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Congressman Ro Khanna

Representing the 17th District of California

Is it rape to secretly take a condom off during sex? These lawmakers just said so

October 4, 2017
In The News

It’s called “stealthing,” and it’s been labeled as “rape-adjacent,” but now two lawmakers want it to be classified as rape according to federal law.

Nonconsensual condom removal during sex is the latest expression of some men’s sexual aggression. Then Yale Law student and current civil rights attorney Alexandra Brodsky brought the issue to national attention in April with the publication of her paper, “Rape-adjacent: Imagining legal responses to nonconsensual condom removal.”

In that study, Brodsky detailed the accounts of women whose partners have removed their condom during intercourse, detailing the episodes as “consent violation.” She also delved into the minds of condom removers, scouring internet posts and comment sections where men proclaimed, “if she wants the guy’s ***** then she also has to take the guy’s load!!!”

Reps. Ro Khanna, D-Calif. and Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. sent a letter Wednesday to the House Judiciary Committee asking its members to address the issue. They want official rulings on: (1) How does the act alter consent, and (2) how common the practice is.

“Nonconsensual condom removal during sexual intercourse is a disgraceful practice that is incredibly dangerous for victims. ‘Stealthing’ can lead to lasting consequences, such as unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, and is also a violation of trust and dignity between two sexual partners,” the joint letter to the committee reads.

Papers and articles like Brodsky’s have suggested that stealthing could in fact turn consensual sex into nonconsensual sex. As the definition of “consensual sex” is getting something of an overhaul in the national conversation surrounding a greater focus on feminism and women’s sexual rights, some men still feel comfortable enough about covertly removing a condom enough to provide “a comprehensive guide” to stealthing online.

“Consent is not up for discussion. It is a requirement for the entirety of any sexual interaction. Stealthing violates an agreement between partners and is a dangerous form of sexual assault,” Khanna told BuzzFeed News. “The implications of the practice of nonconsensual condom removal are far-reaching with concern to the ongoing national conversation on the definition of consensual sex.”

Wisconsin Democratic state Rep Melissa Sargent was the first in the nation in May to propose a bill that would modify her state’s interpretation of sexual consent to ensure that the practice of stealthing fell within the realm of sexual abuse. California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia introduced legislation to that effect in her state soon afterward.

Legislators like Garcia and Sargent at the state level and Khanna and Maloney on the national level are hoping to magnify the issue and shift the conversation from Reddit threads and anonymous blogs to American homes and college campuses so more people begin to understand the kind of violation stealthing represents.