Condoms, trust and stealthing: the meanings attributed to unprotected hetero-sex

Alam, N. and Alldred, P. ORCID: 0000-0002-5077-7286, 2021. Condoms, trust and stealthing: the meanings attributed to unprotected hetero-sex. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18 (8): 4257. ISSN 1661-7827

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University students tend to have greater sexual health knowledge than the general public, yet condom use among this group continues to be a public health concern because effective condom use could reduce sexually transmitted infections and, for heterosexual women, unwanted pregnancies. We report findings from a small, qualitative study of condom use among sexually active heterosexual university students in the UK. In interviews, students shared their views about condom use and sometimes their personal experiences too. This paper identifies some of the meanings attributed to condom use in the accounts of nine heterosexually active 20–25 year-olds. Participants explained that when they felt comfortable communicating with their partners, they were more likely to use condoms, and those with negative sexual experiences or under social or psychological pressure were less likely to use them. The findings highlight issues of trust and power between men and women in heterosexual relationships, and describe contexts for dishonest sexual practice, including the traditional notions of femininity that were linked to condom use by this group. The issue of stealthing arose in one woman’s account of her experience and in several others’ reports of what occurs commonly. Stealthing, the secretive removal of a condom by a (usually male) partner during sexual intercourse without a partner’s knowledge or permission, produces non-consensual unprotected sex. We present stealthing as a product of the sexual double-standards described and as a form of interpersonal violence (IPV) and, among these heterosexual partners, as a form of gender-based violence. This study provides a glimpse into university students’ decision-making regarding condom use and highlights how gendered inequalities shape heterosex, in particular, communication about safer sex, that in some cases, compromise women’s decisions about (safer) sex.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Creators: Alam, N. and Alldred, P.
Publisher: MDPI AG
Date: 16 April 2021
Volume: 18
Number: 8
ISSN: 1661-7827
Rights: Copyright: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 23 Apr 2021 09:33
Last Modified: 31 May 2021 15:03

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