Generally, the old adage stating that the more things change the more they stay the same is incorrect in my experience, which has generally been that the more things change the more they are different. So it is of minuscule comfort to me, a person who despises change, that Naomi Wolf is both still wrong about history and fully committed to that wrongness, despite people who actually know what they’re talking about pointing out Wolf’s commitment to never doing a quick Google in order to make certain the claims one is making in a history book are true.
It has been nearly two years since author Naomi Wolf was painfully corrected on the BBC for her claim that “death recorded” meant that men were executed for the crime of sodomy in Victorian England in her book Outrages—when it actually meant that their sentences were commuted. Now historian Dr. Matthew Sweet, the guy who corrected her the first time, has additionally corrected a “corrected” reprint of her book, which erroneously conflates pedophiles with gay people in its examination of punishment for crimes punished under “sodomy,” the umbrella term of the time, per The Guardian:
“In a blistering article in the Telegraph...Sweet pointed to Wolf’s depiction of John Spencer, a man who she describes as “tried three times, accused of sex with three different men”. Sweet’s article says that Spencer was a school headmaster who was accused of sexually assaulting a group of schoolchildren and found guilty on one count, according to contemporaneous newspaper reports and Old Bailey records from 1860.”
Furthermore, a second historian, Dr. Fern Riddell, pointed out on Twitter that Wolf’s book actually diminishes the courage of the Victorian boys who stood up to their abuser in open court, despite the fact that newspapers documenting that courage are easily accessible to anyone not trying to make shit up to support their faulty hypothesis:
“One of the most moving and heartbreaking bits of this story is the first-hand testimony of these boys. We find it difficult enough to comprehend the bravery of someone facing their abuser in court today, IMAGINE doing it in the middle of the Victorian era,” she writes. “And their testimony isn’t hidden, it’s not sitting on a dusty book shelf in an archive somewhere, it’s digitised. Because it was reported in the newspapers.”
Another of the people Wolf claims was victimized by the system was a 14-year-old punished for raping a six-year-old, and others were convicted of sexually abusing animals—dangerous conflations that have stigmatized gay people for hundreds of years, right up until now when Naomi Wolf won’t stop doing it in her shitty book about those very stigmas.
Apparently, Wolf has had way more than two years to check her facts, as Outrages is an extension of her 2015 PhD thesis at Oxford. The university says it has added a “statement of clarification” to the thesis, which does beg the question of why no one asked for said clarity six years ago.