The #MeToo Movement Self-Destructs

The #MeToo movement was dealt a critical blow this past weekend as news emerged that one of its leading spokeswomen, actress Asia Argento, among the most prominent accusers of Harvey Weinstein, had paid $380K to young actor Jimmy Bennett in order to keep him silent about her own sexual encounter with the young actor.

The story involves what could be described as quasi-incestuous overtones.  The alleged assault took place in Marina Del Rey, California, in 2013, when Ms. Argento was 37 and the young Bennett was just two months beyond his 17th birthday (the legal age of sexual consent in the state of California is 18).  In 2004, she had starred as the mother of the then seven-year-old child actor in the film The Heart Is Deceitful above All Things, where she played a prostitute who dressed her son as a girl to "lure men."

Ms. Argento had kept in "intermittent" contact with the boy as he aged, with Jimmy's perception being that a "mother-son relationship had blossomed from their experience on set together."  That perception was shared by Argento, who, before the night of the alleged assault, commented on Instagram that she was waiting, she wrote, "for my long lost son my love [sic] @jimmybennett in trepidation," "smoking cigarettes like there was no next week."  Bennett responded, "I'm almost there! :)"

When he arrived, according to Bennett's account, Argento asked a family member to leave, "gave him alcohol," and "removed his pants" before she "performed oral sex" and engaged in intercourse with him. 

Mr. Bennett claims to have been traumatized by the "sexual battery," and seeing Ms. Argento "present herself as a victim of sexual assault was too much to bear," according to his lawyer, as she recently had taken "the spotlight as one of the many victims of Harvey Weinstein."

None of this absolves Harvey Weinstein, certainly, and none of this truly discredits the other individual #MeToo accusers.  But it has discredited #MeToo as a unifying narrative, particularly because some among the progressive left were unable to hide their hypocrisy in the wake of this revelation. 

Take Rose McGowan, another alleged victim of Weinstein and arguably the most prominent figure of #MeToo, who has long been ostensibly outraged by a culture that would question the allegations of sexual assault victims.  What was her initial response to this terrible story?

"None of us know the truth of the situation and I'm sure more will be revealed.  Be gentle," she tweeted.

Christina Hoff Sommers (along with many other users) rightfully decimated her, using McGowan's own words from 2017.  "I agree," Sommers tweeted, "we should accord everyone due process and proceed with care.  So will you revise your previous counsel? ht/ @LorenaRiro."

Below her tweet is a screencap of the furious McGowan tweeting in November of 2017, "It's quite simple, all who have worked with known predators should do 3 simple things. 1) Believe survivors. 2) Apologize for putting your careers and wallets before what was right. 3) Grab a spine and denounce. If you do not do these things you are still moral cowards. #ROSEARMY."

Ms. Argento's accusing Weinstein of sexual predation must be believed without question, and to do any less is tantamount to moral cowardice, according to the fiery rhetoric employed by McGowan not even a year ago.  However, when Jimmy Bennett, around whom Ms. Argento allegedly constructed and fostered a deviant mother-lover dichotomy and allegedly acted out her fantasies upon the boy, who claims to be traumatized by Argento's sexual predation, this prominent #MeToo leader suddenly has a desire to wait for more substantial evidence and calls for the public to "be gentle" to the accused predator?

This blatant and utter hypocrisy exposes, for good and all, the truth about the #MeToo movement. 

#MeToo is, and always has been, about the supposedly institutional discrepancy in power dynamics between men and women in Hollywood, the workplace, and the culture in general.  It was unequivocally designed to promote the idea that men, and in particular rich white men, are villains who actively use their white privilege, male privilege, and financial privilege to sexually prey upon young and vulnerable females.  When they are the alleged assailants, it is only natural to blindly assume that the accusers are genuine victims of such a power discrepancy.

Yet when faced with the highly credible allegation that an established 37-year-old actress gave alcohol to, and illegally fornicated with, a 17-year-old aspiring actor whom she referred to as her "son," the power dynamic involved in the sexual encounter is no longer relevant to the equation for this leader of the #MeToo movement.

In short, Asia Argento is not an appropriate villain, and Jimmy Barrett not an appropriate victim, within the confines of the actual underlying narrative of identity politics inherent in the #MeToo movement, despite the fact that she allegedly used her power and influence to sexually assault him, and the then-minor now claims to be the traumatized victim of that event.

In fact, the young man isn't even to be taken at his word until more substantial evidence comes to light, and the most prominent #MeToo figure's first impulse is to recommend that we "be gentle" with the alleged sexual predator. 

In seeking to protect the movement and one of its most prominent champions at the expense of its professed underlying principles, the very narrative of blind belief about accusations, which has driven the #MeToo movement up to this point, has been destroyed. 

If the result of this bombshell story is that all of the accused are offered the same consideration that Rose McGowan demands of her followers when appraising Asia Argento's alleged sexual assault against Jimmy Bennett, we might be thankful for the #MeToo leader's honest hypocrisy.

And if the #MeToo movement no longer carries with it the firm requirement that all accusers be believed without question, and absent factual substantiation beyond a mere accusation, instead having the accused beholden to "due process" and our proceeding with "care" as facts are dutifully considered to discern guilt or innocence, as Christina Hoff Sommers suggests, we might say that reason has overcome the frenzied hysteria of the cultural and political witch hunt that the subversive core of the #MeToo movement was unquestionably meant to create.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

Photo credit: Georges Biard.

