A man in the Netherlands has become the first person in the country to be convicted of “stealthing.”
The 28-year-old assailant, Khaldoun F., found himself in Dordrecht District Court after he was accused of secretly removing his condom during sex with a woman last summer, the NL Times reported.
The woman had agreed to have sex with a condom, but F. took it off without her knowledge while the couple was reportedly making out before engaging in intercourse.
He pleaded guilty to and was charged with coercion, but was cleared of rape accusations.
On Tuesday, F. was sentenced to three months probation and made to pay a €1,000 (roughly $1,060 USD) fine.
For victims of stealthing, the consequences are obvious, such as unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and psychological trauma. But what recourse exists for those accused of this insidious and manipulative sex act? That all depends on who you ask and where the transgression occurred.
Read on to learn more about the history and legal debate surrounding stealthing.
What is stealthing?
Stealthing occurs when a person leads their partner to believe they intend to use a condom during sex before removing or forgoing its use without the consent and knowledge of their counterpart. The deceptive act is considered by experts to be an act of forced unsafe sex.
The act was first defined in a 2017 Yale University study that reported instances of the “rape-adjacent” tactic being increasingly experienced by both women and gay men. The paper also cited the existence of a worrisome online community that believes it’s a man’s right to “spread one’s seed” and encourages them to “stealth” their partners.
Is stealthing illegal in the US?
California became the first state to prohibit the sexual act in 2021, though it’s not considered a criminal offense.
The measure amended the state’s civil code, adding the act to the state’s definition of sexual battery. The amendment made it clear that victims can sue perpetrators when a condom is removed without obtaining verbal consent. In many cases, a defendant convicted of stealthing may be liable for financial damages.
California Democratic Assemblywoman 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 proposed similar bills.
In 2017, New York Sen. Diane J. Savino first drafted a bill that would allow a person to sue theeir partner for monetary damages for the “unconsented removal and tampering of a sexually protective device.”
However, the law was never passed and is currently pending in the committee.
Legislators in Congress have also pushed to criminalize stealthing for several years without success. Most recently, Reps. Carolyn Maloney, Norma J. Torres and Ro Khanna introduced two bills intended to help legally protect victims of stealthing.
The Consent is Key Act would encourage states to pass their own laws allowing stealthing 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 stealthing as a form of sexual violence and create a federal civil right of action for survivors to sue and collect damages.
Is stealthing considered rape?
The question of whether or not stealthing is considered rape is central to the discussion.
As shown in the original Yale study, there are some — particularly the proponents of stealthing — who say the act does not rise to the level of rape. However, sexual violence researchers strongly believe that stealthing is and should be considered rape as it deals with issues of sex and consent — and places like Australia, England and Wales have legally listed it as such.
In 2017, a Swiss court convicted a man of rape after stealthing his partner, concluding that the victim would have refused sex had she known the condom wouldn’t be used.
Meanwhile, some lawmakers maintain that stealthing falls into a gray area somewhere between consensual sex and rape, considering it more vaguely as a form of sexual assault or violence.
Where else is stealthing prohibited globally?
Stealthing is restricted in several countries around the world, including England, Wales, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Singapore and Australia.