“Condomgate” for WikiLeaks’ Founder

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks founder, has been under global siege for leaking sensitive government cables. What may take him down, though, is his alleged reluctance to prevent his own personal leaks by using a condom. Interpol issued a red notice, which means he is wanted by a national jurisdiction–in this case Sweden–not for his document dump but because two women alleged that he refused to use a condom, or withdrew after a condom broke.

It’s reported that both women asked him separately to take a test for STDs, and when he refused they went to the police, who considered his actions a sex crime under Swedish law. One woman was “especially anxious about the possibility of HIV and pregnancy,” according to the Daily Mail.

Assange’s “Condomgate” came on the heels of the Pope’s sudden embrace of condom use. Usually I would side with a secret leaker and oppose anything the Pope says, but this turn of events confuses my moral compass. The Pope’s prevention pirouette came just before World AIDS Day on December 1, and obviously he’s finally figured out what the rest of us have long known–that condom use is one of the most effective ways to prevent  the spread of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.

All this news about condoms made me think about the humble device. Its use as a contraceptive goes back centuries yet it’s still the subject of misinformation, derision and male resistance to anything they perceive as interfering with their impulsive pleasure. Revelations about Assange’s insistence on uncovered assignations, if true, reflect the continuing disregard for women across the political spectrum. He may be a champion of free speech, but when a woman speaks up he ignores her.

Maybe it’s because of its easy accessibility that we tend to pay less attention to condoms than medicalized contraceptives. Condoms are actually very effective contraceptives and, as the Pope realized, they have the added benefit of preventing the transmission of AIDS and most other sexually transmitted infections. They’re safe, inexpensive, readily available and you don’t need a prescription to buy them.

If condoms are always used correctly, 2 out of 100 women will get pregnant each year; in other words, they’re approximately 98 percent effective. There are latex-free condoms for people with latex allergies, so there’s no allergy excuse.

Condoms have other benefits as well: They can help relieve premature ejaculation, may help a man stay erect longer and can be incorporated as part of sex play. There are no side effects, unlike many other forms of contraception, and they make men partners in prevention of pregnancy and infection.

But, they don’t work at all if someone refuses to use one. Assange may be a hero to some for disseminating secrets, but if what the two Swedish women have said is true he may have caused real harm to them and any other women he’s had sex with since.

It’s an upside-down universe when I’m agreeing with the Pope and not siding completely with a whistleblower’s actions. In this instance, Assange faces not a government cover-up but his own failure to cover up.

UPDATE: Assange was arrested on December 7 in London on the Swedish extradition warrant and denied bail.

Photo of Julian Assange via Wikimedia Commons user Crit through Creative Commons License 2.0


  1. Unlike Roman Polanski, Assangi did not flee.

    According to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, he departed from Sweden for job opportunities only after asking permission from the Swedish authorities. He received permission in large part because the Swedish police had previously dismissed the allegations of the two women. Apparently, they agreed with Assange that it was unreasonable to expect a man to suddenly stop and put on a condom at the point of orgasm.

    It is possible that they have since changed their account and stated that they asked him to put on a condom before sex began, and that he then refused. The older of the two women has prominent “radical feminist” credentials and also was once deported from Cuba, according to the Counterpunch website.

    As this case unfolds, expect to see re-invigorated point/counterpoint on the sex industry. As this country is sinking into the toilet, I suppose we all need our diversions.

  2. I'm sorry but as a woman I have to firmly disagree with you here.

    If these women requested he use a condom as they have stated, but he refused, what stopped them from getting up, getting dressed, and leaving? Nothing according to them. They weren't forced to have sex with him. The entire "date" was consensual. So, I'm confused how he is looked at as doing something wrong. He made a choice not to wear a condom, they chose to continue with the act, no harm no foul. They are just as responsible for choosing to sleep with a man they barely new and not use protection. The one woman couldn't have been that worried about pregnancy and HIV if she decided to have sex with him AFTER he informed her he was not going to wear a condom. I call BS and flimsy story. All parties involved were adults and not threatened in any way. Take responsibility.

