Yesterday, the #MeToo movement was faced with an unusual and unexpected conundrum. The New York Times reported that Italian actress and director, Asia Argento, made a deal to pay off a male actor who accused her of sexual assault. The New York Times claims to have legal documents showing that actor and musician, Jimmy Bennett, alleged Argento sexually assaulted him in 2013. At that time, Bennett would have been 17 and Argento, 37. Furthermore, the alleged the assault occurred in California where the legal age of consent is 18. Argento has been one of the most vocal and public faces of the #MeToo movement ever since she came forward with allegations of rape against the disgraced producer, Harvey Weinstein.
Where do we go from here? Asia Argento is suddenly one of the most interesting people in the world because we now have to figure out how to grapple with the fact that a person can simultaneously be a victim and a perpetrator of sexual assault. Moreover, the last time we saw a man on the victim side of sexual assault was with the Kevin Spacey and Terry Crews cases, which I covered here and here. The exception is that in both cases, a man was the perpetrator. How do we handle talking about a situation like this when a man is a victim and the woman is the perpetrator? We saw a glimpse of this with the Melanie Martinez case, but nothing on this level of visibility with actual legal documents included.
The best way to handle this is to listen. Listen to both sides with open, willing, and attentive ears. No, Asia Argento’s alleged sexual assault of Jimmy Bennett does not negate her place as a victim of rape by Harvey Weinstein. On the other hand, Argento denied the allegations despite the fact that the New York Times claims to have an authentic selfie of her and Bennett lying in bed together. Also, Argento seemingly threw the late Anthony Bourdain under the bus. She claimed that Bennett made the accusations to get money because he was in a bad economic place at the time and Bourdain was “afraid of the possible negativity” and decided to “deal compassionately with Bennett’s demand for help and give it to him.” If Asia Argento is using Bourdain, who recently passed by way of suicide, to change the story of these sexual assault allegations, she is truly despicable.
Above all, everyone is entitled to due process. Argento, Chris Hardwick, and everyone else who found themselves on the defense during the waves of the #MeToo movement. It is entirely possible that Argento paid off of Bennett because that was the best choice from a legal and media standpoint. It is also entirely possible that Argento paid off Bennett because she was, in fact, guilty. We will never know unless we try our best to give Argento and Bennett a fair trial. It is important to note, however, that due process can be faulty when oftentimes bias (implicit and explicit) can get in the way of a truly fair trial. Nevertheless, when rumors, half-truths, and unfinished stories spread faster than the truth, people’s lives and careers can be damaged permanently, and that is something we should all be against.