Since actor Jimmy Bennett accused Italian actress Asia Argento of sexually assaulting him when he was 17, the discussion over sexual harassment has shifted and broadened. It is very clear that men can be victims too. To complicate matters further, men may not come forward with their stories because of the shame associated with being a male and uncomfortable admitting to being vulnerable to women with perceived power and privilege.
Bennett spoke to the New York Times last month stating that he decided to speak out after Argento claimed she had been raped by Harvey Weinstein. Bennet said that when his story first came out, he felt ashamed and afraid especially because, as a man, he feared his narrative would be received with “stigma”. Bennet and Argento first met in 2004 when he played Argento’s son in the film The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.
Argento, who has been one of the leaders of the #MeToo movement, paid Bennett $380,000 after he accused her of assaulting him. She admitted that the payment was made by her late partner Anthony Bourdain in October 2017 after she publicly accused Weinstein. In an Instagram post Bennet wrote, “My trauma resurfaced as she came out as a victim herself.”
Argento has denied any sexual misconduct stating being “deeply shocked and hurt by having read news that is absolutely false”. She said the two were just friends and that their friendship ended when Bennett “unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me”. She has claimed that celebrity chef and TV personality, Anthony Bourdain, who died last June, made the payment to avoid any bad publicity, and out of compassion for Bennett who seemed to be in a difficult financial situation.
Since the allegations against Argento broke, the actress has suffered a number of setbacks. Rose MacGowan has spoken against her stating feeling “betrayed” by her fellow #MeToo movement leader. CNN has yanked episodes of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” that featured and were directed by her. X Factor Italy fired her as a judge in the program. An attorney for Weinstein criticized Argento’s “stunning level of hypocrisy”. Just recently, McGowan’s partner, model Rain Dove, leaked text messages from Argento to the media. The texts reveal that she slept with Bennet and that he in turn sent her unsolicited nude photos since he was 12.
To those who used the Argento’s story to discredit the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, who launched the movement in 2006, in a tweet stated “I’ve said repeatedly that the #metooMVMT is for all of us, including these brave young men who are now coming forward.” Burke stated that the discussion needs to shift from the individuals to power and privilege. She continues that in order for the male-female dynamics to really change, it is imperative that everyone becomes “comfortable with the uncomfortable reality that there is no one way to be a perpetrator … and there is no model survivor”.