By Mylika Scatliffe,
AFRO Women’s Health Writer,
Crishawn Boone, 27, of Marceline, Mo. wants everyone to know stealthing is no laughing matter.
Speaking with the AFRO only under the condition of anonymity, Boone told her story and spoke about how the effects of stealthing linger long after a sexual encounter is over.
Stealthing is when a man damages or removes a condom during sexual intercourse without his partner’s consent.
“I didn’t know what it was when it happened to me. I can’t imagine how many other girls or women have been through this, not realizing there is a name for it,” said Boone. “I think the more people that open up about it the better. There is so much stigma and victim blaming and that shouldn’t be the case. I understand that now and I feel a lot better just talking about it.”
Joe Budden, a retired rapper turned podcaster, recently garnered a massive amount of negative attention from the media and fans after openly bragging about his stealthing experiences in a recent podcast.
“Even I done (sic) walked into a corner and faked like I was putting a condom on before,” said Budden, as he guffawed with his co-hosts. “They’re none the wiser. Yes, I did that. One thousand percent.”
It didn’t stop there.
Budden went on to say that pretending to put on a condom before sex was a poor plan, and one that eventually evolved. Instead of deceiving women about putting the condom on, Budden adapted his behavior like any true predator. He begin to put the condom on so women felt their needs were being met, but then would purposely try to break the condom during intercourse without a word to his partner.
“Let me go find the thinnest condom in the world,” said Budden, giving insight to his plan of action once the pretending stopped. “I used to be a sicko. Please don’t misrepresent me.”
The soundbite went viral, and the social media backlash was swift and intense, with users condemning Budden for what many describe as predatory, even criminal behavior.
Budden seemingly recognized the act of stealthing as problematic, but he did so with ease and laughter and ease– something the women he stealthed don’t get to enjoy.
Boone was stealthed during her first sexual encounter with a man she met at work.
She consented to having sex with the strict understanding that he would wear a condom because she was the single mother of a 13-month-old at the time.
“I was not in a situation to have another child, nor did I want one,” said Boone. “He stopped for a moment in the middle of things, and I just thought he had a cramp or something. I didn’t realize he had taken off the condom until we were finished.”
When Boone confronted him, he just told her to go take a shower and that would wash everything away.
She felt appalled and ashamed.
The Stealthing Act of 2022 is federal legislation introduced earlier this year. It would name stealthing as a form of sexual battery and create a legal pathway for victims to sue perpetrators for damages. It will create a federal civil right of action for survivors of non-consensual condom removal.
The legislation mirrors a California law passed in October 2021 that augmented the state’s civil code’s definition of sexual battery to include non-consensual removal of a condom. The House bill reads, “Stealthing is a grave violation of autonomy, dignity, and trust that is considered emotional and sexual abuse.”
A separate bill called the Consent Is Key Act, would encourage states to pass their own laws authorizing civil damages for survivors by increasing funding for federal domestic violence programs in states that pass those laws.
The act of stealthing is nothing new but it gained major media attention after the 2017 publication of Alexandra Brodsky’s research paper titled “‘Rape-Adjacent’: Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal.”
Brodsky, a litigator with a public interest firm in Washington, D.C., wrote the paper in 2016 as a student at Yale Law School. It was published in 2017.
“Internationally the increase in reporting of such acts and increased societal awareness has moved governments towards action,” said Dr. Johnny Rice, associate professor of Criminal Justice at Coppin State University in Baltimore. “Here in the United States, California has worked to craft an intentional response to this act and expanded its current definition of sexual battery to include this offense. Canada has enacted criminal penalties for this act whereas in the United States the act has been responded to via civil statute which allows for a lower standard of proof.”
It has been four years since Boone was stealthed.
She no longer blames herself, but still struggled against tears as she recounted her experience. At the time she didn’t have a name for what happened to her. She never told anyone because she didn’t expect to receive emotional or practical support.
“I didn’t know what it was or if it was really sexual assault. I thought about going to the police but when I considered the hassle of trying to prove it, I didn’t follow through,” said Boone.
Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok are flooded with videos of women sharing intensely personal and traumatic experiences with stealthing. The common theme of these recordings are feelings of fear, violation, betrayal, and shame.
