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Asia Argento is Probably a Rapist. And Probably a Victim.

Asia Argento is Probably a Rapist. And Probably a Victim.

Asia Argento is a director and an actor, but to many she is better known for two things: being the girlfriend of the late and beloved Anthony Bourdain, and one of the first women to accuse Harvey Weinstein of rape. As recent headlines have revealed, she is also an accused rapist.

Reports have surfaced that in 2017, Argento agreed to pay actor Jimmy Bennett $380,000 after he sent her a notice, complete with allegedly incriminating photographs, of his intent to sue her for an alleged sexual assault in 2013. The intent to sue notice claimed that then-37 year-old Argento met up with then-17 year-old Bennett in Argento’s hotel room in California, where she gave him alcohol, pushed him onto the bed, climbed on top of him and forced sex on him. Argento denies the allegations, but TMZ claims to have seen the photograph, as well as text messages that seem to suggest sex took place, albeit with Bennett the claimed aggressor.

“Luckiest Boy in the World Award.”

“What I wouldn’t have given for that to happen to me!”

“Mental anguish? I’m not buying it!”

“Shit, he hit the lottery!”

So sayeth the anonymous, knuckle-dragging Twitter contingent.

Because surely, no young man would ever resent the loss of his bodily autonomy at the hands of someone old enough to have given birth to him, so long as she is sufficiently attractive.

Others will make the argument for the impossibility of female-on-male rape, due to the required male bodily mechanics (having no understanding of how a body may betray itself during such an attack).

Still others will take the time-honored position of pointing to the threatened lawsuit and the accepted payoff as a blow to Bennett’s credibility, proof he was not harmed and is an opportunist looking for a payday (despite the alleged existence of photographs that prove his story.)

All of these people are rape apologists.

Asia Argento met this boy when he was seven years old, when she played his mother in a movie. She kept in touch with him over the years; she called him her “son” and he called her his mother. She was a mentor, a caring adult he trusted — no doubt a rarity in the world of a child actor (of note: Bennett also had to sue his actual parents for mismanaging his money).

And then, he says, she gave him alcohol, took his clothes off, and penetrated herself on him. If so, then she raped him. These actions would have been a crime, and I do not refer to a mere technical violation of California’s law of age of consent, which is 18.

Bennett says he felt “confused, mortified, and disgusted.” Much as one might expect to feel if one had been raped by one’s mother-figure. I don’t know why, four years later, he decided to threaten his alleged rapist with a lawsuit, or how $380,000 was sufficient to assuage his anguish. Understanding his motivations and actions is not required in order to accept his account at face value.

Maybe it was shame. Maybe it was knowing that other grown adults would roll their eyes and insist he loved every minute of it. Or maybe, as his lawyer says, he had suppressed his feelings about it until Argento announced herself a victim, and became the face of the #metoo movement.

#Hertoo

Some have taken a leap of logic that defies my understanding, deciding that if Bennett is to be believed, then Argento must be lying about Harvey Weinstein. Thieves can be stolen from, killers can be murdered, can rapists not be raped? There is no logic there. If so, then why do so many root for prison rape to befall those convicted of sexual assault?

Argento says that Weinstein raped her at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997. There is as much reason to believe her as there is to believe Jimmy Bennett.  That she would go on to victimize someone else is hardly a novel concept; it is a commonly known fact that many sexual abusers were victims themselves. This might make her a hypocrite in addition to a rapist, but does not erase the possibility that she was also a victim.

It is abhorrent though, that having suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a more powerful person, Argento would go on to perpetrate the same violation upon a young person who looked up to her, in the way she likely looked up to the influential Weinstein before he raped her. It offers no mitigation, and in fact exacerbates the allegations. She would have known better, known the damage left behind when bodily autonomy is stolen by trusted hands. If Bennett’s allegations are true, Argento deserves no less punishment than Weinstein does for each of his alleged victims.

However, it does not invalidate the #metoo movement. Argento is not Weinstein’s only accuser. She isn’t even one of the three victims named in the criminal charges pending against him for sexual assault in New York. And she is not the impetus for the many other victims of many other perpetrators who have come forward since the movement gained momentum. It is all too easy for those who have mocked and dismissed the #metoo movement to now hear the sordid allegations against Argento and smirk self-righteously, validated in their derision.

But the #metoo campaign predates Argento’s accusations against Weinstein. Activist Tarana Burke started “metoo” a decade ago, though publicity did not take hold until more famous faces adopted the hashtag. It has come to symbolize, for better or worse, every form of sexual wrongdoing, from “catcalls” and harassment to actual physical sexual violence. It has its place in exposing those who would otherwise continue to hide in the darkness and capture their prey, no matter how distorted the movement has become in some ways.  In a viper pit like Hollywood, it is not surprising that one individual may have gone from prey to predator.

It is possible to both despise her for what she is accused of, and feel sympathy if she was a victim herself. We can look to Ms. Burke in an attempt to reconcile the conflicting possible truths about Asia Argento:

“There is no one way to be a perpetrator… and there is no model survivor.”

 

 


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Em was one of those argumentative children who was sarcastically encouraged to become a lawyer, so she did. She is a proud life-long West Virginian, and, paradoxically, a liberal. In addition to writing about society, politics and culture, she enjoys cooking, podcasts, reading, and pretending to be a runner. She will correct your grammar. You can find her on Twitter.

