California is first state to call ‘stealthing’ a crime

Vincent M. Franco
Staff Writer

California has become the first state to outlaw non-consensual condom removal during sex.

The practice known as stealthing, is now considered a form of sexual battery as of Jan. 1.

Those who fall victim to stealthing will be able to take the offender to civil court and sue them under Assembly Bill 453, authored by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, D-Downey. 

“Our laws work to greater define our values in society and to make it clear that this is not just immoral but illegal,” Garcia said in a recent phone interview. “I hope that it leads to a discussion about what consent is, and really to prevent having additional victims,” Garcia said.

Garcia said she was inspired to author the new law, when she came across civil rights attorney and author Alexandra Brodsky’s  article “‘Rape-Adjacent’: Imagining Legal Responses to Nonconsensual Condom Removal,”  published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law in 2017.  It was in 2017 when Garcia decided to move forward with the bill, after her staff looked through California’s laws and found no clear sign on whether this was considered a crime.  

Garcia said she was also disgusted at the amount of support she found among online communities for stealthing, and the number of people sharing tips on how to go about it and get away with it.

“I think social media definitely helps to spread this kind of negative practices around, otherwise I don’t know how people hear of it in large terms scales,” said Linda Bartelt, adjunctnprofessor of education. 

Linda Bartelt and her husband, Professor of Educational Studies John Bartelt, co-teach human sexuality to give the perspective of different genders. 

“It’s just one of those things that everyone needs to know about but nobody wants to talk about,” said John Bartelt.

The Bartelts both said education is key to reducing the number of stealthing incidents and promoting safer sex overall. 

Alison Vicroy, assistant general council and Title IX coordinator at the University said that any act of sexual activity must have affirmative consent, or they may be punishable under Title IX, the federal law requiring gender equity in education.

A 2019 study, “Young Women’s Experiences with Coercive and Noncoercive Condom Use Resistance: Examination of an Understudied Sexual Risk Behavior” published by the National Library of Medicine, found that 12% of women have had a partner commit stealthing.

Stealthing affects the victim by putting them at risk of sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancy. 

“What greater act of control than pulling off a condom,” Linda Bartelt said. “We don’t see women doing that, it’s a male thing.”

Why would someone do this? 

Linda Bartelt said it’s a power move, and an act of dominance.

In the U.S. a, 81% of women and 43% of men have experienced some kind of sexual harassment and/or assault in their life time, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. And the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network found that up to 13% of all college students, including graduate and undergraduate students, experience sexual assault during their college and graduate school years.

Vincent M. Franco can be reached at vincent.franco@laverne.edu.

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Vincent Matthew Franco is a senior journalism major with a concentration in print and online journalism. He has been involved in journalism and print media in high school, community college and is now at the arts editor of the Campus Times.

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