I’m not sure there’s a woman alive I feel less sorry for than Monica Lewinsky. And before you start in that I’m slut-shaming her, keep in mind that I fully respected her decision to sleep with the President…until she didn’t, retroactively slut-shaming herself after listening to the rightwing’s and some women’s insistence for two decades that she was somehow incapable of making her own sexual decisions. In fact, the rightwing and liberal women make for strange bedfellows on far too many sex issues, from Clinton to pornography to legalized prostitution to affairs to swimsuit pageants to sexy ads, and pretty much everything besides abortion and contraceptive use.
Over a long enough period of time, anyone can convince themselves they were the victim. That driver I rear-ended in high school? Well, that bastard came to a dead stop at a red light, the jerk. That boss that fired me for stealing supplies? Some people have a lot of nerve. The teacher that gave me a test I failed, and then wouldn’t change the grade? Monsters walk among us people, that’s all I can say.
And now we’re supposed to believe you can deny consent 20 years after the fact. Well Goddamn, the person that took my virginity’s got some explaining to do. She knew I was holding out for Naomi Campbell, but just had to sleep me with anyway.
By all accounts of the time, Monica Lewinsky initiated sexual contact with the President of the United States. She gave him a blowjob while he was talking Presidential business on the phone in the Oval Office, probably wet as Niagra Falls over the implications (forbidden love, geopolitical power, the best looking and youngest POTUS since Kennedy? yes, yes, yes!). Then she kept the DNA evidence on that treasured blue dress, which defies belief in so many respects it’s almost comical (sperm stains are pretty gross, and people don’t typically keep decorative cum rags to mark the occasion). Afterwards, the Clinton Presidency was pretty much mired in scandal, making this the costliest blowjob in history, or at least since the lookout on the Titanic was getting his pole-puffed in the crow’s nest while an iceberg lurked over his shoulder.
After 20 years, Lewinsky herself seems to be at war with the younger version of herself that insisted for all that time the affair was consensual, probably because it was. But the #MeToo Movement’s insistence it wasn’t seems to have finally gotten to Lewinsky. Even before her change of heart, Congress’s resident Aunt Lydia Kristen Gillibrand figured out she no longer needed Hillary and threw the Clintons under the bus in hopes of riding a fraction of the people that don’t like HRC to the White House in the most foolhardy recent campaign strategy not devised by Jon Snow.
And even though I hate seeing a great President like Clinton (who led 8 years of peace and prosperity, the asshole!) torn down in a way Republicans would never do—seeing how they convinced people Reagan was a great President, they’d likely put Slick Willy on the $20 bill—it’s the larger implications that are what’s most troubling. It had already started with Aziz Ansari, accused of perpetuating the nebulously-defined “rape culture” for not knowing a 23-year-old woman would have buyer’s remorse about a blowjob the day after. [Although you get the feeling that if the woman had initiated sexual contact and Aziz refused her by saying she might regret it the next day, he’d be accused of slut shaming.]
I thought that was ridiculous enough, but to be denied consent 20 years after the act? At some point, the statute of limitations runs out on actual crimes, and you might think the court of public opinion would eventually follow suit. [To me, it might also be different if the Clintons had had a relatively stress-free life since the Lewinsky incident rather than the very real vast rightwing conspiracy that has tried to undermine their past legacy and future endeavors before, during, and after their White House tenure.] But no, there is apparently no statue of limitations on regretting sexual encounters. And somehow women’s movements have drifted from saying “my body, my rights” to “you need to make decisions for me because I may not be capable in that moment.” You should be very afraid of that implication.
After all, The Handmaid’s Tale initially begins with a “revolution” under the guise of protecting women from the evils of the modern world. By insisting a 22-year-old woman like Monica Lewinsky isn’t capable of deciding whether or not she wants to have a sexual relationship with the President, aren’t you really saying women aren’t capable of understanding their urges, their desires, and their own sexuality? Is a man really expected to deny sex because a woman might decide decades later that it wasn’t consensual? After all, if people didn’t have sex they’d regret years later, most sex wouldn’t happen. A “live and let live,” “my experiences shape me,” “nothing lasts forever” philosophy on one night stands, drunken hook-ups, or inappropriate (consensual) sex with your boss, best friend, jerk ex, sibling’s spouse, etc. seems much healthier than holding on to the past. Sleeping with the President would probably be a pretty nice memory for most of us—the current President notwithstanding—so why curdle it with woulda, shoulda, couldas?
Keep in mind that Saudi Arabia’s gender segregation laws are supposedly designed to “protect women,” and there’s a thin line between “protecting women” and oppressing them. By starting out trying to protect women from the very real problem of sexual harassment, but already drifting into trying to protect women from themselves, can the #MeToo movement really claim it’s not heading for an ideologically similar place to Mike Pence? I’d hate to see that happen, and maybe some of the women the movement claims to be helping (while it only really seems adept at making Democratic fundraisers and politicians look just as bad as Republicans) wouldn’t want it either.