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112 thoughts on “Asia Argento is Probably a Rapist. And Probably a Victim.

    • I have not encountered much of that attitude at all. Which is probably for the best, because I’d probably have a hard time keeping my cool if I did – particularly if it came from someone I liked and respected.

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    • The core idea for me is, “did this harm you?”

      I know a young man who was “initiated” at age 13 or so by a much older women. He had a hard time believing that something was wrong with that. And yet, I could see how anxious and distrustful of women he was. Was that the result? That’s up for him to decide.

      I know another man who didn’t really understand that he had been raped and what the consequences of it were until he was over 50. At that point, he was able to see that the fallout for what it was, and how it had damaged so much of his life.

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      • The interesting thing here is that a lot of people don’t realize what harms or affects them and/or it takes them years to realize it.

        This isn’t even confided to traumatic events like you describe. It can be something as banal as not getting enough sleep because of being busy and having too much on your plate. Humans are resilient but also kind of dumb when it comes to thinking about what harms them.

        I think there are probably a lot of guys who have the fantasy where they get seduced by an older woman when they are a young lad. They might even carry this fantasy way beyond being a young lad. But they are also dumb about it because it remains a fantasy stuck in their heads and they can’t imagine counter-facts which would make the fantasy unpleasant.

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        • I also wonder if the guys who don’t have a problem with this are the same guys who mentally would not have been traumatized if it actually had happened to them. Some men would simply not have been negatively affected and might even think back fondly on the experience.

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          • A 17-year old is in a much different place than a 13-year old, much the same as a 35-year old is from a 21-year old.

            The one is statutory rape, the other forcible.
            No comparison. Not even close.

            This is an instance of the poverty of our language resulting in adequacy of understanding; that we would use the term “rape” to describe both acts.

            From personal experience, I can definitively state that no man can know how to properly make love other than by means of the instruction of a woman. There is simply too much going on that the male is not directly attached to for the male to even acknowledge it.
            In my own case, I had been with over 40 women* before I really learned the art of love-making. I thought I was doing some good, and I had no complaints. However, direct instruction was a transformational experience.**
            To be frank about the matter, I cure frigid women; something I believe I would be unable to do without the instruction of a woman.
            The most incredible sex, the most exciting lover I have ever had was a woman 42-years old who was in her second marriage at the time we got together. All her life, she thought that she didn’t like sex. She heard her friends talking about it, and knowing that what they talked about wasn’t what it was like for her, and thought that she just didn’t like sex, or that she must be doing something wrong. Nonetheless, the dutiful wife, she yielded, to her disappointment. I moved her bed out from the wall by over a foot on almost all occasions we spent there. I sent her flying through the air, and she never squealed nor flailed, because she had a feeling of complete safety with me. I showed her what Advanced Snuggling is all about. I taught her that she really did enjoy sex after all, and she destroyed my world and gave me a new one I could never have conceived of before.***
            Thus, I am inclined to believe that Ms. Argento did Mr. Bennett the biggest favor of his life, for which he will reap dividends far into the future.

            The bit about giving him alcohol, with this being Hollywood, reads more like a complaint that she didn’t get him hopped up on cocaine.
            Seventeen big years in H-town, and the fellow never came across imbibing the nectar even once? Very well. Take him to the edge of town and beat the hell out of him. Might as well. This would indicate that everyone else around him has already determined him to be a Loser of the Highest Order.
            I think I was 15 the first time I got a bit more than a buzz from Budweiser in the back of a van full of Mexicans, while The Sails of Charon played repeatedly from an 8-track. Not a particularly happy time in my life, but I made it through.
            Never did have the money for blow back then.

            OTOH, I accept that Ms. Argento was raped without hesitation.
            It makes me sick in a way I can’t properly describe– a flood of powerlessness over a hands-on can-do kind of guy. And all I can do is stand by.
            Stand-by mode wears on me.
            I wish her all the best. I would give of my own blood to make her whole.
            It is my earnest hope she would not permit herself rest at being merely a survivor, but insist on rejecting persistent victimhood, to overcome, that it would touch her no more, that those who would victimize her would be as powerlessness as I am now to prevent her victimization.

            There is no was in hell I could possibly say that woman would ever deserve that, no matter what she could have done.
            She is capable only of human acts, the same as I.

            In summary, there are some things I prefer to remain ignorant of.****
            There are too many whose lives I can touch, either directly or indirectly, for me to concern myself overmuch with those I cannot.

            Ms. Argento, my best to you.
            _______________________________

            * I understand that statistics of “normal,” but I have also studied (on an academic level) romantic love. While 40 lovers may seem like a lot to some, what you are looking at here is a particular attachment style seen in some 6% of the population. What is “normal” to those 6% is something they are made to feel ashamed for. Therefore, I believe it is important to be forthcoming in this regard, as I am of that 6%. If you do not understand this, then this is not intended for you. If you do, then you are not alone, and I do not reject you or criticize you, no matter how many others before me have done so.

            ** Do not understand “transformational” to mean “pleasant.” It was very much fueled by anxiety.

            *** This woman taught me that to hold the hand of a woman that I completely, totally, and unquestioningly respect is far, far, better than to have five lesser women screwing the living daylights out of me, for which I will be forever grateful.
            This has happened to me twice in my life, and I regret to say that, the first time it happened, I was not yet self-aware enough to comprehend what it was I was experiencing, for which I am deeply ashamed.

