The Culture of Consent
The Culture of Consent

The Stigma Behind Stealthing

by Laura Holliday 3 years ago in activism

What happened to me is finally becoming accepted as a form of rape, but there is still so far to go.

The Stigma Behind Stealthing

When I was 15 years old I was raped. I was forced into non-consensual sex with a boy I knew, who I had a crush on for quite a while. He wasn’t a stranger, he wasn’t older than me, and he wasn’t so violent that I was physically hurt. But he raped me nonetheless. So how come neither the nurses in the hospital or my closest friends believed me?

Because he took the condom off.

The argument of just about everybody I confided in was that I was not raped because I had consented to protected sex. I felt ashamed, guilty and dirty on the inside, like the whole thing was my fault. To deal with it, I expelled my feelings externally and took them out on him. I wanted to make his life complete and utter hell. I was moody, angsty and bitter, and I used this resentment to turn his friends against him and eventually he left the school we both went to, and then the country.

The same way I failed to deal with many issues growing up, such as divorce, abuse, and self-hatred, I failed to acknowledge and deal with this situation. I blocked it out of my head and only really came to terms with it about 6 months ago when I heard that stealthing - there wasn’t really a name for it then - was starting to be made illegal in various countries. I showed my boyfriend an article about a stealthing case where the victim won a court case, and burst into tears. They weren’t tears of sadness, or even joy, but tears of acceptance, of peace, of a burden that I had carried around for so long finally leaving my mind, and my body.

Stealthing is real and it is damaging. I had the same level of fear running through me when I felt him cum inside me than anyone else who is raped. I was terrified about not getting my period and went straight to A&E. I went for STI tests for the first time, including a HIV test, which luckily was negative. I had to face seeing him everyday at school and come to terms with the fact that I was betrayed by someone I thought I was close to. I also had to face the shame that came with being underage at 15 years old, and everyone therefore thinking I was a slut for having sex in the first place. All this shock was a long, drawn out process that didn’t just end when he pulled out - or rather failed to.

I firmly and truly believe that stealthing is a legitimate form of sexual assault and that those who engage in it should be punished accordingly. It is important to recognise all types of less well known sexual assault, a category which stealthing is sadly only one part of. Sexual assault is any form of unwanted contact or behaviour, whether that's the guy who won't stop drunkenly kissing your neck even when you've screamed at him to stop, the guy who stands in front of his door and traps you in his room or the guy who fingers you in your sleep after you kissed him the night before. (Seriously, all these things have happened to me). The other critically important thing to remember is what each woman classes as assault is formulated on the terms of her own body and what she wants to do with it. Just because I sigh and shake it off when an old man shouts out 'Hey beautiful' to to me in the street, doesn't mean that other women don't find this sort of catcalling far more traumatic.

From my conversations with others it seems stealthing is becoming frighteningly more common. The classic counterargument when talking about stealthing is that women who lie about contraception should also be convicted of assault. This is a major concern and I have heard of cases of this happening too, not only in the media but my own personal circle. At the same time that I was raped and not taken seriously, my friends were vocally furious about the pregnant ex-girlfriend of a friend who had stopped her pill without telling him. Nobody denied that this was manipulative and morally wrong. Because lets be honest, it is and it’s disgusting.

However, the problem with stealthing in particular is that it presents a toxic view of masculinity that so many people STILL think is acceptable. It is common knowledge that a woman has control over her own body and that consent is our own decision. Consent involves what we want to do and be done with our bodies. Men who stealth strip away this control by saying that those two things are the same. If we have decided we want to have sex, then we have decided conjointly that we want to be ejaculated in. Putting it like this highlights how absurd stealthing is. It is exactly the same as the man who I consented to kissing thinking that further sexual contact was therefore ok. These examples use ‘blurred lines’ to allow men to define consent by their standards, putting the power into the rapists hands. These are our bodies, and consent is ours.

Stealthing, along with other similar forms of assault, lets men believe that they can take our bodies away from us. Well listen up, you can’t and you never will be able to. Consent belongs to me, it belongs to us, and we are the ones who define it. One day we will live in a world where every single person knows that this is not acceptable, but until then please keep sharing and spreading awareness.

Nobody can control you, except for yourself.

activism
Laura Holliday
Laura Holliday
Read next: The State
Laura Holliday

Freelance writer & serial complainer. Currently really into Buffy. @LauraaHday on Twitter.

See all posts by Laura Holliday