Earlier this year, the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law published a study that revealed guys have been taking off their condoms during sex without their partner’s consent—a behavior known as “stealthing.”
Now, two U.S. representatives are pushing for this practice to be classified as rape, according to Buzzfeed News. On October 4, Ro Khanna and Carolyn Maloney, representatives from California and New York, respectively, sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee in the hopes of addressing it.
"Nonconsensual condom removal done without the other partner's knowledge is an emerging section of policy and legislation on sexual assault and rape," they wrote. They added that a hearing would provide the opportunity for lawmakers "to gain knowledge and expertise on an issue that is becoming increasingly relevant."
The author of the original stealthing study, Alexandra Brodsky, told HuffPost in April that she wanted to examine the phenomenon when she started Yale Law School in 2013. She found that many of the women she spoke with had been "stealthed," but weren't sure whether or not the behavior was considered rape. One stealthing victim wrote that when she discovered her partner had removed the condom during sex without her knowledge, she felt violated and "freaked out."
As Khanna and Maloney's letter points out, besides psychologically harming victims, stealthing can also lead to unplanned pregnancies and STDs (the rates of which are already a lot higher than they used to be, as Men's Health has previously reported).
“Consent is not up for discussion, it is a requirement for the entirety of any sexual interaction," Rep. Khanna said, according to BuzzFeed. "Stealthing violates an agreement between partners and is a dangerous form of sexual assault."
About six months ago, two lawmakers in Wisconsin and California also tried to tackle stealthing, introducing bills to change the definition of consent and rape to include interfering with condom usage without telling the other person. BuzzFeed reports that the California lawmaker said her bill failed to get enough votes to move forward.
Only time will tell what kind of effect Khanna and Maloney's letter will have.
“Stealthing is sexual assault,” Maloney said, according to BuzzFeed. “We need a hearing so that Congress can hear from the experts about how to best address this issue as we continue to amend our country’s and universities’ responses to sexual assault and rape.”