A court in Sweden has ruled that it is acceptable to masturbate in public as long as it is not directed at anyone.
According to Sweden’s English language news website, The Local, the ruling came in a landmark judgement following a case brought against a man seen touching himself on a beach.
The 65-year-old man, who dropped his shorts close to the water at Drevviken beach, Stockholm, and started to masturbate, was initially charged with sexual assault.
But in a surprise ruling, the Södertörn District Court acquitted the man. While the judgement stated it ‘may be proven that the man exposed himself and masturbated on this occasion’, it subsequently added that no offence had been committed.
It based its verdict on the fact that the man was not pleasuring himself towards a specific person,
Prosecutors held their hands up in agreement, underlining that the law calls for the act to be directed at another person to count as a crime.
Public prosecutor Olof Vrethammar told the Mitti newspaper that he wasn’t planning to appeal the ruling.
He told the paper, quoted in The Local: ‘For this to be a criminal offence it’s required that the sexual molestation was directed towards one or more people. I think the court’s judgement is reasonable.’
The decision raises questions about whether public masturbation will now be acceptable across Sweden, so long as it is not directed at another person.
Mr Vrethammar appeared to think so, ‘The district court has made a judgement on this case. With that we can conclude that it is okay to masturbate on the beach. The act may be considered to be disorderly conduct’ he said.
Sweden, like its Scandinavian neighbours, tends to have a more tolerant and sometimes progressive approach to social issues.