The last time I had sex with my boyfriend, he took off the condom in the middle without asking. Later, he acted like it was no big deal. I’m so upset, but I can’t really explain why. I love my boyfriend and don’t think he would ever do anything to hurt me, but now I’m worried about STIs. What should I do?
First, we want to reassure you that this IS a big deal. In fact, it’s a REALLY big deal. Know that your emotions are completely valid, no matter what your boyfriend or anyone else says.
It makes complete sense that you’re upset and confused. You two agreed to have sex with condoms. You did NOT agree to have sex without condoms. When your boyfriend (who you love and trust) took off his condom without your knowledge or agreement, he violated your consent, and your trust. That can feel overwhelming and confusing, especially when the person who hurt you is someone you love and trust.
What your boyfriend did actually has a name. People who do it call it “stealthing” and it is NEVER ok. A recent study about this act discussed how people (of all genders) felt unsafe and violated after it happened to them. Many people the author interviewed had a hard time explaining exactly why they felt this way. The article emphasizes that non-consensually removing a condom during sex is a form of sexual assault, and many of the people interviewed described the experience as feeling somewhat similar to rape.
That does NOT mean that you need to think of what happened as assault. It is completely up to you how you want to think about what happened. But you should know that this IS serious.
Take some time to think seriously about your relationship. What would you say to a good friend who went through the same thing? Does your boyfriend ignore what you want in other contexts, too? Does he respect your boundaries? Do you both communicate openly about sex? Do you feel comfortable telling him about your hopes, fears, and emotions?
If removing a condom during sex isn’t a deal breaker for you, what is?
If you decide to continue to have a relationship with your boyfriend AND you feel safe, talk to him about what happened. Sit down with him in a place you feel safe and comfortable, like your house when someone else is home, or somewhere semi-public where you can still talk without being overheard. Avoid places you’ll have a hard time getting away from, like his house. Tell him what you’re feeling and why. Hopefully, he realizes that what he did was wrong, and takes responsibility for his actions. If he doesn’t—or he seems to, but later tries the same thing again—think about what that says about him, and about your relationship.
If you keep questioning what you’re feeling, have a hard time going through your daily routine, or just feel like talking to someone unbiased would be helpful, think about seeing a therapist. They can give you the tools to process your emotions. Check here for some tips on how to find an affordable therapist near where you live (and on what to expect during your first counseling session). Even if you decide to not see a therapist, make sure you talk about your feelings with someone you trust: a friend, a family member, a teacher, or someone else.
As for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you’re right to be concerned. Sex without condoms puts you at much higher risk for several STIs, including HIV. You can get tested at your doctor’s office, a Planned Parenthood, or another local community health center. Make sure that the clinic you go to does a full STI panel, and not just HIV testing. Remember that many STIs are curable, and those that can’t be cured (including HIV) are manageable so long as you get diagnosed, and stick with your treatment plan.
If it’s been less than 72 hours since your boyfriend removed his condom, you may also consider taking PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), which significantly reduces the chances that you’ll get HIV if your boyfriend is HIV+. We wrote more about PEP and how to get it here.
If you are capable of getting pregnant (meaning you have a uterus) and are not on birth control, consider taking emergency contraception. While it’s most effective if taken right away, there are forms of emergency contraception that can help prevent pregnancy up to 5 days after unprotected sex. We talk more about emergency contraception here, but talk to a medical provider right away to figure out which is best for you.
If you live in NYC, you can stop by Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center for completely free, confidential STI testing and treatment, emergency contraception, and an appointment with a mental health specialist.