NY Times- The Italian actress and director Asia Argento was among the first women in the movie business to publicly accuse the producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. She became a leading figure in the #MeToo movement. Her boyfriend, the culinary television star Anthony Bourdain, eagerly joined the fight.
But in the months that followed her revelations about Mr. Weinstein last October, Ms. Argento quietly arranged to pay $380,000 to her own accuser: Jimmy Bennett, a young actor and rock musician who said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room years earlier, when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18.
The fallout from “a sexual battery” was so traumatic that it hindered Mr. Bennett’s work and income and threatened his mental health…
Mr. Bennett’s notice of intent asked for $3.5 million in damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault and battery. Mr. Bennett made more than $2.7 million in the five years before the 2013 meeting with Ms. Argento, but his income has since dropped to an average of $60,000 a year, which he attributes to the trauma that followed the sexual encounter with Ms. Argento, his lawyer wrote.
For Mr. Bennett, seeing Ms. Argento present herself as a victim of sexual assault was too much to bear, his lawyer wrote, and called up memories of their hotel reunion.
Let’s start with this: Asia Argento has been an extremely important, courageous voice when it comes to the #MeToo movement. She was one of the first women who had the courage to reveal that Harvey Weinstein is a total piece of shit. She inspired other women to come forward to speak about their experiences, and her vocalization of her own trauma catalyzed a national mindset change when it comes to sexual assault.
Which is why this story is a huge bummer. It invalidates her in many ways, discredits her work, makes her seem like a hypocrite. But like many of these stories, this one is far from black and white. Let’s take a look at the details:
-Argento is 20 years older than Bennett. They worked together on a movie when he was 6 and she was 26, and their off-camera relationship was one of “mother and son” for years, according to Bennett.
-On May 9, 2013, the day they met for a reunion in her room at a Ritz-Carlton in Marina del Rey, Calif., she posted on Instagram: “Waiting for my long lost son my love @jimmymbennett in trepidation #marinadelrey smoking cigarettes like there was no next week.”
Yikes? Here’s my question: if you’re Jimmy’s parents, and you see this post, do you let him go? Some 37-year-old woman talking about how she’s waiting for her long lost son, who just so happens to be your ACTUAL son, and she’s so anxious about the reunion that she’s chainsmoking cigs? Might be time to send him to summer camp instead.
Mr. Bennett, who has an eye condition that prevents him from driving, arrived at Ms. Argento’s hotel room that morning with a family member, according to his notice of intent.
The document lays out Mr. Bennett’s account: Ms. Argento asked the family member to leave so she could be alone with the actor. She gave him alcohol to drink and showed him a series of notes she had written to him on hotel stationery. Then she kissed him, pushed him back on the bed, removed his pants and performed oral sex. She climbed on top of him and the two had intercourse, the document says. She then asked him to take a number of photos.
This is like when Hansel and Gretel sprinkled breadcrumbs on their way into the forest so that they could find their way out. Except Asia Argento sprinkled Instagram posts on her way into Jimmy Bennett so that the police/news could discover her penchant for railroading the blossoming careers of child actors through traumatic sex.
The two had lunch, and Mr. Bennett headed home to Orange County, where he lived with his parents. As he was driven home, according to his claim, he began to feel “extremely confused, mortified, and disgusted.”
But a month later, on June 8, he sent Ms. Argento a Twitter message, “Miss you momma!!!!” that included a photograph of an engraved bracelet she had given him to commemorate the movie. (His Twitter account has recently been shut down.)
That same month, he confronted his mother and stepfather over the state of a trust into which some of his earnings as an actor had been deposited, according to a lawsuit he filed in Orange County Superior Court in October 2014.
Mr. Bennett claimed his parents had barred him from the family’s house and kept his possessions, and over the years had cheated him out of at least $1.5 million in earnings. He said he was broke and two months behind on his rent.
The plot thickens! Young Bennett had some serious financial woes when he decided to hit up Argento for a settlement. After their tryst, his earnings dropped off a cliff. The timing is suspect…
It’s impossible to know how a sexual encounter actually affects somebody. Bennett claims that he was so traumatized by their day in the hotel room that his work fell apart. Based on the timeline, there appears to be merit to this–he was crushing it before they slept together, and then he wasn’t. But by that same token, you could argue that there was never a better time for him to bring a lawsuit against someone with money. He sent her messages after their encounter that make it seem like he was still fond of her. He was 17, which is underage in California but only 12 states set the age of consent at 18. Everywhere else, it’s 16 or 17. Trust me, I memorized the ages of consent per state long before I memorized their capitals. Just seemed more important to me.
It will be interesting to see how this story plays out. Argento hasn’t offered any comment yet, but both sides are allowed to speak about the settlement because there’s no NDA. Either way, it’s important to realize that sexual assault can happen both ways. The predominant pattern has been of women being the victims of men, but Kevin Spacey reminded us that there are other ways to be a scumbag. I’ll keep you guys posted as I learn more!
PS- ballsy move not to take those pictures off her instagram.