Webcam Blackmail

The story is emerging of 17 year-old Daniel Perry, a victim of webcam blackmail, who last July jumped to his death from the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland. He thought he was Skyping a girl of his own age in Illinois but, in reality, he was being set up. The blackmailers then demanded money not to post the images on the internet. We don’t know exactly what images the blackmailers recorded but if Daniel had been showing his erect penis he wouldn’t be the first. Or even the millionth.

That someone could be pressured into suicide in this way shows that we’re just not living in the sexually open society that we think. In 1994 President Clinton sacked the Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders over her views on masturbation. All she had said, in response to a question about the role of masturbation in preventing AIDS was: ‘I think that it is part of human sexuality and perhaps it should be taught’.

Recently I blogged about the Masturbate-A-Thon in San Francisco, a commendable event designed to make people more open about one of their favourite activities. Numerous studies have shown that almost all men and the vast majority of women masturbate. Including presidents, prime ministers and princesses. Yet we’re all so coy about it.

The sad story of Daniel is far from an isolated case. Thousands of youngsters have been made to feel humiliated and, indeed, suicidal, after private pictures appeared on the internet. Educators need to make it plain. Everybody has genitals. Everybody masturbates. It’s not a big deal. And, yes, masturbation alone, as a couple, or in a group, is safe sex. Bring back Jocelyn Elders.

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