Content note: The following contains descriptions of sexual violence. For 24-hour support please call 1800 RESPECT.
“I really don’t want to get them pregnant, so I would definitely not be leaving any trace. As far as getting an STIs, I don’t want to get them either, but I’ll run the risk because it’s considerably better with the condom off.”
Those are the words of a young Australian man, as told to Triple J’s Hack program yesterday. A man who, for the sake of his own sexual pleasure, secretly removes the condom mid-way through his sexual encounters.
Known as ‘stealthing‘, the disturbing and potentially criminal practice was dragged into the spotlight last month via research conducted by Alexandra Brodsky of Yale Law School.
In her paper, published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Bordsky noted that many victims are subjected to a “grave violation of dignity and autonomy”.
Hack‘s interview subject – identified only as Brendan – doesn’t see it that way: “If I’ve got no reason to wear a condom then I don’t really see the problem,” he argued.
“I just put [a condom] on and if nothing is said I take it off. I don’t think it’s breaking the law.”
Brendan told program host Tom Tilley he removes the condom “most of the time” if he’s asked to wear one, and his partners rarely notice. Those that do, he claims, hardly seem ‘violated’.
“No-one’s ever angry, but if someone asks me to put it back on I’ll put it back on for sure. You know, that’s fair,” he said.
The assessment from criminal lawyer Greg Gould was scathing.
"I think he's probably guilty of rape," Gould told Hack. "Sexual relations in our community depend upon consent, and if that consent is based upon the use of a condom and that condom is removed without the consent of one of the participants, then the consent is at an end."
Hack's other interview subject - referred to as Will - was the victim of this. Condoms are non-negotiable for 26-year-old, but last month a sexual partner he met on a hook-up app allegedly removed it without his knowledge.
"He said to me, 'What are you afraid of?' and I said, 'I'm afraid of STIs, HIV, that sort of thing.' He said to me, 'Everything is treatable these days'," Will told Hack. "I was in complete shock. I couldn't even move or think straight."
He went to hospital where he underwent a rape kit, then a few days later went to police armed with whatever evidence he could gather - bed sheets, the condom, toilet paper, text messages.
While investigators told Will they are optimistic about a successful prosecution, the process could take 18-24 months due to the backlog in the courts.
Mamamia Out Loud discusses the often blurry lines of consent. Post continues below...
It's a long road ahead, considering the "huge impact" the alleged assault has already had on him.
"The first few weeks I really felt like I couldn't trust anyone," Will told Hack. "I was really angry and down all the time. But I've reached out to friends and my therapist and the sexual assault service, and that's been really good."
He encourages other victims of sexual assault to know they are not alone, and that they ought go to the police.
"I want people to know that if it's happened to them that it's not okay, it's not your fault, and there's nothing you could have done to stop this, and please, reach out to someone to talk about it."
For 24-hour support, please call the national sexual assault counselling service on 1800 RESPECT.
To report sexual assault, please contact police.