Is ‘stealthing’ illegal? What you need to know about the secret sexual act

Sex & Relationships

March 15, 2023 | 4:14 pm

A man in the Netherlands is the first person in the country to be convicted of ‘stealthing’.

The 28-year-old attacker, Khaldoun F., ended up in court in Dordrecht after he was accused of stealthily removing his condom during sex with a woman last summer, the NL Times reports.

The woman had agreed to have sex with a condom, but F. took it off without her knowledge as the couple reportedly made love before having intercourse.

He pleaded guilty to and was charged with coercion, but was acquitted of rape charges.

F. was sentenced on Tuesday to three months probation and a fine of €1,000 (approximately $1,060 USD).

The mental and physical effects of “stealthing” are obvious to the victims, but what recourse is there for those accused of the treacherous act of sexual assault?

For victims of stealth, the consequences are obvious, such as unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and psychological trauma. But what recourse is there for those accused of this treacherous and manipulative sexual act? That all depends on who you ask and where the violation happened.

Read on to learn more about the history and legal debate surrounding stealth.

Stealthing is when a person removes or tampers with a condom without the consent of their sexual partner.
Getty Images

What is sneaking?

Stealthing occurs when a person leads their partner to believe that they intend to use a condom during sex before removing or forgoing the condom without their counterpart’s consent and knowledge. The deceptive act is considered by experts to be an act of forced unsafe sex.

The law was first defined in a 2017 Yale University study that reported instances of the “rape-next” tactic increasingly experienced by both women and gay men. The paper also cited the existence of a worrying online community that believes it is a man’s right to “spread his seed” and encourages them to “hid” their partners.

Is stealth illegal in the US?

California became the first state to ban the sexual act in 2021, although it is not considered a criminal offense.

The measure amended the state’s civil code and added the law to the state’s definition of sexual battery. The amendment clarified that victims can sue perpetrators when a condom has been removed without verbal consent. In many cases, a suspect convicted of stealth can be held liable for financial damages.

California Democratic MP Cristina Garcia originally campaigned to make it a crime in 2017 after the Yale study was published.

The Erotic Service Providers Legal Educational and Research Project supported Garcia’s bill, saying it could allow sex workers to sue clients who remove condoms.

Meanwhile, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Wisconsin have all introduced similar bills.

In 2017, New York Senator Diane J. Savino first drafted a bill that would allow a person to sue their spouse for monetary damages for “unauthorized removal and tampering with a sexual protective device.”

California became the first and only state to ban stealth in 2021.
Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

However, the law was never passed and is currently under consideration in committee.

Legislators in Congress have also pushed unsuccessfully for years to make stealth a criminal offense. Recently, Representatives Carolyn Maloney, Norma J. Torres, and Ro Khanna introduced two bills designed to legally protect victims of stealth.

The Consent is Key Act would encourage states to pass their own laws allowing victims of insidious victims to collect civil damages by increasing funding levels for federal domestic violence prevention programs in those states. And the Stealthing Act of 2022 would specifically categorize stealth as a form of sexual assault and create a federal civil right for survivors to sue and collect damages.

Is stealth considered rape?

The question of whether or not stealth is considered rape is central to the discussion.

As the original Yale study shows, there are some – especially the stealth proponents – who say the act does not reach the level of rape. However, sexual assault researchers strongly believe that stealth is and should be considered rape because it involves issues of sex and consent – ​​and places like Australia, England and Wales have it legally listed as such.

In 2017, a Swiss court convicted a man of rape after stealing his partner, concluding that the victim would have refused sex had she known the condom would not be used.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers argue that stealth falls somewhere in a gray area between consensual sex and rape, more vaguely considering it a form of assault or violence.

Where else is stealth banned worldwide?

Stealthing is restricted in several countries around the world, including England, Wales, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Singapore, and Australia.

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