[Trigger warning: rape apologia] It's kind of sad to be back criticizing something Naomi Wolf is doing--but I really don't know how not to. This piece at Comment is Free regarding the shielding of sex-crime accusers is rather wrong, and I think the hardest thing for me to understand about it is why she is apparently taking pains to be wrong. She writes:
The convention of shielding rape accusers is a relic of the Victorian era, when rape and other sex crimes were being codified in what descended to us as modern law. Rape was seen as "the fate worse than death", rendering women – supposed to be virgins until marriage – "damaged goods". The practice of not naming rape victims took hold for this reason.Which is interesting to me, because I thought most rape shield laws were enacted in the 1970's and 80's and were actually brought to us by the feminist movement with the intention of protecting women from having their personal history made a public matter, and to prevent them from being revictimized.
She also writes:
Nonetheless, even after women gained legal rights – and as other assumptions about women went the way of whalebone stays – the convention of not naming women who make sex-crime allegations remains. Not only is this convention condescending, but it makes rape prosecutions more difficult.
Insofar as it helps women (and men) to come forward without fear of being persecuted and helps them continue to cooperate with the proceedings of a prosecution, I really don't see how this works. Does it serve the purpose of justice for a woman to decide it is better to leave it be? That sounds like an almighty step backwards to me.
Then there's this:
Feminists have long argued that rape must be treated like any other crime. But in no other crime are accusers' identities hidden. Treating rape differently serves only to maintain its mischaracterisation as a "different" kind of crime, loaded with cultural baggage.
The cultural baggage came first, and from well before the Victorian era. If she thinks we've fully dispensed with it, she is very much mistaken. Women are still accused of "asking for it". Or as recent US Senate candidate Ken Buck put it "having buyer's remorse." That's just in our modern culture. There are still places on this planet where women are disowned or even subject to honor killings for being raped.
I don't really know how to touch her comparison of the accusations against Julian Assange with the trial against Oscar Wilde. It stands for itself as an example of trying too hard. And I am astounded at her use of the phrase "moral adult". A "moral adult" seems to be Wolf's construction for a person who does what Ms. Wolf would like them to do. It is such a sneer to imply that women who would genuinely be afraid to come forward unless they had some protection are less than fully adult. It is completely rational to not want to be raked over the coals in public at cost to herself and possibly her family.
I really think she's doing damage at this point.