I HATE THIS: "Stealthing," A Review
What It Is And Why It’s Awful
If you are like me 72 hours ago, you are asking “what the fuck is stealthing?” To which I offer this helpful Wikipedia definition:
Non-consensual condom removal, or "stealthing", is the practice of one sex partner covertly removing a condom, when consent has only been given by the other sex partner for condom-protected safer sex.
Sounds great right? Well PSA: it’s sexual assault.
There I was getting busy Friday night with an attractive man following a second date. There I was sleeping, being cuddled all night by said man. There I was Saturday morning, getting busy again, flipped over and being entered from behind. There was a pause. Said man had a pretty big dick and I had just taken quite a pounding so I remained as I was, recovering as it were, attempting to determine if the guy had in fact cum when he entered me again. On we continued for maybe two minutes at which time verbal evidence indicated that NOW he was cumming. He pulled out and then I felt him wipe something warm and wet around my lower back. There was no splatter so he came in his hand? I still don’t know but it doesn’t matter; what does, is the realization that I just been fucked without a condom.
For context: when we got busy the night before, condom; when we started getting busy that morning, condom. And then that same morning following a brief pause… no condom.
Still registering the event, I immediately asked “did you go back inside me without a condom?” to which he offhandedly replied “it came off” followed shortly by “well I took it off” and then “but I can assure you I am 100% STD free” to which I replied “and what about pregnancy?” to which he replied “oh we don’t do that here” whatever the fuck that means, I still don’t know that either.
I am embarrassed to say I was so dumbstruck I didn’t know what else to say or do so I instead got dressed and ready to go home. He was leaving too and we left together. And he kissed me goodbye. And he asked me to have dinner later that week. And I went along with it. I kissed him back, I said sure, I went off into the day. And in my head the entire time was “WHAT THE FUCK” over and over and over and over.
Once I got home I updated my “blurb” for the day on the homepage, vaguely referencing the “shitty tendencies” of a guy with a good dick, still processing and attempting to manage the still-not-fully-processed events of the previous hours. There were red flags from the first time we had hung out but they were indicative of emotional baggage. There were more and different red flags the second time we went out, that aforementioned Friday, this time indicative of arrogance and a women-as-objects attitude [one of those assholes who fully turns to watch an attractive woman walk by]. All of these things were registered, and all of these things were dismissed.
During the second date, the invitation to go home with him was presented in a kind and gentlemanly fashion; having just spent the last two hours watching him watch half a dozen other women, I was in the “fuck no” camp. But then we stood up to leave and our bodies were close and all the instantaneous physical attraction that led to our going out together in the first place rushed through every vein in my body. There was some physical contact, some kissing, grazing of the neck and ears and I got wet between my legs. I remembered that I was curious about how big the dick of this man with the good face and the big boots was and how I could want to have sex and engage with him and still not be interested in dating him. If you are judging this line of thinking right now think about how this behavior and attitude is pretty much the de facto standard for hetero men. I thought about it, asking myself “what would a man do right now?” and that was the thing that pushed my decision from “fuck no” to “why not?” It felt like an empowered decision at the time, acting on my physical desire without getting hung up on feelings.
24 hours later I didn’t feel empowered. I felt assaulted.
So what happens immediately after a stealthing incident you might ask? Well, as a woman, my first thought should have been “I could be pregnant and I need to get the morning-after pill” but instead, I ruminated and reached out to friends. I nurtured my building rage and committed to calling him on the phone after a strategic planning session with my bestie, typing up a list of talking points and arranging to live text the event over Facebook Messenger for guidance on the fly.
It is important to note that it was clear the guy had no inkling what he had done was a problem. Or illegal. And I’m fairly certain that given his looks, it’s incredibly likely he’s done this thing before, or worse, or similar, and no woman has ever confronted him. Having survived four other sexual assaults and shamefully not reporting any of the first three, I decided to fall on my sword and be the one woman who does confront him.
I had to be willing to say “what you did was sexual assault” and be prepared for any number of possible reactions. I made the call Sunday evening and my voice shook but I was explicit and calm and hit my talking points and expressed my side and he heard me. He listened, he apologized, he seemed extremely remorseful. It was a short call and I followed it up with another bestie check-in, a long shower and a cry. I followed that up with some time with other close friends.
Sometime during that Sunday I made arranged to visit Planned Parenthood so I could get the morning-after pill which, according to an NYC.gov site, is provided free of charge if you request it at a health center. I also arranged for an STD screening which required an appointment and went to sleep that night mentally prepared for those two things the following day. Somewhere along the way, the guy checked in with me, sending what felt to be an authentic and heartfelt text, apologizing again and stating that if there was anything he could do to let me know.
The next day I went downtown for my appointment; 5:15pm there I was, having just cleared the metal detectors and three sets of doors to stand in an empty waiting room with a male security guard and two male desk workers. They were explaining the price of the emergency contraceptive and the difference in dosage options and I was getting frustrated. I mentioned what I had read online and that I do not have health insurance. The pill was going to cost me either $35 or $55 depending on which strength I took, and the screening was another $75. My frustration was growing and I asked if I could be given a full price list of all the things because my assaulter had implied he would do anything and I absolutely considered full reimbursement of whatever costs this shitshow incurred to be included in that offer. Well apparently “assault” is a magic word there and the other guy immediately snapped to attention, got on the phone and whisked me into the elevator to visit with a social worker.
The frustrated exchange with the desk guys got me so worked up I was crying by the time the whisking happened. Later in the social worker’s office, my blubbering continued but thankfully she had to leave the room to take a call from her sick mother so I had a minute to get myself together. Social worker lady is the one who told me about PEP which is the post-sex version of PREP, an HIV-prevention drug. She also mentioned it costs $1,500, has awful side effects, that I would need to take it every day for 30 days and then come back for three separate follow-up visits over the next six months.
Overwhelmed, emotional and uninsured, I sat there dumbfounded yet again. I explained my situation and she explained that the financial counselor had already left for the day but if I came back at 8am the next day, I could meet with this other woman, have all costs waived, and get both the emergency contraceptive and the first dose of PEP, all within the 72-hour window which would end that same day at 11am.
I spent the next hour crying and walking and then record-shopping to distract myself from more harmful behaviors. Later that night with friends I broke down again. I got home around 3am and intended to stay awake since I’d have to get ready in just a few hours to leave in time to make my appointment, but in the end I closed my eyes and got 60 minutes or so of broken sleep.
My second appointment was even worse than the first; more than two hours long, I was shuffled from floor to floor, room to room, stranger to stranger. I got blood drawn, gave urine, had blood pressure checked, swabbed my own vagina with some giant Q-Tip, recounted my medical history and described the incident to half a dozen strangers. After finally jumping through all of the necessary hoops, I was given a stack of prescription info sheets, two bottles and one blister-pack of pills and then sent me on my way without being charged.
I go back for my first follow-up in the middle of February. There will be three next appointments all told, wherein I get more bloodwork, give more urine, talk to more strangers, wait in more rooms. And in the meantime I have to take a series of medication that will almost surely cause “headaches, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea.”
So that’s stealthing… Illegal, inconvenient, uncomfortable and unsafe. It comes with trauma, difficult conversations, variable costs of time, care and health, all while leaving you to suffer the consequences of someone else’s selfish choice, i.e., not great. I recommend avoiding it all costs. Pass it on.