Stealthing; Reproductive Coercion Is Sexual Abuse

Whether you call it stealthing, birth control sabotage, or reproductive coercion, taking a condom off during sex without permission is assault.

Domestic violence has many spokes to its wheel. There is physical, emotional, mental, financial and sexual abuse. Each of these is extremely traumatic for the individual and to make matter worse some are not so easy to prove especially in a court of law.

Sexual abuse is where the abuser will use power and control and it is now becoming more common to use stealthing as part of that abuse.

For the purpose of this article I discuss the removal of the condom, but please note a woman is capable of stealthing too such as removing the female condom or saying she is using birth control when she is not.

Definition

The definition of Stealthing is when the man removes the condom just before penetration and during sexual intercourse without the knowledge or consent of the woman.

Stealthing, or removing a condom during sex without asking for a partner’s permission, has been widely discussed before and survivors and providers have been talking about birth control sabotage for a while now, however, for many people they are only hearing about stealthing for the first time.

It’s a non-consensual act that can increase the risk of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (a.k.a. STIs or STDs).

Taking off a condom without your partner’s consent:

Breaks the agreement (consent) of wearing a condom during sex

Violates a partner’s trust and control of their body

Increases their likelihood of contracting an STI

Puts them at risk of becoming pregnant

What it can look like

Stealthing is a more specific form of reproductive coercion. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, reproductive coercion (like stealthing) includes “hiding, withholding, or destroying a partner’s oral contraceptives; breaking or poking holes in a condom on purpose or removing a condom during sex in an attempt to promote pregnancy; not withdrawing when that was the agreed-upon method of contraception; and removing vaginal rings, contraceptive patches, or intrauterine devices (IUDs).”

For those in an abusive relationship stealthing is a harsh reality that can and is used against them. Whilst the victim may be doing all they can to avoid pregnancy which would, therefore, keep them tied to their abuser through a child they can be unaware of steps the abuser is taking to enforce pregnancy on them.

Why it’s abuse

Stealthing is abuse. There is no getting away from the fact that when stealthing is used the woman’s right of consent has been taken away from her, it changes what was originally consensual sex as long as a condom is used to it now being non-consensual. There are currently moves to make stealthing a criminal act, but with so many changes of late with women’s rights about their own bodies who knows when this will be seriously acted upon.

What can you do if it happens to you?

If you believe that you have been a victim of stealthing below are things you can do:

Know that it’s not your fault. 

You agreed to have sex with a condom but your partner removed the condom without asking the agreement is broken. You may believe that as you agreed to have sex that the removal doesn’t invalidate that agreement, it does, it is sexual assault and it is not your fault that this has happened.

Get on top of your sexual health. 

The dangerous of having unprotected sex puts you at risk of an STI. You also run the risk of an unwanted pregnancy. Once you believe you have been subjected to stealthing seek medical assistance for being checked out for STI and for the emergency contraception can work up to five days after sex.

Talk to your partner if it’s safe for you. 

This is not always possible especially when in an abusive relationship, only talk to them if you feel safe to do so. Your partner has crossed your boundaries and there is no way to return from that, trust is forever broken.

Consider getting help from a friend or professional. 

You may find yourself feeling alone and unable to understand why this has happened to you, especially with someone who is supposed to love you. Talk to a trusted friend or seek professional advice.

Take back control of your birth control. 

If your partner is doing all they can to prevent you from using birth control, and you are unable to leave safely at this time, consider having an IUD fitted, an implant or having the shots available to prevent pregnancy.

Below are some hotlines that you can call for advice.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233); TTY 1-800-787-3224

Love is Respect National Dating Abuse Hotline 1-866-331-9474

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) and the National Sexual Assault Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673)