Content warning: this newsletter contains references to sexual violence and cannibalism.
I first saw the rumours last weekend on DeuxMoi, the celebrity gossip account that burst onto the celebrity gossip scene this year, and quickly racked up almost 600,000 Instagram followers. A former hookup of Armie Hammer's had leaked DMs he'd sent to her throughout their relationship, and they were weird and explicit. Pretty much par for the course for a recently-divorced Hollywood star, right?
Um. Wrong. Because according to these DMs, Armie Hammer gets off on cannibalism.
Here's the thing: disturbing as that part of this story may be, it's actually not nearly as bad as the allegations of grooming, controlling and manipulative behaviour, pushing the boundaries of consent and other examples of intimate partner violence. But I've seen far more of the "Armie Hammer might be a cannibal" take than thoughtful pieces about abuse, and I honestly wonder if where the story broke had something to do with that framing.
There's clearly a lot to unpack here, so let's start with how this information even became public. (Though before we go on, please note that none of this information has been independently verified, and in fact, Hammer has denied everything, calling the rumours "vicious and spurious online attacks" and "bullshit claims.")
The story originated with @HouseofEffie, an anonymous Instagram account. From what I can tell based on the account's Story Highlights, Effie is claiming the actor has a rotating cast of women who he'd hook up with when he was in their cities despite, yes, being married at the time. He calls them "kittens" (ugh) and he has super kinky sex with them. When Effie posted about her experience with Hammer last week, it sparked a flood of comments from other women who he'd treated the same way.
Now, at first, this seemed to be about Hammer requesting they fly out to see him then ghosting them, or demanding they not have sex with anyone else while not being honest about all the people he was having sex with, or asking them to introduce him to other girls who might want to sleep with him. So, gross and salacious, yes, but not, you know... eating people.
But don't worry, we get there quite quickly.
In one DM, someone who appears to be Hammer says, "thinking of holding [Effie's] heart in [his] hand and controlling when it beats" gets him "so hard," that he's "100% a cannibal" and that he wants to eat her. Oh, and he claims he's "cut the heart out of a living animal before and eaten it while still warm," which I guess was meant to add a dash of vérité? In another DM (not pictured), he floats the idea of cutting off one of her toes so he could "keep it [in his] pocket" because he wanted to always have a piece of her "in [his] possession."
But... did you see the details in the other DMs? The ones about "raping [her] on the floor with a knife against [her]"? How he felt like a god when she was "crying and screaming" while he stood over her? At first, I dismissed that—and frankly, all of this—as a kink that I didn't need to know more about.
But then Courtney Vucekovich, the founder of a beauty and photography app called Flashd and Hammer's ex-girlfriend, spoke to Page Six on Thursday, and if I didn't already understand that these DMs were not about cannibalism as much as they were about abuse, I certainly did after reading about her experiences.
He talked about eating Vucekovich, too, she says: "He said to me he wants to break my rib and barbecue and eat it... [Or] he says, 'I want to take a bite out of you.' If I had a little cut on my hand, he’d like suck it or lick it. That’s about as weird as we got."
That's not what took an emotional toll, though. Hammer was also manipulative, overwhelming her with charm before coercing her into doing things she wasn't comfortable with. "He quickly grooms you in the relationship," she told the paper. "He kind of captivates you and while being charming, he’s grooming you for these things that are darker and heavier and consuming. When I say consuming, I mean mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, just everything." She also said his drinking made her uncomfortable, that he became obsessive and that he put her in "dangerous situations where [she] was not OK."
And Vucekovich may not have been the only one. Writer Jessica Ciencin Henriquez, who was linked to Hammer in September, tweeted in support of Effie, saying, "If you are still questioning whether or not those Armie Hammer DMs are real (and they are) maybe you should start questioning why we live in a culture willing to give abusers the benefit of the doubt instead of victims."
Listen, I get it. The idea that a (not-quite-as-famous-as-his-publicist-would-like) Hollywood star was into cannibalism was always going to be internet crack—but by choosing to focus on those DMs instead of the ones where he clearly pushes his partner's boundaries, it turns a story about alleged abuse into a spectacle.
I know Armie Hammer discourse on this platform is 90% cannibalism jokes because people assume it’s too macabre to be real but I want to advise everyone against using your coping mechanism humor at the expense of traumatized young women trying to come forward about this right now.— Leah #XFAQtor Williams (@mymonsterischic) January 14, 2021
To be really clear, Effie and the other women who have shared their stories with her
say that Hammer routinely tried to, or actually did, coerce them into participating in sex acts that they didn't want to. That he ignored their safe words. That he gaslit them. And that many of them were in their late teens or early 20s when it happened. (Which is an age group we've talked about before when it comes to predatory men, btw.)