            **** I ramble sometimes.

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            • This is again a myth that many men and more likely more than a few women like to tell themselves. You educate a young man in the way of love and sex, he loses his virgin edge, and becomes a real true lover for women. Based on Bennet’s legal actions, he would really disagree with you about Argento being the best thing to happen to him. In fact, it seems to be one of the worst things that happened to him. He wouldn’t have consulted a lawyer otherwise. It sexual assault committed by an adult in a position of trust. Evidence from other similar incidents shows that young men who experience sexual assault find it difficult to get into relationships because they can’t quite trust women just like women who suffer sexual assault can’t quite trust men.

              Your opinion on this matter is horrible and wrong. There is simply no real or scientific evidence to support your claim. It should be totally eliminated from the bounds of acceptable thought. Even if it is true, its only going to be a small minority of young men that get taken by the hand like this. Most of us are going to have struggle on our own for the entirety of our lives. At best we can pep talks about being more confident and faking it till we make it.

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      • I don’t think all our judgement of some event should reduce to whether harm in fact occurred. For example, lots of people have gotten behind the wheel while very drunk and driven home with no seatbelt and one hand on a smartphone… arriving in one piece with only a positive memory of the whole experience.

        Some sexual encounters should be thought of as reckless, and perhaps unethical, simply because of the risk of harm they entail.

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        • FTR, I have no issue with saying this was a reckless encounter, or even an unlawful one.
          However, it is a leap to claim it as predatory, unless there is something much, much more.

          It is the accusations of insidiousness I dislike.
          Sometimes, mistakes are made without any degree of insidiousness whatever.
          I want to see something more than tendencies, trends, statistics, or leaps of logic before I attribute insidiousness to anyone.

          Otherwise, Ms. Argento is someone who slept with someone she shouldn’t have.
          I’ve done that before, and a lot more than once.

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  1. You know, I could alllmost buy that (but not quite), in some circumstances. What makes this seem so different for me is that she met him as a 7 year old and he grew up with her as a mentor/mother figure. That’s so gross.
    I babysat, and the thought of doing what she did with any of the boys I watched, once they grew up, makes me retch.
    (It IS a crime in California regardless, as age of consent is 18, but that’s a different issue.)

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    • Guys don’t think about it from the perspective of the woman in these situations. We think about how lucky the guy seems. Given that I was once 17 and had plenty of crushes on women well into their 40s (teachers, etc) it really requires some mental discipline to see this as a crime. On the flip side, I hear 37 year old guy with a 17 year old girl makes me ready to kill. Hypocrisy…

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      • Interesting.
        The grooming aspect, or their reported “mother/son” relationship doesn’t change anything for you?
        Even if what you say is true for most men, I don’t think it is impossible for SOME young men to feel damaged by it. Especially one who has grown up in a space like Hollywood, full of adults who take advantage.

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        • FWIW the “grooming” aspect here just completely grosses me out.

          OTOH, I’ve always [1] been skeeved by the, “Oh, lucky guy!” thing even though, yeah, I was once a 17 year old boy who had crushes on older women, too. I guess it comes from age and experience and seeing the gaps between adolescent fantasy and reality.

          [1] Well, as long as I’ve been an adult, I guess.

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        • I really only have a problem with the incredibly bad judgement it shows on the part of the adult, but then I also can’t help wonder if the cultural norms in Italy are a little different? I have no knowledge of this but I have always gotten the impression that Italians in general are slightly more ‘open-minded’ about sex. And I don’t say this as a dig because I’m very much in that same boat.

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          • Even though I find it completely disgusting for all the reasons everyone has already listed, and I’m furious about it because it undermines #metoo, I also wondered if this could be at least partially cultural. Sex as an initiation ritual into adulthood has a definite mythology around it and there is something very European about it. (“Call Me By Your Name” and various defenses of Roman Polanski come to mind)

            The age of consent in most countries in Europe is WAY younger than in the US. Personally I think we have the right of it and our American so-called “Puritanism” is in this case just good sense, but this is less cut and dry than it first appears.

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            • “I also wondered if this could be at least partially cultural. Sex as an initiation ritual into adulthood has a definite mythology around it and there is something very European about it. (“Call Me By Your Name” and various defenses of Roman Polanski come to mind)”

              The older lover in Call me by Your Name was American but I don’t think so here. There have been plenty of news stories about women arrested (usually but not always teachers) for sexual relationships with their students before this current story.

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      • It’s because women are not seen as wanting to pursue sex (even though we know this isn’t true). And there is the perception that for women it’s always about an emotional attachment (sex is the result of, thus subordinate to, an emotional attraction), while men will pursue sex at a purely physical level.

        Hence the older woman is doing it for love, while the older guy is just trying to get freaky with a teenager.

        Obviously that’s all bunk, but it’s how we have been programmed by media & society.

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      • Its not hypocrisy, its patriarchy. Under patriarchal theories, men are supposed to always want sex and welcome any sexual encounter with an attractive woman. Men who do not enthusiastically jump into sex in conditions like this are belittled as not real men. However, many things that seem fine as fantasies end up being not so nice in reality. From studies, many men who end up getting seduced/assaulted by older women when they are in their adolescents develop serious trust issues and have difficult times forming relationships latter.