Department Chair of Psychology, Counseling, and Behavioral Health at Coppin, Dr. Sabrina Taylor, has counseled teenage stealthing survivors. She recalled her work with a high school age girl who was stealthed by a boy of the same age.
“She felt conflicted because even though she didn’t consent to the removal of the condom, she did consent to having sex in the first place, so she felt responsible. She got pregnant as a result, which led to additional trauma,” said Taylor.
Boone also became pregnant after getting stealthed.
She ended up miscarrying, but it was her plan to continue the pregnancy, despite being “ghosted” by the man who stealthed her.
“Even though I was going to have the baby, I really think I was better off having the miscarriage,” said Boone. “I think the baby would have been a constant reminder of what happened, and I wasn’t in a good place to have another baby. That’s why I insisted on protected sex in the first place.”
Much of the commentary following the Joe Budden incident and all of the videos from stealthing survivors online is about whether or not stealthing is actually sexual assault.
“Stealthing can best be described as a form of sexual battery that is non-consensual, thus disregarding a partner’s right to choose. When men engage in an intimate sexual act with a partner and make a conscious decision to damage or remove condoms prior to or during the sexual act, it can have significant legal and health implications for the perpetrator as well as their respective victim,” according to Rice. “Increasing awareness of this deviant behavior is a vital step in addressing this criminal justice and public health problem.”
Taylor said, “if there has been a discussion about safe sex and there is an agreement to use a condom, it is perceived the agreement is fulfilled by the parties involved, and condom use is consensual. Looking at the repercussions, it is a form of assault. They can end up with sexually transmitted infections and/or unwanted pregnancy which can lead to anxiety and mistrust in future relationships and sex with future partners.”
When asked why they stealth, many men said sex feels better without the condom. Boone’s current partner, who also wanted to maintain his anonymity, disagrees.
“There are condoms on the market that are thin and designed to feel really close to ‘natural.’ I really think the guys out there doing this – it’s about control,” said Boone’s partner.
“The main reasons for stealthing are dominance and control. Controlling the situation and controlling the act. The person wearing the condom is at an advantage in terms of power and control. They basically think, ‘I will get what I want from this person –sex without a condom– regardless of how they feel. I can make them trust me, trick them, and still get what I want from the situation,’” said Taylor.
The psychological effects of stealthing are plenty. When a person suffers a sexual assault, they have lost control in the moment the act occurs. The perpetrator exhibits dominance and control of the situation, and it makes the survivor take ownership of what happened.
“The aftermath for the survivor frequently involves victim blaming, often self-inflicted, in a myriad of ways. They will say things like, ‘I should have been more aware.’ They can be severely conflicted if they already had mixed feelings about consenting to sex with the person but consented anyway,” said Taylor. “They wonder about the implications of people finding out and what they will think of them, particularly teenagers worried their parents finding out they’ve been having sex. If it’s someone heavily involved in church, they wonder what people at church will think of them if they get pregnant from stealthing.”
The reversal of Roe v. Wade means the potential for an increase in unwanted pregnancies.
“A by-product of the aforementioned could place victims of stealthing who become pregnant in a position in which they have limited access to safe, affordable, and sanctioned abortion counseling services. In turn, persons from underserved, marginalized groups and communities may consider unsafe means in which to terminate an unwanted pregnancy due to lack of access and guidance, like counseling support, prior to making such an important decision,” said Rice.
The Stealthing Act would mean monumental implications for offenders, especially for sexually active teenagers.
“It’s very important for teenagers to be educated about the potential consequences,” said Taylor, whoo makes it a point to use the word “survivor” instead of “victim” when referring to people who have been stealthed.
When asked what a survivor can do to heal from the trauma of being stealthed she responded, that “nothing can be done to change the past and the fact that it occurred, but they can enter counseling and receive trauma therapy.”
“A common method of therapy is cognitive processing therapy. It challenges the perspective about why the traumatic event has occurred, and thoughts and beliefs that have developed and helps to deal with individual emotional impact,” according to Taylor.
Boone’s new relationship is much more supportive than what she has experienced in the past. So much so that he is the first person in four years she told about being stealthed.
For anyone that questions if stealthing is really sexual assault, Dr. Taylor says this:
“Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. If someone removed a condom during consensual sex, and the agreement between you was that condoms would be used, how would you feel? What if it resulted in an unwanted pregnancy? Or a sexually transmitted disease? Or anxiety for future relationships?”
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