This post mentions sexual assault and may be triggering for some readers.
A year and a half ago, I was a victim of 'stealthing' by a man I knew and trusted. Honestly, I had a crush on him at the time.
Stealthing is when someone removes a condom during sex without consent. In my opinion, it’s a form of rape.
I asked him to wear a condom, and he agreed, and then he took it off without telling me.
He was a guy I’d been seeing on and off for a little while. It was the kind of relationship that had never evolved into anything firm, instead we’d fallen into an easy in-between status. He was someone I could message at 2am, but not someone I would discuss politics with and vice versa.
It felt fun, sexy and safe. I suppose I saw it as a bit of a summer romance. But I had thought we both cared about each other and then he betrayed my trust in the most painful and callous way.
At the time, I didn’t even really know what 'stealthing' was, I just knew that it felt wrong. I felt violated and small, but it was still hard to pinpoint how wrong.
I live in New South Wales, where the laws are still ambiguous around stealthing. It didn’t feel like there was anyone I could turn to or anything concrete that could make me feel protected.
The word stealthing wasn’t even a part of my vocabulary. I had no words to describe what had just happened to me. I just remember feeling so unclean in the aftermath. I just kept showering as if water and soap could wash away an unwanted pregnancy or STI.
In short, I felt violated but like many sexual acts regarding consent; it felt nebulous. I didn’t imagine it could be a reportable offence and intrinsically understood that this might just be an experience that I would have to chalk up to "bad sex".
Afterwards was kind of a blur. I know that I told him I was upset, but I don’t think I was particularly firm or assertive. I just wanted him to leave, and admittedly I wanted him to still like me. He tried to laugh it off and play it off, like removing the condom had just been cheeky of him. As if he was just playing a good-natured game, and I had lost and was now being a sore loser.
Except, it wasn’t a game; it was my body, and he’d just used it without my permission. It was disorienting and jarring; I had said yes to sex, but not like this. I remember feeling like maybe he hated me, surely you’d only betray someone like this if you hated them? It felt contemptuous.
I think, partly, I found it hard to get my bearings around the situation because consent has felt like a negotiation with men my whole life, like a never-ending tennis match. You give an inch, they try to take a mile and you end up somewhere in the middle.