SHe told her that a condom was “non-negotiable” and that if he preferred not to use it, she would leave. The young woman, identified as “Sara” in a 2017 study, describes the encounter, saying: “I set a limit. I was very explicit. ”However, she later found out that her partner, a man she had been dating for a couple of weeks, had secretly removed the condom during sex.
“I ended up talking to him later,” Sara told the study’s author, the feminist civil rights lawyer. Alexandra brodsky. “He said, ‘Don’t worry, trust me.’ That stuck with me, because he had literally shown that he was not worthy of my trust. “
The man who removed the condom was telling her to trust him so as not to put her at risk of the possible consequences of having unprotected sex, a sexually transmitted infection, or an unplanned pregnancy. But if he was someone you could trust on those issues, he would never have removed the condom in the first place.
Sara was the victim of a phenomenon that 12% of women say they have experienced, and that 10% of the men say they have perpetrated it, but that for years it has had no legal recognition and no name other than that given by its practitioners: “Stealthing”, the non-consensual extraction of a condom.
Now, the rape experienced by Sara and others may finally become illegal, at least in one state. TO invoice presented by California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia has passed both houses of the state legislature, and would make non-consensual condom removal a civil offense. Now awaits the signature of Governor Gavin Newsom.
If the bill goes into effect, it would give victims the power to sue men who removed condoms without their permission on the non-criminal charge of sexual assault and would open the door for monetary damages. the Wisconsin and New York legislatures are considering similar bills. If California is signed, the state will become the first in the country to recognize stealth as a violation of the law.
Because the bill makes stealth a civil offense, not a crime, it does not create the possibility of perpetrators serving a prison sentence. Instead, it holds them liable for fines and penalties if their victims prevail in court. (The pending bills in Wisconsin and New York have criminal provisions.) But Brodsky believes that the value of a civil avenue for justice should not be overlooked. “I’m glad to see California following this approach,” he told me. “In my experience, many survivors find the types of outcomes available in civil litigation, including monetary damages, more significant and helpful.”
Brodsky Points out that civil courts have a lower burden of proof and offer rewards to victims, not just punishments for offenders. The symbolic value of the bill is also noteworthy: the possibility that poaching victims have their day in court and be paid for the damage they suffered, offers a way to recognize a type of sexual abuse that institutions historically have been ignored. .
For women like Sara, the reality that what their partners did to them was not right is intuitive. In Brodsky’s study, victims of stealth report being concerned about STIs and pregnancy. These concerns, they observed, seem to fall almost exclusively on their shoulders, even though removing the condom had not been their idea and had happened without their permission. One woman, known as “Rebecca,” told Brodsky that after the incident, her attacker refused to help her pay for emergency contraception.
“None of that bothered him,” he said. “It didn’t bother him. My potential pregnancy, my potential STI. That was my burden. ”Rebecca had a reason to be concerned: a 2019 stealth survey found that men who engaged in the practice were much more likely to contract an STD than men who did not (at a rate of 29.5% to 15.1%) and were much more likely to have fathered an unwanted pregnancy (at a rate of 46.7% to 25.8%).
But in addition to medical and material concerns, women and others who have been victims of stealth describe the incidents as degrading, hurtful, and hurtful to their self-respect. Removing the condom represents a willingness to dismiss your preferences, a disregard for your safety, and a disregard for your right to control your own body, and all of this comes from men who, only moments before, had believed they could. confidence.
There is empirical evidence to support their sense of betrayal: the 2019 survey found that men who engaged in stealth also had greater hostility towards women. In Brodsky’s study, a review of online communities for poachers supports the notion that non-consensual condom removal by heterosexual men is motivated by misogynistic disdain; the men, cited extensively, spoke of his own contempt for women and contempt for his partners’ desire for a condom in terms that I will not repeat here.
Stealth presents material risks of great importance to victims, as well as deeply felt damage to their dignity. It is irritating that the practice was no longer illegal. Both our law and our culture have a long history of ignoring gender-based violence and lacking the rhetorical frameworks that make such harm readable, even when, as appears to be true in the case of stealth, such harm is very common.
Rebecca, the survivor cited in the 2017 study, said she received many calls about the practice at her job at a local rape crisis hotline. “Stories often begin the same way: ‘I’m not sure this is rape, but …'”
Melissa Sargent, the Wisconsin state representative who has sponsored the anti-stealth bill there, also says she has been contacted by women who say they have been victims of stealth. “Everyone has their own story,” Sargent told the Associated Press. “But the common thread is that this happened to me, I knew it wasn’t right, but I didn’t know what to call it.”
One hope is that passage of the California law can help those victims know what to call it. The stealth bill can help clarify and define what might otherwise have been a nascent feeling of having been wronged. With the passage of the California bill, stealth victims will be able to see themselves as worthy of dignity, the right to control their own bodies, and the right to negotiate their own sex lives without duress or deception. And the law will see them that way too.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism