Stealthing: removing condoms during sex is sexual assault, experts say

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‘Stealthing’, a popular so-called sex trend is being labelled as sexual assault
WATCH ABOVE: Stealthing, a popular so-called sex trend is being labelled as nothing but sexual assault – Apr 26, 2017

A popular so-called sex trend is being labelled as nothing but sexual assault.

According to a recent report published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law by Alexandra Brodsky, the practice of “stealthing” or the removal of a condom during intercourse, makes consensual sex not consensual.

After performing that act, some also brag about it online, 10News WTSP reports.

“Nonconsensual condom removal during sexual intercourse exposes victims to physical risks of pregnancy and disease and, interviews make clear, is experienced by many as a grave violation of dignity and autonomy,” Brodsky wrote the report.

“Ultimately, a new tort for ‘stealthing’ is necessary both to provide victims with a more viable cause of action and to reflect better the harms wrought by nonconsensual condom removal,” she continued.

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READ MORE: Majority of middle-aged Canadians not using condoms: survey

It may not be new

After her report was picked up by several media outlets, Brodsky began receiving messages from men and women sharing their personal experiences with stealthing. But she also received criticisms of outlets calling it a “new trend.”

On Wednesday Brodsky, the co-founder of Know Your IX, an organization that empowers youth to end gender-based violence, said she had no idea if nonconsensual condom removal was becoming more common, but she was sure it wasn’t new.

Farrah Khan, coordinator, sexual violence education and support at Ryerson University in Toronto says stealthing isn’t new.

“This is men making decisions about women’s reproductive rights without any consultation or thought to what she wants. Sex is a collaboration, not a conquest. Consent is informed,” she tells Global News.

The dangers of this so-called trend

Sexologist Jessica O’Reilly, creator of the Sexual Pro Webinar Series, says we should be calling stealthing what it is: sexual assault. 

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“Especially upon reviewing stories from victims who report feeling violated and liken their feelings to experiences of sexual and emotional violation,” she told Global News.

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READ MORE: Protest held over Halifax judge’s comments on consent and alcohol

“The discourse [on the topic] has increased, but it’s likely that the behaviour preceded the online discussion. I’m optimistic that talking about the subject will lead to positive change.”

Anuradha Dugal, director of violence prevention programs at the Canadian Women’s Foundation (CWF) says consent is always ongoing.

“That means if sex was agreed to with a condom, then it’s no longer consensual if that condom is removed without the partner knowing,” she told Global News.

Survivors explain what it can feel like

O’Reilly says she has talked to a female client who described stealthing as being “raped,” and one male friend of hers described it as an emotional violation.

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“The scariest part about it is that you never truly know who you’re getting into bed with. Most of these people portray themselves as honest, trustworthy, good people. The worst part about it is leaving feeling like you had something stolen from you, as if you have no control.”

READ MORE: Police investigate after woman alleges Toronto photographer posted nude photos without consent

In Brodsky’s paper, some anonymous participants also shared their personal stories.

One female political staffer in New York said a man she was having sex with took off his condom halfway during intercourse.

WATCH: #NoTouchy campaign gives a voice to sexual assault and rape survivors

Click to play video: '#NoTouchy campaign gives a voice to sexual assault and rape survivors'
#NoTouchy campaign gives a voice to sexual assault and rape survivors
“I ended up talking to him about it later. [I told him,] ‘I’m not seeing you anymore, this is why. This is really messed up.’ [He told me,] ‘Don’t worry about it, trust me.’ That stuck with me because [he’d] literally proven [himself] to be unworthy of [my] trust … There is no situation in which this is something I agreed to do,” Brodsky wrote.
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What this says about consent

A 2015 study from the CWF found only one in three Canadians understood what consent meant, yet almost all Canadians (96 per cent) agreed sexual activities between partners should be consensual.

“Trust and communication should be the basis of all healthy relationships. We believe that through education with teens and throughout the life cycle, we can change this and help young people learn how to set and respect boundaries in intimate relationships,” Dugal said.

Khan adds if you do experience stealthing, talk to your doctor about getting tested for STIs and speak directly to your partner about disrespect and trust.

Bringing up the ‘condom talk’ during sex

But O’Reilly wants to make one thing clear: if your partner doesn’t want to use a condom and it makes you feel uncomfortable, do not have sex with them.

“If they’re not willing to use one with you, it’s unlikely they did so with previous (or other current) partners,” she said. “People don’t ‘stealth’ because they don’t like condoms, but do so to manipulate and exercise power over a victim.”

Read Brodsky’s full report here.


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