"I'm so sorry you were so alone.” Those seven words undid me.
February 25, 2018 5:03 PM   Subscribe

Monica Lewinsky: Emerging from “The House of Gaslight” in the Age of #MeToo. On the 20th anniversary of the Starr investigation, which introduced her to the world, the author reflects on the changing nature of trauma, the de-evolution of the media, and the extraordinary hope now provided by the #MeToo movement.
posted by lalex (74 comments total) 76 users marked this as a favorite
 
Every time I hear anything from Monica Lewinsky these days, I’m shocked at the level of class, grace, and dignity she’s been able to emerge from this scandal with. That was an extraordinary article, if anything, my only criticism of it is that she is too hard on herself (understandable, I think she is just trying to ward off criticism in advance) considering the power inbalance in the relationship that made her a household name.
posted by The Gooch at 5:30 PM on February 25, 2018 [99 favorites]


Wow. What an incredible, thoughtful, brilliant woman Monica Lewinsky is. In no way am I diminishing her life or accomplishments when I say that I regret that we never got to meet her in a parallel universe where her boss didn’t hang her up to dry after he got caught violating every ethical guideline you can imagine when it comes to sex and power differentials in the workplace. Her struggle to reconcile a woman’s sexual agency with his vile behavior make my heart hurt.
posted by xyzzy at 5:33 PM on February 25, 2018 [46 favorites]


I remember, being a young man who was only slightly younger than her at the time, thinking she was gorgeous, and really frustrated by a media which loved to make fat jokes about her. David Letterman was particularly vile in his fat shaming of her, although Jay Leno didn't pass up chances either (which like, look at your fucking self in the mirror, shithead.). I never even thought she seemed particularly heavy.

Well fuck them, she's even more fucking gorgeous than she was then.

I still have a crush on her. Probably even moreso that she has found so much strength and her own voice.

Given my PTSD and my understanding of trauma, it’s very likely that my thinking would not necessarily be changing at this time had it not been for the #MeToo movement—not only because of the new lens it has provided but also because of how it has offered new avenues toward the safety that comes from solidarity. Just four years ago, in an essay for this magazine, I wrote the following: “Sure, my boss took advantage of me, but I will always remain firm on this point: it was a consensual relationship. Any ‘abuse’ came in the aftermath, when I was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position.” I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent. Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station, and privilege. (Full stop.)

Real talk. Thank you, Monica.
posted by deadaluspark at 5:55 PM on February 25, 2018 [65 favorites]


I was in my mid 20s when the whole Clinton scandal broke. The way the GOP handled that whole thing made me vote straight ticket for the first time in my life. At the time I took the stance of "whatever occurs between consenting adults is their business." I still think this, but I've change my mind of the definition of consent a bit since then. If the GOP had taken the stance that the issue was the imbalance of power and the exploitation of interns, they could have taken the moral high ground. Instead, they said it was all about the lying, and that rang so hollow you could tell they didn't believe this either.

I voted for Hillary, but I will say that Bill was a huge drag on my enthusiasm for her. I just didn't want another 4-8 years of seeing his smirking mug on TV (and I voted for the man twice). I also didn't want him anywhere near the White House again, and when Hillary refused to say that he wouldn't have a role... I had a hard time reconciling women's enthusiasm for Hillary when she stayed with a man credible accused as a serial abuser. (I still have problems with this for myself. It's hard to condemn the coital shenanigans on the GOP side when I mostly gave Bill a pass for decades.)

I never saw Lewinski as anything other than a victim. I never saw Starr as anything other than a Puritan witch-finder. And I still think Linda Tripp is a monster.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:00 PM on February 25, 2018 [70 favorites]


(all links to the relevant MeFi FPPs)

This is a really beautiful follow-up to her 2014 article about her experiences, her talks about bullying, and her other public appearances. She's a truly amazing woman and I'm gonna repost this:

In no way am I diminishing her life or accomplishments when I say that I regret that we never got to meet her in a parallel universe where her boss didn’t hang her up to dry after he got caught violating every ethical guideline you can imagine when it comes to sex and power differentials in the workplace.
posted by schroedinger at 6:04 PM on February 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


And I would vote for Monica for anything, with much less hesitation than Hillary.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:05 PM on February 25, 2018 [2 favorites]


Maybe you remember or have heard stories about how “the scandal” saturated was invented by television and radio; newspapers, magazines, and the Internet...

It may be a small point, but it's important to remember that the press made this what it was, and the Republicans would not have given a fat fuck about it if they didn't think they could use the press as a weapon against Bill Clinton.

In the alternative universe where the press covers events in proportion to their general import, maybe we'd be hearing the name Monica Lewinski for the first time just now, in the age of #MeToo, along with the shattering revelation that Bill Clinton is a creep.
posted by klanawa at 6:40 PM on February 25, 2018 [13 favorites]


He was my boss. He was the most powerful man on the planet. He was 27 years my senior, with enough life experience to know better. He was, at the time, at the pinnacle of his career, while I was in my first job out of college.

this part near the end really hit me - why is it always on the abused to justify themselves rather than on the abuser? why can't we call the abusers to task? shame them? cast them out? (especially now with who we have as president and all those who support him overtly or by not disowning him)
posted by kokaku at 6:46 PM on February 25, 2018 [35 favorites]


She has more class and grace in her little finger than the whole of the Republican witch hunt that smeared her. It’s a national embarrassment the way we treated her. I’m glad her day has come. 2 decades too late.
posted by greermahoney at 6:47 PM on February 25, 2018 [27 favorites]


The treatment of Monica Lewinsky -- by almost everyone -- is proof enough of how awful this country can be. For some reason, I never remember these sorts of lessons. I'm always, always surprised by how awful we can be to each other.