The #MeToo movement was dealt a critical blow this past weekend as news emerged that one of its leading spokeswomen, actress Asia Argento, among the most prominent accusers of Harvey Weinstein, had paid $380K to young actor Jimmy Bennett in order to keep him silent about her own sexual encounter with the young actor.

The story involves what could be described as quasi-incestuous overtones.  The alleged assault took place in Marina Del Rey, California, in 2013, when Ms. Argento was 37 and the young Bennett was just two months beyond his 17th birthday (the legal age of sexual consent in the state of California is 18).  In 2004, she had starred as the mother of the then seven-year-old child actor in the film The Heart Is Deceitful above All Things, where she played a prostitute who dressed her son as a girl to "lure men."

Ms. Argento had kept in "intermittent" contact with the boy as he aged, with Jimmy's perception being that a "mother-son relationship had blossomed from their experience on set together."  That perception was shared by Argento, who, before the night of the alleged assault, commented on Instagram that she was waiting, she wrote, "for my long lost son my love [sic] @jimmybennett in trepidation," "smoking cigarettes like there was no next week."  Bennett responded, "I'm almost there! :)"

When he arrived, according to Bennett's account, Argento asked a family member to leave, "gave him alcohol," and "removed his pants" before she "performed oral sex" and engaged in intercourse with him. 

Mr. Bennett claims to have been traumatized by the "sexual battery," and seeing Ms. Argento "present herself as a victim of sexual assault was too much to bear," according to his lawyer, as she recently had taken "the spotlight as one of the many victims of Harvey Weinstein."

None of this absolves Harvey Weinstein, certainly, and none of this truly discredits the other individual #MeToo accusers.  But it has discredited #MeToo as a unifying narrative, particularly because some among the progressive left were unable to hide their hypocrisy in the wake of this revelation. 

Take Rose McGowan, another alleged victim of Weinstein and arguably the most prominent figure of #MeToo, who has long been ostensibly outraged by a culture that would question the allegations of sexual assault victims.  What was her initial response to this terrible story?

"None of us know the truth of the situation and I'm sure more will be revealed.  Be gentle," she tweeted.

Christina Hoff Sommers (along with many other users) rightfully decimated her, using McGowan's own words from 2017.  "I agree," Sommers tweeted, "we should accord everyone due process and proceed with care.  So will you revise your previous counsel? ht/ @LorenaRiro."

Below her tweet is a screencap of the furious McGowan tweeting in November of 2017, "It's quite simple, all who have worked with known predators should do 3 simple things. 1) Believe survivors. 2) Apologize for putting your careers and wallets before what was right. 3) Grab a spine and denounce. If you do not do these things you are still moral cowards. #ROSEARMY."

Ms. Argento's accusing Weinstein of sexual predation must be believed without question, and to do any less is tantamount to moral cowardice, according to the fiery rhetoric employed by McGowan not even a year ago.  However, when Jimmy Bennett, around whom Ms. Argento allegedly constructed and fostered a deviant mother-lover dichotomy and allegedly acted out her fantasies upon the boy, who claims to be traumatized by Argento's sexual predation, this prominent #MeToo leader suddenly has a desire to wait for more substantial evidence and calls for the public to "be gentle" to the accused predator?

This blatant and utter hypocrisy exposes, for good and all, the truth about the #MeToo movement. 

#MeToo is, and always has been, about the supposedly institutional discrepancy in power dynamics between men and women in Hollywood, the workplace, and the culture in general.  It was unequivocally designed to promote the idea that men, and in particular rich white men, are villains who actively use their white privilege, male privilege, and financial privilege to sexually prey upon young and vulnerable females.  When they are the alleged assailants, it is only natural to blindly assume that the accusers are genuine victims of such a power discrepancy.

Yet when faced with the highly credible allegation that an established 37-year-old actress gave alcohol to, and illegally fornicated with, a 17-year-old aspiring actor whom she referred to as her "son," the power dynamic involved in the sexual encounter is no longer relevant to the equation for this leader of the #MeToo movement.

In short, Asia Argento is not an appropriate villain, and Jimmy Barrett not an appropriate victim, within the confines of the actual underlying narrative of identity politics inherent in the #MeToo movement, despite the fact that she allegedly used her power and influence to sexually assault him, and the then-minor now claims to be the traumatized victim of that event.

In fact, the young man isn't even to be taken at his word until more substantial evidence comes to light, and the most prominent #MeToo figure's first impulse is to recommend that we "be gentle" with the alleged sexual predator. 

In seeking to protect the movement and one of its most prominent champions at the expense of its professed underlying principles, the very narrative of blind belief about accusations, which has driven the #MeToo movement up to this point, has been destroyed. 

If the result of this bombshell story is that all of the accused are offered the same consideration that Rose McGowan demands of her followers when appraising Asia Argento's alleged sexual assault against Jimmy Bennett, we might be thankful for the #MeToo leader's honest hypocrisy.

And if the #MeToo movement no longer carries with it the firm requirement that all accusers be believed without question, and absent factual substantiation beyond a mere accusation, instead having the accused beholden to "due process" and our proceeding with "care" as facts are dutifully considered to discern guilt or innocence, as Christina Hoff Sommers suggests, we might say that reason has overcome the frenzied hysteria of the cultural and political witch hunt that the subversive core of the #MeToo movement was unquestionably meant to create.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.

Photo credit: Georges Biard.