        They lack the recovery mechanisms available to female victims of sexual assault because nearly all organizations aimed at helping survivors of sex crimes assume that the victim is female or pre-pubescent male. They do not assume that male victims are adolescents or older. They have no idea how to help them. From what I’ve read, many are also very suspicious of male victims and don’t believe they are telling the truth.

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        • One thing that I believe it is worth noting here, as part of the way we view the reaction of people to this, is that incest and MILF porn is huge. The incest popularity has been much-debated as of late and the MILF thing has been around for years. American adults, both men and women, raised on a steady diet of this stuff, have perhaps been desensitized to certain things on the sex front.

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          • MILF porn is definitely an interest here but I’m not sure about how deep the history is. From what I can tell from my own viewing, MILF porn really took off in the early aughts. There was some older woman/younger men porn before that but not an entire genre. Likewise, in more romantic works, there has been a theme of an older woman initiating a younger man in the ways of love/sex for a long time but it co-existed with idea that women passed a certain age are not sexy at all regardless of whether your a young, middle aged, or old man.

            To a large extent, it seems that a combination of feminism and the Baby Boomers quest for eternal youth culture is what led to an increase in the fantasy of older women/younger men. People of the Baby Boom and later generations generally dressed younger and attempted to maintain a more youthful look than previous generations so I guess it didn’t seem like you were going to be in relationship with somebody that old, etc.

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            • As far as I know, the term MILF originates from another dumb American comedy, American Pie and that is from the early aughts.

              As a fantasy or concept, the whole thing is probably much older. There was another dumb 80s movie where Jacqueline Bisset plays a woman who thinks she is sleeping with a guy in his twenties. Turns out he is a guy in prep school and she continues to do it. He is in fact a scholarship student at her son’s prep school and her a good friend of her son (played by a young Rob Lowe).

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                • The “MILF” word may be new but the idea of an older partner initiating a younger person into the world of sex isn’t.

                  What about “Summer of 42?” (that kid was supposed to be 15)

                  Nor is this in any way limited to older women and younger boys.

                  What about the 100,000 romance novels who have young female virgins tenderly deflowered by older men?

                  What about “Call Me By Your Name” (that came out LAST YEAR and was a critical darling)

                  I think this issue goes way beyond MILFs.

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                  • What I’m about to say seems to be something thats becoming really controversial but I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong about May-September (or even December) romance and sex. Fraught at times, and certainly subject to some uncomfortable questions (when is sex not?) in some circumstances. But it’s been a part of human cultural and sexuality for a very long time, maybe forever. I’m not sure the push towards moral simplicity on the subject is leading anywhere good.

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                    • Theoretically, you are right. However, we need to ask ourselves whether the May-December romances of the past where as loving as modern relationships with people of roughly equal age. There were all sorts of things that used to be accepted for most of human history that we are very glad aren’t anymore. The past was a cruel place for the most part. It used to be acceptable for adults to beat children out of general principal. The child didn’t even need to do anything wrong. We rightly perceive this as abhorrent now. Same with casual cruelty to animals as popular entertainment for the masses. The greater frequency of May-December romances in the past could have been part of the hierarchy and cruelty of the past.

                      The type of social relationships that work in a very hierarchical monarchy are not suited for a more egalitarian and democratic society.

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                      • I’ve never said there shouldn’t be rules, only that we should be circumspect about them, and certainly very careful about telling adults where their personal lines are for consensual activity. I’d wager there’s never been a sexual encounter where no one could come up with a power imbalance of some kind between them. Maybe that’s part of the analysis but making it the only thing as many seem to implicitly want is infantile and at huge cost to human freedom and happiness.

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                  • I’m aware that the older person initiating a younger person into sex is a very old idea that goes back to Ancient Greece. What I’m merely noting is that it seems to have really entered into popular consciousness, at least in its most pornographic incarnations, after American Pie.

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                    • Show me that there were no older/younger relationships before c. 800 BC, and maybe you will have credibility.
                      I think the notion of a five-year old buck humping a three-year old doe has been around for a lot longer.

                      Since you’re so intense on the presence of media acknowledgement to prove the existence or non-existence of sexual relations, tell me:
                      What year was the BJ invented?
                      How did the BJ make its way to America?
                      Where did the first BJ in No. America occur?
                      I want to visit that historical marker.

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      • As a lawyer, it never ceases to amaze me that people keep creating so much evidence for the prosecution. I guess that they rationalize that what they are doing isn’t illegal because they don’t think it is wrong but one would think that criminals would have enough intelligence and will power not to do this. Yet, they create momentos because they believe they will get away with it.

        In 2014, there was a particularly horrendous sexual scandal in North Carolina involving a female teacher, a female student, and the teacher’s husband. The evidence creating by the perpetrators including the teacher and her husband getting the student’s named tattooed on their bodies, video, and the teacher having a copy of the student’s schedule with the f-word put in when the student had free time at school.

        Making the matters even worse from a defense counsel’s perspective is that the first time the scandal broke, the school and the parents of the female student decided that not prosecuting would be better. The told the teacher and the husband that if they stop seeing the student, they won’t invoke the law against them. The teacher and the husband could not do this. I can’t imagine the rage their lawyer felt. They committed this big crime and creating a humongous evidence trail and were given a relatively easy out. They couldn’t do it though.

