Nebraska lawmakers start talking about whether to outlaw ‘stealthing’

A bill would chart civil action for nonconsensual removal of a condom during sex

By: - March 3, 2022 6:57 pm
Nebraska State Capitol Building

The Nebraska State Capitol Building in Lincoln. (Rebecca S. Gratz for Nebraska Examiner)

Nebraska lawmakers began talking Thursday about whether to outlaw “stealthing” — that’s a slang term for nonconsensual removal of a condom during sex.

“It’s time we start this conversation in Nebraska,” State Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue said during a public hearing on her proposal that charts a course for civil action. “It’s long past due for more widespread legislation and shifting of social norms on this issue.”

Legislative Bill 692 would not criminalize stealthing, as has been done in some countries, Blood said. But, similarly to a recently passed law in California, she said her proposal would open the door to bringing a civil case and collecting damages.

Sen. Carol Blood
State Sen. Carol Blood of Bellevue (Paul Hammel/Nebraska Examiner)

In her plea to the Judiciary Committee, Blood called stealthing a form of sexual assault. Typically it starts as a consensual sexual encounter, she said, that turns into nonconsensual.

‘Should be taken seriously’

Noting the joking she’s heard in the Capitol hallways about the legislation, Blood said that such a violation “should be taken seriously.”

Three people testified in favor of the bill; five sent letters of support. One speaker was opposed, and one was neutral.

At the very least today…we’ve started this conversation

– State Sen. Carol Blood

The Judiciary Committee took no action on whether to move the bill to debate in the full Legislature.

Maeve Hemmer is student body president at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, but she told committee members she was speaking as a private individual.

While stealthing may be a relatively new term, she said, the act is not. She said it can have “life-changing” consequences by resulting in sexually transmitted infection, trauma or unintended pregnancy.

‘Unacceptable act’

Both she and Blood referred to research by Kelly Cue Davis, an Arizona professor, that reported 12% of women surveyed had been subjected to stealthing. 

Adelle Burk of Planned Parenthood North Central States in Nebraska said consent should underlie all sexual activities, without exception. Of stealthing, she said: “It’s an unacceptable act.”

Aryn Huck of OutNebraska said survivor interviews describe stealthing as a disempowering and demeaning violation of sexual agreement. 

On the opposing side, Jeanie Mezger said she is against the act of steal thing but doesn’t see how  the bill would do “much to discourage it.”

“I would rather there be an effort to educate people about the dangers of stealthing and how to be aware of what’s going on during sex instead of setting up an adversarial approach,” Mezger said.

Timothy Melcher said he agreed with the principle of the bill but saw “technical issues and possible unconstitutional vagueness.”

How to calculate damages

State Sen. Julie Slama
State Sen. Julie Slama (Courtesy of Unicameral Information Office)

State Sen. Julie Slama of Sterling said the bill’s language relative to “intent” was too broad. She questioned how damages would be calculated and why the bill references a male condom but not female forms of contraception.

Slama said stealthing was an important issue. But, she 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.”

Blood said she looked to “experts” in designing the bill but was open to suggestions on improving the language. “At the very least today … we’ve started this conversation,” Blood said. “And hopefully we have fewer jokes down the hallways about it, because sexual assault is not funny.”

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Cindy Gonzalez
Cindy Gonzalez

Senior Reporter Cindy Gonzalez, an Omaha native, has more than 35 years of experience, largely at the Omaha World-Herald. Her coverage areas have included business and real estate development; regional reporting; immigration, demographics and diverse communities; and City Hall and local politics.

Nebraska Examiner is part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.