Goldberg’s Dilemma: When The Rapist Is A Woman

The New York Times, much to its credit, broke the story of Asia Argento’s payoff of Jimmy Bennett. They name the “victim,” something they don’t do except when they do. They speak of his financial woes, suggesting he was in it more for the money than the mental anguish and suffering of a person sexually abused. Blaming the victim isn’t usually part of the narrative either. But still, they told the story, which meant that an icon of #MeToo was knocked off her pedestal.

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 underlying “offense” doesn’t at first appear to be particularly tear-evoking. California’s age of consent is 18, making sex between an older Asia Argento and a 17-year-old Jimmy Bennett a matter of technical rape, rape only because the law says so. And he liked it. And teenage boys want sex. Yes, it’s the “he asked for it” defense, which would be unacceptable if used against a woman but somehow fine when one doesn’t get all prissy about a male.

Except Argento was a surrogate mother to the boy since he was ten, until she ended up pulling his pants off at 17. That sucks.

Had she not climbed atop the Harvey Weinstein victim pedestal, Bennett might not have gone after her. There’s something about holding oneself out as a beacon of purity and victimhood that makes people want to knock you down. Particularly the people you rape. Glass houses have glass bedrooms. If you don’t want anyone to see what you’re doing in there, don’t scream to the world, “look at me!”

But what was Argento to do about it? The evidence proving Bennett’s claims was strong, perhaps overwhelming, and she was completely exposed as a leading voice of #MeToo. So she got a lawyer. A “fixer,” for those who lack a clear grasp of the role lawyers play in disputes. The lawyer negotiated a pay off of $380,000 over time, for which Argento would get the picture of her and Bennett lying naked in bed and a non-disparagement agreement.

In an April letter addressed to Ms. Argento confirming the final details of the deal and setting out a schedule of payments, Ms. Goldberg characterized the money as “helping Mr. Bennett.”

“We hope nothing like this ever happens to you again,” Ms. Goldberg wrote. “You are a powerful and inspiring creator and it is a miserable condition of life that you live among shitty individuals who’ve preyed on both your strengths and your weaknesses.”

If the name, Ms. Goldberg, sounds familiar, it’s because that’s Carrie Goldberg, who in 2014 reinvented her practice to be the lawyer for female revenge porn “survivors.” Apparently, “shitty individuals” is an exceptionally malleable concept, as is a payoff for silence as opposed to “helping Mr. Bennett.” Carrie represented Argento, so her tummy-rubbing the rapist as if she was the victim is understandable. That’s where her money is coming from.

Whether anything “like this” happens to Argento again is more a matter of how many other young men she raped than anything else, but hope springs eternal, and it cost Carrie nothing to write soothing words to her client.

I’ve been critical of Carrie’s shtick in the past, both because of her excess of hyperbolic and disingenuous rhetoric and her dearth of success in helping her “victims,” while enjoying a bit of undeserved notoriety. It wasn’t personal. Carrie seems like a nice enough person, and I can’t blame her for building a brand that will earn her a living on the backs of female revenge porn victims.

But here she represents the rapist. Here she “fixes” the rapist’s problem by doing a Michael Cohen deal to conceal her client’s dirty deed. Even if one doesn’t care all that much about what she did to Jimmy Bennett, Argento cared enough to pay him off. It’s no different when you swap genitalia between the silence buyer and seller. And the lawyer for the sad “survivors” can use as many adjectives as she likes, but her client is still the rapist. A woman, but still the rapist.

Ms. Argento, who lives in Rome, subsequently turned to Ms. Goldberg — a prominent lawyer for victims of online attacks — to handle the case.

Welcome to the real world of lawyers, Carrie. Whether the deal cut here was a good one, who knows? Silence is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it. It’s not your fault that some rat decided to anonymously send the New York Times the secret agreement, the secret photo, the very reason for your client’s payoff. Rats happen, and I have no use for them, but they’re outside the lawyer’s control. Carrie’s not to blame for this massive failure of concealment.

But here you are anyway, representing the rapist against the “survivor.” You can wrap it up in whatever pretty bows make you feel less dirty about what you’re doing, but you know, just as I know, that all the cries of sad tears for victims is now revealed as a complete crock of shit. It was all talk, the pretense of being on the victim side of the narrative until the client who called, who sought your representation, ended up being the rapist instead of the victim. And you took the case and tried to fix the problem. You’re a fixer, Carrie. No adjective can hide what you did here. You fixed. Or at least you tried.

Don’t feel bad. This is what lawyers do, represent clients. Sometimes they’re the good guys. Sometimes they’re not. But let’s cut the crap and stop pretending women are always the victims and our representation is all about serving some cause of truth and justice. We represent clients, whether they’re the survivor or the predator. That’s what lawyers do. Now, Carrie, you’re a lawyer like the rest of us. Welcome.

28 thoughts on “Goldberg’s Dilemma: When The Rapist Is A Woman

  1. delurking

    Ok, yah, whatevs.
    Dog bites man.
    blah-de-blah blah.
    Who cares? Hollywood people in bed…
    “Except Argento was a surrogate mother to the boy since he was ten, until she ended up pulling his pants off at 17.”
    Oh. That changes the picture quite a bit now, doesn’t it?

