You may have heard of stealthing due to the increasing awareness of it over recent months, but it is a reasonably new term in the world of sexual consent. Therefore, it is extremely important to understand what it is and how the world is responding to it.
Stealthing is the act of removing a condom during sex without telling the other person you have done so, that is to say removing it without consent. I whole-heartedly agree with Cristina Garcia, who chairs the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, when she states that: ‘Stealthing is rape. Penetration without consent is rape’.
Rape is, rightly so, punishable by law. Yet, for some reason, stealthing has become a topic of debate in this field as more women are sharing their experiences and more men are attempting to justify their actions.
In Lausanne, Switzerland in May, a man was taken to court after a woman discovered that he had deliberately removed his condom during what was originally consensual sex. Stealthing is particularly problematic as it has the ability to transform a consensual act into a non-consensual one. The culprit’s original conviction of rape was changed to defilement despite the fact that during intercourse the woman told him not to take his condom off, yet he did it regardless without her knowledge. The victim filed charges; she feared she might become pregnant or contract a disease, however the defendant claimed that he hadn’t removed the condom on purpose and he refused to have an HIV test.
A study found that men named a range of motivations for stealthing, including increased physical pleasures and a thrill for degradation and domination. The Independent spoke to an anonymous ‘stealther’ about why he commits such an atrocity. He explained simply that it ‘feels better with no condom on’ which, as an explanation for potentially getting someone pregnant without their knowledge, is one of the most selfish things I have ever heard.
He added, ‘I really don’t want to get them pregnant so I definitely wouldn’t be leaving a trace. As for STIs, I don’t want to get them but I would run the risk.’ “Run the risk” may be one of the most nonchalant phrases to use for such obscenity, furthered by his thoughtful remark that he would put the condom back on if asked to do so because ‘that’s fair.’
Two Democratic representatives sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee in October asking its members to address this increasing problem. ‘Consent is not up for discussion, it is a requirement for the entirety of any sexual interaction. Stealthing violates an agreement between partners and is a dangerous form of sexual assault,’ Mr Khanna, one of the representatives, said in a statement.
Nevertheless, stealthing continues to be an act which does not fit easily into legal frameworks and definitions of rape and sexual assault.
Miss Maloney, the second Democratic representative, claimed that ‘We need a hearing so that Congress can hear from the experts about how to best address this issue as we continue to amend our country’s and universities’ responses to sexual assault and rape.’
In recent months as awareness of stealthing is increasing, rape crisis organisations have come forward to support her views and argue that stealthing is a sex crime.
Despite the term only coming into circulation over the last few months, stealthing has been a concern for many women, for much longer than we suspect. With the increasing knowledge of it, both in society and in courts of law, hopefully we are getting closer to eradicating it altogether.