Somewhere, somehow, you fucked up. It’s okay. All of us fuck up. Sometimes, we do things we’re ashamed of. We take advantage of people and manipulate them. It’s called being human.
I don’t claim to know what transpired between you and Jimmy Bennett. All I know is that if you did what he claims you did, you broke the law. Sadly, statutory rape doesn’t provide for personal stories and histories, because the law assumes the minor is legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse. Even if there was verbal consent, and you believe Jimmy was capable of it, the law will dismiss it. In all likelihood, an investigation won’t be opened and this may pass rather quickly.
And yet, the leaking of this news couldn’t have come at a worse time. You lost your partner a little over two months ago to suicide, and most of us can’t comprehend what that feels like. You’ve been through your fair share of sexual harassment and far worse. Perhaps the media could have allowed you a few more months to process your insurmountable grief? But nothing sells like scandal and payback, in a world where moral judgment has become a self-righteous virtue.
I salute you for being one of the pioneers of the #MeToo movement. The movement started out as an empowered space for certain women to share how certain men feel entitled to their space, and their bodies. It slowly degenerated into a witch hunt, and is now struggling to hold on to the same level of mass support it had gathered at the start.
Instead of pushing for due process, and sensitivity training in law enforcement, #MeToo simultaneously became police, judge and jury. It divided the world into two distinct groups: the good people and the evil people. It pushed a narrative that the victim/survivor was always to be believed, that the abuser/perpetrator was to be destroyed and ‘live in disgrace’. And it gave power to countless who wielded their virtual pitchforks against all men, thus succumbing to the sick feeling that is virtue signaling.
I had hoped the #MeToo movement would usher in a new, powerful space.
Where men and women could sit together and discuss flirting, consent, chivalry and boundaries in public, personal and professional arenas.
Where women could understand how men think, and men understand how women feel.
Where women could talk about how their sexual arousal and orgasms are different from men’s sexual arousal and orgasms.
Where people could discuss how to negotiate sexual encounters, and take individuality and nuance into context.
Where people stood up against abuse and victimhood.
Where men, women and transgender persons felt empowered and welcome.
I had hoped the #MeToo movement would have taught some women how to stand their ground and say no. How to reject large sums of money offered by men after a sexual assault. How to be upfront if they had accepted thousands of dollars as tokens of silencing. I had hoped the #MeToo movement would have taught some men how to withstand the pain of a rejection so it didn’t destroy them and the people in their lives. I would have hoped it would have taught them that they couldn’t get away with sexual assault anymore, and that there are far more pleasurable ways to get laid than abusing someone.
Instead, the #MeToo movement became known for publishing lists of men who have committed the unforgivable sin of flirting with someone who worked for them, or using a historical term now considered sexist.
Argento, I ask the people who are relishing your ‘defeat’ to take a step back, and observe where this vicarious pleasure at another’s pain stems from. I ask the same of those who rejoice every time a man loses his job for a casual grope, flirting with the door closed, or an innocuous ‘sexist’ joke.
I ask all people, including myself, to cultivate and honor compassion. Compassion can be learned if it is not innate to the self. Compassion requires brutal self-introspection, and admission of one’s own weaknesses. Compassion is hard. Venting out on Twitter is far easier.
Now that the media has painted you as both prosecutor and defendant, it is my sincere hope that you will offer yourself more compassion than you did to all the men you accused of poor conduct. It is also my sincere hope that you will own up to your own failings, if there was indeed a failing in the case of you versus Jimmy Bennett. I pray you will not paint yourself as a victim. And I hope that people will finally push for due process, and leave behind the cesspool of hate that constitutes the online mob.
Each one of us holds a shadow self, dear Argento. The day we realize that we have the capacity to play both abuser and victim is the day we are set free from hate and malice.