An obliterating bomb exploded last Sunday when The New York Times published a piece about Asia Argento claiming that the Italian actress reportedly paid $380K to former child star and co-star Jimmy Bennett for an incident that occurred at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Marina Del Rey, CA in May 2013. The young actor was 17 at the time of the alleged sexual assault by Argento, who was then 37.
The two first met when Argento cast Bennett as the young version of Jeremiah for her movie adaptation of JT Leroy’s The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things. Throughout the years the two had remained close and would be seen interacting with one another on Twitter and Instagram.
On May 9, of 2013, the two agreed to meet up in Marina Del Rey, CA, their meeting was captured by a series of photos that the actress posted on Instagram where the two looked visibly happy to be in the company of one another.
However, Bennett claims that Argento had him drink alcohol for then to have her perform oral sex on him, which later lead to sex. Bennett at the time this incident was 17. The age of consent in California is 18. Long after this encounter, the two were seen interacting on social media, similarly to how she remained still in contact with her own abuser, Harvey Weinstein.
So what does this all mean in light of the #MeToo movement? I don’t think the actions of one individual should be used as a way to discredit the work that many of the other survivors have been doing in the past few months. It also doesn’t change the fact that Argento herself was a victim of rape, however, it also doesn’t give her a free pass to essentially assault minors. And that’s where the problem lies, because whether or not Bennett at the time of the incident had either consented or not (he hasn’t
come out with a statement in regards to these accusations), he was still a minor at the time of the incident and that in itself is legally a crime.
The #MeToo movement was initially started to help women of color who had been sexually assaulted and turned into a worldwide movement when actresses Rose McGowan, Rosanna Arquette, and Argento herself became the most prominent voices behind the movement in light of the Harvey Weinstein rape scandal.
Now, many are distancing themselves from Argento, whilst her friends McGowan and Arquette are showing their support. But this double standard can be harmful to the movement, making people erroneously believe that such a movement is riddled with hypocrisy. But that can only cause harm to victims if we’re going to discredit a movement simply because one individual’s actions were appalling.
The bottom line is: adults should never use their position of power to coerce or persuade a minor into sex, no matter what their history or relationship with that person may be.
*At the point of publication of this post, Argento was said to have told freelance journalist Yashar Ali that she had “Never had any sexual relationship with Bennett,” and was “deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false.”
The actress also went to point out that Bennett was “undergoing severe economic problems,” and that he knew that her boyfriend, TV chef Anthony Bourdain, “was of great perceived wealth.”
The New York Times story was based on documents that they received from an unidentified source via encrypted email.
What does this all mean? That clearly this case is going to have more twists and turns so keep your seatbelts on.
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