Asia Argento was one of the first women to come out against Harvey Weinstein in the October 2017 New Yorker piece that sparked the Me Too movement and started the rapid ousting of powerful men who had used their influence to their own sexual advantage. In the months after Weinstein’s fall from Hollywood royalty, Argento was an outspoken advocate for the Me Too movement, giving a rousing speech at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. Now, she’s facing her own allegations of sexual misconduct from a young male actor who she reportedly paid off to keep quiet about it.
The New York Times was anonymously sent documents of correspondences between Argento’s lawyer and that of actor and musician Jimmy Bennett, 22, that suggest Argento sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room shortly after his 17th birthday when she was 37 (the age of consent in California is 18). NYT reports that in the time after the Weinstein allegations came out, Argento arranged to pay Bennett $380,000 for his silence on the matter.
Bennett was a child actor and had previously played Argento’s son in the 2004 film The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things which Argento also wrote and directed. According to the obtained documents — which include a selfie of the two in bed — the sexual encounter was in 2013 and negatively affected Bennett’s mental health and ability to work afterwards. Letters from Bennett’s lawyer show that the actor demanded reparations from the actress after seeing her come out as a victim of sexual assault herself.
The Times connected the documents’ dates with Instagram posts from Argento documenting her meeting up with her “long lost son” and “love,” Jimmy Bennett on May 9, 2013.
Argento, her team and her lawyer have all refused to comment publicly on the allegations at this time.
The concept of a Me Too accuser now being accused of sexual assault has set the internet on fire. How can one person be both? Is it possible to be a victim and a perpetrator? How are we supposed to reconcile the conflicting narratives?
The most basic answer is: yes, one person can be both and people are not either good or evil. That hasn’t stopped people from announcing that Argento has derailed the Me Too movement.
— Alessandra Farkas (@afarkasny) August 20, 2018
The big Q is will ppl look past this moment to still embrace all Asia has done for #MeToo.
And if so, will ppl accept some of the genuine remorse from a few of the men involved in accusations.
We claim ppl deserve redemption.
Or do we?
— Brian Perry (@Road2Oscars) August 20, 2018
Thankfully, numerous moderate voices have spoken out to explain the nuance of the situation. The accusations do not invalidate Me Too or exonerate any of the others accused of sexual misconduct in various degrees. This isn’t even the first time a Me Too advocate has been outed as a sexual predator themselves.
This is awful, but I don’t see any conclusion to draw from it besides “Two things can be true at once.” https://t.co/4mi3zQPUmv
— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) August 20, 2018
re; Asia Argento:
1. I believe she assaulted Jimmy Bennett.
2. I also believe that Harvey Weinstein assaulted her.
3. People of all genders can be and are assaulted.
4. #MeToo is about all victims of sexual assault. It’s not about one survivor or one criminal.
— ☪️ Sha Naqba Īmuru ✡️ (@JShahryar) August 20, 2018
Whatever happens in the Asia Argento case doesnt take away from the fact Harvey Weinstein and many powerful men have preyed upon women, abused them, exploited them and have had their sins covered and buried, but now society is waking up and saying no more.
— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) August 20, 2018
These latest allegations are widening the Me Too narrative to show that sexual assault is not only about gender, but also — and possibly more importantly — about power imbalances and exploitation. It also calls attention to the system that allows such atrocities to be perpetrated so quietly.
Me Too is a constantly evolving conversation and there is room for contradictions and for several things to be true at once.