[9/13/2021] – California’s New Law Takes a Stand Against Stealthing

California is slated to outlaw the act of removing a condom during intercourse without consent – otherwise known as “stealthing” in the modern lexicon. Alexandra Brodsky, a then 3rd year Yale law student, wrote a term paper on the topic in 2017 and has catalyzed a movement to call attention to stealthing and efforts to criminalize it. The paper revealed the widespread practice of stealthing, online forums encouraging and promoting the practice, and the traumatic experiences of victims of stealthing. If passed, victims of stealthing would be able to sue any sexual partners who remove their condom during intercourse without their consent. Christina Garcia, a member of the California State Assembly, is the sponsor of the bill that Gov. Newsom has until Oct. 10th to sign into law. In this week’s Lecture Spark, we focus on the issue of consensual sex, ethical decision making, and deviance in the context of intimate partner relations.

Key Concepts

KC1: Understand the process by which deviant attitudes and behavior are sanctioned in society.

KC2: Describe what the boundaries of sexual consent are and why they are important.

KC3: Discuss why sexual intercourse is taboo for parents to discuss with their children and the consequences that stem from this.


Discussion Questions

  • What does consent look like and sound like? Why is it important to consistently gain consent from your sexual partner during intercourse? What does the pre-intercourse consent discussion need to include? What should be the terms of agreement established prior to and during sexual intercourse? What documentation should couples collect to protect themselves, legally speaking?
  • Why is stealthing considered a deviant act? What norms of social order are challenged by stealthing? What are appropriate sanctions for someone who “stealths” a sexual partner during intercourse? What are the incentives for a victim of stealthing to share their story and seek justice in the courts?
  • Why might some victims of stealthing remain silent? What are examples of stigmatizing labels that are placed on women who engage in pre-marital sex? Why is the onus of responsibility for protecting themselves against sexual predators placed largely on the victim? Given most victims are female, what messages need to be delivered to young men to prevent stealthing?
  • What is the role of sex education in preventing acts of sexual violence like stealthing? How does classifying sexual intercourse as a taboo topic to talk about drive acts of sexual violence? Why might American parents rely on the education system to talk to their children about sex and not in the home with them? What are the consequences of not talking about sex with your children?
  • At what age is it appropriate to begin providing condoms to children and instructing them on how to use them and why they are important? Where should condoms be made available for children to access them for free? Who should be responsible for introducing the topic of condoms and condom use to children, and why?


Assessment Questions

Julissa was out with her friends at a club where she met Octavio. After a few drinks and some dancing, she and Octavio went back to his place and had sex. During intercourse, Octavio removed his condom. The next morning, Julissa reported her experience to law enforcement. Instead of probing her for more information about Octavio, they questioned her ability to make appropriate decisions after consuming alcohol and about what she was wearing and doing leading up to the act. This is an example of _______.

  1. Poor detective work
  2. Blaming the victim
  3. Bating the witness
  4. Criminalization of alcohol

A _______ theorist would argue that the social institution of education provides necessary sex education to children based on local, state, and federal laws as a means to stabilize society.

  1. Structural-Functionalist
  2. Conflict
  3. Symbolic-Interactionist
  4. Rational-Choice

A _______ theorist would be most interested in interviewing individual perpetrators of stealthing to learn more about their decision-making process related to removing a condom during intercourse without consent.

  1. Structural-Functionalist
  2. Conflict
  3. Symbolic-Interactionist
  4. Rational-Choice

Cover Image: iStock/Valeriy Lushchikov

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