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The disturbing rise of sex assault ‘stealthing’ where men remove condoms without consent

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An important new academic study has highlighted a little-known form of sex assault that involves men removing condoms midway through intercourse without their partner’s consent.

“Stealthing” is the subject of US research for the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law that explores the consequences for victims of the “rape-adjacent” practice and potential legal ramifications for the perpetrators.


Read more: Contraception is an emotional and mental burden for women, study finds


One woman who contributed anonymously to the research said she had been seeing a man for a couple of weeks and refused to have sex with him without a condom, calling it “non-negotiable.”

“We were hooking up and halfways through he took his condom off. Obviously I was very upset.”

She said the man told her: “Don’t worry about it, trust me.”

“That stuck with me because [he’d] literally proven [himself] to be unworthy of [my] trust … There is no situation in which this is something I agreed to do. 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.”

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A new study explores the rise of "stealthing"

“Survivors experience real harms – emotional, financial, and physical – to which the law might provide remedy through compensation or simply an opportunity to be heard and validated,” author Alexandra Brodsky writes.


Read more: Shocking number of landlords offering sex for rent uncovered in the UK


The study notes that as well as internet forums where female victims share their experiences of being violated, there is also a vile contingency of men who encourage each other with “tips” and descriptions of how they have carry out the assaults.

Brodsky cites their motives as increased physical pleasure, a “thrill from degradation” and male sexual entitlement, with one writing: “It’s a man’s instinct to shoot his load into a woman’s *****. He should never be denied that right.”

One can note that proponents of “stealthing” root their support in an ideology of male supremacy in which violence is man’s natural right. 

Under UK law, removing a condom without consent during sex is legally the same as rape under section 74 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, according to a law lecturer cited by Broadly.

“A lot comes down to what can be proved in court, however," says Dr Sinead Ring of the University of Kent. "If it's proved the woman consented to sex with a condom and he changed the circumstances under which she'd consented, it's quite possible he'd be convicted of rape. But a jury would have to determine that he didn't have a reasonable belief in consent and just went ahead and did it anyway."

Earlier this year a Swiss court convicted a man for removing a condom without consent during sex in a landmark case.

  • If you’d like more information or support, visit Rape Crisis UK or call 0808 802 9999 (open noon–2.30pm and 7–9.30pm any day of the year and also between 3-5.30pm weekdays)

Images: iStock

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