What is Stealthing, anyway?
In the simplest terms, Stealthing is an act of non-consensual condom removal during sex. The male partner tries to damage the condom or remove it, without letting the female partner know. Hence, without any clear consent.
Why is it wrong?
Stealthing is considered a form of sexual assault because it turns a form of consensual sexual relationship (protected sex) into a non-consensual one (unprotected sex).
Unprotected sex without the knowledge of one partner could lead to unwanted pregnancies and violates the right of a person to make decisions about their own body and health. It’s also dangerous because removal of condom could lead to sexually transmitted diseases and harm both the partners. It violates the other person because these problems are being caused without any fault of the female partner and without her knowledge.
More than the physical violation, it also affects the victim’s mental health. It is a breach of trust and integrity with a person they trusted enough to get intimate with and that can cause serious mental trauma.
Shruti (name changed), a 3rd year student of Delhi University says, “I have experienced this personally. My ex-boyfriend who I’d been dating for 3 years at the time, told me that it is “normal” for couples to have sex without a condom and that even his best friend has sex with his girlfriend without protection. And clearly, if they’re not facing any problems, why would we? Thankfully, I was smarter than that and didn’t fall in this trap. But it was still hurtful.”
The question that arises in everybody’s mind is why would anybody do this to their partner? The answer is simple— for their own pleasure. Maybe you’ve heard guys say that it feels better to have sex without a condom and that a condom ruins their sexual experience.
But other than that, it also gives them a sense of power over their partner. It is a selfish act, where (usually) the male partner feels that they are entitled to their partner’s body. It gives them a taste of “male sexual supremacy”, where their pleasure is above whatever the other person consents to.
Shivani (name changed), a post-graduate student of Delhi University, shares her experience, “My boyfriend tried multiple times to convince/force me to take birth control pills so that he wouldn’t have to wear a condom, even though I had already told him I had no intention or wish to do so. Once I heard a ripping sound in the middle of sexual intercourse and I soon realised that my boyfriend had tore and removed the condom. I still can’t come to terms with the fact that he really did that, without my consent!”
“I just cannot understand why some people cannot understand the meaning of consent. It is frustrating. If I consented to protected sex, I ONLY consented to protected sex. You cannot just do anything you want and abuse someone else’s body like that,” says Himanshi, a DU alumni.
Stealthing is somehow considered something that is funny and something that could be joked about online. But it’s not, and it can have serious implications for the victims. It is as sexually violating as any other sexual offence. It is essential that we become aware about it and see it as the serious issue it is.
However, there is still very limited discussion around Stealthing in India, probably because we’re still dealing with a lack of sex education and awareness around the subject. In a world where we are still trying to create knowledge and awareness around basic consent, “stealthing” just does not get as much attention as it really needs.
Is Stealthing illegal in India?
The illegality of stealthing remains unclear in India. Flavia Agnes, well-known Indian women’s rights lawyer, told Mid Day, commenting on stealthing, “The law in India deals only with consent, and non-consent; it’s very black and white. It doesn’t have the finesse that can make such an act punishable, and we aren’t there yet. We are a long way off.”
Illegal or not, sexual intercourse should be something that both the partners have fully consented to. And whether one wishes to have protected sex or unprotected is also a decision that each one of us is entitled to make!