    • Carol King says:

      According to the police reports, the first woman said that he used a condom but it split. The report states that “She seemed to think that he had done this deliberately but he insisted that it was an accident.” The second woman insisted he use a condom, but the following morning, according to a police source “he made love to her without one.” The sex was consensual but the lack of a condom may not have been (if I have to explain “morning wood,” you’ve obviously never been there). The notion that once a woman agrees to have sex with someone, she is consenting to anything he wants, for as long as he wants and as often as he wants, no matter how much time has passed between sessions, is a remnant of a sexist double standard and denies a woman’s right to control her body.

      • This also may explain why they didnt report it until after they "talked". The first one believed the ripped condom was intentional, but he insisted it was accidental. So perhaps after she heard from the other woman that he had sex with her without a condom despite her insistance, she realized that begins to make a "pattern" and confirm her suspicions that the rip was intentional. Also, adding that one of the woman claims that when she realized it had ripped she told him to stop and he wouldn't. That is absolutely rape by any definition.

        • I wouldn't say by any definition. If you consent to sex and then after he enters decide to de-consent, I understand that from a woman's point of view that is wrong, but to subject the man in that case to the same treatment as a man who holds a knife to her throat is a bit harsh in my mind. It may be undesirable and socially unacceptable, but it shouldn't be criminal in my mind. I realize this will be modded into oblivion under this discussion of free speech, but there it is.

          • To have sex with someone after they have denied consent is rape. It doesn't matter if they're in the middle of sexual intercourse, it becomes rape if a woman says she wants to stop. It's not just "undesirable" and "socially unacceptable" for a man to continue forcing a woman to continue sexual intercourse when she doesn't want it, it's cruel, inhumane, and invasive. Men aren't wild animals incapable of controlling their lust. Do you really think that the woman who consented then detracted her consent really feels less traumatized than the woman held at knife point? Either way the man is a criminal for using someone else's body against their will and the woman is a victim. To suggest otherwise is not just an insult to sexual assault victims, but also to real men who only have sex with willing and consenting partners.

          • "Do you really think that the woman who consented then detracted her consent really feels less traumatized than the woman held at knife point?"

            If you believe that a date who just wants a couple of extra strokes to finish up is as "scary" as stranger with a knife then you have a serious problem.

  3. Excellent read, upside-down universe, agreed.

  4. Liz Homer says:

    After reading this, I am wondering if his next revelation will be that he is an alcoholic. Keep us posted.

  5. After reading this blog, and the linked articles in their entirety, I have to respectfully share that your summary is not only disappointing, but incredibly frustrating. I agree with CeeJ. How many times does it have to be pointed out that these women failed to complain until they learned he had slept with both of them? And if he and Woman B had consensual sex with a condom in the evening, and consensual sex without a condom in the morning, it was still consensual sex. To take up the cause of these women, if the circumstances outlined are accurate, is to dilute the cause of sexual assault advocacy everywhere. Give me a break. This gives nothing but credibility to the whole "woman scorned" cliche. I'm not saying he's not a bastard, but to call this sexual assault of any degree is insulting to true victims everywhere.

  6. Gini Hyman says:

    This seems pretty flimsy and very politically motivated to me. He did not force or rape these women. As previously stated, this was consensual adult sex and they could have refused to continue or got up and left right away. As far as fear of pregnancy goes, any drug store could solve that problem for her the next morning. I thought Sweden was more enlightened than the U.S. The fact that he refused an STD test makes him a macho-jerk; not a rapist! The time to ask for an STD-HIV test is BEFORE you have sex, not after!

  7. Gini Hyman says:

    I agree-these women knew what they were doing, at the time. It seems pretty flimsy to me also. There's something fishy here.

  8. The whole thing is going to boil down to: this is an excuse to persecute him, shut him down and punish him for being a brave cultural and political warrior.
    I haven't made up my mind if Assange is a self-serving famewhore, or not. And I really don't know what my opinion is on these charges—they don't sound very strong or legitimate—however, I am not sure Assange is really such a "great guy."

  9. I am on the women's side. No matter what, just "getting up and leave" may not be possible. Its to late at night. Its raining/snowing/freezing outside. Why should she leave and not him? I like it that he has done info leaks ,but he should have been more responsible sexually as a man.
    Were they having sex at her house? Big difference. Where would she then go to? many details determine an outcome.
    The fact that the women are angry at him shows that they are not in love with him. Was this paid for sex? Even so. A man should protect himself and his partner with the use of condoms.

