Non-consensual condom removal
Non-consensual condom removal, or "stealthing", is the practice of a man covertly removing or damaging a condom during sexual intercourse, when his sex partner has only consented to condom-protected sex. Such behaviour may be regarded as sexual assault or rape and is a form of reproductive coercion.
History and practice
In an article about stealthing published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Alexandra Brodsky described victims' experiences, legal implications, and legal avenues to address stealthing. The term stealthing has been in use in the gay community to describe this practice since at least 2014.[update]
Brodsky described how the practice of stealthing is discussed, described, and advocated for on various websites and forums. These forums are sometimes used to brag about committing stealthing and to share tips on how to do it. The practice has also been described as "a threat to [a victim's] bodily agency and as a dignitary harm", and men who do this "justify their actions as a natural male instinct". Columbia Law School professor Suzanne Goldberg says that the practice of stealthing is likely not new, but its promotion on the internet among men is new. How-to guides have been posted to social media platforms like The Experience Project.
Condom negotiation is often silenced by male partners in adolescent relationships, partially due to the female's fear of her partner’s response, a feeling of obligation, and a lack of knowledge or skills in negotiating condom use. To prevent this, it is important that male partners are reached with the information as to why condoms are beneficial for them as well. Forums for this outreach could include community-wide interventions fostering discussion of healthy and unhealthy relationship practices and prevention programs for HIV/AIDS and STIs. Schools can provide a safe site for prevention interventions, but high-risk adolescents who are not in school must be reached through additional means, such as in community centers or detention centers.
Statistics on the prevalence of stealthing are limited. However, a 2014 study by Kelly Cue Davis and colleagues reported that 9.0% of participants in their sample of young men reported having engaged in condom sabotage, which included non-consensual condom removal. The National Sexual Assault Hotline reports receiving calls about stealthing. A recent study from a Melbourne based sexual health clinic asked women and men who have sex with men (MSM) attending the clinic whether they had experienced stealthing, and analysed situational factors associated with the event. Thirty-two percent of women and 19% of MSM reported having ever experienced stealthing. Women who had been stealthed were more likely to be a current sex worker and MSM who had experienced stealthing were more likely to report anxiety or depression. Both female and male participants who had experienced stealthing were three times less likely to consider it to be sexual assault than participants who had not experienced it. Two other studies were recently published with U.S. samples. One study found that almost 10% of young male non-problem drinkers reported having engaged in nonconsensual condom removal since the age of 14. Men who had engaged in this behavior reported higher rates of STI diagnoses and partners with unplanned pregnancies than men who had not engaged in nonconsensual condom removal. In another study of young adult women, 12% reported that they had experienced nonconsensual condom removal by a male partner, while none of the participants reported engaging in nonconsensual condom removal themselves.
Legal and ethical concerns
In UK law, consent to a specific sex act, but not to any sex act without exceptions, is known as conditional consent. In 2018, a man was found guilty of sexual assault in Germany's first conviction for stealthing. In 2017, a Swiss court in Lausanne convicted a man for rape for removing a condom during sex against the expectations of the woman he was having sex with, but in another case in 2019, the cantonal supreme court of Zürich disagreed. The cantonal supreme court held that such conduct was not illegal, albeit with regret. A 2014 Supreme Court of Canada ruling upheld a sexual assault conviction of a man who poked holes in his condom.
Existing laws in the United States do not specifically cover stealthing and there are no known legal cases about it. In her research on stealthing, Brodsky noted that Swiss and Canadian courts have prosecuted cases of condoms broken or removed by men unbeknownst to their partners. Brodsky describes stealthing as legally "rape-adjacent" and akin to rape.
Impact and risks
Removing or damaging a condom during sex increases the risks of unintended pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Victims may feel betrayal and many victims see it as a "grave violation of dignity and autonomy". Many may also experience emotional and psychological distress, especially those who have experienced sexual violence in the past.
- Hatch, Jenavieve (21 April 2017). "Inside The Online Community Of Men Who Preach Removing Condoms Without Consent". Huffington Post. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
- Brodsky, Alexandra (2017). "'Rape-Adjacent': Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal". Columbia Journal of Gender and Law. 32 (2). SSRN 2954726.
