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Do you know stealthing?

Inside the world of men who remove condoms during sex without consent

By Rachel Hosie

Removing a condom during sex – known as stealthing – transforms a consensual act into a non-consensual one.

It’s a little-discussed form of gender violence, but that is all changing thanks to a new study into the phenomenon, published recently.

When a man removes a condom during sex – often unbeknownst to his partner, he is opening them up to the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

But mostly, he’s committing an act he was not permitted to do, which many people are claiming is “rape-adjacent.”

For most men, the reason they remove condoms – often when changing positions so their partner doesn’t notice – is because they prefer the feel of sex without wearing one. But some also do so to exert power over their partners.

Apart from unwanted pregnancies and STIs, “survivors experienced nonconsensual condom removal as a clear violation of their bodily autonomy and the trust they had mistakenly placed in their sexual partner,” study author Alexandra Brodsky, a legal fellow at the National Women’s Law Center, writes in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law.

“Survivors (of stealthing) describe non-consensual condom removal as a threat to their bodily agency and as a dignitary harm,” she explains. “‘You have no right to make your own sexual decisions,’ they are told, ‘you are not worthy of my consideration.’”

Her report explores the phenomenon and shares the experiences of a number of victims.

“Obviously the part that really freaked me out was that it was such a blatant violation of what we’d agreed to,” one woman quoted in the study said. “I set a boundary. I was very explicit.”

Brodsky also shares the story of a woman called Rebecca who had herself been stealthed and now works for a sexual violence crisis hotline.

“Their stories often start the same way,” Rebecca said. “’I’m not sure if this is rape, but…’”

Brodsky says she decided to undertake the research when she was in law school in 2013 and realised how many of her friends were “struggling with forms of mistreatment by sexual partners that were not considered part of the recognised repertoire of gender based violence – but that seemed rooted in the same misogyny and lack of respect.”

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