Lawmakers opened the conversation March 3 into whether Nebraska should outlaw nonconsensual removal of a condom during sex, also known as “stealthing.”
Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue introduced LB692 to provide a legal route for victims of stealthing to recover civil damages. She said the bill deals with consent, which she said is black and white.
“Stealthing is a form of sexual assault, and we should take it as seriously as other forms of sexual assault that we’re more familiar with, including groping and even rape,” Blood testified before the Nebraska Judiciary Committee.
Stealthing was brought into the mainstream by then-Yale Law School student Alexandra Brodsky who wrote a paper in 2017 about nonconsensual condom removal.
California in 2021 became the first state to outlaw stealthing.The United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Canada and New Zealand have all criminalized it.
Blood’s bill doesn’t go as far as those countries, but it follows California and establishes a clear avenue for civil remedies. Blood said this is also because some survivors may not want to see the person who violated them convicted of a crime but could use help recovering medical or other costs.
Through her bill, Blood said she wants to acknowledge stealthing does occur and can lead to diseases or unplanned pregnancy.
“Stealthing is not a joke. Lack of consent is not funny,” Blood said. “This bill has been the brunt of several jokes by various people in our body and staff, which is deeply disappointing and concerning to me that people do not take this issue seriously.”
Sen. Julia Slama of Sterling expressed concern the language of the bill is overly broad and doesn’t include wording about intent.
Blood said she crafted the bill with attorneys, and the language is what they recommended.
“It’s not a matter of ‘Oops the condom broke’ or ‘Oops there’s a hole in the condom,’ it’s a matter of somebody intentionally agreeing to consensual sex and then removing [the condom] in the process of having sex,” Blood said.
A 2019 study from professor Kelly Cue Davis at Arizona State University found 12% of women had been victims of stealthing while 10% of men admitted to doing it. Because stealthing is often unknown, Davis has said the rates are likely underestimated.
“I do think you’re touching on an issue here of stealthing that is an important one,” Slama told Blood. “I’m just worried — you mentioned bedroom police — that we’re already taking a step into that with the broad language of 692.”
Adelle Burk, senior manager of public affairs for Planned Parenthood North Central States, testified that her organization recognizes sexual and reproductive rights as basic human rights.
Burk outlined the acronym FRIES related to consent — Freely given, reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific — and stealthing violates each principle.
“Victims deserve to have their stories heard and believed, and they deserve legal recourse if they so choose,” Burk said.
Maeve Hemmer, the University of Nebraska Omaha student body president, testified in her personal capacity that while Blood’s bill won’t be the end to stealthing, civil damages are critical.
“I believe this element is particularly important because it represents an opportunity for victims and survivors to make a decision about how to move forward following an act that disregards their agency and autonomy,” Hemmer said.
Jeanie Mezger testified in opposition, stating stealthing is dishonest and risky for both partners but that Blood’s bill would do little to discourage it.
Mezger thanked Blood for not trying to make it a crime like other states are considering.
The bill would most affect young or single people, according to Mezger, as well as those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
“I’m sure you’re all smooth and well practiced by now, but if you think back to your own early sexual encounter, you know that people can be incredibly clumsy about sex and shouldn’t be penalized for that,” Mezger said.
Instead, Mezger said she would rather there be an effort to educate people about the dangers of stealthing and how to be aware of it.
It should not take a scandal for people to understand sexual harassment and assault occur in different forms, Blood said, and each must be acknowledged, including stealthing.
“At the very least today … we’ve started this conversation,” Blood said. “And hopefully we can have fewer conversations down the hallways about it because sexual assault is not funny.”