  10. I am all for advocating for victims, but how does someone deliberately split a condom during sex? I have actually had MANY condoms split (I have a latex allergy and fyi in response to your comment about latex allergies not being an excuse — polyurathane condoms are distinctly inferior and much less strong. Before I knew I was allergic I had never had a latex condom split).

    Also, while I agree that consenting to have sex doesn't mean "consenting to anything he wants, for as long as he wants and as often as he wants, no matter how much time has passed between sessions", it does seem like you need to have some evidence of verbal intimidation or threats of physical violence to argue that these women were not registering their complaints mostly because they had regret at their actions after the fact. If they did not perceive any danger to themselves from saying "sorry, I don't have sex without a condom", they gave their consent and were not forced, but you still call it assault — aren't you falling into the sexist trap of arguing that women need to be protected from others because they can't protect themselves?

    • This is exactly my opinion. This is about self esteem, not forcible rape. I ABSOLUTELY believe rape situations can be nuanced and power dynamics can intimidate women in sutations where they feel coerced into doing things they don't want to do but EVEN THEN, it is a matter of self esteem, not a man forcibly raping her. She says "wear a condom", he says "no", she says "ok then, no sex". If he continues and she goes along with that, it is sad and tragic and we should work on raising awareness of men to not use their persuasive power in this way AND teach women to feel stronger about their rights and their conviction. It is not rape though and woman CAN protect themselves and MUST learn that they can. Relying on every state organisation to defend this right in LIEU of this kind of education is just creating a nanny state and working to disempower women even more, not empower them as feminism would intend and imply (I would hope).

  11. if these charges were fake, or trumped up for political reasons, as so many people seem to believe, wouldn't they have come up with something easier to understand? I mean it's amazing to me how many people dont really even comprehend the idea that consenting to one specific type of sexual act is NOT consenting to everything, or even the idea that consent can be withdrawn. Why wouldnt they just have charged him with forcible rape, as opposed to coming with this more complicated scheme?

    • Because they have zero evidence for forcible rape, but enough evidence for a more complicated charge.

    • Actually, Assange HAS been charged with what you call ‘forcibe rape’, with this from yestersday’s Yahoo Newswire account of Assange’s arrest:

      “During the hour-long court hearing in London, attorney Gemma Lindfield, acting on behalf of the Swedish authorities, outlined the allegations of rape, molestation and unlawful coercion that were brought against Assange following separate sexual encounters in August with two women in Sweden.

      Lindfield said one woman accused Assange of pinning her down and refusing to use a condom on the night of Aug. 14 in Stockholm. That woman also accused of Assange of molesting her in a way “designed to violate her sexual integrity” several days later. A second woman accused Assange of having sex with her without a condom while he was a guest at her Stockholm home and she was asleep.

      A person who has sex with an unconscious, drunk or sleeping person in Sweden can be convicted of rape and sentenced to two to six years in prison.”

  12. T R Black says:

    Let's have some perspective here: Sex crimes? What is this a Eurythmics redux of 1984? The pope was a Nazi Youth and still preaches docility. Whatever Mr. Assange may or may not be, he is more courageous than ANY U.S. military person in history. The charges are absurd and absolutely politically motivated. As usual, unevolved people demonstrate that they fear TRUTH and sex more than they do the international injustices initiated by autocratic bureaucrats.

    The neurotic complaints of a couple of feminazis is a small price to pay to keep the alive the flame of freedom for all thinking people. Mr. Assange must be released to continue his excellent work. If you require tests and rubbers, get a job at the TSA (or another one requiring drug tests) and wear galoshes. And, don’t exchange bodily fluids with Mr. Assange. Let the rest of us live life!

  13. Carol King says:

    This just in from Reuters – Fills in some of the blanks. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6B669H20101

    • As far as “the judgment” of Director of Public Prosecutions, Marianne Ny, let that be a lesson to all U.S. progressives who think fondly of Sweden as a potential landing spot when the U.S. economy finally implodes. Most prosecutors in ALL countries have cloudy judgment. Instead of being qualified polymaths, they lack even a modicum of critical thinking skills. Let me know when Ms. Ny is ready to send in U.N. and NATO forces to apprehend Dick Cheney and try him for war crimes. It’s high time to sober up and look at the big picture and not be focused on the paranoia of petty Pollyanna poseurs.

