Monica Lewinsky says that her perspective on the scandal that consumed her life and the United States in the late 1990s has continued to shift in light of the #MeToo movement, and she now is not sure that she could have consented to a relationship with former President Bill Clinton while she was a White House intern.
In an essay in Vanity Fair, Ms Lewinsky described that evolution — which, in some respects, she describes as a life-long struggle for peace — and how the stories of brave women coming forward in recent months to tell their stories of sexual assault, harassment, or the misuse of power has made her rethink the affair she had with the President of the United States more than 20 years ago.
Ms Lewinsky does not cede her agency in the matter — she has long said that the relationship was consensual, that she was a willing participant. But, she says she is now considering the fact that there was an inherent power differential between a White House intern and the president.
“Now, at 44, I’m beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern,” Ms Lewinsky writes. “I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot. (Although power imbalances — and the ability to abuse them — do exist even when the sex has been consensual.)”
“This” (sigh) is as far as I’ve gotten in my re-evaluation; I want to be thoughtful,” she writes.
”But I know one thing for certain: part of what has allowed me to shift is knowing I’m not alone anymore. And for that I am grateful.
In the beginning portion of her essay, Ms Lewinsky recalls meeting former special counsel Ken Starr, who led the impeachment effort against Mr Clinton. The encounter, at a restaurant, reminded her of the 13 months of scandal that engulfed her life, and the nation, decades ago.
Ms Lewinsky places a fair amount of blame on the coverage of that scandal, and the relentless pursuit of the special counsel’s office in particular, for the trauma she has continued to cope with flowing the ordeal.
But, she also noted that she was publicly alone during that time. Mr Clinton did not speak up on her behalf during that time to defend her. Few really did, even though she plenty of support from family and many in the US who wrote her letters at the time.
It is in part that lack of public support, and the public support of women she sees in the #MeToo and Times Up movements, that gives her hope, she says.
“I—we—owe a huge debt of gratitude to the #MeToo and Time’s Up heroines,” she writes. “They are speaking volumes against the pernicious conspiracies of silence that have long protected powerful men when it comes to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and abuse of power.”
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