The concept of “stealthing” has been a hot topic in the news lately, with various media outlets describing it as a sort of “sex trend” where men remove a condom during sex without the consent of their female partners. Missing from many of these articles is a very important part of the discussion: stealthing is actually rape.
When a person consents to a sexual activity, she or he is only consenting to that specific sexual activity — not to any and all sexual activity. This makes sense on a basic, fundamental level: if you agree to kiss someone, for example, you are not agreeing to have sex with that person. Consent has to be specific to the sexual activity. If a person agrees to have sex with a condom, she or he is only agreeing to sex with a condom. If her or his partner sneakily removes the condom, that is rape.
Understanding the fundamentals of consent is critical to grasping why this so-called trend of “stealthing” is really sexual assault. Consent must be:
Based on Equal Power
If you remove a condom without telling your partner, consent is none of those things. You do not have consent — you have rape. Full stop.
This practice may also represent a type of abuse known as reproductive coercion, where a man attempts to coerce a woman into becoming pregnant against her will. While reproductive coercion can take many forms, removing a condom during sex is one way that a man may try to get a woman pregnant when she does not want to be. In addition to being a form of sexual assault, we should also recognize “stealthing” as a way to abuse and control women through controlling their reproduction.
The way that much of the media has covered this “trend” has been disturbing, discussing it as though it were a preference rather than a form of assault and abuse. Let’s be clear: giving it a nickname like “stealthing” doesn’t make it any less abusive. Taking off a condom during sex without your partner’s consent is assault — and reporting it any other way is irresponsible journalism.
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