What is stealthing? Gavin Newsom signs bill prohibiting controversial sex practice

The Golden State became the first to expand the civil definition of sexual battery and gave victims legal grounds to sue for punitive damages


                            What is stealthing? Gavin Newsom signs bill prohibiting controversial sex practice
Gavin Newsom speaks at the IBEW Local 6 union hall on September 14, 2021 in San Francisco, California (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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Gavin Newsom, the Governor of California, signed a bill into law Thursday, October 7, that would make it illegal to remove a condom during sex without permission.

The Golden State became the first to expand the civil definition of sexual battery and gave victims legal grounds to sue for punitive damages. That said, MEAWW previously reported how actress Rose McGowan accused the Governor's wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom of trying to shut down the probe into Hollywood sexual predator Harvey Weinstein.

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"I have been working on the issue of ‘stealthing’ since 2017 and I am elated that there is now some accountability for those who perpetrate the act," Democrat Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, who sponsored the bill, was quoted as saying by the Sacramento Bee. "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."

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What is 'Stealthing'?

Garcia began working working on the bill in 2017, the same year a Yale University study found that acts of "stealthing" -- removing contraception without consent -- were increasing against both women and homosexual men. The new legislation will help protect sex workers by allowing them to sue clients who remove condoms without consent, according to Erotic Service Providers Legal Educational Research Project, which supported the bill. Stealthing could potentially expose victims to sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancy, Fox News reported.

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"For a majority of the people, it's like, yeah, it makes sense that this is immoral and it should be illegal," Garcia told NPR. "A lot of people told me, 'I can't believe it's not already illegal." She added, "I do hope that other states follow. I do hope that this elevates the discussion."

California Girl Scout Gold Award recipients present a commemorative Girl Scout pin to Assemblymember Cristina Garcia on June 23, 2016 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Kelly Sullivan/Getty Images for Girl Scouts)

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According to the Bee, the bipartisan bill passed with zero "no" votes. The controversial sex act was rarely prosecuted under the previous law because it's hard to prove the condom wasn't removed accidentally. However, legislative experts have said it could have been considered misdemeanor sexual battery.

Meanwhile, Newsom also signed into law another bill sponsored by Garcia that aimed to end the legal distinction between spousal and other kinds of rape. "Rape is rape," Garcia said. "And a marriage license is not an excuse for committing one of society’s most violent and sadistic crimes."

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While there is no difference in the maximum penalties, those convicted of spousal rape under current law can be eligible for probation instead of prison. Furthermore, they are required to register as sex offenders only if the act involved the use of force or violence and the spouse was sentenced to state prison.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a No on the Recall campaign event with U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris at IBEW-NECA Joint Apprenticeship Training Center on September 08, 2021 in San Leandro, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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Garcia told NPR that she was motivated to write a bill to ban stealthing after reading a 2017 journal article by law student Alexandra Brodsky, who has been credited with widening the discussion on the sex act. "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," Brodsky told NPR, "that's a terrible violation regardless of whether a physical injury occurs, regardless of whether a pregnancy occurs."

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According to a 2018 survey of patients at a sexual health clinic in Melbourne Australia, 32% of women and 19% of men who had sex with men admitted to being victims of stealthing.