Condoms and lube
Wisconsin and California lawmakers are moving to criminalise stealthing as the act exposes a sexual partner to unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease, which amounts to rape or sexual abuse - File photo Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

Lawmakers in the US states of Wisconsin and California are moving to criminalise stealthing – the act of removing a condom or other contraceptive devices during intercourse without the knowledge of the partner.

State Representatives Melissa Sargent of Wisconsin and Cristina Garcia of California are spearheading the move in their respective states. They argued that the act exposes partners to the risk of sexually transmitted disease (STD) or unwanted pregnancy and hence, amounts to sexual assault.

Garcia, who has been a victim of stealthing in the past, introduced a bill on Monday (15 May) that proposes to treat intentional removal or tampering of a condom during intercourse as a form of rape. The bill, however, does not include other contraceptive devices.

"I hope all the men out there blogging are paying attention because in California, we're going to lead the nation in ending the 'trend' now," Garcia said in a news release. She announced the bill at a recent rally with Planned Parenthood. She also slammed some online forums that defend stealthing as a way for a male to assert his right to "spread his seed".

Sargent, who has already introduced a bill seeking the inclusion of stealthing in the legal definition of rape, said she has been aware of the concept of stealthing for years, but did not know there was a word describing the act until she read an April article in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law authored by law student Alexandra Brodsky.

"This is rape. This is non-consensual sexual assault. We need to call it what it is," she insisted and said that since introducing her bill, she has learnt from many women in Wisconsin that they have been victims of stealthing.

"Everyone has their own story," she said. "But the common thread is, 'This happened to me. I knew it wasn't right, but I didn't know what to call it'."

Brodsky's mention of the word "stealthing" in her article shot up Google searches for the term, but it is believed that the term was around well before it was mentioned in her article in April.