Sex and Self-Absorption after Yale

Naomi Wolf is amazingly self-absorbed. She has managed to land five web pages in New York Magazine to explain why she waited twenty-one years to make public her uncorroborated allegations against a highly respected scholar, Harold Bloom. Her reason? When she contacted Yale about the incident twenty years after the alleged act, they didn’t do enough to satisfy her. Plus, her soul hurt.


Anne Applebaum, who was apparently Wolf’s contemporary at Yale, is none too impressed, either.

Now, there are a number of surprising elements to Wolf’s article, all of which deserve more intense scrutiny. One is her bizarre description of her attempts to get bewildered university bureaucrats to do something — she doesn’t know what — long after the statute of limitations has run out. Another is her account of the hand-on-thigh event itself, which seems to have taken place late at night in her apartment, where Bloom had come at her invitation. A third is her apparent lack of awareness of the long debate about sexual harassment itself, and of the way it has radically changed the atmosphere on campuses and in offices, in both positive and negative ways.

But in the end, what is most extraordinary about Wolf is the way in which she has voluntarily stripped herself of her achievements and her status, and reduced herself to a victim, nothing more. The implication here is that women are psychologically weak: One hand on the thigh, and they never get over it. The implication is also that women are naive, and powerless as well: Even Yale undergraduates are not savvy enough to avoid late-night encounters with male professors whose romantic intentions don’t interest them.

The larger implications are for the movement that used to be called “feminism.” Twenty years of fame, money, success, happy marriage and the children she has described in her books — and Naomi Wolf, one of my generation’s leading feminists, is still obsessed with her own exaggerated victimhood? It’s not an ideology I’d want younger women to follow.


As Applebaum also notes in the piece, society–and the academy, especially–has become substantially more sensitive to the sexual harassment issue in the intervening years. This has largely been a good thing, although it has now shifted the power from the occasional perpetrator to the potential accuser, who can ruin a person’s reputation and career with nothing more than an allegation.

FILED UNDER: Education
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. jen says:

    Her soul hurt? Please.

  2. Teresa says:

    I saw this over at Instapundit too. The first thing that crossed my mind was – I am so tired of women popping up 2 – 20 years after the fact and claiming harrassment or assault. I can understand if it’s a child (children have few options) but adults – give me a break. Especially “assaults” that have occurred in the past 10 years – have these people forgotten how to dial 9-1-1?

  3. Ripper says:

    I’m just hoping she’ll have a juicy allegation about the Gorebot, do we have to wait till 2020? What position of power would that wooden nickle have placed this crazy whiner in?