California may soon become the first state to make it illegal for someone to remove a condom during sex without the other person’s knowledge or permission.
Legislators Tuesday approved a bill adding the act to the state’s definition of sexual battery under civil law, the Associated Press reports. It doesn’t make it a crime involving jail time but instead allows for lawsuits over nonconsensual condom removal. It now awaits Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature.
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia has championed such a move for several years. Recent studies have indicated that both women and gay men are increasingly reporting secret condom removal by their sexual partners. The practice is known as “stealthing.”
“It’s disgusting that there are online communities that defend and encourage stealthing and give advice on how to get away with removing the condom without the consent of their partner, but there is nothing in law that makes it clear that this is a crime,” Garcia said in a statement.
Garcia originally sought to make stealthing a crime for which the perpetrator could serve jail time. But that effort fell through, as legislative analysts said stealthing could already come under the definition of misdemeanor-level sexual battery but would be difficult to prosecute; condoms can come off accidentally.
Under the legislation passed this week, the partner who didn’t consent to condom removal can sue for damages. Civil lawsuits have a lower burden of proof than criminal cases.
Chloe Neely, a civil rights attorney, praised the move. “That really helps victims and gives them a tool to hold those accountable who have violated them, and oftentimes jail is not necessarily the answer and not something someone who has been violated wants to see as an outcome,” she told The Washington Post.
Similar legislation has been proposed in New York and Wisconsin, but California is the first where lawmakers have approved it and sent it to the governor.