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  2. There was a very silly 80s comedy called Just One of the Guys. It is about a young woman who cross dresses and goes undercover at her younger brother’s high school. I think she wants to prove her investigative journalist chops. She strikes up a friendship with the artsy loner kid (who looked closer to 27 than 18 but whatever). At one point, they talk about losing virginities. Artsy loner kid said that when his dad died, one of his mom’s friends had sex with him for “comfort”. Artsy loner clearly did not like this.

    I find it perplexing that one silly 80s comedy got it right.

    The idiots you mention above are not new. They appear every time there is a story about a young female high school teacher that gets arrested for sexual assault of a male student. I am getting more and more convinced that a lot of my gender are just dumb. Really dumb. They might even believe this shit

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    • I don’t find it perplexing at all that a show based on a gender-bending premise would look into a topic such as this.

      WKRP in Cincinnati had some shows about race relations that were extremely good, and it was also very good on gender.

      We really went retrograde on a lot of these issues during the 80’s and 90’s. Or maybe it’s that none of us who believed in them gave up, but they ceased to have any place on the public stage.

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      • Yeah, that movie was actually far ahead of its time in many ways. I had it recommended to me by someone I know who is also trans and I was skeptical because so much gender-bending mainstream stuff is really…. complicated and painful for me and I can’t just enjoy it on the fun goofy comfortable level that I want to.

        But it was great! So fun, and while it wasn’t perfect (almost nothing is!) — it was deeply humane.

        I actually wrote a Sunday post about it a few years back, I think.

        Highly recommend to anyone who likes somewhat cheesy 80s rom coms.

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  3. While grooming is real and might be real here. I don’t think we know enough about whether there was a long term plan in the Argentina story. Though I guess we will find out soon.

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      • I have some concerns about the term grooming; not that grooming doesn’t occur… but that it only is grooming once the sex-act occurs. Else, can you arrest someone for grooming? How would you prove that the mentoring was actually grooming absent the sex? But then, how do we know that the mentoring wasn’t really mentoring+sex? Is all mentoring grooming if sex happens? My point isn’t that people who intend to victimize don’t groom their potential victims, but do we have sufficient rigor in the category of grooming to be able to apply it as anything other than an ex post facto description of something that may or may not have been grooming?

        How are you all using the term other than “we’ll know it when we see it (after the fact)”?

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        • “Grooming” isn’t a crime; it’s more like the ground work to commit one, which may or may not ever happen.
          It generally refers to something more than just a mentoring relationship, though.
          It’s gaining trust and then getting the target gradually used to more: more touches, kissing, etc. Subtle introduction of sexual innuendo. Slow alienation from family. Planting the idea that the groomer is the only one to be trusted. It’s much more nefarious than just a mentoring relationship. But no, nobody will be arrested for grooming unless it has crossed into actual abuse.
          Like I said, I concede we don’t know if Argento “groomed” Bennett.

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            • I guess a really ambitious prosecutor could try to argue that grooming is an attempt to commit sexual assault or a crime of solicitation. Like attempt, grooming involves taking substantial steps beyond mere preparation. The issue would be how much grooming needs to be done for there to be substantial danger of committing the crime. Does the perpetrator have to get caught just right before the first sexual assault on the minor or can the perpetrator be prosecuted before that time?

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          • One thing I think gets left out of grooming discussions is the degree of self-awareness of the “groomer”. Sexual abusers, especially those who have been abused themselves, are often fragmented and dissociated around the abuses they commit. So on ONE level they sincerely are what they appear to be, a kind mentor, and on another, they’re working up to committing a huge abuse of trust, steadily eroding boundaries along the way. And since on the first level, they’re on the level, their vulnerable prey are in a bind where they become entrapped into playing along with pretending the abusive boundary erosions aren’t happening, which is part of why they are so conflicted, fragmented, dissociated around the abuse they themselves experience. We don’t have an idea of subconscious grooming, even though I think that is often what happens.

            For me, I find the identification of and awareness of grooming patterns is super-useful when looking at a serial offender, or someone one suspects of being a serial offender, not so useful when looking at an individual case.

            And to be clear, none of that excuses any of what Argento is accused of having done. If she did it, which I expect she did, it was an utter betrayal – and if it “came over her” rather than having been a calculated intention all along, that is just as sordid and disgusting as if it didn’t. If she doesn’t remember it correctly, or remembers him having raped her (possible he *did*, she has claimed to Bourdain in the past that he did, but it just doesn’t ring true to me at all, I think you have the right of it here) — that makes things sadder but it doesn’t make her any less culpable for the awful thing she did. Truly not even a little bit less culpable. The idea that someone one can feel sympathy for on one level is somehow less guilty than someone one can’t is insidious.

            Simone de Beauvoir, incidentally, had a pattern of doing this to her 16-17 year old mentees / proteges at the lycee where she taught, making them into her “girlfriends” for a time and then moving on to a new sixteen year old, and it’s the most heartbreaking thing I know about her story. It wasn’t quite as morally depraved as the whole “knowing them since they were seven and raping them anyway” aspect of this story, but fully as horrific to contemplate anyway. Because she was so aware of and so lucid about what the patriarchy had done to *her*, but she kept doing it to them anyway… I believe she eventually stopped, and she wrote “The Ethics of Ambiguity” after she stopped, so it seems like she had *some* self-awareness of her own predatory behavior, but it’s still an utterly shameful thing that most people don’t realize she did.

            Part of why I prefer kyriarchy to patriarchy, of all the weird reasons to have a word choice, is that “patriarchy” subtly excuses individual abusive women from the damage they do to other more vulnerable people.

