Where does stealthing come from?
As early as 2010, stealthing described sexual intercourse in which one partner doesn’t disclose they have an STI like HIV; this is used as a ploy to purposefully infect someone. Since then, the term has broadened to refer to compromising or removing a condom before or during sex without a partner’s knowledge, i.e., stealthily.
An online community for stealthing, iBLASTinside, formed in 2012 and published a list of tips for how to successfully execute the act. The list, geared toward gay men, was created by the Bareback Brotherhood, who advocate for the acceptance of condom-free sex. It’s since been taken down. The main website of the Bareback Brotherhood is still active, however.
Stealthing received a spate of media attention in April 2017 thanks in part to a legal article by Alexandra Brodsky published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law. Brodsky documented the alarming rise of the “rape-adjacent” practice and defined stealthing as sexual assault.
Who uses stealthing?
Many, including prominent anti-sexual violence organizations, argue that stealthing should be renamed, since the name doesn’t fully convey the nature of the act as a form of sexual assault involving non-consensual risk of disease and pregnancy.
Stealthing has other, unrelated senses that predate the sexual meaning of the term. Especially among video game players, stealthing denotes a sneaky, furtive, defensive playing strategy. In games, players might stealth to avoid a more active and risky fighting style.
Stealthing is also a term within the transgender community. It typically refers to choosing not to reveal that you’re trans and let people assume you’re cisgender, stealthily evading the violence and discrimination individuals who are transgender often face. This sense of stealthing is somewhat similar to the term passing, which has been used in the context of race since the 1920s, but has also been applied to gender identity. Both stealthing and passing are considered divisive practices.
The gaming and gender uses of stealthing should not be confused with the sexual assault-related meaning of the term.
“there's this new trend called 'stealthing' and it leads to this other new trend called 'rape charges.'”
Snowflake Kilmartin @anylaurie16 Twitter (April 25, 2017)
“I hope y'all know that contrary to popular belief there are MEN who actually trap the woman by getting her pregnant. #Stealthing #BeenDoingItSinceForever #IwasOneOfThemWomen”
Eliyah Liel Facebook (April 27, 2017)
“Rebecca says she was a victim of stealthing when she was a freshman. According to Brodsky, the law is largely silent on it.”
Eric Glasser, “'Stealthing' -- the practice of removing condoms during sex -- is on the rise,” KSDK News (April 25, 2017)