A court in Sweden has handed done a rather novel ruling. The Södertörn District Court has declared that it is legal to masturbate in public so long as you are not “targeting” anyone in particular. Moreover, public prosecutor Olof Vrethammer says that he entirely supports the ruling.
The case concerns a 65-year-old man who dropped his shorts on a beach in Stockholm and started to masturbate in front of people. He was charged with assault.
I agree that such an act does not constitute assault, but most jurisdiction have a separate offense of public indecent exposure, though some statutes refer delicately to exposing “his person” in public (which can be a bit confusing when the same noun is used for the victim). Thus, in South Carolina you cannot expose your “person” to “persons”:
SECTION 16-15-130. Indecent exposure; breastfeeding.
(A)(1) It is unlawful for a person to wilfully, maliciously, and indecently expose his person in a public place, on property of others, or to the view of any person on a street or highway.
(2) This subsection does not apply to a woman who breastfeeds her own child in a public place, on property of others, to the view of any person on a street or highway, or any other place where a woman and her child are authorized to be.
(B) A person who violates the provisions of subsection (A)(1) is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined in the discretion of the court or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
HISTORY: 1962 Code Section 16-413; 1952 Code Section 16-413; 1942 Code Section 1442; 1932 Code Section 1442; Cr. C. ’22 Section 383; Cr. C. ’12 Section 390; 1906 (25) 84; 1965 (54) 577; 1993 Act No. 184, Section 180; 2006 Act No. 269, Section 2, eff May 2, 2006.
Vrethammer stated: “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.” However, one report noted that Vrethammer noted that it can still be disorderly conduct, which seems a bit of a conflict with the view that it is lawful. Consider this quote from Vrethammer: “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.” It sounds like it depends on how a person intends to masturbate. Few judges would want to have to define that range of acceptable and unacceptable public masturbation.