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          • I’m not so sure about that; at least, we’re seeing plenty of grooming activities exposed in the Church scandals that include boys and girls; but that’s partly why its on my mind because we’re seeing the term “Grooming” entering the lexicon of the gen-pop and I’m not sure its ready for casual or prime-time use. Either that or Mike Pence is a pre-cog.

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    • Considering the length and nature of the relationship between Argentina and Bennet, grooming is more likely to be true than not. They met when Bennet was a little boy and Argentina was a grown woman. Argentina maintained a parental and mentor relationship with Bennet until the incident. We have no knowledge of what led to the sexual assault or whether it was a one time incident but based on other situations and what Bennet says most likely involved a lot of very coercive and non-consensual seduction.

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  4. A necessary addition to the idea that bad things happen to good people is that unjust things happen to bad people. Generally, when you have a bad or imperfect person, the idea is that if something bad or unjust happens to them they deserve it even if the unjust thing doesn’t really relate to whatever bad/immoral thing that they did. When the unjust thing seems related to the bad act or quality in a person, most people get even more self-righteous about it. Argentina committed an act of sexual assault against a minor. She should be prosecuted and face the appropriate criminal and civil penalties. However, this does not mean that she deserved to get raped by Weinstein and should not be disbelieved on the sexual assault against her because of her own immoral act against Bennet.

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  5. Ugh. TMZ published one of the photos. It just popped into my Twitter timeline, with an article that also shows text messages between Argento and a friend in which she admits sex.

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  6. Remember the Ted Haggard thing from a million years ago?

    Dude was the minister of one of the biggest churches serving Colorado Springs. A megachurch. He was the President of the National Association of Evangelicals. He was also one of the biggest voices speaking (depending on your point of view) against Same-Sex Marriage or in defense of Traditional Marriage.

    Well, as it turned out, there was a scandal involving meth and male prostitutes and it was really funny if you’re into the whole “HYPOCRISY” thing and did a great job of derailing the whole argument on the part of the anti-SSM folks.

    So when I see the argument that one of Weinstein’s accusers was a sex abuser too, I can’t help but wonder if the argument isn’t being used in service to derail the #MeToo argument… and I remember the sheer number of people in newsrooms that Weinstein had on his payroll.

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    • I have zero doubt that Weinstein or an ally is behind the story getting out, and also the same zero doubt it changes a thing we know about the wretched human being that Weinstein is. The crimes of others will not vindicate him. To note as Em did in the piece, his actual charged crimes do not involve Argento.

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      • Oh, I think that #MeToo is one of those things that will stand or fall on its own and it’s far more likely to be brought down by people being upset that they’re losing Al Frankens over it than by #MeToo advocates turning out to be hypocrites.

        But I imagine that Weinstein and his allies see a bit of a wedge issue in the whole hypocrisy thing and we can expect to see this leaned upon.

        As well as stuff like the biggest #MeToo advocates saying “Well, you need to understand…” about Argento (see: Rose McGowan) (and the Evopsych types who explain that, as groups, Males and Females have differently-sized gametes and thus will respond to coitus with different levels of attachment and pairbonding and that makes this individual incident something that can be treated differently than if the sexes/genders were reversed).

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      • Seconding this. Bennet does not seem to be the source of the leak. If anything he wanted to keep it quiet. It has to be a Weinstein ally and maybe even a Weinstein lawyer in an attempt to cast doubt on the credibility of the claims against Weinstein by Argento. The laws of evidence prohibit this type of thing in court for the most part, especially in sexual assault cases, but there isn’t anything preventing this in the court of public opinion.

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        • What if it is just MAD at work? *

          In addition to “Everyone Knew” we also have the suppressed dynamic that in Hollywood “Everyone Does”

          Except, we can’t say “Everyone Does” until that becomes an “Everyone Knew”

          * Doesn’t mean its not Weinstein or an ally, just that the potential number of people who are willing to blow-up the game might be much, much bigger.

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            • I think we’re about as close to “Everyone Does” in the Hollywood case, or the Catholic case, as we are in the family case or the organized sports case.

              IE, it’s endemic to society as currently constituted so of course it shows up all over the place.

              Now, if you want to join me over in the cooperative-focused social anarchy corner and (metaphorically only please!!!!) daydream or work on blowing up the game of society as currently constituted, you know I’ve always been down with that.

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            • There are many people with a vested interested in the existing system in Hollywood and other entertainment industries. These include powerful predators like Weinstein who get to have sex with many highly desirable people because of their position. It also includes the more cynical type of actor that just views the system as the way of the world and what you need to do to get ahead rather than as a crime of sexual assault. Its what makes the task of reform very difficult. You always run into powerful people and their hanger ons with vested interest in the way things are now.

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          • I’ll just note that people have been outraged and complaining about morality and behavior in “Hollywood” for about 100 years. There have always been crazy power dynamics coupled with the accelerants of money and fame. There has also been outsized focus on them due to sort of obvious reasons.

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  7. The other big sexual harassment scandal of the past few weeks occurred in the graduate comparative literature program of NYU.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/13/nyregion/sexual-harassment-nyu-female-professor.html

    Here the harasses is a woman and some kind of superstar in the academic world. She has a lot of other academic superstars rushing to her defense and it is comically bad about how they are doing it.

