Modern Feminism: Welcome to the dangerous world of ‘stealthing’


Lina Clark graphic

By Sunflower Rangel, Commentary Editor

Earlier this year, an alarming new trend made its way around the internet and certain communities. The trend is called stealthing, or stealth sex, and is when a man secretly removes his condom during sex. Not only does this break trust between partners, it may soon be seen as rape in the eyes of the law.

Alexandra Brodsky’s 28-page paper entitled, “‘Rape Adjacent’: Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal” was published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, and thoroughly examines why male abusers feel the need to engage in such an act and how violated victims feel.

Although this sounds like the premise to a “Law and Order: SVU” episode, it’s way more real than that. However, I will admit that it sounds very similar to that one episode with John Stamos where he pokes holes in condoms because he feels the need to father as many children as possible. Plus, one of the main reasons for stealthing isn’t that far off from the storyline of that episode. In her research, Brodsky came across online communities and forums in which men give each other advice on how to remove their condoms without consent. One commenter, who is left unnamed said that it was a natural male instinct to “spread one’s seed.” This mentality isn’t limited to straight men. Even if they are engaging in acts with another man and pregnancy is not conceivably an option, the feeling of necessity remains.    

Brodsky’s paper begins with the story of a doctoral student named Rebecca. In her free time from school, she works for a rape crisis hotline. Lately there was a spike in calls about a phenomenon that many couldn’t find the right words to describe. Many conversations started out as, “I’m not sure this is rape, but…” They would describe the situation now known as stealthing. However, the act wasn’t new to Rebecca as a boyfriend had done the same thing to her during her freshman year of college.

“The practice puts partners at risk for unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and, survivors explain, it feels like a violation of trust and a denial of autonomy, not dissimilar to rape,” writes Brodsky. The main purpose of Brodsky’s writing was to explain how the act of stealthing is closer rape and more violent than the law recognizes. It’s not a trendy thing to do if it violates someone’s body and choices, and puts their health and safety at risk.   

With this disgusting practice making its way into the public eye, a few state representatives have stepped up to the plate and introduced legislation in their respective states. Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Mich.) introduced a bill that would basically label stealthing as rape because “there has been no valid consent to that sexual act.” The bill was introduced May 15 and although it doesn’t have any guidelines for punishment, it is a step in the right direction. When introducing the bill, Rep. Sargent said, “This behavior is predatory and disturbing, and people should know we not only find it reprehensible, but that we won’t tolerate it. Ignoring it is simply not an option.”

A similar bill was introduced on the same day by Rep. Cristina Garcia (D-Calif.). Her bill would add stealthing to the list of actions defined as rape under California law. She introduced the bill at the Planned Parenthood Day of Action Rally in Sacramento. Garcia blatantly stated that “stealthing is rape,” and “penetration without consent is rape.” She added that “stealthing is another sign that some men think they can still own our bodies. I hope all the men out there blogging are paying attention because in California we’re going to lead the nation in ending the ‘trend’ now.”