Open Thread: Naomi Wolf and Jaclyn Friedman on Democracy Now!

Writer and Douchebag Decree-recipient Naomi Wolf debated Jaclyn Friedman (executive director of Women, Action & the Media) about the sexual assault allegations against Julian Assange today on Democracy Now!. It's in two parts. Anna Overseas has provided a transcript of the first part.

TRIGGER WARNING: These conversations deal heavily with rape and consent and may be triggering (it was for Friedman).

Here's Part II (transcript of first 12 minutes here. Thanks again, Anna Overseas!)

There's a lot that goes on in this talk, but I wanted to link to the "Let's Talk About It" campaign Friedman (and some of our Twitter followers) have mentioned, which was started by Swedish women to talk about their own sexual assault experiences. If you're on Twitter, make sure to check out both the #talkaboutit and #Mooreandme campaigns still happening! (What's #Mooreandme? Read here and check Tigerbeatdown for updates).

by Kjerstin Johnson
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Kjerstin Johnson is a writer and editor in Portland, Oregon. She is the former editor in chief of Bitch. She tweets at @kajerstin

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12 Comments Have Been Posted

So I would be interested to

So I would be interested to hear different opinions, but having watched all of Part I (too short!) and most of Part II, I'm finding myself really intensely convinced that Friedman is right, and Wolf is wrong. For reasons that are basically spelled out here:

I mean, of course I respect Wolf and understand where she's coming from. She's concerned about the future of WikiLeaks and the handling of this case. But so is Friedman! She makes that very clear--and, to me, so much more convincingly. And the last exchange quoted in that Student Activism post, where Friedman asks if legitimate consent can come from relentless pressure, aggression, and, finally, intercourse begun when one person is UNCONSCIOUS, and Wolf says unambiguously yes it can--that's just astonishing to me.


Friedman makes all the sense in the world, which is not exactly surprising after the sublime <i>Yes Means Yes</i> but is still uplifting. No, sleeping people cannot consent. Yes, sometimes assault victims continue to interact with their assailant socially. (I can personally attest to that one.) I find Wolf's language and treatment of the issue awfully disrespectful, mostly in ways that have already been well-articulated by Student Activists and the usual bloggers. One of the worst parts for me, though, which I haven't seen much response to, was the way that Wolf opens: "I'm very very offended that you're suggesting I'm blaming the victim" and a list of the countries in which she has worked, ostensibly to prove how credible she is. Wolf distracts from the issues of rape apologia and treatment of victims by framing <i>herself</i> as a victim right off the bat. It reminds me of when the misleadingly titled National Organization of Marriage went on <i>Hardball</i> to debate over their anti-gay "storm" ad. (If you haven't seen it, someone mentioned that the "facts" in the ad are actually not true, and NOM's representative opened with, "Quit calling people liars when you disagree with them! It's just unkind!" positing herself as a victim as opposed to the millions of people she wanted to deny civil rights.) Also, Wolf's insinuation that she is the authority on identifying rape -- certainly more of an authority than alleged victims -- because of her work in the past is wrongheaded. It's even dangerous, considering her overt stance on consent-while-unconscious (firstly, that it exists) and smacks of the same type of skepticism that survivors encounter. How different is "You weren't raped, because you knew him already/had been intimate before/seemed friendly later/didn't tell right away" from "They weren't raped, because Naomi Wolf is a self-appointed expert who has worked with survivors in several countries, and she says they weren't?"

End rant. Bravo to Jaclyn Friedman (and, for that matter, the other brave activists of #MooreandMe.)

Yes. The more I think about

Yes. The more I think about it the more amazed and angry I am that Wolf actually aligned herself with so many rape apologists by further disseminating the "but she threw a PARTY for him and seemed FRIENDLY and didn't KILL HIM" line. Really, in general, I'm kind of amazed and angry at most of what she said. Sady Doyle's now demanding an apology and I think she's right.

What is the purpose?

I usually like this magazine. But I question the purpose of name-calling those with whom your analysis is different. Would our movement not be stronger if we participated in meaningful, respectful dialogue?

But then, maybe my Canadian-ness is getting in the way of understanding the issues.

Another thing that fails to

Another thing that fails to make sense in Wolf's argument is the idea that because there are many worse cases of rapes that do not receive receive proper legal attention, this one should go unpunished. In the contrary, I believe that taking this case seriously would throw a new light on the severety of other rape cases. Friedman, I respect you.

consent is the presence of yes...

As it is said, "Consent is the presence of yes, not the absence of no." - I think Wolf said, on at least two occasions, "they didn't say 'no'..." which pretty much blows away any legitimate defense of Assange as a non - perpetrator. I'm actually a little shocked Wolf said that.

The Missing Portion of the Transcript

There is more of <a href=" rel="nofollow"> the transcript of Part II Naomi Wolf and Jacklyn Friedman Debating Sexual Allegations against Julian Assange on Democracy Now's website</a>. It might be helpful to read the couple of paragraphs where Jacklyn wasn't talking over or interrupting Naomi.

At least a so-called feminist

At least a so-called feminist issue is on the table and being discussed. I don't see any type of discussion like this too often these days.

rape/abuse survivors!!

I kept wanting to hear "rape survivors" instead of victims, but maybe that's just me. I don't understand how Naomi, whose main argument is that the women said "yes", does not address the fact that at first the woman was asleep.

We are here into a legal

We are here into a legal problem, what it is considered acceptable at the moment of intimacy? What are the mors of the people? Are women, when they are sharing a loving bed with a man, allowed to mount men when they are asleep and with erection? This is deep. Did I understand the problem?

Or is it that he did not use

Or is it that he did not use protection, knowing that the person did not wish that type of intercourse? I really wish to know.


I think both are unacceptable. It's not okay to start having sex with a sleeping person unless it's been agreed to beforehand (yes, regardless of gender), and it's not okay to force someone into unprotected relations.

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