From Prey to Predator

What Asia Argento’s sexual assault settlement reveals about gender and power

Asia Argento and Jimmy Bennett (Photo Credit: CNN.com)

Since the 2016 primaries, women’s movements all over the country and the world that reacted to some of the more crass comments of prominent celebrities and politicians with accusations of misogyny. This actually started well before President Trump’s infamous “pussy-grabbing” comment that everyone claimed was an admission of sexual assault. It started in the very beginning of 2016 with Hillary Clinton and her campaigners trying to “rally” women by insulting us with the idea that anyone who wouldn’t vote for a woman was a misogynist — even if that voter was a woman. The term “internalized misogyny” flew around like bees in a garden, right alongside accusations of prejudice against women and endless charts depicting how women have it much tougher than men.

Among other things, this evolved into the hashtag revolution known as #MeToo, which took the stance that men are toxic, all rapes are perpetrated by men, and all women are innocent. As a result, when Terry Crews and then Brendan Fraser came out and admitted that they were harassed as well, the media downplayed their stories. When news broke that Kevin Spacey had raped Anthony Rapp, attention was given to the perpetrator, but not the victim.

Yet, when Chelsea Dykstra accused Chris Hardwick of abuse during their relationship, the rabid hound dogs of the media and now large and vocal movement called for his dismissal from AMC without any evidence or due process.

The prevailing wisdom is that women are to be believed, and men are prone to violence. Male victims, says the narrative, are rare and most likely victimized because they are either weak or gay.

“One would think feminism would have nothing but sympathy for male victims of their pet peeve, “toxic masculinity,” but since the male victims are clearly toxic as well (by virtue of that pesky Y chromosome), they rationalize that the male victim should have been able to do something about it.”

Terry Crews and Brendan Fraser threw a kink in that narrative, chiseled and muscular as they are, in ways that are associated with hyper-masculinity. But the narrative prevailing “wisdom” did not shift much.

Too manly to be victims. Photo credit: PA Images via Unilad.co.uk

Now, we see another counterpoint that should force the narrative to change, and, as a Rational Feminist, I will not allow this to be swept under the rug.

Asia Argento, a major leader in the #MeToo movement and one of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged victims, is allegedly a victimizer herself. That’s right, Asia Argento settled a claim by Jimmy Bennett for assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress arising out of a sexual encounter when Bennett was under the age of consent. This is not some veiled allegation in a Medium post. This was filed with the justice system and settled privately.

As one of the most outspoken voices in the #MeToo movement in both Hollywood and Italy, the knowledge that she is another Hollywood predator goes beyond the hypocrisy of her double life as an advocate against her own behavior.

Evil doesn’t care about sex

Asia Argento’s rape of Jimmy Bennett points to a truth that has been ignored since Second Wave Feminism began: women can be just as evil as men. This is a truth I have been shouting from the hilltops since my very first article, and each day brings more proof to the fore, proof which should no longer be ignored. Women really are equal, and we can be equally bad as well as equally good. The narrative which accuses men absolves women of all bad behavior; even when men are the victims it focuses on men as the perpetrators. It claims that men get away with the same evils that women get called out for (see again the 2016 primary) but ignores that there are plenty of acts women get away with, and some of them involve abuse or assault, no matter how much we choose to deny it.

In a sick and twisted way, Asia Argento has done even more than ever for sexual assault victims by being the same kind of sexual predator she so vocally protests against. Like the celebrities who cast light upon the shady behavior of men in Hollywood, she has cast light on equally shady behavior of women everywhere. She has shown us all, undeniably, that men aren’t the only predators, and possibly opened the door for a real and honest conversation on sexual victimization.

Argento has given us evidence that women are quite capable, as well as quite likely, to use power, intimidation, and alcohol or drugs to sexually harass a victim. She has shown that women really are equal, and that maybe it isn’t “misogyny” to consider that in a discussion about our capabilities, qualifications, and intent. She’s proven that rather than being a solid block of innocent victims with a monopoly on marginalization, we are individuals with agency, and that agency can and will be used to commit the same heinous acts of aggression we claim men are solely responsible for.

I want this story to go viral and stay viral. I want the #MeToo movement to own Asia Argento and admit that sexual harassment very much goes both ways. If #MeToo truly stands for all victims, it should embrace Jimmy Bennett and recognize what Argento admitted to when she settled the lawsuit with him. It should recognize the social truth that was just revealed about male versus female dynamics. #MeToo and feminism now have no choice but to admit that everything they’ve promoted about male aggression is wrong, and actually stand by its mission statement to be a voice for all victims of this sort of power dynamic. If either Argento or the #MeToo movement have any shred of integrity, the way to show it is to skewer Argento the same way she helped skewer Weinstein, and the rest of the #MeToo movement should be as happy to loudly condemn her perpetration of sexual assault as they were Weinstein or Hardwick.

Partners in crime. Photo credit: Getty Images

In no way should this incident unhinge the #MeToo movement; on the contrary, it should make it stronger by moving it in a direction that promotes the reality of male victimization rather than the “men are aggressors, women are saints” narrative that engulfs us today. There is nothing more misogynistic than denying women agency, but that is exactly what we do when we ignore or absolve them of bad behavior that’s equal to, or worse than, that of men.

My heart goes out to Jimmy Bennett. I hope no one else has to suffer what he has suffered. I hope his experience, and my writing about it in this way, helps change the conversation for everyone. Don’t let Asia Argento’s predatory actions be swept under the rug, especially since she herself is so vehemently opposed to sexual predators in Hollywood using their power to assault innocent victims.


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