Sex can be an important part of any romantic relationship. Healthy sexual behaviors can help create a connection between you and your partner and can be another way of showing how you feel towards your romantic partner. When it comes to sex, it is important to trust your partner, understand what consent is, and have open and honest communication about sex. Part of talking about sex, especially in a heterosexual relationship, includes talking about contraceptives or birth control.

Most often, when people reach out to us to talk about sex, they have questions about what consent is, and whether the sexual behaviors they are experiencing are considered as sexual abuse or not. Some forms of sexual abuse are more clear – such as   – while others are less noticeable, such as stealthing.

So, what exactly is stealthing?

Stealthing is “the non-consensual condom removal” before or during sexual intercourse. This is a form of reproductive coercion, which is defined as threats or acts of violence against a partner’s reproductive health or reproductive decision-making. Condoms are a common form of birth control, and the non-consensual removal of a condom could lead to an unwanted pregnancy.

When a partner decides to remove their condom without the consent of their partner, they are taking away that individual's agency to define their own reproductive health.

This decision is rooted in one partner’s desire for control and wanting the power to determine if their partner potentially gets pregnant or not. An unexpected pregnancy could be a way for a partner who is abusive to manipulate their partner into staying in the relationship. Using the child as leverage, they may discuss the importance of keeping the family together or their desire to have children.

In a healthy relationship, you and your partner should talk about what form of contraceptive you wish to use. Since this is different for each person, having open and honest communication is crucial to make sure everyone is on the same page. That decision should be made consensually, and any changes to the plan need to be discussed and agreed upon by everyone involved. Trust is important so you can feel comfortable that your partner will stick with the agreed upon plan.

Getting support

Talking about any type of abuse can be uncomfortable. This is especially true when it comes to sexual abuse and behaviors that are not often talked about, such as stealthing. If you have experienced stealthing, taking steps to protect your physical and emotional self is crucial. Part of that involves understanding different types of sexual abuse and knowing who you can talk to.

If you have been a victim of stealthing or feel you may have experienced sexual abuse, our advocates are available 24/7 to speak with you.

You can text “START” to 88788, call us at 1.800.799.7233, or chat with an advocate. We’re always here for you.

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