What is stealthing and why is it illegal?


So you've agreed to have sex with your crush, your tinder date or even your boyfriend and things are great and steamy. He takes out a condom, you SEE him put it on, but as you two crescendo, something else comes off...

No, not an extra item of clothing.

The guy took the condom off. Without telling you.

That is stealthing, also known as reproductive coercion in the sexual and domestic violence fields.

The act of removing a condom during sex without consent isn't something new, but this gender-based violation has now been given a name. 

Women who have gone through this have been left traumatised the same way survivors of extreme sexual violence have.

Stealthing is perpetrated by men of all sexualities who feel entitled to "spread their seed" or simply because they feel sex is better without the latex barrier.

And the fact that it happens within consensual sex does not make it exempt from any other form of sexual assault.

There are men who do not understand that consent is enthusiastic and continuous - saying yes to sex does not automatically mean your sexual partner has surrendered their autonomy to you, as there are certain things they may still be uncomfortable with in bed.

The transition from consensual to non-consensual happens in a split second in this sick, power-hungry game of male supremacy. 

Read more: Drinking and sex - what does too drunk to consent mean?

Women who have gone through this have been left traumatised the same way survivors of extreme sexual violence have. Beyond the trauma, survivors also face the burden of an unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections.

And if you think stealthing ends with just a bedroom quarrel, you're wrong because it violates a number of civil and criminal laws.

A man in Switzerland was convicted of rape for the non-consensual removal of a condom and Julian Assange of Wikileaks faced rape charges in 2016 after two women accused him of non-consensually removing condoms.

But given the way the law is setup when it comes to gender-based violence, many women have been reluctant to speak up, as a lot of victims aren't even sure whether to call this rape or not.

That can probably be attributed to the fact that for a long time rape has been so narrowly defined (especially in South African law); hence the term "rape-adjacent" used by a survivor in a study by Alexandra Brodsky about this act of removing a condom without consent. The term indicates some kind of denial about the true vile nature of stealthing.

And perhaps this newly coined term trivilaises it to some extent. It makes it seem like some sneaky bedroom trick that will leave your partner pleasantly surprised, but it is quite the extreme opposite. It is rape.

If you have experience sexual violence of this nature or any kind and you are in need of support, you can call the Rape Crisis 24-hour helpline on 021 447 9762 or call these national toll-free helplines on 0800-150-150 and 0800-012-322 (HIV & AIDS Helpline).

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