Feminist Naomi Wolf is the third well-known defender of Julian Assange on the left I want to profile. Not only famous for Fisking the beauty industry, Ms Wolf has explored women’s (hetero)sexuality with flair, and deconstructed motherhood (again).
She’s written about her experience of sexual harassment at Yale, and describes herself as a “crusader on the issue of rape.” It is her 23 years crusading experience she draws on to assert that the Julian Assange case is not “real” sexual violence. In fact, she calls Interpol the “dating police” in her rush to explain this is about hurt feelings:
I see that Julian Assange is accused of having consensual sex with two women, in one case using a condom that broke. I understand, from the alleged victims’ complaints to the media, that Assange is also accused of texting and tweeting in the taxi on the way to one of the women’s apartments while on a date, and, disgustingly enough, ‘reading stories about himself online’ in the cab.
Both alleged victims are also upset that he began dating a second woman while still being in a relationship with the first. (Of course, as a feminist, I am also pleased that the alleged victims are using feminist-inspired rhetoric and law to assuage what appears to be personal injured feelings. That’s what our brave suffragette foremothers intended!).
Democracy Now hosted a feminist debate on the Assange case between Ms Wolf and Jaclyn Friedman, co-editor of “Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape”. In the first clip, Ms Wolf says this is the first rape case she’s ever seen based on “multiple instances of consent.”
In the second clip, Ms Wolf says that this case is exactly the reason rape is not taken seriously, because Julian Assange consulted with the women he is alleged to have been sexually violent towards – this makes this case “ambiguous” compared to “cut and dried rape”.
Of the second woman, Ms Wolf says “he started to have sex with her when she was asleep…then she woke up, then they discussed how they would have sex, which is negotiating consent”.
Ms Wolf quotes from the material about the case relating to the first woman “she couldn’t be bothered to tell him one more time because she’d been going on about the condom all night.” This is a discussion which proves consent, and in fact Ms Wolf says Julian Assange “stops and consults again and again and again”. In fact, they “had a negotiation, they both agreed not to use a condom, then they went ahead and made love.” This is after he has broken her necklace and ripped her clothing.
When Jaclyn Friedman challenges the idea that these sexual encounters as described were “making love”, Naomi Wolf tells her she doesn’t know because she wasn’t there. She also says women who are raped do not throw parties afterwards because “women who have been raped don’t want to be around their rapist.”
I’ve gone into quite this much detail because this is shocking. Firstly, the descriptions Naomi Wolf gives based on quoting from the released material are of coercive activities at best (repeated pressure to do various things, trying to ask him not to do some things then giving in under further pressure, breaking necklaces and ripping clothing, waking up while being penetrated) – and she is trying to call this negotiating consent. I can think of literally nothing more dangerous than this being taken as a blueprint for negotiating consensual activites.
- Start when someone’s asleep, they are easier to control that way.
- Be a little bit rough, breaking jewellery and ripping clothes will get them in the mood.
- When someone says no, keep asking, or just doing what you were doing already, until they stop saying no.
Now, once again, I don’t know if these allegations are true and if Mr Assange did rape these women. But nothing about the case as reported by Naomi Wolf sounds like consent to me.
Secondly, her constant references to “cut and dried rape”, and allegations that women don’t throw parties or want to spend time with men who have raped them is complete and utter nonsense. 80% of reported rapes in Sweden are perpetrated by people known to the victim. Specifically, 24% by an ex or current partner, and 32% by an acquaintance. 2% are by a friend, and 1% by a family member.
How does Ms Wolf think most women raped by their partners react? Never see them again, talk to them? What if they are the father of your children – even if you leave him, chances are you’ll still have to spend time with him, maybe even attend the odd party.
It is extraordinarily insulting to have a reknown feminist talk this way about rape, both to survivors and to feminists (and to those who identify as both). She should know better, if it’s true as she claims that she has spent 23 years talking to survivors about their experiences.
Big ups for Jaclyn Friedman in presenting these issues with integrity and passion in these debates and her other work on this issue. And “Yes Means Yes” is a great book, for those of you yet to read it.