founded by a survivor of sexual assault, forcing the general public to acknowledge the systemic rape culture that has persisted globally. Since its inception, millions of people have found solace in the hashtag and the hope it symbolizes for them and their healing. 15 years later, however, we have only scratched the surface regarding sexual assault as a prevalent problem. This means that there are more sexual assault related issues that need our attention. These issues vary in topic and notoriety, but none is more covert than non-consensual condom removal – also known as stealthing.
According to our research at Her Choice Advocacy, 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. This type of predatorial and manipulative behavior is a form of sexual assault and/or rape, as well as reproductive coercion.
In case you live under a rock or are in denial, here are a few reasons why stealthing is obviously wrong:
· Love is about respect. Doing something to someone without their permission is the definition of disrespect.
· Increased chances of either partner contracting/spreading an STD or STI.
· Unwanted pregnancy is possible & probable.
Furthermore, stealthing is sexual assault because sexual assault is defined by RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) as: sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.
Therefore, when a man does not ask to take off the condom during sex, or does ask and ignores his partner’s response, he is committing sexual assault.
If you’re like me, you’re now probably wondering the following: who the f@#$ would want to take the condom off during sex?!? STD’s? A potential baby? Rape? Yikes!
Unfortunately, there are people out there – predators are what they’re called – who are not scared of the repercussions of covertly removing a condom during sex but actually feel it is their right to do so. EYE ROLL COMMENCE.
Please note: the practice of stealthing does not only happen to single women, but women in short-term and long-term relationships, including marriages. It also impacts the gay community.
Our friends over at TeenHealthSource.com have provided a whole list of reasons why a predator would choose to stealth and these reasons include:
· They don’t like wearing condoms
· They feel they have the right to ejaculate inside their partner (regardless of consent)
· They are selfish about pleasure
· They don’t care about the feelings or safety of their partner
· They want to exert power over their partner
Let’s be clear: there is no good reason to stealth someone. There is no valid excuse for sexual assault and no justification for the impropriety of someone else’s behavior, especially when inflicted on another person. Regardless, though, we as women must understand that there are men out there who believe in stealthing, their reason for doing it and as a result, will act on it.
You can protect yourself from stealthers by having an in-depth conversation with your potential or current sex partner(s) about what you will and will not consent to. You can check in with your partner to make sure that what you’re doing is something they’re okay with and something they enjoy while having sex or engaging in sexual activities.
That brings me to the unlucky, the unfortunate – the victims of these vile stealthers. How does reproductive coercion like non-consensual condom removal impact the women it’s already been done to?
The reactions of women to stealthing can vary, however, sexual assault can cause physical, psychological and emotional side effects to its victims. PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety attacks, depression, flashbacks, trust issues, self-harm, unwanted pregnancy and so much more can rain down on a woman or man if they have been stealthed.
For years, sexual assault, much like stealthing, was a part of every-day life – a part that most people, if not all people, didn’t really want to talk about or acknowledge. It lived in the shadows and forced its victims to live there, too. But in 2006, a fierce woman named Tarana Burke raised her voice and told the world that she had been a victim of sexual assault. She brought the darkness into the light so it could be destroyed. At HCA, we believe we can conquer that darkness and be a source of light for those women impacted by the morally repugnant.
If you or any other woman you know have been victims of stealthing, or non-consensual condom removal, we recommend you seek medical attention immediately, as well as talk to a therapist or friend to help you through this hard time.