Feminist author Naomi Wolf’s new book claiming Victorian England routinely executed young gay men has been pulled after her central thesis was proven false.
Wolf recently released a book in which she claimed that England’s justice system routinely executed gay men simply because they were gay. But since the book came out, her claims were thoroughly debunked destroying the entire thesis underpinning her historical analysis. Now her American publisher has pulled it from bookstores.
Wolf’s book, entitled, Outrages: Sex, Censorship, and the Criminalization of Love, is based on her 2015 Ph.D. thesis, the UK Telegraph reported. The book was based on an unfinished thesis she began when she was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University. She reapplied to the university in order to finish the project.
Wolf claimed that her historical research of England’s legal history showed that gays were routinely killed by the government after being convicted of sodomy.
Early in 2019, Wolf talked about how “shocked” she was by her findings in the historical record:
“I could not get over what I found,” she says. “People widely believe that the last executions for sodomy were in 1830. But I read every Old Bailey record throughout the 19th century, so I know that not only did they continue; they got worse. In the beginning, there were relatively few executions, and it was relatively difficult to get arrested. If you were, it was usually for rape or the molestation of children. But then there’s a transition, and you see adult consensual men being brought in as couples, and it begins to be more likely they’ll be convicted and given a sentence of penal servitude or worse.” Her voice rises. “Those kids … I cannot get them out of my mind … executed or sent to Australia for the attempt at sodomy.” To take just one example, in 1859, a 14-year old-boy named Thomas Silver was found guilty of having committed an “unnatural offense” and hanged.
Wolf insisted that she proved Victorian England engaged in homophobic murder disguised as justice.
However, during one interview in May, a radio host pointed out that the main “proof” she was basing her entire theory on was false.
Wolf claimed that the court records that showed that gay men were executed all said that the man accused of sodomy was “guilty” and that verdict was followed by the notation “death recorded.”
This, Wolf said, must have meant that the man was executed for being gay.
But the interviewer, who better understood British idioms and language, noted that “death recorded” probably did not mean that the man was killed, but that the verdict was simply “recorded” as assumed and accepted, but NOT actually carried out. In other words, the entire point of Wolf’s book was totally destroyed, and she suddenly realized that her entire case was based on a false reading of the records.
Here is the brutal moment she was confronted by her false characterization of the English historical records:
Everyone listen to Naomi Wolf realize on live radio that the historical thesis of the book she's there to promote is based on her misunderstanding a legal term pic.twitter.com/a3tB77g3c1
— Edmund Hochreiter (@thymetikon) May 23, 2019
Finally, after months of mulling it all over, her U.S. publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, have now cancelled her book, and had it pulped (destroyed).
How very embarrassing.
Wolf started her thesis with the preconceived notion that England was homophobic and hated gays. So, her misreading of the record confirmed her false impression. Typical liberal.
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