When Amanda Knox was accused of murdering her roommate, Meredith Kercher, in 2007, the prosecution and the Italian media helped fuel baseless but titillating rumors that Knox was a sex fiend who killed Kercher for refusing to participate in an orgy. On Tuesday night, Chris Cuomo attempted to bully and shame the 25-year-old with his own theories about her sex life.
Cuomo peppered Knox with invasive questions about her sexual preferences, demanding to know if she was hiding “freaky sexual things”:
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.
As Knox became more agitated and appeared to be on the verge of tears, Cuomo continued to insist that someone must have told the prosecution that Knox had a secret kinky sex life, even asserting, “you’re a freak!” Finally, she burst out:
They didn’t get it from me, and they didn’t get it from witnesses. It literally came from the prosecution. And this is what I’ve been up against this entire time. This fact that the prosecution was projecting onto what happened their own theories about young women and women who are…I was sexually active. I was not sexually deviant.
Cuomo’s attempt to use suggestions of sexual deviance to bully Knox follows in a long tradition of public entitlement to scrutinize and judge female sexuality. The recent string of highly publicized sexual assaults has exposed how the media weaves narratives in which “drunk party girls” get what they deserve. Meanwhile, comprehensive sex education is stifled in many conservative states lest children become too comfortable with their sexuality.
However, many women are starting to call out their bullies, from Anne Hathaway’s cold response to questions about a revealing photo to 17-year-old Katelyn Campbell’s protest of an abstinence assembly that told students their mothers would hate them if they used birth control. Most recently, kidnap and rape victim Elizabeth Smart spoke out about the culture of sexual purity that taught her she was worthless after her rape. And Knox, staying composed in response to Cuomo’s probing, firmly refused to equate sexuality with guilt in the public eye.