There Will Be No 'Death Recorded' For Naomi Wolf's Book, According to Naomi Wolf

Illustration for article titled There Will Be No 'Death Recorded' For Naomi Wolf's Book, According to Naomi Wolf
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Where were you when you heard a central thesis of Naomi Wolf’s book corrected on air? I was screaming in my apartment and breaking out in hives. Promoting her book Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love on the criminalization of homosexuality in Victorian society in May, BBC Radio’s Matthew Sweet corrected Wolf to tell her that several men she thought were executed for sodomy actually never were. Wolf had misunderstood the term “death recorded” to mean executed. Needless to say, the book’s publishers held off on releasing it in America.


But according to a new interview with the New York Times, Wolf is just plowing forward against her critics, insisting that what she calls two “confirmed errors in interpretation” that affect several pages will be corrected in future editions. The NYT reports that her husband Brian O’Shea, a private detective and security specialist, even began aggressively tweeting in support of her:

Ms. Wolf said she had asked her husband to stop tweeting in support of her, and that she had been unaware of tweets from other accounts associated with his firm, Striker Pierce, including one calling on people to investigate Mr. Sweet’s “obviously false claims & opportunism.”

If you can believe it, it just keeps getting messier! Shortly before a Strand event in which Wolf spoke about the book (despite there being, um, no copies for sale in America), a press release went out from Wolf asserting that three historians cited in the book (Graham Robb, H.G. Cocks and Charles Upchurch) support her arguments. In reality, only one of them is cited in her book or her bibliography.

Currently, the book’s publisher Houghton Mifflin has reached out to scholars for an independent review of the book. But at this point I think I’d rather read a whole book on the controversy surrounding Outrages than Outrages itself.

Pop Culture Reporter, Jezebel



I could be wrong because I was cringing and aggressively cleaning my countertop and humming out of discomfort when I heard this, but it sounded to me that the central thesis of her book wasn’t disputed, just the central anecdote. Cultural historians often have one BAM-POW anecdote that they tell that signals, in neon lights, look something was going on in history that’s really important! Even though gay people weren’t being executed regularly doesn’t mean that they weren’t being criminalized, which is the actual topic of her book. With all that said, the quality of Naomi Wolf’s scholarship has been called into question many times. That kind of messiness does more to hurt than it does to help queer and feminist studies.