Warning: The following text and images could prove triggering to survivors of sexual assault.
What if you found yourself completely vulnerable and unprotected, even after taking every precaution and being clear about what was okay and what was off limits? You’d probably feel as if someone was ripping the floor where you stood piece by piece. You’d wonder if you’d ever be able to feel safe, to trust again. It would be like having to watch, while being bound and gagged, as someone robbed and destroyed your home. Then, when you spoke out about what happened, there was nothing you could do, because technically you’d let that person in to your home before anything happened?
Sexual assault is a critical topic that continues to haunt current society. Just when we think we have evolved to a point where we can respect each other and, at least, protect ourselves and others from this brutal act, we realize there’s still a long road ahead before this violence is seen for what it is. The problem is that there are aggressors who don’t see themselves as such due to the misconception of believing the word “rape” only applies to the situation when someone has vaginal intercourse against their will. And even some victims who have been able to prove that form of assault was done to them, still don’t see justice.
But now, there is a new trend. One that is terrifying as it is anger-inducing. It takes sexual assault a step further because it’s done under one party’s assumption of consent and the other’s abuse of that person’s consent and trust. It’s called “stealthing.” It’s the act of a male removing their condom, without their partner’s knowledge or consent, in the middle of sex. Victims of this can be male or female, since it’s not a solely heterosexual occurrence. While proponents of this tactic abound online, through websites and chatrooms focused on promoting this kind of assault, their claim about this form of violence being about a man’s right to spread “his seed” seems to be about establishing dominance over the person they’re doing this to.
In her paper for the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, “Rape Adjacent: Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal,” Alexandra Brodsky goes into detail on the legal implications as well as personal accounts of victims. She even had to research these online communities of men teaching each other how to do this and why it is their right to hurt their partners in this way:
“…one can note that proponents of stealthing root their support in an ideology of male supremacy in which violence is man’s natural right.”
Of this entire disgusting situation, one specifically sociopathic thing about it is how, after the aggressor was careful enough to not let their sexual partner know what they did, they gloat to them about this. The fact that it’s about leaving the other person fully aware that their consent was violated in this way leads me to think this is some twisted game using sexual violence as a tool to destroy someone’s psyche, while also leaving their body vulnerable to unwanted pregnancy or STIs.
“In this way, survivors describe nonconsensual condom removal as a threat to their bodily agency and as a dignitary harm. You have no right to make your own sexual decisions, they are told. You are not worthy of my consideration.”
It is this blatant disregard for the other person that can only lead to the idea that this is a new form of assault that is much more aggressive while being done in a passive manner. It’s one that is hard to prove in a criminal arena, and even harder to heal from. Because this is a wolf in sheep’s clothing technique, where the victim does not realize they’re being assaulted because their aggressor is using their trust against them. The perpetrator is more than happy to boast to his victim what he’s done. It’s an entirely horrific act based on establishing dominance and power. Not only are victims placed in a position for STIs and unwanted pregnancy, they’re also forcefully stripped of their human dignity and worth.
The fact that our current society continues to not see the extent and underlying causes of sexual assault, as well as not believing victims, means that we’re still far from any notion of equality in our civilization. It won’t be until we begin to stand in solidarity of others and their rights that we can actually claim to be striving for a more evolved ideal.
Image credit: Yana Mazurkevich
Alexandra Brodsky’s Paper for the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law