    1. SHG Post author

      Creepy is what creepy does. Under other circumstances, one might characterize it as a pedophile grooming a child. Someone else would use the sexist twist, “as if women had no libido and weren’t entitled to have sexual desires.”

      1. B. McLeod

        Now “#MeToo” has a double meaning, for those who have run with the rabbits, but would now hunt with the hounds.

        1. SHG Post author

          In a sane world, both sides would see that and let go of the insanity. But we live in this world, where they’ll just hurl bigger balls of shit.

  2. Sacho

    I scrolled through the comments of the article to get an idea of how people reacted to this. Here’s two comments that are flagged as a “Times pick”, whatever that means:

    > Susan Hellyer San Francisco28m ago Times Pick
    Am I the only one who thinks that Harvey Weinstein’s team found and anonymously emailed these documents to the NYT? …. [blah blah blah more conspiracy theories about Weinstein]

    > Joanna Stelling NJ1h ago Times Pick
    [ The world is sad and I’m sad, snipped] It was heartening to read that Ms. Argento did not want to include an NDA in her settlement with Mr. Bennett, but what on earth was she thinking when she invited an underage boy to her hotel room and plied him with liquor?

    The emperor’s clothes come off, and the people turn away, refusing to acknowledge it. There’s no self-reflection that perhaps the goals chased here are not as moral and just as assumed, that people cannot fit into these simplistic molds…there’s only a resolve to continue pushing further:

    > but we really need some kind of national, or international reckoning on how we treat children

    1. SHG Post author

      We need to cut the bullshit of the social justice narrative that overcomes facts and reason and instead look at reality. People do bad things to other people. Men do it. Women do it. Whites do it. Blacks do it. Adults do it. Children do it. Instead of deciding based on the first word of the last six sentences, figure out what the last word, the “it,” means.

        1. Patrick Maupin

          Certainly, if it was Bill instead of losingtrader, the proper conjugation would have been “Y’all are one sick puppy.”

  3. Guy Who Moves WordPress Sites All The Time

    I find the description of your travails in getting someone to move your blog unfathomable. It is something I do for free for any client I onboard. Thousands of posts & hundreds of thousands of comments are not a problem. And you have been “using” WordPress since the end of 2013:

    From a distance, it sounds like you are being defrauded. (I am guessing this won’t make it past the moderation queue because of the URL but that you will see it.)

    1. SHG Post author

      Perhaps I was unclear about the problem. I started on a GoDaddy platform called Quick Blogcast, which use proprietary software. The protocol added four letter suffixes to all urls, usually .asdx. The problem wasn’t moving them (other than the fact that GoDaddy had no backup feature), but that all the links to the posts, whether from me or elsewhere, included the suffixes. When the posts were moved here, they were renamed using WP’s methods, which didn’t include the suffixes, so all the old internal links were dead and needed to be changed to remove the now dead suffix urls.

      1. Guy Who Moves WordPress Sites All The Time

        I copy now. I would definitely charge extra for that kind of hassle.

        1. SHG Post author

          The move was easy. It was the cleanup afterward that was the problem.

          It just occurred to me that your comments and my replies are in the wrong post. Whatever happened, they should been to this post.

  4. Bryan Burroughs

    I’m very surprised to see you being so quick to call Argento a rapist, full stop. At least one news organization (CNN, I think) has reported that Bennett was initially enthusiastic about the encounter, but woke up the next day feeling shame and regret. With its obvious parallels to the Title IX Star Chambers of Regret, I figured you would at least give her the benefit of the doubt. Under those circumstances, I wouldn’t be willing to unequivocally call her a rapist for doing something that would have been legal in most other states.

    1. SHG Post author

      If he was 17 at the time, it was statutory rape whether he loved it or hated it, and whether 17 is the right age for statutory rape or not. Read harder, it’s in there.

      1. Bryan Burroughs

        I saw the age angle, thus my statement: “Under those circumstances, I wouldn’t be willing to unequivocally call her a rapist for doing something that would have been legal in most other states.”

        At a minimum, I’d expect a little gloating over the regret angle. You have let me down! *shakes internet fist*

        1. SHG Post author

          You don’t have to like the law, but it’s still the law. Hence, the “quick to call her a rapist.”

          1. Bryan Burroughs

            It’s not a matter of not liking the law. I’m pretty certain you’ve argued in other posts (possibly regarding sex offender registries) against equivocating between “rapists” and “people who have sex with others barely below the legal age of consent.” You’re using a legal technicality in a way that you would previously have excoriated others for engaging in.

            It’s even more absurd that if the act had occurred roughly 350 miles NE, your legal distinction vanishes. She’s a “California rapist” but not a “Nevada rapist?”

            I find it tough to believe that if a 20yo+1day client walked into your office with a charge of having sex with a 16yo-1day, you’d look at the client and call him a rapist. It removes the meaning from the word, which is the exact argument you’ve made before.

            1. SHG Post author

              It’s unfortunate when someone goes three rounds of idiocy in the comments, but if they are so lacking in impulse control, there’s little I can do about it except send you off to reddit.

    2. B. McLeod

      “Alleged rapist,” then (but with naked pictures and corroborating IG posts as well). Note that when it comes to statutory rape, “It would’ve been legal in most other states” is unlikely to fare too well as a defense.

Comments are closed.