The other day, I found out about a thing called “stealthing.” I’m not going to lie, when I saw the term I I thought it sounded sort of cool; some sort of sneaky James Bond-esque related word used between governments or large companies.
I was very unpleasantly surprised. “Stealthing” is the "non-consensual condom removal during sexual intercourse," states a study by Alexandra Brodsky in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, and it’s a growing issue (refer to this BBC article for all the facts).
Essentially it’s when the guy you’re having sex with takes off the condom or purposely damages it during sex.
Despite fears of STIs and pregnancy, “stealthing” causes serious issues of mistrust and sexual violation. One student and victim of this ludicrous act said "He saw the risk as zero for himself and took no interest in what it might be for me, and that hurt."
However, Brodsky's study focuses on heterosexual relationships, and particularly from a female point of view, so I decided to delve into the gay community first and find out the thoughts of some homosexual men on the matter.
Marty Pilkiewicz, a young gay man and open activist,says he doesn’t believe it’s ever happened to him, but it’s something he’s always been paranoid of, especially when having a one night stand; “I always watch the fella put [a condom] on and sometimes help them put it on, then during sex I’ve checked and I physically look at it after. I haven’t had unprotected sex since 2011 and I was in a relationship then.” However Marty had never heard of “stealthing” until I asked him about it and he personally doesn’t think it’s an epidemic amongst the gay community, stating that “hardly any gay men would be so malicious as to trick anyone like that , as I don’t think many straight men would be either. It baffles me as to why they would want to do that as young men don’t want kids so why would they risk getting a girl pregnant by removing a condom?”
This is an obvious question but at the end of the day, a lot of guys simply don’t care whether a girl gets pregnant or not, as they either don’t think it’s their problem or don’t believe it will ever happen to them, which simultaneously applies to their attitudes towards STDs. (There’s also the fact that risk assessment isn’t their main mental priority in the heat of the moment).
Another young gay man I spoke to was Matthew*, who declares that if he’s using a condom during sex he would never remove it without asking his partner, but “if it tears we usually continue without it based on a mutual agreement”. Although Matthew* also continued to say that “sexually transmitted diseases are rife in the community and it’s so dangerous, especially with the likes of HIV”.
A final gay man I questioned on the matter was Patrick*; “I don’t consider it rape, it’s just putting someone at the risk of STDs or pregnancy when they’ve taken the proper precautions and you’ve taken that away from them. It’s like a violation of trust but I wouldn’t go as far to say rape”. Michael too thought of “stealthing” as a condemnable, non-consensual act, but not rape.
The deeper I delved into my online research, I found that “stealthing” isn’t as relatively new as first thought. Further down the years I realised it was actually a popular term within the gay community, with many people promoting it within porn and their sex lives. One website, homoculture.com shared an article about its dangers back in 2015, and warning men to be wary of it, but it was never known as anything other than a “trick” or just a popular sex “trend”. In fact, there are multiple online forums that support a man’s right to “stealth”, and Alexandra Brodsky picked up on this in her study as well. She interviewed people from these online communities and told that these men feel its their right to “spread their seed” and have “ an ideology of male supremacy in which violence is a man’s natural right”. Slightly terrifying.
What Do Straight Men Think?
I turned to heterosexual men next, to find out their perspective, as I couldn’t find any articles online where a straight man was ever questioned on his thoughts about it.
One guy I found couldn’t actually get his head around it that “stealthing” was a real thing. He thought it was hyped up by the media and “Feminazis” because he didn’t think anyone would actually do it (the naivety was refreshing I suppose?) but he went on to say that if it did happen to someome, they would be “dumb as f*** not to have noticed it happening to them in the first place”. He was a delight. In the same breath though, he’s never done it himself.
In fact, no man I spoke to said they had ever partaken in “stealthing,” whether it is they truly haven’t, or are ashamed to admit so, although all of them (thankfully) seemed repulsed by the notion of it.
Every guy I spoke to said they do prefer “barebacking”, but would never even have thought to “stealth” someone. One fellow (we’ll call him Dave*) said that he hated using condoms “because they kill the sensation” and that he would usually wait for his partner to ask him to put a condom on before offering first himself. He would go as far to say he didn’t have a condom on him, in which case three options would arise;
1. The girl would continue anyway in a desperate act of passion,
2. She would end it there and tell him they couldn’t do it without one, in which case he would miraculously pull one out of the crevice of his wallet (“OMG can’t believe I didn’t see that in there”)
3. She pulls out one herself so he really has no choice (this one’s my favourite, I enjoy savvy girls who are prepared... women should carry condoms around just as much as men should #gendereqaulity)
In fairness to him, he said he always did wear the condom when it came down to it, however begrudging he was.
Another guy made a decent enough thought-provoking point. While fully condemning “stealthing”, he asked “Isn’t it rape [of a man] if a girl lies about being on the birth control pill?” I’m just going to leave that statement there and let you think of it as you will.
For any man out there that does think “stealthing” is a “Feminazi craze made up to make men look even worse”, I would advise them to look at the tweets of former Bond girl actress and multiple-time Playboy model Robbin Young, who publicly showed her disdain of “stealthing”, but also expressed the fact that men can be victims of it too, writing that “women use pins to poke holes in condom packages so they break during intercourse = unplanned pregnancy.” When I got in contact with her, she discussed the controversial nature of the issue; “It is a bit edgy, but if we don’t discuss these types of topics, people (both men & women) may contract STD/STI’s... and men may end up paying for children they hadn’t planned on having.”
In Conclusion . . .
I personally find “stealthing” to be a selfish, demeaning, demoralising and disgusting act and never could have imagined such a thing to be an issue in the modern world. It’s also cowardly given the fact the other party agreed to wear a condom in the first place, knowing that they would diminish this agreement in the middle of intercourse. No matter what your opinion, it is legally rape, and is most definitely 100% morally abhorrent.
I can already imagine young girls and women now, becoming pregnant and getting told it’s their own fault, and they should’ve been more careful, shouldn’t have been such a 'slut' etc.
I’m from Northern Ireland, and abortion still isn’t legal here. Add that with the new UK rape clause being proposed I doubt the Tory government would give this a second thought.
*not real names
Controversial but what do you think?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.