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What is “stealthing” and is it sexual assault?

Consent is vital for sexual activity, yet it’s, unfortunately, a term that’s misused far too often. While many haven’t heard of the term “stealthing,” most people will find themselves far too familiar with the activity. As sexual assault cases are become increasingly prominent in today’s world, stealthing is becoming a bigger concern.

That wasn’t agreed upon

Stealthing is the act of deliberately removing a condom during sex without a partner’s consent. Not only is this done without agreement by both parties, but it has profound implications for the unknowing partner. If you’re a female, you could become pregnant, and whether you’re male or female, you run the risk of contracting STIs.

It’s not okay

It’s not just a trend. The word carries meanings of sexual control and manipulation, of which it is not a man’s right to do. It creates feelings of violation in the women and men who are victims of this act.

When the knowing partner gives a vague answer about why he did it, it’s more than disrespectful. Stealthing is an abuse of boundaries and perceived entitlement to what isn’t yours – somebody else’s body.

The laws need to be changed

While stealthing is becoming a crime in multiple jurisdictions, it has a long way to go before reaching wide-ranging acceptance. Too many outdated attitudes and myths towards women still exist.

Alexandra Brodsky, a research fellow at the National Women’s Law Centre in Washington, conducted a study which was published in the Columbia Journal of Gender in Law last April, discussing the increase in stealthing and its effects.

California expanded its definition of “rape” last May. Cristina Garcia, who chairs the Legislative Women’s Caucus, really hit the nail on the head: “Stealthing is rape…Penetration without consent is rape.” Consent is often the crux in sexual assault cases, but stealthing has yet to be considered illegal everywhere.

There isn’t a reason that exists that a man could put forward to justify his decision to commit this act. At the end of the day, he’s manipulating another person. Whether you’re gay or straight, newly dating or long-time married, it’s important to teach others what stealthing is and why it’s not okay.

More than a buzzword

Sexual assault takes shape in many forms, meaning it’s never been more important to make this term a common part of the language. Consent is always necessary, no matter what’s going on between partners.


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