“Stealthing” isn’t a common word, but it’s adding significantly to the language of far too-common sexual assault.
It describes purposeful condom removal during intercourse, when a partner’s consent has only been given for condom-protected sex.
It puts that partner at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STI’s) and pregnancy.
It’s wrong, deceitful, and is increasingly being considered illegal.
This is new information to many – and was to me, too, very recently.
But not knowing the law is no excuse and doesn’t absolve a perpetrator of this willful act.
It’s essential to get this information understood and widely known.
“Consent” is at the crux of legal decisions regarding sexual assault.
Alexandra Brodsky, a research fellow at the National Women’s Law Center in Washington, D.C. conducted a study published by the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law last April about stealthing.
Brodsky says, “It’s a common practice among young, sexually active people.”
There are also reports of it happening to gay men where condoms were removed without consent, exposing them to STI’s.
In the United Kingdom, stealthing is more clearly seen as a sexual offence. The Sexual Offences Act (2003) describes someone as guilty of the offence of rape, sexual assault, and/or assault by penetration, if the partner doesn’t consent to the act, or the perpetrator doesn’t reasonably believe that there was consent.
Last January in Switzerland, a man, 47, was convicted of rape because he took off a condom during sex with a woman he met on Tinder.
According to the news agency RTS, a Swiss criminal court ruled that if a condom was expected but not used, having intercourse without one legally constitutes sexual assault.
The man received a 12-month suspended sentence after his conviction.
In California, a bill that added “stealthing” to the definition of rape in state law was introduced last May.
Cristina Garcia, who chairs the state’s Legislative Women’s Caucus, stated, “Stealthing is rape. Penetration without consent is rape.”
Stealthing isn’t currently included in Canadian law, as I found. But the emphasis on a partner’s required consent – as in agreeing to have sex only with condom protection – does invite interpretation of a crime by the courts.
In a case called R v. Hutchinson, a Supreme Court ruling in 2014, upheld the sexual assault conviction of a man who’d poked holes in a condom, though the woman hadn’t consented to unprotected sex, and she became pregnant.
The case expanded the definition of “fraud” that can bring consent into question.
This is information vital for young people, male and female alike, and even for long married or cohabiting partners.
Stealthing isn’t just a buzzword. It carries the meaning of sexual control and manipulation, under growing consideration as an illegal assault.
“Spreading their seed” is not a male right, as some men have claimed on online sites.
Without consent, the sex act can devastate one partner and might land the other in jail.
To the man who wrote me (my column of Sept. 13) to help get his ex-wife back after an incident of condom removal:
The growing trend in law and the increased use of this abhorrently arbitrary act has changed my perspective.
He’s undoubtedly lost any chance she can ever trust him again, and should not pursue her at all.
He’s exposed himself to a legal question of whether, in the jurisdiction where he lives (which he didn’t disclose), he broke the law as well as any connection between them.
My dearest friend’s very private two-year "relationship” upsets me. He (32) lives with her (27), but maintains his own apartment.
Only close friends know their arrangement. He refuses to acknowledge her as “girlfriend.”
He’s a support for her, buys her gifts, they have fun together. He says he isn't ready to officially move in.
He sometimes hangs out with female acquaintances and tells her.
I don’t know how to advise/support her. He seems to be playing games with her.
She doesn't stick up for herself. She’s unhappy but won’t discuss it.
Everything you know about this “arrangement,” she knows too. She’s chosen to stick with it.
You can be supportive by asking questions without judging, e.g. how does she see the future with him? Does she have a timeline for raising it with him?
Express confidence that she’ll eventually call him out on whether he’s committed to her or not.
Tip of the day:
Stealthing is not a buzzword. It’s a crime.