The silent sex­ual as­sault

An alarm­ing act called stealth­ing is now be­ing recog­nised as a se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion. Stay safe with this must-know info

Cosmopolitan (Australia) - - Contents -

It’s not go­ing to be pleas­ant but picture this: you’re with a guy and the sex feels re­ally good. But when you look down, you see him pump­ing away un­pro­tected, af­ter hav­ing se­cretly pulled off his con­dom.

This is ‘stealth­ing’, an ab­hor­rent prac­tice that’s been get­ting more and more at­ten­tion af­ter an ar­ti­cle in the Columbia Jour­nal of Gen­der and Law de­scribed it as a form of sex­ual as­sault.

Stealth­ing quickly trans­forms con­sen­sual sex into non­con­sen­sual sex by dis­re­gard­ing the terms – con­dom use – both part­ners agreed to, ex­plains au­thor, Alexan­dra Brod­sky, a civil rights at­tor­ney. It hap­pens most of­ten in hook­up or ca­sual sex sit­u­a­tions and can leave vic­tims feel­ing duped, dis­re­spected, angry and ashamed – and fear­ing STIs and preg­nan­cies. ‘It’s an in­vis­i­ble form of vi­o­lence that’s been go­ing on for a while,’ says Brod­sky. Now, it fi­nally has a name.


While there are no con­crete stats on its preva­lence, a 2014 sur­vey of 313 sin­gle, straight men be­tween the ages of 21 and 30 found nearly 10 per cent ad­mit­ted to en­gag­ing in ‘con­dom sab­o­tage’: re­mov­ing or break­ing one mid­deed. Of those, some had done it at least 63 times in to­tal – the max­i­mum num­ber they could choose in the sur­vey, says lead au­thor Kelly Cue Davis.

When it hap­pened to Marie, 25, she was with a guy who’d pur­sued her for months. ‘There was lots of in and out [pen­e­tra­tion] dur­ing a long night of sex,’ she says. ‘While be­hind me, he paused so he’d last longer, and that’s when he ripped off the con­dom.’

When she re­alised he had ejac­u­lated in­side of her, she was, un­der­stand­ably, fu­ri­ous.

So was Au­drey, 39, who had sex with a guy she met on a dat­ing app last year. ‘I was very clear that it was im­por­tant to me to have pro­tected sex,’ she re­calls. They did it once us­ing a con­dom, with a re­peat per­for­mance in the morn­ing. In the a.m ses­sion, though, ‘There was a mo­ment when it felt a lit­tle dif­fer­ent and I re­alised he had taken the con­dom off,’ she says. ‘I was re­ally up­set. He couldn’t be­lieve that I thought it was a big deal.’


Un­sur­pris­ingly, stealth­ing may be more likely to oc­cur when there’s al­co­hol in­volved and a guy makes a very bad drunken de­ci­sion (think: Seth Ro­gen’s char­ac­ter’s ac­tions in the film Knocked Up).

But booze isn’t al­ways a fac­tor. The prac­tice is more com­mon among men who al­ready have hos­tile at­ti­tudes to­ward women, says Davis. The proof is in on­line com­mu­ni­ties in which – brace your­self – guys en­cour­age oth­ers to stealth. Some jus­tify their ac­tions as a man’s right to ‘spread his seed’. As one stealther wrote, ‘You can’t have one and not the other. If she wants the guy’s pe­nis, she has to take the guy’s load.’ Oth­ers use stealth­ing as a power play to re­claim con­trol in a world where women are in­creas­ingly say­ing, ‘no con­dom, no sex’, ex­plains psy­chol­o­gist Perry Halki­tis, dean and pro­fes­sor at the School of Pub­lic Health at New Jer­sey’s Rutgers Univer­sity. ‘But it’s still a vi­o­la­tion, pure and sim­ple.’


Be­fore you get into bed with a new part­ner, come pre­pared with your own con­doms, male or fe­male (see ‘Re­con­sid­er­ing the Fe­male Con­dom,’ left), and have a can­did convo about ex­pec­ta­tions. If a guy whines about wrap­ping it up and you don’t know (or trust) him well, con­sider avoid­ing in­ter­course. ‘If it’s an or­gasm you’re af­ter, there are plenty of other ways to get it,’ says Pep­per Schwartz, a pro­fes­sor of so­ci­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Washington in Seat­tle and co­au­thor of 50 Great Myths of Hu­man Sex­u­al­ity.

If you opt for pen­e­tra­tion, keep in mind it’s eas­ier to see if a con­dom is in place when you’re fac­ing each other (i.e. in mis­sion­ary or girl­on­top). When­ever you switch it up, use your hand to guide him back in­side you and feel for the con­dom, sug­gests ob­gyn Lauren Nal­i­boff, a fel­low of the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Ob­ste­tri­cians and Gy­nae­col­o­gists. If you think you’ve been stealthed, go to a phar­macy for the morningafter pill and to your doc­tor or clinic for an STI test.

Fi­nally, make your voice heard. Cur­rently, there’s no leg­is­la­tion in Aus­tralia that says re­mov­ing a con­dom with­out con­sent is against the law. That’s be­cause no­body has taken a case to court yet. How­ever, if your con­sent has been vi­o­lated (what sex­ual as­sault is), al­ways con­sider re­port­ing it to the po­lice.

Call 1800 RE­SPECT for con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion and sup­port on sex­ual as­sault.


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