Joanna Lee
Joanna Lee
Portrait of René Kladzyk
René Kladzyk

Have you ever heard of “stealthing”? In recent years, the term “stealthing” has entered popular usage to explain non-consensual condom removal during sexual intercourse. Although the act of sex may have started consensually, stealthing happens without the partner’s consent, making this a form of sexual abuse.1 It’s also a violation of the partner’s reproductive rights, as condoms are a form of and their removal may lead to unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STI).2

How common is stealthing?

Incidents of stealthing have been on the rise ever since it was reported in the gay community for clinical transmission of HIV in 2014.3 According to a U.S study, 12% of women had experienced stealthing.4 The rate was even higher in an Australian study: a staggering 32% of women and 19% of men had been victims of stealthing.5 Men who engaged in stealthing were more likely to have been diagnosed with an STI. These men were more likely to have had a partner with an unplanned pregnancy and a history of sexual aggression toward women.6 Given these trends, stealthing is not a rarity and should certainly be kept on your radar if you are sexually active.

12% of women had experienced stealthing.

Is stealthing rape?

In 2017, Columbia University law student Alexandra Brodsky wrote an academic article that proposed legal action against stealthing. Brodsky’s article drew from interviews with survivors of non-consensual condom removal, where many said they felt disempowered and that the sexual agreement with their partner was violated.7 Moreover, one of the survivors termed this “rape-adjacent,” arguing that the denial of bodily autonomy and violation of trust experienced during stealthing are similar to rape.7 This has since caught on, with some considering it rape.

California state assembly member, Cristina Garcia, is one of them. After reading Brodsky’s article, Garcia sponsored legislation to make non-consensual condom removal a civil offense. This was passed in October 2021, making California the first U.S state to outlaw stealthing.3 The rest of the country may follow California’s lead, with new federal legislation introduced in June 2022 to officially designate stealthing as a type of sexual violence and create a civil remedy for victims to sue for damages.8

Canada has even more of a head start: the Supreme Court of Canada recently ruled that stealthing is a form of sexual assault.10 

Condom use resistance and stealthing

Sexually risky behaviors such as stealthing are often linked to condom use resistance, which are tactics to avoid using a condom with a partner who wants to use one. Condom use resistance is particularly characterized by aggression and manipulation, such as saying that using a condom would make one angry or falsely communicating that one does not have STIs.

Research has shown that most young women have at some point had experiences with partners who resist using condoms.4 Among a group of women ages 21 to 30 who were surveyed, 12% had experienced stealthing from their partners.4 Furthermore, the study found that the severity of sexual violence was positively associated with condom use resistance, suggesting that such tactics can often lead to stealthing.4 If you are sexually active, it is essential to recognize the tactics of condom use resistance to avoid sexual partners who might attempt stealthing.


Like what you’re reading? Get the latest straight to your inbox 💌

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.


What to do if you have been a victim of stealthing

At this point, you may be wondering, “How do I know what leads to stealthing?” and “How can I avoid it in my personal life?” To answer these questions, it is important to assess the level of trust in your sexual relationships. Make sure you discuss what type of to use and openly talk about changes to the plan with partners. As fun as sex can be, your safety is contingent on open communication. If you are with someone who you don’t feel comfortable talking to about , or worse, who you think is capable of stealthing or other tactics of condom use resistance, it might be time to find another partner who is more worthy of your trust.

After a stealthing incident, you may find yourself trying to push the moment out of your mind rather than confront what had just happened. If this is you, remind yourself that stealthing is a serious offense and you have the right to feel violated. Reach out to a trusted advocate to talk about how you feel and how to best navigate the situation.

If you have been a victim of stealthing, text “START” to 88788 or call 1.800.799.7233 to speak to an advocate at the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

  3. Klein H. Generationing, Stealthing, and Gift Giving: The Intentional Transmission of HIV by HIV-Positive Men to their HIV-Negative Sex Partners. Health Psychol Res. 2014 Oct 22;2(3):1582. doi: 10.4081/hpr.2014.1582. PMID: 26973945; PMCID: PMC4768590.
  4. Davis KC, Stappenbeck CA, Masters NT, George WH. Young Women’s Experiences with Coercive and Noncoercive Condom Use Resistance: Examination of an Understudied Sexual Risk Behavior. Womens Health Issues. 2019 May-Jun;29(3):231-237. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2019.01.005. Epub 2019 Feb 27. PMID: 30826133; PMCID: PMC6578870.
  5. Non-consensual condom removal, reported by patients at a sexual health clinic in Melbourne, Australia Latimer RL, Vodstrcil LA, Fairley CK, Cornelisse VJ, Chow EPF, et al. (2018) Non-consensual condom removal, reported by patients at a sexual health clinic in Melbourne, Australia. PLOS ONE 13(12): e0209779.
  6. Davis KC. “Stealthing”: Factors associated with young men’s nonconsensual condom removal. Health Psychol. 2019 Nov;38(11):997-1000. doi: 10.1037/hea0000779. Epub 2019 Jul 1. PMID: 31259595; PMCID: PMC6800753.
  7. Brodsky, Alexandra, ‘Rape-Adjacent’: Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal (2017). Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Vol. 32, No. 2, 2017, Available at SSRN:
  9. Davis KC, Gulati NK, Neilson EC, Stappenbeck CA. Men’s Coercive Condom Use Resistance: The Roles of Sexual Aggression History, Alcohol Intoxication, and Partner Condom Negotiation. Violence Against Women. 2018 Sep;24(11):1349-1368. doi: 10.1177/1077801218787932. PMID: 30078371; PMCID: PMC6245582.