Stealthing and Reproductive Coercion pt1


So over the weekend I was chatting with the TERFs and rad fems when they provided me with a story. The story is of trans woman and advocate for trans rights Cherno Biko. I’m yet to hear her side of the story, so don’t take it as absolute gospel just yet. I hope to post this post to her and hear her out.

The story I was presented with was that Cherno, pre-transition, had removed a condom during sex, despite knowing her partner was adamant about not getting pregnant. Her partner being a trans man and this request being very reasonable even if he wasn’t. This was, at first, described to me as rape, and well, that didn’t sit right with me so I did a couple of polls. Here’s the results and hopefully it will generate some discussion.


“No but it is shitty” won out in both polls, so I’m glad I wasn’t alone in thinking this wasn’t rape. However a lot of the discussion generated so far has given me great pause for thought. Lets discuss some of the answers posted in the threads. First we’ll do stealthing.

This comment cropped up a couple of times, or comments towards this sort of idea.  I don’t think this matters – I know, that sounds harsh, but hear me out! I’m pretty sure knowingly or even unknowingly infecting people with STDs is considered bad and in some cases already criminalised. That’s good, I agree with that. The point of the polls though is to address whether the act of stealthing itself should be criminalised as rape or not. Driving drunk is bad regardless of whether you have an accident or not and we should apply the same logic to the act of stealthing if we’re going to try and criminalise it.
So what reason do we have for criminalising this as an action. Like with drunk driving we criminalise the action itself because of the potential to cause harm, not whether harm is actually caused or not. Stealth does carry a potential to cause harm or abuse, and can be used to control women and “keep them tied down” as one follower mentioned;

This is obviously something we shouldn’t condone or accept. We should obviously aim to stop this from happening – though legislation against stealthing would be tricky to enforce.

After all, realistically the argument is a he-says she-says kind of deal. There’s no objective way to discern truth and so if this were considered to be rape then you could easily argue that this could be used to ruin someone’s life too. That’s a potential for harm that we should also try to rule out. We can’t go around tipping the scales of power from one person’s hands into another person’s hands, that’s not particularly equal.

I do agree with this tweet, wholeheartedly:

Its a massive violation of your bodily autonomy and your trust. On the flipside, how can we call this rape or sexual assault if you consented to sex with the person? This is one of my biggest qualms with the idea. Because I somewhat agree that it shouldn’t be considered either providing there was actual consent to the act of sex. I think that would hugely cheapen what actual rape and sexual assault is.

But people gave me real pause for thought on this point, I’m not going to lie. I really wasn’t sure how to maintain my beliefs when presented with things like this:

Which yeah… it is really changing the situation. You consented to a specific kind of sex, protected sex, you did not consent to unprotected sex. In the case of Cherno specficially, it was very clear that her partner did not consent to unprotected sex. Which kinda makes me feel like yeah, that does seem kind of rapey. I thought about this all night and well… I’m not sure. There’s really a lot to consider.

There are very few examples where I can think of where you can deceptively change the situation which was consented to and violate someone’s bodily autonomy to compare it to. However there is one. Trans people. Ofcourse. See, if you enter sex with someone and think they are a male, but in fact they’re a female with a dildo. Technically the situation, from your perspective, has changed – what you consented to and what you actually got were not the same thing. Perhaps you don’t like dating biological females and so having one fuck you with a dildo was a massive violation of your bodily autonomy and trust. This actually happened, and is the closest thing I can compare stealthing to.

I said before I don’t believe this should be criminalised at all, and that its essentially criminalising trans people’s existence and sex lives. Yet this stealthing thing has maybe shifted my view point a little on that too. Because… yeah… I kinda do think that stealthing should be considered criminal. I don’t think necessarily as strong as rape or sexual assault – I think there’s problems with likening it to that. But it is a massive violation of someone’s bodily autonomy, trust and isn’t what they believed they were consenting to. It’s deceptive and we should try to deter people from this kind of behaviour – absolutely. That’s something I totally agree with.

But if I’m to say that about stealthing, then surely I must also think that about pre-op trans people doing stuff like the news report above – and whereas I didn’t before. I kinda think I do now. I definitely can see how that would be genuinely deceptive and wrong.

Bah. This was a hard one to think about. Going to do the next one tomorrow or something maybe. This discussion is great, keep up the good work friendos. Hopefully I’ll see you here for part 2, where we discuss reproductive coercion in the same sort of light. Woo! ILY. ❤ 

Oh and PS – most of the few who said stealthing was fine were actually mis-clicks.



2 thoughts on “Stealthing and Reproductive Coercion pt1

  1. Anonymous says:

    Stealthing whether it’s taking off a condom during sex or lying about being on birth contol is violation of ones trust but putting it in the category of rape or sexual assault diminishes those crimes.There certainly should be legal consequences in the form of fines or a brief stay in prison, especially if it results in unwanted pregnancy or the transmission of STD’s, HIV in particular.I wouldn’t put trannies “deceiving” people into the same category of stealthing because sexual attraction is not something imposed on another person.😉👍


  2. ramendik says:

    In considering criminalizing situations involving trans people (or, heck, in theory even crossdressers if they pass well!) not divulging their status, I think an important side effect has to be discussed.

    A common situation in a murder or beating of a trans woman (or crossdressing male) is when the victim performs oral sex on the offender, then the offender discovers the biological sex of the victim, considers himself cheated and his heterosexuality compromised, and responds violently.

    Of course, an offender like that is unlikely to be well versed in the law, so the law is unlikely to have an impact on his action directly. But his lawyer is well versed in the law. If what the victim did is criminalized, then the offender was reacting to a crime being committed. A self-defense claim is unlikely to succeed, but the charge can be very seriously diminished.

    And reports of people doing this and getting off very lightly DO inspire further crimes.

    I would also argue that there is no single thing called sex, so there is no single type of consent to sex. There is such a thing as consent to a particular sexual act, and in my view the consent is to the physical nature of the act. Removal of the condom does alter the physical nature of the act, and so does the use of a dildo when the consent was to the use of a penis. However, the use of fingers or mouth or toys (or ropes, etc), when consented to, does not change its nature depending on the biological sex of the person doing the action.

    I would also argue that lies (such as claims to be on birth control or unmarried) do not invalidate consent to a sexual act and do not lead to a case of sexual assault or rape, though they can constitute a separate crime or (civil) tort of fraud.


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