Opinion | Outlaw stealthing in Iowa

Iowa should follow California’s lead to outlaw nonconsensual condom removal, otherwise known as “stealthing.”

Sophie Stover, Opinions Contributor

Iowa lawmakers should outlaw nonconsensual condom removal, an action also known as “stealthing.”

Removing a condom without consent from a partner is currently legal across the U.S. Seems like rape, right? It’s not legally classified as such, but it is.

When someone consents to sex under the condition of using a condom, and that protection is subsequently removed unbeknownst to the partner, that consent is violated. Stealthing absolutely should be treated as rape in our legal system.

California will soon be the first state to make the practice illegal under the state’s definition of sexual battery. Iowa could be the second state to crack down on nonconsensual condom removal.

Earlier this year, Iowa passed two bills into law to help survivors of sexual assault. Provisions were implemented to develop a sexual assault forensic examiner program and to ensure funding for sexual assault evidence kits. Iowa lawmakers should go further to make stealthing illegal in their pursuit of discouraging sexual assault and supporting survivors.

California’s bill outlaws stealthing under civil code, allowing survivors to sue for damages, which experts believe might be a better solution than pursuing criminal illegality. Alexandra Brodsky wrote a paper, published in the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, exploring potential legal consequences of stealthing. She agrees it might be more useful for survivors to have money to pursue therapy or pay medical expenses, rather than sending perpetrators to jail.

Additionally, it might be more difficult to criminally prosecute perpetrators, as criminal processes involve police decisions to investigate the crime, and prosecutor decisions to pursue a case. Moreover, prosecution hinges on proving the perpetrator acted with intent. It’s worth mentioning though that other countries like Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand, and Germany have criminally prosecuted men for stealthing.

If amending the civil code is the best way to pursue a legal remedy against nonconsensual condom removal in the U.S., then it must be done. Stealthing is much too prevalent to not act against it now.

In a study from Australia published in 2018, 32 percent of the nearly 3,000 women surveyed said they had experienced nonconsensual condom removal. In 2019, Women’s Health Issues, the publication of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, published a study that found 12 percent of participants had experienced stealthing.

Not only is the act of stealthing widespread, it is incredibly harmful. The chances of contracting an STI or becoming pregnant increase without the use of protection, and it is disgusting to subject a partner to those risks without their consent. It’s obvious that consenting to sex with protection is not the same as consenting to unprotected sex.

Also, stealthing can have adverse mental health effects. The anxiety caused from worrying about potential harm from nonconsensual condom removal can be debilitating. It’s more than uncomfortable to reckon with the feelings of violation and disrespect that result from nonconsensual removal of protection.

Lawmakers in every state should pursue legislation to outlaw stealthing — a truly atrocious act for which survivors deserve justice.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.