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California governor signs law that bans 'stealthing,' increases punishments for spousal rape

Gov. Gavin Newsom
Posted at 10:03 AM, Oct 08, 2021

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California has become the first state to prohibit “stealthing,” or removing a condom without permission during intercourse, and enhanced punishments for those convicted of spousal rape.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Thursday AB 453, which makes it illegal to remove a condom during intercourse without obtaining verbal consent.

Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia originally tried to make it a crime in 2017 after a study said acts of stealthing were increasing against both women and gay men.

However, legislative analysts have said that the act can already be considered misdemeanor sexual battery — although it is rarely prosecuted because it is difficult to prove whether a perpetrator intentionally removed a condom during sex.

The law signed by Newsom on Thursday does not make changes to the criminal code. Instead, it adds the act to the state’s civil definition of sexual battery, making it clear that victims can sue perpetrators, including for punitive damages.

"Sexual assaults, especially those on women of color, are perpetually swept under the rug," Garcia said in a statement. "...It's disgusting that there are online communities that defend and encourage stealthing and give advice on how to get away with removing the condom without the consent of their partner."

Newsom Thursday also signed into law a bill that enhances punishments for spousal rape. That bill, AB 1171, changes a provision in existing California law that differentiated spousal rape from non-spousal rape.

Previously, California law stated that spousal rape "does not include acts of sexual intercourse accomplished under the specific circumstances." According to CBS News, the new law eliminates that provision, "except in cases in which one of the spousal partners has a mental disorder or developmental or physical disability."