Stealthing – A term for a kind of sexual assault, not a “new sex trend.”

Stealthing is accompanied with misogynistic views.  They are part of the myths that have been perpetuated for centuries in a desperate attempt by some men to maintain control over their partners.

Over the past few months, a disturbing ‘sex trend’ has emerged in the public eye. Stealthing, as popular culture describes it, refers to the act of deliberately removing a condom during sex without your partner’s knowledge or consent.

This act became prominent earlier this year following a groundbreaking research article by Alexandra Brodsky, which unearthed in harrowing detail how the practice of non-consensual condom removal has left women – and men – traumatised and violated. However, as victims come forward about their experiences, so too have perpetrators come forth with their horrific justifications for why they stealth. 

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The victims’ recounts follow the same, shocking narrative: two people are enjoying each other’s company, they start kissing, and soon the question of sex arises. It becomes clear that one partner is not willing to engage in sex unless protection is involved.

So, a condom is produced, it’s put on, and sex commences.

However, at some stage during it, and often under the concealment offered by the “heightened state of sensuality”, the condom is removed, and penetration occurs – leaving the partner completely unprotected, unaware and violated.

When the partner realises what has happened, they are often left in complete shock at the man’s deliberate manipulation and the breach of consent. When she confronts him, she is usually left with a frightening response of indifference as the man shrugs it off.

Stealthing is not a matter which can be shrugged off or ignored. As an Australian victim recounted, he chose to deliberately disregard her autonomy, violating not only her body but also her trust. It should, therefore, be clear to all that stealthing is a “disempowering, demeaning violation of a sexual agreement”.

Not only does stealthing violate an individual’s sexual freedom, but unprotected sex carries significant consequences for both sexual partners, including the risk of STIs. For women, there is also the very real possibility of falling pregnant.

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However, this view isn’t shared by everyone. Since Brodsky’s article was published, it has been revealed many online forums encourage stealthing. Perpetrators provide suggestions and explicit advice on how to trick your partner and remove a condom during sex. The forums and their comments reveal some horrifying perspectives held about women, sex and consent. 

The many motivations for men to stealth, such as physical pleasure and a thrill from degradation, stem from a perverted belief in a man’s natural right to do as he pleases. 

Australian Triple J’s Hack program unearthed horrendous justifications during a recent interview with an admitted stealther. When asked why he stealthed, he maintained that sex is better without a condom, and emphasised that he prioritised his satisfaction over the safety and comfort of his female partners. 

Stealthing has no legal precedent in Australia, and the sexual offences legislation is different in each state and territory. Furthermore, there is nothing specific in any current legislation that expressly criminalises non-consensual condom removal.

However, in January 2017, a male perpetrator was convicted of rape in Switzerland for stealthing, and received a 12 –month suspended sentence. This precedent, along with a greater awareness of the issue in countries including Britain and the USA suggest that there is potential for stealthing to be prosecuted in Australia. 

Despite the current ambiguity in Australia’s sexual offences legislation, it is vital to remember that stealthing is a type of sexual assault. Any conduct which is done against you without your consent is wrong. The sinister web of myths that have been spun by misogynists aims to control and demean their female sexual partners, and disregards their autonomy and their right to their bodies. As one brave Australian survivor wrote, “Be bold and remember that you are strong enough to take a stance”.

Author: Roshana Aseervatham


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