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Is non-consensual condom removal sexual assault?

by AirTalk®

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BOSTON - MARCH 12: Pictured are a selection of condoms March 12, 2004 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bush administration is considering requiring warning labels on condom packages noting that the contraceptive devices do not protect users from all sexually transmitted diseases. (Photo by William B. Plowman/Getty Images) William B. Plowman/Getty Images

“Stealthing” refers to the practice of a man removing his condom without his partner’s knowledge or consent, subsequently exposing his partner to the risk of pregnancy or disease.

As the issue has come to the forefront of public attention, it’s raised questions over whether this action should be legally defined as rape, sexual assault or something more distinct. A Wisconsin lawmaker proposed a bill that would classify stealthing as sexual assault. And earlier this week, California Assemblywoman Christina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) introduced AB 1033, which would classify the practice as rape, saying that “anything done to our bodies without our consent is rape.”

But law professor Sherry F. Colb says classifying stealthing as sexual assault could create a slippery slope – would not disclosing an STD to a partner be considered sexual assault too? What about lying to a partner about wearing a cervical cap? Colb argues for precisely characterizing and dealing with this particular practice, rather than drawing an equivalency with sexual assault.

Have you ever experienced stealthing? Should stealthing be considered rape, sexual assault or a practice that’s legally defined on its own terms?

Disclaimer: Due to its explicit nature, this conversation may not be suitable for some listeners.


Carly N. Mee, staff attorney at SurvJustice, an organization based in Washington, D.C. advocating justice for survivors of sexual assault; her work focuses on representing college campus sexual assault survivors

Sherry F. Colb, law professor at Cornell Law School; her work focuses on issues of sexual equality, evidence and constitutional criminal procedure, as well as animal rights; she authored the Verdict article, “Stealthing’: Is Secret Condom Removal Akin to Sexual Assault?

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