We must start prosecuting against and raising awareness of the practice of “stealthing”.
“Stealthing” may be a relatively new term but the practice itself isn’t. Stealthing means removing a condom without consent during sex. There are legislators in the US who are pushing for its criminalisation, but it should be a practice globally that is illegal. It is sexual assault.
Any sexual act that does not have consent is sexual assault. Any prior consent only extends to sex with a condom. If a partner has not been asked if they would have sex without a condom then consent in that scenario has never been established, nor does it exist. Removing a condom without consent is sexual assault. Penetration that has not been given consent is rape. It is not just “stealthing”; it is lying, abusive, and violating.
Stealthing happens across different populations, some are more at risk than others. There are fears that it is a practice that is under-reported and under-acknowledged regarding men who have sex with men. The queer community often faces stigma for their sexuality, and shame about their sex lives and therefore it is a situation that is causing concerns that men who have been subjected to stealthing may not feel able to speak about their experiences or seek support.
The act must be considered an act of violence against women and queer men. It is about power, it is about self satisfaction and disregards consent and boundaries set by partners. Any excuse for stealthing is bullshit. Yes, some condom sizes will be off for men (and evidence suggests condoms are actually too big so trash excuses really don’t work) but if someone wants sex without a condom then they have to ask. They know exactly what they are doing by removing the condom during sex, and not asking for consent before. It’s about getting what they want.
“The act must be considered an act of violence against women and queer men”
Education also needs to reflect this disturbing practice. Sex education has long been criticised for being redundant, queer exclusive and more about the discomfort of adults than about what young people need to learn. Stealthing is an incredibly violating practice, and one that could be far more prevalent than we are aware of. Young people need to know about it for their own safety – and they also must be educated on respecting boundaries. Young people must be taught that respect should be at the cornerstone of all relationships, and that includes casual and sexual relationships. Such lessons will never be delivered however, when adults in Parliament dictate the curriculum with a sense of queasiness, and don’t want to have to deal with the fact that young people will be having sex. By and large, young people do fuck so they may as well be safe and respectful doing it.
By educating and raising awareness we will create a society that has knowledge and is empowered against the practice. People will feel safer to be able to speak about their own experience. Abusers should be shamed and prosecuted. Stealthing must be on our radar as a matter of public health, but also one of public outrage. Our MPs must push for harsh penalties against the act, which should be an offence. Under UK law, there is room for it to be treated as rape as it is penetration without consent, but it’s an act that is only just beginning to gain recognition and rape prosecution rates are low already. There must be a renewed push to prosecute rapes and stealthing must come under that.
You can write to your MP to ask that stealthing be taken more seriously or even write to your former school on why you think students should be educated about this disturbing act. Any form of sexual activity without consent is assault. It’s an issue that deserves awareness.