I read in the Australian last week that the Queensland parliament is considering criminalising stealthing. And no, that’s not a typo. As far as I know it’s always been a crime to steal things in Queensland, and while The Sunshine State may not have the felonious heritage of its southern neighbour it has certainly produced more than its fair share of tea leaves, the most notable recent example being Annastacia Palaszczuk, who oversaw the expropriation of Norfolk Island from New South Wales only last year. I confess I didn’t hear about that at the time, but unless the island’s residents were similarly uninformed, and just woke up one morning to find their necks had turned red and they were no longer allowed to keep rabbits as pets, you wouldn’t characterise this as ‘cautious and surreptitious action or movement’ which is how my dictionary defines stealth. Regrettably, the word can also be used as a verb, with stealthing its participle form, but the latter is such an ugly coinage that few Australians would ever read or hear it if it hadn’t already entered Tasmanian and ACT statute books as a category of sexual assault. It’s not a moment too soon for Queensland to get with the program. According to studies cited by the Australian, three in five women and one in five men in Queensland have been victims of stealthing, which makes it a bigger per capita threat than the Irukandji jellyfish. This must have come as a bombshell to Queenslanders – a not inappropriate metaphor when you consider that when journos have used the word stealth in the past it has usually been as a prefix to the word bomber – a stealth bomber being one which, being undetectable by radar, can home in on its target, drop its payload and fly off with impunity. I initially assumed stealthing was the carnal equivalent; the perpetrator achieving coitus with his victim without his or her knowledge and the victim waking up the next morning with an inexplicably sore front or back bottom. And if you think it’s impossible for someone to be penetrated sexually without their knowledge you have clearly not seen the studies which say that an even higher proportion of Australian men have been asked, while having sex, if they are ‘in yet’ – than which, experts agree, there is no more reliable form of contraception. But stealthing is, in fact, the antithesis of contraception since it pertains to the non-consensual removal of a condom during otherwise consensual sexual intercourse. So strictly speaking it does involve pinching something.
One of the obvious benefits of an anti-stealthing law is that it will reduce unwanted pregnancies. Thus stealthing can also be characterised as ‘coercive reproduction’ and can also apply to a man who deliberately punctures a condom prior to having sex. But one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor, and in China, where the one-child policy has put the world’s largest population in a tailspin which threatens Xi Jinping’s goal of having half the world’s street signs captioned in Mandarin by 2050, it is now illegal to use a condom which has not been pre-punctured, unless you are a member of the Uyghur community, in which case having sex per se is a capital offence and even masturbating incurs a heavy fine. Australia being a more egalitarian society, our state and federal parliaments would never enact legislation which would actively discriminate against a particular demographic. So if Queensland and the other states and territories do criminalise the deliberate damaging of condoms, we must assume they will also make it a crime for women to stop taking the pill without telling their partners.
If one in five men in Queensland are victims of stealthing, one in five men in Queensland must be either homosexual or heterosexual men who have given gay sex a whirl – possibly because they cannot bear the prospect of being asked one more time by their wife or girlfriend if they are in yet. But on the not unreasonable assumption that the person perpetrating the stealthing is also homosexual, one in five must be a conservative estimate, and more like half of Queensland’s male population is gay. This should incentivise the Palaszczuk administration to burnish its legacy with yet another landmark decision. One which will tap even more directly into the zeitgeist while at the same time bolstering Queensland’s proud reputation – confirmed by this year’s State of Origin – as the home of rugby league. For far too long now Queensland has spruiked itself as a melanoma destination. It’s high time it changed its bumper sticker handle to The Rainbow State.
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