Blaming Women for Men’s Actions

Published by Wednesday Martin

Recently I shared (on Twitter) Lauren Evans’s outstanding article for The Establishment on the pernicious perspective embedded in the term “revenge porn.” This commonly used phrase, which has found its way into legal statutes in several countries as well as a handful of US states, refers to the practice of nonconsensually sharing sexually charged photographs of another person. As Evans notes, to categorize this behavior as “revenge” is to legitimate it as a response to a prior wrong. It follows many other modern cultural phenomena in blaming (female) victims for the harms done to them. Evans’s article put me in mind of Asia Argento, who was recently caught up in a mob of blame for the suicide of Anthony Bourdain, who she was dating at the time of his death. Bourdain, a brilliant writer and thinker, was rightfully beloved by all who followed his career and enjoyed joining him on illuminating adventures in Parts Unknown. Despite Bourdain writing a book about his past struggles with suicidal ideation and addressing the issue frequently in interviews, many people  were nonetheless quick to accuse Argento for his death. Some called her a “manipulater&user” and a “witch.” Others accused Argento of being “unfathomable” in her deceit—she was photographed with another man in the hours prior to Bourdain's death—and a destroyer of the MeToo movement. Some also suggested prosecution: “What investigators must do is to look deep into [Bourdain’s] communications with her to see what they find and file charges were [sic] needed be.”  Predictably blame landed on a woman, and worse still, one accused of being untrue. How little light there is between this and our past. We can hear echoes of Hester Prynne or Salem in the accusations that Argento is a witch. One twitter user called her a "succubus," taking us back to the days of the Malleus Maleficarum. Plus ça change. Female sexual autonomy remains disruptive and destabilizing to the social order, and the penalties women pay, whether Argento or victims of “revenge porn,” are steep. The messages society is sending these women are clear: be quiet, contain yourself, your body is not your own.