In August 2010, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange refused to take an “HIV test” in Sweden at the request of two young women with whom he had had consensual sex. To avoid extradition to Sweden to face accusations under that country’s “expansive,” and expanding, rape law, Assange has been effectively imprisoned for the past four years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.
“Only in the shadow of the 1980s HIV/AIDS mushroom cloud, could a broken condom be met with such hysteria, and morph into a criminal drama, involving several governments and millions of dollars,” wrote former “How Positive Are You” co-host Celia Farber. Close to the fourth anniversary of Assange’s exile, Elizabeth Ely joins Celia in her Manhattan kitchen for tea and discussion of her February 2016 New York Observer article on the sexual politics of this unusual case.
A “rock star” like Assange, in his standing up to power, is as attractive as ever to women, feminist or not. One of the two women accusing Assange, Anna Ardin, is reported to have said: “I was so proud, to get the coolest man in the world into bed, and to stay in my apartment.” What happens the morning after, when coolness becomes coldness, and disappointment sets in?
More seriously, what happens when, as in the modern Western world, political correctness rules? As in George Orwell’s novel 1984, love becomes “the most subversive thing almost that you can express.” Says Celia:
So we have a hyper-sexualized society today, and that’s what you see in the Assange saga. They’re not sexually inhibited, but they’re spiritually and emotionally inhibited, and the only thing anybody’s concerned about is protecting against this imaginary deadly virus that seems to me to be the weaponry to crush this thing that once existed between people.
With the ominous screech of sirens in the background, Celia and Beth consider the post-“HIV” climate of accusation, Orwell’s chillingly predictive novel, claims of “feminist extremism” in Swedish law and society, hysteria in an era of sexual confusion, and the paradoxical dangers of living in a risk-averse time and place.
Asks Beth: “Are we living the good life, or just the one where nothing bad happens to us?” We alone choose whether to come from a place of love or a place of fear.
Celia Farber grew up in New York City and, fortunately for this Episode, Sweden. She wants you to read Crowds and Power by Elias Canetti, 1984 by George Orwell, and The New Totalitarians by Roland Huntford. She left no word as to when the quiz will happen, and whether it will affect your grade in this course called life. Only be warned that “when and where there is sex, accusation is lying in wait.”