There’s a cute term for it. For when a man removes a condom mid-way through sex without asking. It’s called ‘stealthing’.
It should be considered sexual assault. There is the risk of pregnancy, if the victim’s a women. There is the potential harm that comes from contracting STIs. And there’s this simple fact: the person on the other end did not consent to unprotected sex.
Two representatives in the US are pushing for the act of non-consensual condom removal to be classified under the law as sexual assault.
Democratic Representatives Ro Khanna, from California, and Carolyn Maloney, from New York, sent a letter Wednesday to the House Judiciary Committee asking for a hearing into the issue, Buzzfeed reports.
“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,” Khanna reportedly wrote. “The implications of the practice of nonconsensual condom removal are far-reaching with respect to the ongoing national conversation on the definition of consensual sex.”
This comes after a study published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law in April called stealthing an “adjunct” to rape and exposed the growing number of online communities encouraging and enabling the behaviour.
“Internet forums provide not only accounts from victims but encouragement from perpetrators,” the study which was written by Alexandra Brodsky, who is also a Legal Fellow for National Women’s Law Center in the US, explains.
“Promoters provide advice, along with explicit descriptions, for how to successfully trick a partner and remove a condom during sex.”
Luke Lazarus was acquitted of rape: The blurry lines of consent.
In Australia, stealthing entered the public conversation in May this year when one man, who went by the alias of Will, opened up to ABC’s Hack program about his experience as a victim of stealthing.
He had been seeing a man he’d met on a dating app for a few weeks. “It was really fun, sexy and enjoyable,” Will said.
One night, however, as Will’s partner reached climax while inside him, Will realised something was off.
“The way he said it made me feel a little weird so I reaffirmed with him – ‘you’re wearing a condom aren’t you?’ – because I saw him put the condom on,” Will told Hack.
“And he told me no, he’d taken it off.”
Hack asked the question: “Could this be Australia’s first stealthing court case?”
At the moment, there is no legal precedent for cases on stealthing in Australia.
And though Will is considering pursuing rape charges against the man who violated his body and his trust, he was told the process could take years.
Legal experts agree that consent can be based upon the use of a condom - therefore if that condom is removed, the act is no longer consensual, as criminal lawyer Greg Goold told Hack and NSW Law Society president Pauline Wright told Nine.
At the moment this is the only safety net for victims of stealthing in Australia - that it violates a "condition" of consent - and the only avenue with which to seek justice.
But perhaps clearer laws - like those Khanna and Maloney are pursuing in the US that define stealthing as sexual assault - might make things clearer.
It might make the issue, not only less ambiguous in terms of prosecution, but also more clear-cut in the eyes of the men talking to other men online about the best ways to trick women into having sex without a condom. If stealthing is classified by the law as sexual assault, every man reading about it, talking about it, considering it, will know it for what it really is.
Victims, too, will have greater clarification that this 'thing-with-a-funny-name' that's just happened to them - without their consent and to their potential harm - has another definition. And that definition means 'illegal'.