If you've read the news this week or have eyes, you've probably seen the word "stealthing" flying around.
Stealthing is the act of taking a condom off during consensual sex without your partner's permission or knowledge. According to the men that do it, stealthing is an "art" — one that increases their own sexual pleasure, provides a thrill for getting away with something risky, and "gives women what they deserve," which, ostensibly, is 18 years of childcare or a blistering case of herpes. It's not just one or two men doing this though — stealthing is so popular that it's gained a weird, cult-like following on online forums, where seasoned vets go brag about their conquests afterwards and offer brotherly support for other men interested in tricking their partners into unprotected sex.
If that sounds kinda rapey to you, that's because it is. Super rapey.
In fact, according to a recent report by the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, the recent uptick in stealthing reports has sparked an intense debate about whether or not it can be considered actual rape in court, given that it typically takes place in the context of consensual sex, but involves a violation of that consent with the whole secretive removal of the condom thing. Already, courts in both Sweden and Canada have convicted two men of rape-by-stealthing, but currently, U.S. law only provides a gray area in which that ruling could be argued either way.
That's an important conversation to have — especially given that stealthing necessarily involves putting someone at risk of STIs or pregnancy without their knowledge or consent, but … that's not the conversation we're going to have with you today. Plenty of other, more reputable publications have already covered that topic, and covered it well. Google it.
There's something else we want to get at here; something that no one else has pointed out so far: that the people who stealth are not only horrible, but singularly stupid in a way that must be pointed out in order to put a stop to this practice.
Here's the thing. Stealthing, as it stands, is every bit as risky for you as it is for the person you're doing it to.
It's a blatant and horrible violation of their bodies, trust and safety — but also of your own… you complete and total douche.
Who's to say your partner doesn't have a secret case of gonorrhea?
Who's to say the reason why they wanted to use a condom in the first place was not so they'd be protected from you, but you from them?
Who's to say they won't be absolutely delighted to find out they're pregnant, ensnaring you in 18+ years of drama, child support and the crushing realization that you're some poor kid's disappointing, absent father?
Or, if that's not their #fitnessgoal for the year, who's to stay they won't stick you with the cost of Plan B, or even an abortion, since it was you who fucked up and violated their trust by doing something awful to them?
No one, that's who.
Case-in-point: Maria*, a 26-year-old hairdresser living in Los Angeles.
"I was stealthed once," she tells us over the phone. "It felt shitty, but not as shitty as knowing the guy who did it to me had to have gotten my herpes and could give it to other people that way. I told him I was positive for Type 1 (oral herpes) but that I'd had a strange blister on my vulva before. I had a full genital breakout later that week. That's why I wanted to use a condom in the first place."
So, congratulations, champ. You played yourself. Sometimes it's the you, not the people you have sex with, that gets hit with the fallout of your poor decision-making.
All this because you thought it would be "cool" or "sneaky" to take the condom off to finish out the under-whelming three minutes of sex you're doling out on some poor, unsuspecting man, woman or person in-between.
Hope the chlamydia was worth it.
Or the HPV … which is the most common STI … which you'll undoubtedly pass on to countless other partners, and their partners' partners, because it's largely asymptomatic in men. In that case, hope your three minutes of pleasure and supreme assholery was worth someone's cervical cancer.
You have to be unusually cruel or stupid not to see how that chain of events would go down.
On top of that, it's not even hard to have consensual sex without a condom. In fact, 65.5 percent of Americans knowingly have unprotected sex. Whether that's because they know they're clean, they're on birth control, or they trust that it's safe, that's literally millions of people who you could stick your unwrapped dick in without the same risk level as stealthing brings upon both you and your partner.
And yeah, yeah, we understand that part of the "thrill" of stealthing is the nonconsensual violation (that's what makes it rapey), but it's so easy to negotiate that with a consensual partner. Asking someone who you know is clean and/or on birth control if you can take the condom off secretly one time during sex is an entirely different, entirely less rapey way to see if you can pull a fast one on someone.
Find a partner who's on birth control and/or has been recently tested and knows their STD status, and you can do away with the condoms you hate so much all together.
There are always inherent risks when it comes to sex. However, when you take every conceivable step to mitigate those risks, such as by using a condom and sleeping with someone you trust and something like stealthing still happens, it's no one's fault but the stealther's if something goes wrong.
Even if that something is a giant, middle finger-shaped herpes sore right on their own dick head.