    What this shows is how strong the concept of power and privileges are in many circles and many fields (especially glamorous and lucrative ones) are extremely hierarchal. There is plenty of grunt work in academy and poorly paid non-tenure positions but it does seem extremely common for graduate professors (and many managers period) to treat their underlings as serfs at their beck and call. Even if it is not explicitly sexual harassment, a lot of the behavior shows no concept of my time/your time.

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    • “She has a lot of other academic superstars rushing to her defense and it is comically bad about how they are doing it.”

      She also has a lot of non-superstars talking quietly amongst themselves about holy cow, we had no idea, she was so kind to me, but now in retrospect I can see how many times she ignored my boundaries, I’m glad she never chose me as an actual victim, I’m hearing from other people who haven’t gone public about her being wrong with them, what can we do to offer support to her victims, this is a really important wake-up call that even my own cherished mentors could be monstrous in their behavior to others, that the stuff I say about serial abusers being the people you don’t realize are doing it * can apply to my own special people too* ….

      Not mentioning this to argue, but I was lucky enough to be given a window into this process as an observer because I know a few people participating in it, and while it gets a lot less media attention than the dramatic claims that it’s impossible (for obvious reasons), I am hopeful that it will have more long-term impact on the academy than the media attention and the defensive linings up do.

      This is, of course, the same sort of defensive alignment that happens every time some rock star man is accused of such behavior (even Weinstein has some fervent defenders), it’s just that it’s far more cognitively dissonant when it’s a feminist so it attracts more attention.

      Doing backflips to ignore the bad behavior of powerful people, as we’ve been discussing else-post, isn’t limited to one particular *kind* of hierarchy. It’s baked into hierarchy, more baked in the more intensely hierarchical the situation is, and thus incredibly difficult (not impossible) to combat without getting rid of the hierarchy itself.

      And in feminist/gender studies land, I’ve seen a lot of self-denying hierarchies that persist after equality and kindness have purportedly won the day.

      One of the things I like about our equity and inclusion center at work is that they push people to clearly acknowledge and be honest about the power relationships and hierarchies in place in their work environment, *as well as* reducing the amount of such to the bare amount you can’t help but hold onto. (We’re not going to be going to “there are no bosses at this college” any time soon :D). Those two things seem contradictory, but they have to go together. In most of society, they don’t.

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  8. My one question: Will Kirsten Gillibrand hold a news conference to formally kick Argento out of the #metoo movement so’s to solidify her feminist street cred?

    Heh. Just kidding.

    Politically, tho, I reckon this will confuse a lot of women (and men :) who’ve used #metoo punitively, as a tool to exact righteous retribution and just deserts. I always thought that was a mistake, myself.

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    • Everyone hates sober investigation, due process, and anything else that slows down the witch burning. That is until its their asses on the line.

      I can’t speak for the #metoo mob but I take no pleasure in downfalls, even of those who wouldn’t spare that consideration for others. If there’s sufficient evidence and its still within SOL then Argento should be prosecuted. My guess is that what happened with her and this kid is complicated (which is not mutually exclusive from highly immoral and/or criminal). Maybe an investigation would tease out the story but the tabloids won’t.

      I do think it would be good if these latest hits knock some wind from the sails of our would be cultural sex police. Time will tell.

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      • Yes, those damn women, not wanting to be hit on at work all the time or in the street. Don’t they know that once they leave the house, they’re fair game and if they disagree, they’re part of the stifling puritan SJW Left who want to make us all automatons at work who never look at each other?

        The truth is, #MeToo has gone nowhere near far enough.

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      • I get what your saying but this like wanting people the way you want them to be rather than the way that they actually are. Movements for political and social change really don’t work like court cases. They would fail if they did. They work by mounting an offensive and demanding that society march forward whether society wants to or not. The need to put on the pressure to get society to change is really important. Pressure causes people to realize things that they would have over looked, not talked about because it is just something best treated as a 500 pound gorilla and we all want to pretend everything is fine when it is not, and more. Also, this witch hunt is finding many witches of both genders.

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        • They work by mounting an offensive and demanding that society march forward whether society wants to or not.

          This one sentence highlights the differences between conservatives & liberals quite plainly.
          The liberal view is stated above.
          The conservative view would be:
          I will move forward, whether society does or not, without regard who might hold this offensive.

          The notion that conservatism is about restricting change wholly ignores the personal landscape of the person.

          The irony is that conservatives value a multiplicity of social institutions in favor of the individual, whereas liberals value a singularity of social institutions in favor of society.

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          • Thats the myth conservatives like to tell themselves. They might not as a whole force society to change whether they like it or not but they don’t seem to have an issue forcing society to remain in place when change they don’t like is happening.

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    • The big problem with Al Franken was that it was a Perfect Storm. We were at the peak of the #MeToo thing, for one. For two, John Conyers had just been outed as a serial harasser. For three, it came out that there was a budget dedicated to paying out on Sexual Harassment claims for congressmen.

      (We got into this back in November. We were so young!)

      And now we just remember the Franken thing as, sure, he groped a Playboy model on a USO tour with a smattering of “oh, I’m not saying I *CONDONE* what he did but…” spicing things up.

      At the time, though, there were names that kept coming up and saying “Al Franken? Yeah, he did a lot of unwelcome stuff to #MeToo…” and the people who painted themselves into a corner with “Hey, it only happened once… if there were more names making these accusations, I’d be more willing to condemn it. Anyway, Moore is running for a special election in Alabama and I don’t see you condemning *THAT*!” found themselves having to deal with the whole “more names making these accusations” thing after loudly stating that they would if such a thing happened.