Every time we share memes about cannibalism instead of talking about consent, we're minimizing what these young women say they experienced. And, we're also sending a message about who we believe when they say they've been abused—something that's especially relevant here, because we're talking about women who engaged in kinky sex with the person they say victimized them.
In February, during Harvey Weinstein's trial, defense attorney Donna Rotunno "employed a harsh, blunt-edged form of victim blaming," according to a New Yorker article by Naomi Fry. In fact, Fry wrote, "in a recent interview with Megan Twohey on the Times’s 'The Daily' podcast, the lawyer chastised women who don’t 'take precautions' in their relationships with men, leaving themselves vulnerable to sexual assault. 'You make a choice to go into their home at the end of the day, what do you think could potentially happen?' she asked."
I can just guess just what Rotunno would think of Effie, who says she told Hammer she didn't want him to wrap a belt around her neck... but still continued to have sex with him when he ignored her request. But of course, Rotunno would be wrong. People aren't "perfect victims." They may behave in ways that seem illogical, or take risks we deem unacceptable. They may do things they don't want to because they think acquiescing will make their abuser value them more. They may forget details or mix up timelines. None of that automatically discounts their stories, or excuses Hammer's alleged behaviour.
The thing is, it's hard to get that nuance in an IG story, you know? And that's why, in addition to learning far more than I ever wanted to about a bunch of strangers' sexual preferences, I've been trying to work out how I feel about DeuxMoi's role in amplifying this story... And DeuxMoi in general, tbh.
The account is the reason most of us even know about Effie—it has been reposting her stories alongside speculation from readers and tips from supposed insiders since Sunday, making it if not the only place to get information, certainly one of the most popular for the first few days of this news cycle. (Aside from U.K. outlets like the Daily Mail and the Sun, which are known for their sensationalist, and sometimes unreliable, stories, most mainstream pubs didn't even pick up the story until Hammer himself made a statement on Wednesday.) It even played a role in giving the story credibility; early on, screenshots that seemed to be from Effie cast doubt on her claims, but DeuxMoi helped debunk them.
Has Armie Hammer been fired from more jobs than Shia bc his story is is making more of you laugh or bc the women accusing him are white? I’m confused.— MOST TONY NOMINATED ONEHIT WONDER Jeremy O. Harris (@jeremyoharris) January 14, 2021
And part of me thinks that's a good thing. It's clearly important and necessary to hold space for survivors of sexual violence, and to hear their stories when they're ready to tell them. And in that way, it's not dissimilar to Diet Prada and Shit Model Management amplifying Owen Mooney's allegations of sexual assault against Alexander Wang.
But another part of me keeps thinking about the way New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey covered Harvey Weinsteins abuse—the time they spent building trust, the months of reporting they did, the context they included, the facts they exhaustively checked. When the news finally did break, most of us trusted that what Kantor and Twohey told us was true and as a result, we saw real social change.
But DeuxMoi isn't fact-checked or vetted. The account's owner admits themselves that 80% of the emails they receive are anonymous, and let's be real, the remaining 20% could easily be lies. Luckily, this time it seems like they got it right. But it's almost inevitable that they'll share a story that isn't true, and what happens then? Well, people will brush it off, because it's an anonymous gossip Instagram account and you get what you pay for. But will they remember the next time someone tries to come forward about their abuse? Maybe. And in that case, who suffers the consequences for DeuxMoi's inevitable amplification of false information? It's not going to be DeuxMoi; it's going to be the very victims we say we want to hear from.
I don't know what the fix is (or if we even need a fix). But I can't help but wish that this story had been told in a different way.
Vogue's controversial Kamala Harris cover, which the Vice President-elect hadn't shared on Instagram as of Friday morning 😬 Karen Attiah argued the cover diminished a powerful Black woman. And ICYMI, Kara Swisher's interview with Anna Wintour—which took place before the photo leaked—was masterful.
The pandemic-inspired evolution of celebrity merch. (Think, Drake’s candles or Lady Gaga’s bar soap.)
New York mag’s story about the possibility COVID was created in a Chinese lab. It was… something. In fact, Delia Cai published a really smart piece of media criticism on the story this week and I’d actually recommend reading that.
The existence of competitive dog dancing.
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