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New Term “Stealthing” Brings Reproductive Violence Into the Mainstream

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Terminology gives people the ability to describe what happened to them, and seek help and support using the terminology to guide them. “Stealthing” is an old practice, but the fairly new term is creating social awareness towards a hugely prevalent issue that’s been mostly ignored. Stealthing is defined as the act of removing a condom non-consensually, during what had started out as consensual sex. It is a form of sexual violence, and it is rape.

There has been research into the online communities that perpetuate this violence, largely made up of straight or gay men, and the communities are filled with similar comments, largely fueled by the belief of male supremacy, while fuels their gender based violence. Some of the most reoccurring comments are that men have the right to “spread their seed.”

Andrea Brodsky, the women that started the study that’s brought the term to the mainstream, told the Huffington Post the reason that she originally started her research, stating that when she entered law school in 2013, she noticed many of her friends were being assaulted by sexual partners but didn’t have the terminology to define it.

Many were “Struggling with forms of mistreatment by sexual partners that weren’t considered part of the recognized repertoire of gender based violence ― but that seemed rooted in the same misogyny and lack of respect.”

Not only is stealthing a traumatic experience, survivors of this form of assault have said it left them feeling, “shame” and “confusion”, especially because they trusted their partner enough to have consensual sex, and in turn, they were assaulted. People that have lived through stealthing don’t just have to bare the brunt of the emotional trauma, they can now be exposed to, STI’s, HIV, and unwanted pregnancy.

Generally, stealthing falls under the category of reproductive coercion, I previously wrote an article about reproductive coercion, as a broad topic. In short, reproductive coercion is forcing your partner to get and or stay pregnant against their will, through threats, tampering, and or assault.

Stealthing is non-consensual. If a partner consents to vaginal sex but doesn’t consent to anal sex, and they are forced to have anal sex, that’s rape. If a partner consents to sex with a condom and the condom is removed, without consent, that is rape. Recently, a man in Switzerland was convicted of rape, for the non-consensual removal of his condom during sex.

However, wide spread myths about rape and consent fuel the public opinion that this isn’t actually rape. Consent hasn’t been largely taught in schools, leaving people to think that if you consent to one sex act, you consent to them all. Which is, untrue. People have the ability to consent to certain things with their body, under their own rules, and anything that breaches the set rules of what they’re consenting to, is non-consensual, meaning it can be classified as sexual assault or rape.

Brodsky also mentioned that myths about rape victims and consent, mean that the legal system doesn’t work well for survivors of gender-based violence.

“We know that the law doesn’t work for gender violence survivors,” she told HuffPost. “Many of the myths and assumptions and forms of skepticism that we see from judges approaching rape victims and other kinds of sexual assault victims are likely to be present in stealthing cases.”

The answer is cohesive sex education that firmly sets rules and definitions for consent and reworking the definitions of rape and sexual assault. Feminism, the fight for equal rights, and the fight for sexual education are what have brought this topic into the mainstream. Consent needs to be a mandatory part of sexual education. If consent was taught to everyone, stealthing wouldn’t be labeled a “disturbing sex trend”. It’s not a trend; it’s a form of reproductive and sexual violence, usually gender-based, that has been around since the introduction of birth control and other forms of prophylactics.

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Bristol is a 20 year old Canadian. She's a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and happily pansexual. She's a passionate social activist, bath bomb lover, and hot chocolate drinker. Some of her specific areas of interest include, LGBT+ issues, racism, and sex-ed.

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