Top News

Russell Wangersky: Stealthing is rape. Period.

There is nothing in this column that some people won’t find offensive. If you have faint sensibilities, skip it for today. But here goes.

Russell Wangersky

What I find outrageously offensive is that I, or anyone else, actually even has to write a column about this. That the concepts involved even have to be explained.

The facts should be self-evident — they are, at the core, the anchor of consensual sex — that you, if you are an adult involved in a sexual act, consent to what you are doing.

There’s considerable discussion right now about behaviour known as “stealthing.”

To put it bluntly, it’s when a man secretly removes his condom during intercourse, without informing his partner.

Calling it “stealthing” makes it sound all secret-agenty and somehow cool.

I’ve got a better idea: let’s call it what it is — rape.

Sex is something that happens between consenting adults. There are all kinds of forms and positions and contortions and styles and methods, and, no doubt, nicknames, too. And they’re all fine, as long as there is consent. Whatever floats your boat. (And no, “floating your boat” is not one of those positions. At least, if it is, I’m not aware of it. Please don’t write me and tell me it is.)

Without consent, there’s no deal. In a strict business sense, it’s a violation of contract.

In bed, it’s clearly violation.

There are a bunch of hollow excuses that are put forward for why stealthing is in some way acceptable. Some even argue that it’s somehow a “natural male right” for men to “spread their seed.” That’s complete bunk. As with other examples of rape, what we’re talking about here is the imposition of power, not sex.

If someone agrees to have sex with you, and a condom’s part of the deal, it’s part of the deal. Without it, the deal’s off.

But let’s put the shoe firmly on the other foot and think about a different kind of stealth.

There are people in the great wide weird world of adult interplay who like all kinds of things.

Some, apparently, are men who enjoy being kicked in the private parts. There are also partners who enjoy delivering that particular kink or kick. There are lots of floating boats out there, some more particularly painful than others.

This is for all the stealthy men out there: let’s proceed.

It’s been a wonderful night — you and a new acquaintance have been out for dinner, you’ve had a few drinks. Your new paramour has gone into her room to slip into something a little more comfortable. Your imagination wanders. Into intriguing places, including that moment when you’re planning to surreptitiously get rid of your condom.

Ah, here she comes now. Wearing tall black leather boots. Sexy.

And, wait a minute…

Should your new partner ask you first if you’re one of the ones who is into a little bit of gear-kickery, or just haul off and stealthily hoof you full-force in the equipment, a kind of free-form hacky-sack, as it were?

Surely, if you don’t agree to someone performing the full Ronaldo on you, it’s pretty obviously assault, right?


It is assault.

You can’t consent to something you don’t even know is happening, or know was going to happen.

To make the point extremely clear: if you’re having mutually consenting protected sex with someone, and then you decide arbitrarily to sneakily ditch the protection, it’s pretty obviously assault, too.

You’ve exposed someone to risks that they did not agree to — the potential for the transmission of STDs, unwanted pregnancy, and the list goes on.

Oh, and if I hadn’t mentioned it earlier, you’re also an absolute arsehole. And scum.

There’s an argument some make that, as it stands, stealthing — sorry, rape — is not a criminal act. That, unless it actually causes provable bodily harm, a person wouldn’t be convicted, and that charges — as sex charges often are — will be a painful and embarrassing ordeal.

If it’s not illegal, that’s got to change, if for no other reason than the most obvious one: the lack of consent.

But I’m not even sure that it’s not covered now.

I’d argue that Section 266 (3) c of the Criminal Code addresses it pretty well: “For the purposes of this section, no consent is obtained where the complainant submits or does not resist by reason of … c) fraud.”

And not consent? Rape.

Still intent on playing secret-agent man?

Then enjoy your stealthy time where you should be enjoying it.

In jail.


Russell Wangersky writes from St. John’s, and his column appears in 29 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at — Twitter: @wangersky.

Recent Stories