A couple of weeks ago, The Local wrote about an odd court case from the south Stockholm suburbs concerning a man who had been acquitted of sexual harassment charges after being caught masturbating at a public beach.
According to the court ruling, no offence had been committed as the masturbating man was not pleasuring himself towards a specific person.
Last week, the story was discovered by a number of notable international news outlets, including the <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2424416/Swedish-court-rules-IS-legal-masturbate-public-directed-specific.html
” target=”_blank”>Daily Mail, the <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/swedish-court-rules-that-it-is-okay-to-masturbate-in-public-8826589.html
” target=”_blank”>Independent, the Guardian, and <a href="http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/09/19/sweden-allows-public-masturbation/
” target=”_blank”>Time magazine in the US.
By the time it reached celebrity blogger Perez Hilton in the United States, the story had morphed into claims that Sweden had “decriminalized” public masturbation.
So, what exactly was the significance of the court’s ruling and, more importantly, is it really legal to masturbate in public in Sweden?
To get to the bottom of the story, The Local caught up with Olof Vrethammar, the prosecutor who handled the case, to find out what his inability to achieve a conviction actually means.
“There has been a lot of reaction to this case but I think what has happened is that my words have been taken out of context a bit. I read somewhere that this was a ‘landmark trial’ but that is not the case,” Vrethammar explains.
“It is not okay to masturbate in public in Sweden as we have the same laws as anywhere else on this type of behaviour.”
Vrethammar was present in court when the 65-year-old man who was literally caught with his pants down was acquitted by the Södertörn District Court.
“For the man to be convicted for sexual molestation it needs to be proven that he was targeting one or several specific people. If you can’t prove that is the case, then it is not sexual molestation,” he said.
The prosecutor said the ruling does not the open the door for exhibitionists to simply peel off and head for their local beach.
“If a similar situation happened then it is likely the person would be charged with a sexual offence depending on the circumstances,” he explained.
“In this case, the court found that the accused had his back to the injured party and that nothing points to the conclusion that a crime was targeted against them. The act may be seen as disorderly conduct.
“If, however, you expose yourself to somebody, that violates their sexual integrity then you may be charged with sexual molestation.”
So the lesson to wanna-be exhibitionists is clear: it’s not okay to masturbate in public in Sweden, despite what the headlines may say.
See also:We come clean over article quote cock-up.