California has become the first state in the US to make removing a condom without a partner’s verbal consent illegal.
The act – commonly known as ‘stealthing’ – is reportedly becoming increasingly common, with growing numbers of women and gay men reporting incidents in which their partner had surreptitiously removed a condom during sex.
Now, a new measure introduced by California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia has amended the state’s civil code, meaning removing a condom without permission can now be defined as sexual battery.
The change paves the way for victims to be able to sue perpetrators for damages; a move that could especially benefit sex workers whose clients engage in stealthing.
‘This law is the first of its kind in the nation, but I urge other states to follow in California’s direction and make it clear that stealthing is not just immoral but illegal,’ Garcia said in a statement, per the New York Post. Similar legislation has previously been proposed in New York and Wisconsin, while an earlier effort by Garcia in 2017 was unsuccessful.
Garcia was reportedly inspired to write the bill after reading a study on the issue authored by civil rights attorney Alexandra Brodsky.
Speaking to NPR following the passage of the California law, Brodsky said:
The experience of realizing that your partner, your sexual partner, has no concern for your autonomy, your individual dignity, your right to make decisions about who you have sex with, when and how, that’s a terrible violation regardless of whether a physical injury occurs, regardless of whether a pregnancy occurs.
Civil litigation keeps decision-making in the hands of survivors, which can be particularly important in the wake of sexual violence, which is itself a denial of the victim’s right to make decisions about their lives
In the UK, stealthing is defined as rape under the law, though the BBC reports only one person has ever been successfully prosecuted for the act.
A second bill introduced by Garcia that defines marital rape as the same as non-marital rape was also signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom.