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ACT criminalises the ‘stealthing’ sex act in Australia

In an Australian first, the ACT has officially criminalised stealthing – an act reportedly committed against one in three women.

Stealthing, the non-consensual removal of a condom during sex, entered the cultural lexicon relatively recently (the inimitable Michaela Coel addressed it openly and deftly in I May Destroy You last year) but damaging consequences for victims have been prevalent for years.

Canberra Liberal leader Elizabeth Lee introduced new legislation yesterday to amend current consent provisions under the crimes act. The changes explicitly state that a person’s consent is negated if the other person intentionally misrepresents using a condom.

Elizabeth Lee
image: The Canberra Times

The legislation was passed unanimously – which in the current global climate for women’s safety is a hugely welcomed fact.

The new legislation means that any “intentional fraudulent representation” about the use of a condom during sex will now be recognised as a crime.

Sparked by an ongoing stealthing case in the Victorian courts, Ms. Lee strove to secure the bill in order to avoid similar, drawn-out legal processes.

“We cannot wait for cases to come before the courts before stealthing is specifically outlawed”,  she said.

“We need to act proactively and send a clear message to the community that this behaviour is unacceptable, and a crime.”

Lee acknowledges that having concrete laws regarding consent issues such as stealthing is a positive start, but that the issue runs deeper.

There is a reluctance to talk about consent openly and frankly. This needs to change, with effort from all sectors – community organisations, policymakers, law makers, law enforcement, educators.

Image: Sydney Morning Herald

Teach Us Consent, a platform lobbying for and providing holistic consent and sexual education created by Chanel Contos, shared anecdotal evidence of the physical and psychological impact of stealthing on victims.

One such experience submitted to Teach Us Consent stated,

He gave me HPV which had associated impacts leading me to be put through four years of specialist gynaecologist visits costing my 100s of $ and significantly impacting me mentally, physically, and emotionally.”

This anecdote is sadly not an anomaly.

A Monash University study of more than 2,000 people in 2018 found that, of those surveyed, one in three women and one in five men who had had sex with men had been stealthed.

Fingers crossed that the rest of Australia follows suit and these trouble numbers don’t continue into the future.