One of the many ironies of mass movements is that its followers often engage in the very behavior they abhor. Such is the case with actress Asia Argento. She was one of the first women to come forward and accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. Yet according to recent news, Argento allegedly committed sexual assault against an underage actor, and paid him off shortly after she publicly accused Weinstein:
[I]n the months that followed her revelations about Mr. Weinstein last October, Ms. Argento quietly arranged to pay $380,000 to her own accuser: Jimmy Bennett, a young actor and rock musician who said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room years earlier, when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18.
That claim and the subsequent arrangement for payments are laid out in documents between lawyers for Ms. Argento and Mr. Bennett, a former child actor who once played her son in a movie.
The documents, which were sent to The New York Times through encrypted email by an unidentified party, include a selfie dated May 9, 2013, of the two lying in bed. As part of the agreement, Mr. Bennett, who is now 22, gave the photograph and its copyright to Ms. Argento, now 42.
This is not the first time a woman at the center of the MeToo movement was later accused of sexual impropriety. In February 2018, California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia faced numerous accusations of sexual harassment and assault. Unlike her male counterparts, Garcia remains in her position, having only taken a paid leave of absence for a few months.
While these two incidents do not negate the legitimacy of the movement, they do reveal its hypocrisy. There is a clear double standard at play, both in terms of the victims and the alleged abusers. Male victims are largely ignored unless, like Terry Crews, they play into the feminist narrative driving the MeToo movement. Female perpetrators are hardly acknowledge at all, although it seems unlikely that only powerful men in Hollywood would take advantage of people.
We see this with Argento, where according to the article she owns the copyright to a picture of selfie featuring her and an underage boy. This was a condition of the settlement, which is incredibly bizarre. The most generous interpretation of that move is that Argento intends to keep Bennett from giving it to the media, as she could argue that publishing the picture violated her copyright.
The article describes the impact of this alleged event on Bennett:
The fallout from “a sexual battery” was so traumatic that it hindered Mr. Bennett’s work and income and threatened his mental health, according to a notice of intent to sue that his lawyer sent in November to Richard Hofstetter […] who was also representing Ms. Argento at the time. […] Mr. Bennett’s notice of intent asked for $3.5 million in damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault and battery. Mr. Bennett made more than $2.7 million in the five years before the 2013 meeting with Ms. Argento, but his income has since dropped to an average of $60,000 a year, which he attributes to the trauma that followed the sexual encounter with Ms. Argento, his lawyer wrote.
In fair, it is unclear how much of the lost wages can be attributed to Bennett’s state of mind following the incident and to his age. It is not uncommon for child actors to find themselves short of work and making less money as they age. It could also be a combination of his emotional state and the way Hollywood discards actors. Either way, the irony and hypocrisy of this situation should not be lost.
Argento paid settlement in the middle of her campaign against Harvey Weinstein. She spoke openly about her alleged rape at the hands of Weinstein affected her. Yet during that entire time, she carried the same burden she accused Weinstein of carrying: being a rapist. It is certainly possible, and probable, that if this act against Bennett occurred Argento does not see it as rape or assault. It is unlikely, however, that she never thought about that event during her campaign against Weinstein. She must of thought about how terrible it would look if Bennett ever came forward. It certainly did not look good to him watching Argento present herself as a victim:
For Mr. Bennett, seeing Ms. Argento present herself as a victim of sexual assault was too much to bear, his lawyer wrote, and called up memories of their hotel reunion. “His feelings about that day were brought to the forefront recently when Ms. Argento took the spotlight as one of the many victims of Harvey Weinstein,” Mr. Sattro wrote in the notice of intent to sue.
Ms. Argento, who is divorced and has two children, was both a mentor and a mother figure to Mr. Bennett, the document says, and the two were intermittently in contact as he grew up. “Jimmy’s impression of this situation was that a mother-son relationship had blossomed from their experience on set together,” Mr. Sattro wrote.
Most disturbing is that the two met when Bennett was cast in a film Argento directed in which she played his mother, a woman who “dresses her son as a girl to lure men, and the boy is ultimately raped.”
The article goes on to detail how the incident took place and the conditions of the settlement, one of which includes Bennett never suing Argento over the incident. This is typical of many settlements. Unfortunately for Argento, that does not leave her in the clear. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department may pursue charges against her. According to the article, they attempted to reach Bennett, but have not contacted him yet. Should he pursue charges, it would send a message that women who take advantage of their positions of power will not get a pass.
I was very surprised to hear about this. I never expected it. Still, I can almost hear her defenders saying, “It is different when women do it.”
I’ve been feeling such a mix of different emotions. Sympathy for Jimmy Bennett, contempt and anger for Asia Argento for what she did, sympathy for what happened to her, overjoyed that finally people are starting to see it this way and #metoo have no choice but to acknowledge female-on-male predation, and anger that people have denied this vehemently to be a problem, including feminists, for years and years. Maybe finally things are going to change, one can hope.
Either way, I don’t see why we should show the denialists who’ve pretended this was never a problem, any mercy at all.
Those of us who are survivors of female-on-male predation should consider this a potentially huge step forward, and it’s time to start fighting back.
Feminists behaving badly, not surprised.
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Jake- it’s been almost a year since you last posted. It’s cool if you retired from blogging. I just wanted to check-in and see if you’re doing okay.