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Naomi Wolf and Jaclyn Friedman Debate Julian Assange's Rape Charges

Noted feminists go head to head about how we should think about the allegations against the Wikileaks founder.

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JACLYN FRIEDMAN: OK. So, I fully agree with you that the zeal, shall we say, with which these charges are being pursued is politically motivated. We have no disagreement on that. That is not an issue here. We are in agreement about that. I bet Amy agrees with us, too.

But if you want to talk about what the women in Sweden want, you should look at their political actions. There is a massive Twitter campaign that the women of Sweden have launched called "Let’s Talk about It." I think that’s right. It’s translated from the Swedish, because they are all—

NAOMI WOLF: That’s fair. Let’s talk about it.

JACLYN FRIEDMAN: I’m talking about it right now. They are coming forward, and they’re saying these things aren’t taken seriously in Sweden, and this is an opportunity to prove that the Swedish government can take these issues seriously. This is an opportunity to set the international bar higher for the way we take seriously rape charges.

Now, let’s talk about those charges. Those women did not consent. If she was consenting, he had no need to hold her down. A woman in her sleep cannot consent to sex. Consent is not a light switch, OK?

NAOMI WOLF: I have to speak to this.

JACLYN FRIEDMAN: Just because you’ve consented to choose one sexual activity, say, taking your clothes off with someone, does not mean you’ve consented to all sexual activities.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Wolf?

JACLYN FRIEDMAN: That’s preposterous.


JACLYN FRIEDMAN: If I go home with someone, it’s not consenting to every single thing that might be done to me by the person I’ve gone home with.


AMY GOODMAN: Jaclyn, let’s get Naomi Wolf’s—

JACLYN FRIEDMAN: Both women have clearly claimed that they did not consent.

AMY GOODMAN: We need to get—we only have a minute to go. We need to get Naomi’s response.

NAOMI WOLF: Jaclyn, of course I agree with you that consent isn’t a given and that obviously with every sexual act, everyone needs to be sure that everyone is consenting. There is no doubt about that. But I don’t know if you’ve actually read the Guardian report, because again and again and again—

JACLYN FRIEDMAN: I most absolutely have.

NAOMI WOLF: Alright. So, again and again and again, Assange consulted with the women about what they wanted, and they didn’t say no. And to me as a feminist—and this is why I’m hearing from so many rape victims around the world—and of course the issue needs to be discussed more, obviously, but the reason, as a feminist, I am distraught about this miscarriage of justice is that you can’t—you’re not respecting women by casting them as unable to assert what they want, unwilling, you know, to speak about what they wish. The women—

JACLYN FRIEDMAN: Women may be afraid.


JACLYN FRIEDMAN: If she’s been held down by someone, she is afraid.

NAOMI WOLF: But wait, read—

JACLYN FRIEDMAN: She’s in a state of fear.

NAOMI WOLF: Listen to me. Jaclyn—

JACLYN FRIEDMAN: No is not enough. Every sexual person—

AMY GOODMAN: We have 15 seconds.


JACLYN FRIEDMAN:—has the responsibility to get affirmative consent from their sexual partner.

NAOMI WOLF: He then consulted with her—

JACLYN FRIEDMAN: Not just no, but affirmative yes.

NAOMI WOLF:—and asked her what she wanted, and she did not say no. She continued to have sex with him. And what I’m saying is—

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