Life goes on for the man caught in a political sex scandal, while the woman is forever stuck in time

She's not blameless, but Lewinsky has done enough penance for now

 

Share

 

Monica Lewinsky is 40 years old. Or that is what her birth certificate says, but she isn’t 40 really. Not in the eyes of the world, where she will always be a grinning twentysomething intern with a beret on her head, a stain on her dress and a cigar somewhere else.

One half of the biggest political sex scandal to rock America, Lewinsky has never really been allowed to move on from 1998, when her affair with the president was revealed. Bill Clinton, the other half, has fared better. Once the impeachment and all those weaselly words were behind him, he carried on being the most powerful man in the world for a couple more years. He had a life and career before Lewinsky, and he has one after her.

Lewinsky, who made the mistake of canoodling with the most powerful person in the world, rather than being that person, was a nobody when she met Clinton and has been a one-trick celebrity ever since. She is dogged by the beret, the dress and the cigar, as inseparable from them as Antonia de Sancha is from David Mellor in a Chelsea strip or Christine Keeler from that chair. She is trapped in a never-ending 15 minutes of fame.

In the 16 years since the tawdry details of their Oval Office fling were revealed, Lewinsky has never been able to progress beyond her White House internship. She has designed handbags, fronted a dating show and studied social psychology. She has not married and has no children, which is just as well because a happy family would not fit with the only profession that matters on her CV – one-time presidential mistress.

Now Lewinsky has resurfaced with a long essay, headlined “Shame and Survival”, in the new issue of Vanity Fair. In it she writes about her “consensual” relationship with Clinton, and its unconsensual aftermath. She writes of regret and suicidal thoughts. She describes how she cannot get work, unless that work might involve trading on being Monica Lewinsky. Writing about her life is one of the few jobs she is permitted to do and over which she has some control. She is not blameless, but she has probably done her penance by now.

Naturally the timing of her reappearance has been seized upon as political conspiracy. It is a Republican ploy to wreck Hillary Clinton’s White House bid before it gets going. It is a Democrat ploy to get the muck raked before Hillary Clinton’s White House bid gets going. Or perhaps Hillary Clinton is beyond irritated that the stale indiscretions of her husband are read as having any bearing whatsoever on her own political career.

For her part, Lewinsky claims she is speaking out now “as the first person whose global humiliation was driven by the internet”, to help other victims of online harassment. If true, that is laudable. She has also spotted a new line of diggers speeding down the highway and has decided to take the initiative. “I cannot help but fear the next wave of ‘Where is she now?’ stories,” she writes. “I’ve begun to find it debilitating to plot out the cycle of my life… on the political calendar.”

Her alternative was to keep quiet, to carry on being an unemployable eternal punchline, living in the shadows, occasionally illuminated by a Clinton career move. Given that, who can blame Lewinsky for “taking back her narrative” now? For reclining on a couch in a pretty white dress with professional hair and make-up and good lighting. For trying to move her story on beyond 1998. Rather that than be snapped every decade or so, looking older or fatter or thinner or richer or poorer than her famous 22-year-old self.

That’s the thing for the other woman (and it is almost always a woman) in a political sex scandal. They never stop being the other woman. De Sancha, now 51, was recently photographed having a beer outside a Notting Hill restaurant; Keeler, 71, pulling a shopping trolley through her south London estate. In 2014, their ageing, irrelevant faces still make headlines. Sex scandals are fascinating – they add frisson to politics, they make for not very successful musicals – but they do not change the world. Women have always “brought down” powerful men, always will, but they rarely get to control what happens after that.

“I’m determined to have a different ending to my story,” says Lewinsky. Sadly for her, the world will probably only ever remember the beginning.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager - Media Sales - £36,000 OTE

£28000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award-winning company, whi...

Recruitment Genius: C# .NET Developer / Application Support - Junior

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This business has an industry r...

Recruitment Genius: Office Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Planner

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They make daily deliveries to most foodservice...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A young person in the UK is now twice as likely to be poor as a pensioner  

Britain is no country for the young – in jobs, income or housing

Ben Chu
LaGuardia Airport: a relic from a different, gentler age  

New York's LaGuardia Airport to be rebuilt: It could become the best gateway to America

Simon Calder
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash