Lawmakers Are Fighting To Classify Secretly Removing A Condom As Sexual Assault

"If a man purposefully destroys his condom without consent, that’s rape."

If you live in Wisconsin or California, the increasingly popular sexual practice known as "stealthing" — in which a man removes his condom without the consent of his partner — may soon be classified as sexual assault.

Lawmakers in both states have introduced separate bills that would label stealthing as such, because exposing your unknowing partner to pregnancy and/or sexually transmitted diseases and infections is just plain wrong. As Wisconsin Rep. Melissa Sargent sees it, stealthing is "clearly a sexual crime."

"Sexual predators will continue to find new, egregious ways to violate and victimize others, and it's important that as legislators we take concerted steps to be responsive as we become aware of it," the Democratic politician explains to NBC News. "This behavior is predatory and disturbing, and people should know we not only find it reprehensible, but that we won't tolerate it. Ignoring it is simply not an option."

Sargent's proposed bill — known as LRB3346 — states if "an actor removes a sexually protective device such as a condom before or during sexual intercourse or other sexual contact without his or her partner's permission, there has been no valid consent to that sexual act."



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 Sargent, who is a mother to four sons, also said she's working on a companion bill that would address the civil matters of stealthing.

The punishment for stealthing under the bill is currently unknown, but Sargent is determined to put an end to the disturbing practice before it gains any additional traction. Still, she faces an uphill battle.

Representatives from both the Madison Police Department and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department tell NBC News they haven't received reports of any stealthing cases.

"Why would anyone report something that hasn't been condemned?' she wrote in an email to the news agency. "Since introducing this legislation, I've had people from both Madison and UW-Madison's campus, to reach out to me to share their stories and experiences with 'stealthing,' so the issue isn't whether or not 'stealthing' is happening, it's whether or not we're going to do something about it."

There is evidence to suggest stealthing occurs, but is seldom reported.

Alexandra Brodsky of the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law interviewed stealthing victims and found the practice was promoted online by men who "root their actions in misogyny and investment in male sexual supremacy." 

Though many women are at a loss for how to classify stealthing (and thus don't report it) Brodsky went so far as to call the revolting practice "rape-adjacent."

California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia agrees. On May 15, she introduced bill AB1033 (by gutting and amending a prior proposal) that makes stealthing a form of rape. Per the Los Angeles Times, Garcia introduced the legislation because it's unclear whether stealthing is considered illegal under current law, and she wanted to ensure men who engage in the practice are punished accordingly.

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"If a man purposefully destroys his condom without consent, that's rape," Garcia declared at a press conference earlier this week. 

It's not lost on us that the champions of these respective bills are both women, as a recent study found a correlation between political representation and quality of life for women. In other words, states with little or no female representation in the state legislature tended to score lower on factors like equal pay and women's reproductive rights, while states with women in government received higher marks on such factors.

Conversely, especially harsh legislation in Oklahoma requiring women seeking abortions to get written permission from their partners first, was crafted by a man — Republican Rep. Justin Humphrey. In defense of the misogynistic bill, Humphrey even referred to women as "hosts."

Let's hope more representatives of both sexes introduce anti-stealthing legislation ASAP.

Cover image via Shutterstock / Mariusz S. Jurgielewicz.

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