Memo to Chris Cuomo: No means no.
It seems the CNN interviewer still hasn't figured out that the idea that women really mean yes when they say no is simply untrue. And while the admonition is generally applied to a situation where a woman is declining sex, in Cuomo's case, it's a situation in which the interviewer simply refused to accept that accused murderer Amanda Knox is not some "deviant," sex-crazed "freak."
Knox was convicted of killing her roommate, Meredith Kercher, while the women were attending college in bucolic Perugia, Italy. Her conviction was overturned by an Italian court, after which another, higher Italian court sent the case back for retrial. Part of the controversy over Knox's initial trail and conviction was the story line – not supported by much other than rumors, reads of Knox's in-prison diary (which may have been radically misunderstood because of the language barrier) and the musings of a prosecutor who had already shown a fascination with sex cults – that Knox was some sort of deranged harlot. This wasn't just the suggestion that Knox was having sex, even a lot of sex, as college students often do, but that she was obsessed with orgies and other behavior not generally associated with a college-aged woman on a year abroad. "Foxy Knoxy," the tabloids called her, and the image stuck.
That Knox the Slut somehow became Knox the Murderess is not all that surprising; women have been punished for expressing their sexuality for centuries, and the leap from sex fiend to killer was made in the Knox case. The theory was that Knox was so angry that Kercher refused to participate in some sort of "deviant" orgy that she killed her. The premise is so bizarre that one can't believe that professional prosecutors made it. It's not that it's inconceivable that a young woman might commit murder; it's that it's far more plausible that a college student might have stabbed a roommate over who drank the last beer in the mini-fridge. But for refusing to join an orgy? Please.
Cuomo was not convinced, and – as is distressingly more common in the supposed serious media – went for the prurient. Sounding less like a journalist and more like a detective in an old "Law and Order" episode trying to berate a witness into breaking down in a tearful confession, Cuomo harassed Knox (h/t Think Progress):
CUOMO: Were you into deviant sex? Insensitive question, but hey, we gotta get to what it is. This fuels the doubt. Were you into that kind of experimentation?
CUOMO: Did Meredith suspect you were into these types of things and created a barrier between the two of you?
CUOMO: And therefore you resented her because she was judging you? None of that?
KNOX: No. Absolutely not. There's no evidence of that.
CUOMO: That's the theory. Knox is into some freaky sexual things. She tried to pull in Meredith, who was a staid, buttoned-up Brit, she wasn't into it, and it went wrong ... That was in the discussion of the judges, yes?
KNOX: Absolutely. I was there in the courtroom when they were calling me things like "violent," "whore," and "deviant." And it's all untrue.
CUOMO: Where are they getting that from? Did you have any type of experimental activities that you're embarrassed to talk about? That they know about?
KNOX: Well in the book I talk about all my sexual experiences, and I haven't needed to talk about the details of that because they aren't deviant. I wasn't strapping on leather and bearing a whip. I've never done that.
CUOMO: No group activities?
KNOX: I've never taken part in an orgy, ever.
The irony here is overwhelming. Knox is accused of being a murderer motivated by sexual "deviancy" (never mind who decides what is "deviant"). And yet it is Cuomo who seems to have created some adolescent fantasy about the slutty girl and her uptight, English friend. Is this journalism or the working script for a bad porn movie?
Knox's experience with the Italian criminal justice system has been troubling. The prosecutor assigned to her case, Giuliano Mignini, had been censured for abusing his office but was still allowed to take on the high-profile case. He also had floated the theory before, in another case, of a Satanic cult. Knox also has had to deal with the fact that in Italy, a court can throw out a conviction but a higher court can re-open the case for retrial. Who would have thought Knox would be treated worse by a news organization? Knox may indeed be guilty. But the obsession with her presumed sex life has made it almost impossible to get at the real facts and truth of Kercher's death.
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