      Gillibrand strikes me as fairly well-poised for future office holding… including perhaps even a run for President. (She’s already had her Sister Soulja moment!)

      But the resentment against her for speaking out against Franken? That exists even today?

      Dang. I don’t understand it.

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  9. I think it’s absolutely right that Argento’s status as an abuser or as not an abuser is a completely separate matter from whether she herself was a victim of Weinstein. The public reports about Weinstein paint enough of a picture and construct enough of a pattern to draw conclusions about his behavior. Whatever Argento did or did not do, doesn’t change the Weinstein story much.

    I do think that there is another lesson that can be learned from the Argento case and from the Avital Ronell story. That is, there are a bunch of people who claim to be speaking in the name of moral authority and claim to be on the side of righteousness and use that as an excuse to shout down anyone who disagrees with them or who offers alternative ways of thinking about these issues. And more often than not, those people are full of sh*t. Part of the reason those people spend so much time trying to shout other people down is that they are themselves trying to protect their own power and privilege.

    We get into a lot of conversations here about whether it is correct or not to dismiss the culture wars with “a plague o’er both your houses,” or whether it’s important come out and say that one side is objectively better than the other. I won’t attempt to answer that here. But I will say that the trouble with tribalism is that sh*tty people will always manage to infiltrate the tribes and hijack them to serve their own sh*tty agendas; that happens regardless of how pure the motive of the tribe is to begin with.Obviously, I only have so much information, but it’s beginning to look like Argento is one of those sh*tty people.

    Also, there are things that I have suspected about Anthony Bourdain’s suicide that look a lit more likely now.

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    • Humans have been trying to figure out what to do with toxic people since we first formed societies. We haven’t even managed to come up with a good working definition of toxic people. One person’s righteous anger or personal choice is another person’s sh*tty behavior and social posturing designed to dominate and exclude. Many toxic or sh*tty people get away with their behavior because of their high status.

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          • Oh, we know what to do. It’s all about not wanting to pay that perceived cost. And I say perceived because it’s usually a flawed perception that the cost will be much higher than it actually is, because we always remember the edge cases and assume they are the normative case.

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            • It’s probable that the perceived costs are much higher than the actual costs. There’s all sorts of ways in which our brains tend to bias us in favor or maintaining the status quo.

              Maybe one reason #MeToo took off the way it did is that the price was shown to be lower than maintaining the status quo.

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          • Avoiding toxic people almost always pays you as opposed to costing anything. It’s just that some people find ways of convincing themselves otherwise.

            For instance, Omarosa presently has a book on top of the NYT Bestseller list. I haven’t read it. And I never will. I’ve just successfully avoided an interaction with someone craven enough to work for Trump in the first place. A bunch of people however apparently feel compelled to do the exact opposite, likely because they get some perverse thrill in feeling like they are taking a knock at Trump, who is even more toxic. In this situation, I’ve paid no price. I’ve made out like a bandit.

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            • There’s this thing in society where some folks (#NotAllFolks!) use their consumption habits as essential to their identity. Fandoms are one big indicator (are you a Star Trek or a Star Wars person) but there are tons of others (do you want to have a conversation with a complete stranger at Costco? Wear a Tebow jersey!).

              Once you cross the rubicon that your identity has, as an essential part of it, consumption, you’re pretty much given an existential decision every time you encounter something like Omarosa’s book.

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              • Yes. I stood on the banks of the Rubicon, in this case the Potomac, and decided not to cross. It was likely one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made.

                I made another great decision recently. I took Facebook off my phone. In general, I try to make the decisions that keep me grounded in reality, preserve my mental health, and spare me from other people’s narcissistic, histrionic episodes. Participation in our current political culture makes it difficult to do any of those three things.

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        • I suppose this is an accurate description. Its easier to deal with toxic people from the other tribe than your own tribe. It is also easier to get rid of low-status toxic people. Or mainly what Pillsy said.

          In my hobby community, partner dancing, there is something of a problem with toxic people. You have the people, generally men, who use dancing to get away with all sorts of unwanted touching because dancing provides a lot of plausible deniability. Then you have the people who use the dance scene to engage in the really obnoxious social posturing that happens in night clubs. Argentine Tango and Hustle are especially known for social posturing. The latter is dying as a dance because young people don’t want to get involved. The former seems to survive because of the sheer mystique behind it.

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  10. I have a few questions. Does anyone have an idea why Bennett asked for $380,000? Why not $250K or $400K or some other round figure? Did he get in a particular jam or perhaps know of some payout she got? Could some of Weinstein’s people be involved in his demand?

    As an aside, here is California PC 261.5, assuming I didn’t blow the link.

    [261.5](c) Any person who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor who is more than three years younger than the perpetrator is guilty of either a misdemeanor or a felony, and shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170.

    (C) An adult who engages in an act of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor at least three years younger than the adult is liable for a civil penalty not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

    Apparently the statute of limitations on (c) is three years if charged as a felony.

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  11. Wow, too many comments to go through here. I’ll add my two cents. The kid may well be in it for the money as there are plenty of 17 year olds who would enjoy fornicating with a very attractive older women.

    The problem is this guy may not be “plenty of 17 year olds.”

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