Wolf whistles

Naomi Wolf’s complaint that a professor put his hand on her thigh 20 years ago has met with nearly universal scorn. Wolf makes sexual harassment look like hysteria, writes Meghan O’Rourke. Wolf revels in unmerited victimhood, writes Anne Applebaum. In an earlier version of the story, Wolf described her own seductive behavior, writes Meghan Cox Gurdon.

In 1997, Ms. Wolf recounted the incident in her book “Promiscuities,” albeit veiling the identity of the amorous professor. In the book she makes clear that students knew that “Dr. Johnson” occasionally would “elect” girls with the right aura. One Saturday night, by pre-arrangement, the professor came over to her apartment with her manuscript and a bottle. In thrilled expectation, she had put out flowers, lit candles and taken particular care to dress attractively. And over the course of the evening she got room-spinningly drunk — a detail that does not appear in the New York magazine piece.

It’s not surprising that in “Promiscuities” she confesses to feelings of complicity in the brief hanky-panky that ensued. Yet in the New York magazine exposé, there is no acknowledgment of her inner excitement or her romantic preparations–there’s just the frightened panting of a tender fawn chased by a big bad predator.

My favorite is a letter in the Daily Telegraph from a man who was pawed by Naomi Wolf.

Sir – I can remain silent no longer. Like Naomi Wolf, I too have been a victim of sexual harassment (News, Feb 24). And it was Naomi who harassed me.

It happened about 10 years ago. She and I were both speakers at a conference on feminism, organised by a Sunday newspaper. Ms Wolf, then at the height of her fame as the author of The Beauty Myth, a book describing the way women were repressed by the requirement to look attractive to men, was the star attraction. I was just the poor, downtrodden token male.

I dressed for the occasion in my best suit, teamed with rather dashing silk waistcoat (or “vest”, as Americans inexplicably call such garments), which my wife had given me for Christmas. The guest speakers all met beforehand for a drink and it was then that the incident occurred.

Ms Wolf came up to me, fluttered her eyelashes, pouted prettily, looked at me with her huge, soulful eyes and gently ran a perfectly manicured fingernail down my chest. “Gee,” she purred. “I love your vest.”

I gave the polite laugh of a clueless Englishman who has no idea how to handle a powerful, American, feminist seductress. At the time, I believed that I was amused by Wolf’s blatant hypocrisy, and her palpable wish to have it both ways. I now realise that I was in fact suppressing profound feelings of shame, violation and abuse. Clearly, I was the victim of an appalling, long-unreported act of sexual oppression. Does that entitle me to a headline-grabbing, transatlantic, politically correct publicity stunt, too?

David Thomas, Chichester, W Sussex

Thanks to Jim Miller for the link.

About Joanne


  1. Sean Kinsell says:

    Well, we all knew that was coming. No dearth of prominent women journalists who went to Yale and took English courses.

  2. It’s not hypocrisy. There is no greater high than committing the sin that one prohibits for others. This is the common behavior of the feminist morals cop, not the exception.

    The feminist morals cop imagines that others are obsessed with the S&M drama of sexuality, when in fact the feminist morals cop is the culprit.

    Always has been. From day one.

  3. Stephen – BRB, I’m going to go find myself a feminist morals cop. =D

  4. You won’t have far to look.

    Check the diversity office in your college, or consult the diversity official in your HR department.

    She’s there.

  5. Stephen – Don’t have either anymore, I’m working on contract. Still, I had thought about marying an asian woman and selling her a 50% stake just so I can bid on contracts as “a minority-owned, woman-owned” business.

  6. Jim,

    I did precisely that. I am married to a Filipino woman. We are musicians. Clubs, festivals and organizations that refused to allow me to perform now allow me to perform.

    It’s our own little affirmative action policy.

    Give it a try. It works!

  7. Walter Wallis says:

    Reminds me of the story of the old man who fell off a ladder.

  8. Too bad American papers don’t have letters to the editor like that. There’s a great book, “The Last Cuckoo”, with the best letters from the London Times since 1900. Click my name for link.

  9. John from OK says:

    Stephen makes me think of my uncle. He took his mother’s maiden name and made it part of his own last name, and thus became a Latino. He is a music director and did this to get more jobs.

    I might do the same thing. I’m tired of living a life of privilege and oppressing everyone around me. I want to be a historical victim instead (sarc).

  10. You know Asian, Latino, and African-American are self-declared groups. It is illegal as far as I can tell for them to challenge your minority status, and most if not all of the laws relating to defining one’s racial status were thrown out with Jim Crow. I think that a sufficiently motivated person could unravel the whole system by getting everyone to list themselves as a minority. Not that I’m advocating this little bit of civil disobedience or anything, but it’s a thought. =D

  11. Excellent idea. Then the achievement gap would disapear!

  12. “It is illegal as far as I can tell for them to challenge your minority status.”

    Unless you’re a white kid who actually is a citizen of an african country… They you get suspended and accused of being racist…

  13. Jim Thomason says:

    When you get down to it, aren’t all Americans “African-Americans”, as our ancestors all originated in Africa at some point?

  14. Walter Wallis says:

    O/.K., I won’t tell you the story then.

  15. Walter, tell the story already (and stop being shy about, it doesn’t work on the internet).

  16. Walter Wallis says:

    An elderly gentleman was working up a ladder, when he suddenly slapped his forehead and fell off.
    When I asked him what happened, he recounted a story from his youth, when he was walking past an orchard and saw a lady on a ladder picking peaches. He allowed as how he would sure like to have a peach. The lady said that the best ones were way up, so he would have to steady the ladder if she went up to pick one for him.
    Glancing up, he was shocked to note she was wearing nothing under her dress. She picked a peach, and said “If you see anything else you like, you can have it too.” He responded that the one she was holding was just right. She said “are you sure you don’t see anything else you like?” and when he repeated no, she came down and handed him the peach, he thanked her wnd went down the road.
    I asked what that had to do with him falling off the ladder, and he replied “I just then figured out what she was gettin’ at.”


  1. Cronaca says:

    Crying Wolf

    Not having any special insight (or any particular axe to grind) regarding Naomi Wolf’s latest, I’ve refrained from making any…