New text messages between Asia Argento and an anonymous friend who was asked by TMZ on Wednesday morning seem to confirm that the Italian actress and the # MeToo figurehead had a sexual encounter with a minor. This latest development in the still unfolding story emphasizes the need to understand the nuance in the # MeToo movement and to let go of the myth of the perfect victim.
The New York Times published an article on Sunday on the basis of leaked documents, sent between Argento & # 39; s lawyer Carrie Goldberg and Gordon K. Sattro, the lawyer of actor and musician Jimmy Bennett. The documents detail claims by Bennett, who played Argento's son in the 2004 film The heart is misleading above all else, that Argento sexually abused him in a hotel room in California in 2013, when he was 17 and she was 37. The documents also contain several photos of Argento and Bennett in the hotel room together, including one in which they are both topless in bed and outlines an agreement that Argento Bennett would pay an arrangement of $ 380,000.
In a pronunciation on Tuesday, Argento called the Times story "absolutely wrong" and part of a "protracted persecution" against her since she came out as one of the first people to accuse Harvey Weinstein of rape.
"I never had a sexual relationship with Bennett," she wrote. "I was connected with him for a few years only by friendship, which ended when, after my exposure to the Weinstein case, Bennett – which then experienced serious economic problems. […] unexpectedly an exorbitant request for money from me. "The statement goes on to explain that Argento's friend, the late Anthony Bordain, who" had his own reputation as a beloved figure to protect, "agreed to pay Bennett to put the matter to rest and prevent negative publicity.
Argento's statement reflects the story as a child in financial difficulties that extorted an old friend for money by taking advantage of her involvement in the prominent # MeToo movement and the fact that she had a famous boyfriend with & perceived wealth & # 39 ;.
In the recently released text messages, which TMZ reports are sent after the Times story, Argento admits, in contrast to her statement, that she has sex with Bennett – although she claims that he was the one who initiated the meeting by saying "the horny boy jumped me." She also refers to Bennett's "shakedown letter", thereby repeating implications that Bennett's intention to initiate a process was motivated by his financial situation, and not, as claimed, because, " His feelings about that day [in the hotel] were recently brought to the forefront when Mrs. Argento became the limelight as one of the many victims of Harvey Weinstein. "
"My trauma resurfaced when she herself came out as a victim," Bennett repeated in his first statement since the Wednesday Times article. "I have not made a public statement in the last few days and hours because I was ashamed and scared to be part of the public story, I was a minor when the event took place, and I tried to look for it in a way that made sense to me then. was because I was not ready to solve the consequences of my story becoming public. & # 39;
Regardless of whether it was a consensus or not, any sexual encounter between the two in 2013 would be a crime in California, where the age of consent is 18. This means that, regardless of the details of the meeting and Bennett's motives for threatening legal action, Argento has come to the wrong end of a story about a young actor being abused by someone more powerful in the industry – exactly the kind of story , just like the own story that launched the # MeToo movement.
Harvey Weinstein's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, used the opportunity to undermine Argento's allegations against his client in a statement ABC news. And many, including the production site of a bad generator Bari Weiss, have claimed that this case – particularly the reaction of Rose McGowan – undermines the #MeToo movement as a whole and reveals hypocrisy in the mandate of the movement to believe victims. Kim Severson, who is the Times story, told CBC News"A leader in the # MeToo movement that has something like that on her background does not look great."
On the contrary, this story can show Argento himself that it is a potential hypocrite without denying the progress made towards abusers and supporting victims of sexual abuse – and accusations against her should not affect the question of whether her own claims of abuse are believed. As Tarana Burke, founder of the # MeToo movement, has said so eloquently twitter"It will still be shocking when we hear the names of some of our faves associated with sexual violence unless we switch from talking about individuals and start talking about power." Sexual violence is about power and privilege. not if the perpetrator is your favorite actress, activist or professor of any gender. "
"There is no way to be a perpetrator … and there is no model survivor," continued Burke, reminding us that this is not the question whether Argento is good or bad, victim or perpetrator – that the news that she Bennett has not killed the fact that she was the victim of Weinstein. The existence of Argento as both suspected perpetrator and victim could force the #Moooo conversation into its next necessary phase: zoom out of the shock and anger to see one after the other of our "faves" as predators and our to focus attention on the system that enables people in power positions to sexually exploit the people around them. The real conversation we have to conduct is not one case and its nuances and minutiae, but power and the sexual violence that it allows.