  14. Also, according to the Guardian, *one of the women was asleep during the second sexual encounter*, when he did not wear a condom despite being explicitly told that this was a condition for them having sex. Since when can an unconscious woman give consent to anything?

  15. Frankly, I'm not willing to believe it. There have been far too many such accusations to men and women who threaten the status quo. Try to fight that kind of accusation. Especially with the media as useful to the status quo perhaps I'm using that term incorrectly… let's say those mysterious unseen powers that be.

  16. The sexual encounters are either consensual or they are not. If Assange refused to wear a condom and then forced him on these women that is rape (and he should be held accountable for it) but, if Assange refused to wear a condom and these women made the choice to have sex with him, then it is consensual sex. Assange can not be held as a prisioner because "in retrospect everyone knows it's better to wear a condom than to not". Come on…

    • The second woman insisted he wear a condom, which he did the first time at night. He didn't in the morning and that's the basis of her complaint.

  17. And don’t you know it, it just gets wilder. The older of the two accusers has announced that she is no longer cooperating with prosecutors, and has fled…FLED…to, of all places, the WEST BANK!!!

    She is now part of a Christian outreach group trying to help Palestinians and Jewish settlers get along. How? By allowing her reputation to scare both sides into working together against her??

    Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert will have a field day with this.

  18. Assange, for all his freedom-speeching, seems to be extremely tight-lipped about exactly what happened in this situation. Seems a contradiction between his release of documents in the name of showing the truth. Maybe it's okay as long as it's not his truth?

  19. Why did they go to the police in the first place

    • Carol King says:

      Why would they not? They reported a crime. In light of his cavalier attitude toward unprotected sex, they may have wanted to alert other women. We don't have all the facts but if he did have sex without a condom, without the express okay from the woman, it's rape.

      • It's been reported that he initiated sex with her while she was sleeping and he wasn't using a condom. She woke up and was "surprised," and in Sweden, that is considered non-consensual, as it should be everywhere.

    • snobographer says:

      Because they were raped.

  20. I do believe that men (and women) should use condoms to prevent pregnancy as they are highly effective. But has it occurred that this is part of a smear job that the arrest warrant goes out now rather than in August when this was reported? The only other way to interpret this is that the two women's complaints took a back seat (once again).

    Also, I doubt a condom broke twice, it hardly happens.

    • Carol King says:

      There was one instance of a condom breaking. One of the women is charging that he had unprotected sex with her against her will, when she was sleeping. Please see Ulf Erlingsson's comment to get an idea of what the charges against him may be.

  21. Good blog post. It is always useful in legal cases to look at (A) the accusations and (B) the law. We know the accusations from the bail hearing in London. The Swedish criminal code is available online, though in Swedish of course. It is Brottsbalken Ch 6, Article 1, second paragraph, that says that having sex with a sleeping woman is rape (a court of appeals recently called this a "typical rape"). However, for the benefit of all you non-Swedish speakers, the prosecutor (Åklagaren, http://www.aklagare.se) has translated the relevant articles of the criminal code to English (http://www.aklagare.se/PageFiles/346/Chapter%206.pdf). Their choice of paragraphs to translate is obviously a strong hint on what this case hinges on – note that an article of chapter 4 is included. Hint hint.

    • Carol King says:

      Thank you Ulf. You've shed light on the nature of the possible charges. It's clear that Sweden takes these offenses very seriously. I wish more countries did.

      • snobographer says:

        Unfortunately Sweden doesn't usually take these charges seriously. Amnesty International did a report recently and rape victims in Scandinavian countries face the same hurdles and stigmas as rape victims in the U.S. The seriousness with which Assange's case is being treated is politically motivated, but all rape victims should have their cases treated just as seriously by the legal systems in their countries, sans the violations of privacy, death threats, and victim blaming to which Assange's accusers have been subjected of course.

  22. What a greasy clutch pig.

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