The act of removing a condom during sex without consent is in the cross-hairs of a California legislator who wants to make the practice, known as "stealthing," the legal equivalent of rape.
Assemblywoman Christina Garcia of Bell Gardens recently introduced legislation that would expand the Golden State's legal definition of rape to include "the nonconsensual, intentional removal or tampering with of a condom during sexual intercourse," according to the lawmaker.
"This is going on," she says. "There are blogs where men are egging each other on. There are real victims and real consequences, including STDs and unwanted pregnancies.
In a fact sheet, her office calls the action "the latest bedroom trend," but it also admits that "stealthing [is] a new name for an ancient, sneaky practice."
"Some realize their partner had removed the condom at the moment of re-penetration; others may not realize until the partner ejaculated, and some may never find out," according to Garcia's office. "Regardless of when, or if, the victim learns of this breach of trust, this practice exposes them to physical risks of pregnancy and disease, and is a grave violation of one’s dignity and autonomy."
Attention on the practice increased this spring after Alexandra Brodsky of Yale Law School published a paper titled "Rape Adjacent: Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal" in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law. The analysis concludes, according to a summary, that laws like Garcia's are needed "both to provide victims with a more viable cause of action and to reflect better the harms wrought by nonconsensual condom removal."
Harry Crouch of the San Diego-based National Coalition for Men says the legislation is a solution in search of a problem. "It's based on a mythical problem, and it's trying to control what people do in their private lives," he says.
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The law would applies to both heterosexual and homosexual partners.
Trevor Hoppe, an assistant sociology professor at the State University of New York at Albany argued in a recent piece for the Advocate that "existing sexual assault and/or assault statutes might be sufficient to prosecute such behavior."
"There is good reason to step back from the recent media frenzy to consider more carefully whether we truly need new legislation to respond to it," he writes.
Garcia disagrees. "Making it illegal is just a step," she says. "We still need to have a larger discussion about rape culture and how quickly we dismiss victims."