I’ve read a great deal from others about Naomi Wolf and her revelation that while at school she had been sexually harrassed by famed professor Harold Bloom, but I had not, until today, read the story in her own words.
I’m extremely glad I finally did. None of the commentary I read was coherent or on target about the story she was telling, or about her motives in telling it. And I recognize the feeling she’s describing… a sense of guilt at not speaking out when it happened to protect other students from going through what she experienced, and the very real fear that prevented her from doing that.
Reading her words brought back to me full force what I had felt in 1989 and 1990, after I was raped at college. Although the police found the man who raped me, I didn’t prosecute, because the idea was terrifying to me. Had I tried, I would have fallen apart. I’ve always felt torn apart by the fact that I didn’t — it goes through my mind often that he’s probably done the same thing to other women, and he might have been prevented from it had I taken him to court. Then again, it might have had no effect at all, as was the case for one close friend of mine, who’s rapist spent a mere two months in jail and was back on campus and hanging around the same people she knew soon after.
This was a powerful point that Wolf makes:
Critics of sexual-harassment standards argue that you can’t legislate passions; true enough. But you can legislate what to do about people who act on them improperly. Powerful men and woman who belittle and humiliate their subordinates manage not to belittle or humiliate their supervisors. Neither men nor women tend to harass upward in a hierarchy.