“Boys will be boys,” was the first comment from one male student on the CU Denver message board when the issue of stealthing, secretly removing condoms without the receiving partner knowing, was posted.

The practice, known as ‘stealthing,’ listed on internet forum sites like ReddIt and Quora was first ‘uncovered’ back in 2017 with the release of a study to examine the impact on victims and give the crime a real name. While ‘stealthing’ received plenty of media coverage, like most audacious sexual trends, it soon became a bored topic with media outlets and the coverage ended. The practice though did not.

Surprisingly, stealthing has become so common that universities and rape crisis agencies have produced literature which provides tips on how receptive partners should prevent it from happening, such as:

  • Use your own condom

  • Check throughout intercourse

  • Bring water based lube, never allow the penetrator to use oil based lube, it makes removal easier

While some view the practice as an innocent game hardly elevating to the level of rape or sexual assault, victims disagree. It’s not only dangerous, not only stupid, but it’s leaving victims emotionally broken, exposing them to disease, and in many cases, its very illegal.

A study published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law goes more in-depth on the trend and the results are unsettling. “Victims have a tough time reporting it even though it feels like rape because they were willing participants,” says Alexandra Brodsky, author of the study. “A significant number [of victims] describe upsetting sexual contact that they struggle to name.”

Though some jurisdictions have begun to prosecute the men responsible, most jurisdictions have been slow to even call it a crime. Despite a lack of legal recognition, the practice is widespread and known with several online sub-communities of perpetrators also exchanging information and tips, only their tips are on methods to exercise what they call their “natural male right”

One instance Brodsky points to in her study was penned by someone who went by the username onesickmind. He documented "a comprehensive guide" to stealth sex on the website Experience Project, including suggestions on how to get away with condom removal, which he noted, "should be reserved as a last resort or for the experienced pros at stealth sex."

"Of course," he writes, "you can always try the, 'what's wrong? I thought you knew it was off? You mean you didn't feel it? I thought you knew!!' approach which for me has had a surprisingly high success rate."

If you’ve been cringing so far, join the club. Stealthing isn’t comparable to other fetish trends like flavored condoms, sex bracelets, or plushophilia. The act is fundamentally wrong and non-consensual and there’s a huge difference between sucking a cotton candy flavored dick and exposing your partner to STIs, HIV or unwanted pregnancy. The study documents real responses from victims to their feelings of being violated.

“Obviously the part that really freaked me out . . . was that it was such a blatant violation of what we’d agreed to. I set a boundary. I was very explicit,” one female subject said. “My exact words were ‘that’s not negotiable.’”

Another subject described her experience as a “consent violation.” As she put it bluntly, “That’s the bottom line. I agreed to fuck him with a condom, not without it.”

These survivors spoke not only of betrayal but of their partners’ wholesale dismissal of their preferences and desires. Another student said that, for her, “the harm mostly had to do with trust. He saw the risk as zero for himself and took no interest in what it might be for me and from a friend and sexual partner. That hurt.”

In this way, survivors describe nonconsensual condom removal as a threat to their health and body and as a dignitary harm as thought the men are implying, “You have no right to make your own sexual decisions. You are not worthy of my consideration.”

Women aren’t the only casualties of stealthing. A 19-year-old Florida male teen posted a call for advice in the subreddit askgaybros. In the post, he said he met a guy who asked to have sex without a condom, the teenager explicitly said no.

During the encounter, he discovered his partner had removed the condom. Panicking and unsure of what to do, the poster said he endured the experience, "already fucking crying in my head." Adding that this was only the sixth sexual encounter he’d ever had and he felt ‘ruined.’

Brodsky boldly writes in her study that “all the victims’ accounts expressed fear of unwanted pregnancies or STIs.” She continues that “all of the survivors experienced the condom removal as a disempowering, demeaning violation of a sexual agreement.”

The study does not determine the reason stealthing is trending, however. Kirsten Roux, a relationship counselor from Denver Health weighs in, “I wish I could answer this question without wanting to clock the guys doing it. The therapist in my says they do it because they love the risk, they are thrilled with the excitement of owning the power in the experience, the idea that they know something even the person who they’re penetrating doesn’t know.”

“The woman and mother in me thinks they do it because they’re idiots with no moral compass who think it’s their right to ‘spread the seed,’ Roux continues, “The last thing these jerks should be doing is reproducing.”

Brodsky says one of her goals with this study was to give language to a common experience. In the conversations she had with survivors, she found that, "their struggle to name the practice felt really intertwined with the struggle to feel confident that it was a form of gender violence."

Adding, "I think that term ["stealthing"] really trivializes the harm; it obscures the violence and makes it sound sneaky and maybe regrettable but ultimately an inevitable part of sex, and that's not true. We deserve better than that."

Abigayle Farkour, a 21 year old executive assistant in Denver, was more direct. “Women have to be responsible for the possible pregnancy decisions after sex; we’re responsible for communicating the limits before sex, and now I’ve got to be responsible for making sure it’s all legit DURING sex? Guys have one fucking job in this whole thing – keep the condom on your dick!”