As more details unfold regarding the Asia Argento–Jimmy Bennett sex scandal–with Argento in the role of accused, making it an extreme plot twist in terms of both expected gender to fuck up and as a leader of #MeToo–it seems that people aren’t looking all too closely at the details of the case, quick to burn the witch, as it were, over the delight of finding further fault in a gender that all love to peg as hypocritical.
With a few weeks’ time, the credibility of an entire movement burned out as brightly as it initially shined, in one of those cruel twists of irony that can only exist in real life as opposed to the movies. For none other than a frontrunner in the too long shakedown of Harvey Weinstein, Asia Argento, suddenly became the accused.
To worsen matters, a damning image was released by TMZ in the wake of her rebuttal of any misconduct with actor Jimmy Bennett, seventeen years old to her thirty-seven at the time of the incident during the filming of The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things (2004), a somewhat comical title considering the behind-the-scenes circumstances. And with that image, the grave of Argento’s reputation grew even deeper. Not that it was all that shallow to begin with when taking into account that she felt obliged to drag a dead man’s name into the equation, ex by default of suicide boyfriend Anthony Bourdain, who she stated paid off Bennett himself to avoid any unwanted headlines. If that was the case, then Bourdain failed miserably. If it wasn’t, well, Argento can add it to the list of damning material against her right now.
Based on the accounts thus far, it seems as though Bennett did his own fair share of pursuing, which, yes, likely flattered Argento to more than some degree.
The way public opinion has altered regarding the “palatability” of an older woman being lusted after by a younger man (see: the now bygone examples of The Graduate (1967) and Tea and Sympathy (1956) is among the most interesting facets of this unfolding obloquy. Where once it was “hot” or even a mark of a man’s virility to be able to brag about having sex with a female his senior, it is now, in keeping with feminism in its purest form (“advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men”), utterly disgraceful.
The Guardian’s Laura Kipnis perhaps likens this abrupt shift in the formerly falsely perceived “romanticism” of female obsession (which never really came across as romantic so much as pathetic in most cinematic or literary offerings, e.g. Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction  and Ester in Lena Andersson’s Wilful Disregard ) to the tragic and eponymous anti-heroine/daughter to Victor Hugo in The Story of Adèle H. (1975). Rather than ending up happily ever after as we have been conditioned by many Weinstein-produced films to believe when bad, psychologically damaged behavior is at play, Adèle ends up homeless before ultimately being thrown in a loony bin. Quelle surprise. Yet if a man had been guilty of the same crime–loving too much–he would likely have secured the girl with enough persistence by the end. Of course, there are those who would protest that one oughtn’t be so cut and dried, so black and white in matters pertaining to the gendered heart. At the same time, when bearing in mind all the details of Bennett’s (and Argento’s) tale, it seems arguable that Bennett was interested in commencing some sort of tawdry affair. “Asking for it” was he? No. But it’s clear he felt there was something more to Argento beyond being a conduit to gaining a rung up on the ladder of his career.
Women are still so indoctrinated to believe that their physical appearance is the thing they should place the most value on.
Based on the accounts thus far, it seems as though Bennett did his own fair share of pursuing, which, yes, likely flattered Argento to more than some degree, for women are still so indoctrinated to believe that their physical appearance is the quality they should place the most value on, the currency with the most meaning and clout. And fellow self-styled leader of #MeToo Rose McGowan, as swift as she was in cutting Argento out, has also been instrumental in revealing details via her current non-gender binary activist and model Rain Dove Dubilewski, who leaked the image of Argento in bed with Bennett to TMZ, in addition to sharing texts sent to her by Argento (something Grimes knows all too well about after her faux pas in sharing anything personal with Azealia Banks) with the LAPD.
McGowan shared the larger than a tidbit: “[Rain] said that they had been texting with Asia and that Asia had revealed that she had indeed slept with Jimmy Bennett. Rain also shared that Asia had stated that she’d been receiving unsolicited nudes of Jimmy since he had been 12. Asia mentioned in these texts that she didn’t take any action on those images. No reporting to authorities, to the parents, or blocking of Jimmy’s social media. Not even a simple message, ‘Don’t send me these images. They are inappropriate.'”
But listen, when you’re a freaky deaky Italian with the Satyricon (1969) narrative in your blood, you’re not going to fucking report images that a twelve-year-old boy sends to you. Not to mention when you’re the daughter of Dario Argento, it’s probably going to take a fucking lot to weird you out. And no, it’s most certainly not out of the realm of possibility that her Daddy issues played into later photographs in which she was smiling with the very tormentor that raped her.
Strangest of all in the revelation is Rose McGowan, who has perhaps best benefited from the fallout of Argento with the #MeToo movement (and generally benefited from the movement overall). Quick to cast out her “one-time” friend by commenting, “Asia you were my friend. I loved you. You’ve spent and risked a lot to stand with the #MeToo movement. I really hope you find your way through this process to rehabilitation and betterment. Anyone can be be better—I hope you can be, too. Do the right thing. Be honest. Be fair. Let justice stay its course. Be the person you wish Harvey could have been.”
But when you look at everything we know so far, it is fairly apparent that Argento is not the sex monster people are making her out to be. That there was, at the bare minimum, consent
How rapid we are to drop so-called friends like hot potatoes when they no longer serve our martyrdom purpose. What’s more, “the person Harvey could have been,” as McGowan puts it, seems like an awfully vast leap to make when bearing in mind he probably raped upwards of in the two, three, maybe even four digits worth of women women. Conversely, Argento gave into temptation with a boy who encouraged it for his own unique reasons, both of them literally and metaphorically positioning one another for arcane aims.
That Argento has already had to deal with the flagrant misogyny of not only the men, but the women in her homeland of Italy is not helpful to the situation, with the Italian media having another field day with their mockery of the attrice caduta. One particularly conservative newspaper, Libero, commented of Argento and “her kind’s” activism in standing up against sexual assault, “First they give it away, then they whine and pretend to regret it.”
It has not helped that Argento pulled a major Bill Clinton in at first denying Bennett’s public declaration with the statement, “I have never had any sexual relationship with Bennett.” But like Clinton, she had her reasons for denial, knowing full well that the damning public would never look beyond the surface of the fact that she banged a minor and then paid him $380,000 to keep quiet about it. No, this does not sound like the actions of an “innocent” woman. At the same time, people make rash decisions when they’re in a panic. One can easily picture Argento, feeling backed into a corner, terrified that not only would her own countrymen further want to stone her, but also the women who had once championed her as an imperfect heroine.
Can it be argued that no teenage boy has clarity of mind when it comes to wanting to have sex with an older woman? Certainly. But when you look at everything we know so far, it is fairly apparent that Argento is not the sex monster people are making her out to be. That there was, at the bare minimum, consent. Because honestly, people who don’t want to fuck aren’t about to take bedroom selfies with their “rapist.”
It is not an inaccurate assessment, then, that another of her more lenient fellow citizens, Mattia Feltri of La Stampa should remark, “She immediately ended up like Robespierre: guillotined because she ordered some guillotined.”