Should the press reveal the names of complainants in rape cases? In the Guardian, Naomi Wolf says yes—beginning (but you knew this was coming) with the two women who’ve accused Julian Assange of forcing his attentions—his condomless attentions—on them. The same women she previously mocked on HuffPo as jealous whiners, and on Democracy Now!, accused of giving mixed messages to an ardent bedmate. No "let’s wait until the trial," for her.
Anonymity, Wolf argues, is a relic of the Victorian era, when raped women were seen as damaged goods; permits stereotypes about rape victims to flourish, since people don’t see that "ordinary women" get raped; harms women by treating them as children rather than moral agents; and impedes law enforcement. This last point is a little bizarre: doesn’t Wolf realize that anonymity applies only to the media? Everyone in the justice system knows who the complainants are. Wolf also, as she often does, gets her facts wrong: Anita Hill, whom she cites as bravely volunteering her name and thereby spurring a great wave of "equal opportunity law," was not a complainant in a legal case. She was subpoenaed as a witness in the Senate hearings. Anonymity was never an option for her. Furthermore, Hill’s allegations against Clarence Thomas had nothing to do with rape, so why is Wolf even talking about her? Hill is in fact, the only real-life modern woman Wolf mentions in a piece that name checks Virginia Woolf, Coventry Patmore and Oscar Wilde.
Call me cynical, but I don’t think Wolf would be taking this line, either about anonymity or date rape, if the accused were, say, George W. Bush, or, for that matter, Joe Sixpack. This is all about protecting Assange from what she believes are politically motivated charges. In other contexts, Wolf seems aware enough of the risks of exposure for women who accuse men of even minor acts of sexual aggression. After all, in 2004 she confessed in New York magazine that for twenty years she had not "been brave enough" to mention to any living soul that Harold Bloom had "sexually encroached upon" her by groping her thigh when he was her professor at Yale. Does she think she would have been more courageous if going to the dean would have meant seeing her name on the front page of the Yale Daily News, the New Haven Register and maybe even, given Bloom’s celebrity, the New York Times? In fact, Wolf waited decades to make a peep and is furious at Yale, all these years later, for not acting on her non-complaint.
In defending her attacks on the women in the Assange case, Wolf often mentions her experience as a counselor and reporter on rape (she’s reported on rape "more than any journalist I know," as she modestly put it on Democracy Now!). Does she really think rape victims (including of course male rape victims) would side with her on this? Yes, Naomi, I would like my extremely conservative extended family to know all about how I came not to be the virgin they think I am! Oh, Naomi, please, it’s so important that everyone I meet knows I was raped at a frat party, because otherwise how will they know how to set up a group on Facebook calling for me to be sodomized unto death? The trouble with declaring anonymity an outworn custom is that the Victorian code that shamed rape victims is with us today, it’s just that to the stereotypes of the sullied virgin and chaste wife have been added the crazy lying slut, the cocktease and the repressed frump who secretly "wants it." If Wolf has really spent as much time with rape victims as she claims, I can’t believe she doesn’t know how ready people are to attack the credibility of just about anyone who brings a charge of rape, including, often, the accuser’s own friends and family. Disproving her own thesis, Wolf is quite willing to assume the worst about the Assange accusers, based on Internet rumors, early misreportings and spin from Assange and his lawyer.