- The Age, 3 June 2019, One in three women victim to 'stealth' condom removal
- Kelly, Laura (30 April 2017). "Law paper condemns 'stealthing' assailants removing condoms during intercourse without consent". The Washington Times.
- Nedelman, Michael (27 April 2017). "Some call it 'stealthing,' others call it sexual assault". CNN.
- Howard, Dave (10 May 2017). "What it's like to be a victim of 'stealthing'". Newsbeat. BBC News.
- Klein, Hugh (22 October 2014). "Generationing, Stealthing, and Gift Giving: The Intentional Transmission of HIV by HIV-Positive Men to their HIV-Negative Sex Partners". Health Psychology Research. 2 (3): 1582. doi:10.4081/hpr.2014.1582. ISSN 2420-8124. PMC 4768590. PMID 26973945.
- Glasser, Eric (25 April 2017). "Should it be a crime to remove a condom during sex?". St. Petersburg, Florida: WTSP.
- Rosenblatt, Kalhan (29 April 2017). "What is 'stealthing'?: Disturbing sexual practice detailed in new report". NBC News.
- Mullin, Malone (3 May 2017). "'I felt like I had been raped': Stealth removal of condom during sex raises legal, ethical concerns". CBC.
- Teitelman AM, Tennille J, Bohinski JM, Jemmott LS, Jemmott JB III Unwanted unprotected sex: Condom coercion by male partners and self-silencing of condom negotiation among adolescent girls. Advances in Nursing Science, 2011; 34 (3): 243-259
- Davis, Kelly Cue; Stappenbeck, Cynthia A.; Norris, Jeanette; George, William H.; Jacques-Tiura, Angela J.; Schraufnagel, Trevor J.; Kajumulo, Kelly F. (1 May 2014). "Young Men's Condom Use Resistance Tactics: A Latent Profile Analysis". The Journal of Sex Research. 51 (4): 454–465. doi:10.1080/00224499.2013.776660. ISSN 0022-4499. PMC 3723757. PMID 23548069.
- Bradshaw, Catriona S.; Read, Tim R. H.; Chow, Eric P. F.; Cornelisse, Vincent J.; Fairley, Christopher K.; Vodstrcil, Lenka A.; Latimer, Rosie L. (26 December 2018). "Non-consensual condom removal, reported by patients at a sexual health clinic in Melbourne, Australia". PLOS ONE. 13 (12): e0209779. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0209779. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 6306234. PMID 30586420.
- Davis, Kelly Cue (1 July 2019). ""Stealthing": Factors associated with young men's nonconsensual condom removal". Health Psychology. doi:10.1037/hea0000779. ISSN 1930-7810. PMID 31259595.
- Davis, Kelly Cue; Stappenbeck, Cynthia A.; Masters, N. Tatiana; George, William H. (May 2019). "Young Women's Experiences with Coercive and Noncoercive Condom Use Resistance: Examination of an Understudied Sexual Risk Behavior". Women's Health Issues. 29 (3): 231–237. doi:10.1016/j.whi.2019.01.005. PMID 30826133.
- "Man Convicted of Rape After Removing Condom During Sex Without Consent". Broadly. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
- "CPS Legal Guidance". www.cps.gov.uk. Crown Prosecution Service. Archived from the original on 9 May 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
- "Police officer found guilty of condom 'stealthing' in landmark trial". CNN. 20 December 2018. Retrieved 18 February 2019.
- "Man convicted of rape for taking off condom during sex". The Independent. 11 January 2017. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
- Williams, Zoe (16 January 2017). "Is removing a condom without permission rape?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
- Felber, Tom (28 November 2019). "«Stealthing», das heimliche Abziehen des Kondoms, ist moralisch «unterste Schublade», aber derzeit nicht strafbar". Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 28 November 2019.
- McVeigh, Sarah (19 May 2017). "Could this be Australia's first stealthing court case?". triple j. Retrieved 21 May 2017.
- ""Is this rape?" The legal grey-area around prosecuting 'stealthing' in Australia". triple j. 2 May 2017. Retrieved 21 May 2017.