That’s what happened last week to author Naomi Wolf, a renowned “feminist” and former adviser to President Bill Clinton who learned — on live radio — that the entire premise behind her latest book, “Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love” is completely wrong…because she never properly understand a legal term that formed the book’s thesis.
As The Pluralist noted, Wolf was giving an interview live on BBC’s Radio 3 with interviewer Matt Sweet when she was confronted with the glaring error.
The book, which is currently scheduled for release in mid-June, purportedly details “how a single English law in 1857” led to the supposed stigmatization and criminalization of gay relationships.
“Until 1857, the State did not link the idea of ‘homosexuality’ to deviancy,” says an Amazon description of the book. “Before 1857 it wasn’t ‘homosexuality’ that was a crime, but simply the act of sodomy. But in a single stroke, not only was love between men illegal, but anything referring to this love became obscene, unprintable, unspeakable.”
Sweet notes in the Radio 3 interview that executing gay men in England during the Victorian Era became a “major plank” in Wolf’s book. But there’s a problem with that: The alleged “executions” that Wolf makes reference to in her new book very likely never occurred.
Wolf says that when she was examining historical records while researching her book, she discovered “several dozen executions” of gay men who had been convicted of sodomy after 1835.
But Sweet pushed back on that assertion as well as her understanding that she uncovered “a misapprehension that is in every website, that the last man was executed for sodomy in Britain in 1835.”
Sweet noted: “I don’t think you’re right about this.”
Continuing, he said, “One of the cases that you look at, that’s salient to your report is about Thomas Silver. It says, ‘Teenagers were convicted more often.’ In fact, that year, which is 1859, fourteen-year-old Thomas Silver was actually executed for committing sodomy. The boy was indicted for unnatural offense. Guilty, death recorded. This is the first time ‘unnatural offense’ entered the Old Bailey records.”
Further, Sweet claimed, “Thomas Silver wasn’t executed. ‘Death recorded’ – I was really surprised by this, and I looked it up. ‘Death recorded’ is what in, I think, most of these cases that you’ve identified as executions, it doesn’t mean that he was executed,” Sweet added. “It was a category that was created in 1823 that allowed judges to abstain from pronouncing a sentence of death on any capital convict whom they considered to be a fit subject for pardon. I don’t think any of the executions you’ve identified here actually happened.”
What was Wolf’s response? “Well, that’s really important to investigate” before asking what his “understanding of what ‘recorded death’ means.”
That led Sweet to respond by producing a newspaper report along with prison records noting the date of Silver’s discharge.
Wolf then realized her error on live radio as she quoted from the newspaper: “‘The prisoner was found guilty and sentence of death was record.’ Ahh. ‘The jury recommended the prisoner to mercy on account of his youth.’”
There was more. Sweet also pointed out that all of the cases she cites in her book as ‘evidence’ of official state persecution against gay “love” were actually nonconsensual.”
“…[W]hen I found this I didn’t really know what to do with it because I think it’s quite a big problem with your argument,” Sweet added.
You don’t say.