A devastating sex trend called ‘stealthing’ could now be made illegal, after an overwhelming number of women have fallen victim to the violation.
So-called ‘stealthing’ occurs when a man takes off his condom or other protective device while having sex with a partner, without their knowledge or consent.
Let’s be clear on this. Stealthing is not new. Stealth sexual assault – by any name – has been happening behind closed doors and going unreported for years.
But the act garnered mainstream attention – and horror – after Yale Law School graduate Alexandra Brodsky reported online groups which encourage the practice in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law.
It documented how stealthing can cause unwanted pregnancy, the transmission of dangerous and potentially life-altering sexually transmitted diseases, not to mention the extreme emotional distress a sexual violation evokes.
Now, the State Democratic Representative from Wisconsin, Melissa Sargent, has proposed a bill to end stealth sexual assault by modifying the state’s interpretation of consent to make tampering with protective devices illegal.
It’s time to get serious about consent and sexual assault. Consent isn’t carte blanche – it’s a constant, gradual process – and it’s time our sexual assault laws started to reflect that.
Sexual predators will continue to find new, egregious ways to violate and victimise others, and it’s important that as legislators we take concerted steps to be responsive as we become aware of it.
This behaviour is predatory and disturbing, and people should know that not only do we find it reprehensible, but that we won’t tolerate it. Ignoring it is simply not an option.
The proposed law has received 11 co-sponsors in the Assembly and the Senate and will be formally introduced this week, Britt Cudaback, Sargent’s legislative assistant, told BuzzFeed News.
Gender-neutral language has been used throughout to ensure victims of all gender identities are protected, and the law will also apply to women regarding diaphragms, cervical caps, and other devices intended to prevent pregnancy.
The Californian Representative, Cristina Garcia, also introduced legislation at a Planned Parenthood Action Rally in Sacramento which hopes to expand the definition of rape to include tampering with protective devices without the knowledge of a partner.
Garcia, who also chairs the Legislative Women’s Caucus, wrote:
Online communities have arisen where it is defended as a male “right” to “spread his seed” also details advice and support of how to have nonconsensual sex without a condom.
Stealthing is rape. Penetration without consent is rape. Stealthing is another sign that some men think they can still own our bodies.
I hope all the men out there blogging are paying attention because in California we’re going to lead the nation in ending the ‘trend’ now.
— Cristina Garcia (@AsmGarcia) May 16, 2017
Stealthing is deeply rooted in rape culture. Since the act has been labelled, many victims have come forward on social media to share their experiences of stealthing.
Amid these heart-breaking revelations, a debate was sparked over the categorisation of stealthing. Some woman and gay men who had been victimised admitted they didn’t know whether they had been sexually assaulted or not, and some commentators claimed it was not rape, but ‘a man’s right to spread his seed’.
These laws hope to quash those narrowly held but disgraceful sentiments, which were peppered all over social media, once and for all.
While the laws proposed are a huge step forward in punishing perpetrators, still more needs to be done to prevent the violations happening in the first place.
Sex education, promotion of sexual discussion and body equality, as well as respect as standard between partners and reproductive rights for all, will pave the way for healthier and happier relationships.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of stealthing, or if you would like more information, please visit: rapecrisis.org.uk