California became the first state in the union to make stealthing, the nonconsensual removal of a condom during sex, illegal on Oct. 8. It was approved by the California State Legislature without opposition.
This is an important piece of legislation to punish the act of stealthing. The practice puts sexual partners at risk for the transmission of STDs and unwanted pregnancy, as well as violating consent. Just because consent was given to have protected sex, does not mean consent was given to remove a condom during during the act.
Any woman or man can give consent, but also has the right to withdraw that consent at any time during sex. Stealthing is a similar situation, men can have a person give them consent to have protected sex, but just because they have that original consent does not mean they can take their condom off.
According to the New York Times, a study published in 2019 reported that 12 percent of women said that they had been a victim of stealthing. Another study that year found that 10 percent of men admitted to removing their condom during intercourse without their partner’s consent.
Under the new law, stealthing would not be a crime, but instead it is a civil offense under state law. While it may seem like the potential of a civil suit is too lenient, in reality civil suits are often more useful to victims rather than a criminal case. A civil offense would allow survivors to sue the perpetrators and provide them with help to rebuild their lives, pay for mental health care, and be able to take some time off from work in order to heal.
It is also worth noting and appreciating the nuance that this law has with applying punishments that are more beneficial to the needs of survivors. Making stealthing a civil offense instead of a crime was an important distinction for the law to make, especially in cases of sexual consent.