On the flip side, I think Monica has done really well over the last several years. And FWIW her strength in being such a confident, vulnerable, public person has done so much good for anyone who has ever suffered through that avalanche of public shaming.
posted by grandiloquiet at 6:55 PM on February 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


anita hill and monica lewinsky were the two defining public figures of my adolescence and that explains just about everything about my grudges and my politics.

I remember, being a young man who was only slightly younger than her at the time, thinking she was gorgeous, and really frustrated by a media which loved to make fat jokes about her


I was also younger (exactly Chelsea Clinton's age, as her father noted to me when I met him briefly on the campaign trail) and as a girl who looked a bit like Lewinsky only not as pretty, It was a great deal worse than frustrating to hear what people said about her. never mind what it was like to hear what men really thought about women who participated in heterosexual activities, when they were absolutely free to say their thoughts. on television and on the radio and everywhere else I had to be.

what makes Lewinsky different from any other woman who's not a virgin, which is almost all of us sooner or later? we wondered, if we were too young to know. the answer was: nothing, except that you could say in public about her what society encouraged you to say about other women only in private.

really the worst part of the Hill/Lewinsky years, for anyone who wasn't them, was all the truth we had to hear. germaine greer wrote that women have very little idea of how much men hate them. it may have been true at the time she wrote it, in general, and for some individuals even still. but those of us who grew up in the 90s, we know.
posted by queenofbithynia at 7:01 PM on February 25, 2018 [138 favorites]


really the worst part of the Hill/Lewinsky years, for anyone who wasn't them, was all the truth we had to hear. germaine greer wrote that women have very little idea of how much men hate them. it may have been true at the time she wrote it, in general, and for some individuals even still. but those of us who grew up in the 90s, we know.

very well said.
posted by crush at 7:15 PM on February 25, 2018 [12 favorites]


Her struggle to reconcile a woman’s sexual agency with his vile behavior

One of the super-interesting, and poignant, aspects of the article is the way she talks about how she's experiencing our evolving understanding of consent and agency. I think a lot of people are also reevaluating not just how they view Clinton and Lewinsky's roles in this episode of American history, but how they understand their own sexual history in light of what we're now talking about with respect to consent and agency.

And this is good! and important! but also hard, and while she's certainly speaking from a fairly unique position there are aspects of her experience that are very relatable for many.

Also, real talk: I just love Monica, both in an admiring way but also in that "we would totally be friends!" self-flattering way one sometimes feels about a public figure. I have literally no idea how she came out of this nightmare with such grace, but she did, and she turned out to be a terrific and engaging writer which is a gift to us all.
posted by lalex at 7:18 PM on February 25, 2018 [28 favorites]


I always thought she got a raw deal.
posted by rhizome at 7:42 PM on February 25, 2018 [3 favorites]


I always thought she got a raw deal.

Compare her to Linda Tripp who got a nice settlement, a retroactive promotion, and a pension.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:47 PM on February 25, 2018 [17 favorites]


The Republican Party has amply rewarded its worst ratfuckers ever since the Reagan years. See: Oliver North.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:05 PM on February 25, 2018 [5 favorites]


It still gets me that people are surprised when she turns out to be smart, thoughtful, well-spoken and a good writer. Sure, there are plenty of interns at the White House there via donor connections, including her, but she was also selected because she could do the work, brought into Panetta's main office during the shutdown, and later hired for national-level work in various capacities, albeit under the shadow of Clinton and his protectors' machinations. I was just now trying to remember some of these details, and googling led me to this amazing NYT article about her from February, 1998. There are some remarkable passages in there that I will refrain from quoting here because I don't want to pollute this page with horrible stuff, but I recommend a quick perusal if you want a reminder of just how appalling the coverage of her was at time, even in the most respectable left-leaning newspaper. Smart and competent she may be, but it's still damn impressive how well she's come through all this twenty years later.
posted by chortly at 8:10 PM on February 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


It still gets me that people are surprised when she turns out to be smart, thoughtful, well-spoken and a good writer.

Not to detract from the gist of your comment, which I appreciate, but there is writing and then there's writing. I think she's pretty gifted.
posted by lalex at 8:14 PM on February 25, 2018 [7 favorites]


And I still think Linda Tripp is a monster.

I never saw her as a monster. She was cast as a villain because she spoke out, and women back then were never, ever allowed to go up against a man in power. She did not have a team guiding her, and it showed -- and had she been a male, her coverage would have been so different. I never saw Lewinsky as a monster, either. I saw her as someone who was out of her league, gullible, and was up against people who could eat her for breakfast. Starr was given marching orders, and he marched. There was only one monster in that entire affair, and that was the man sitting in the Oval Office. It was a grossly unfair fight, and he got off easy because he was a male, he knew how to charm people, and he had a team of people defending him, including women who were terrified of losing rights if they didn't support the devil they knew.

I find it interesting that no female associated with that debacle of the man's making got out with her image and reputation unscathed. No one wanted to be inconvenienced that they had that a frat boy in the White House -- so they took it out on the women in different ways: the tattler for not keeping things secret; the "mistress" for being so careless, and the wife for not keeping her man in check. Partisan politics rigged the perceptions that this was about a witch hunt, when it was about painting women associated with an irresponsible man as the witches, no matter what role she played.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:25 PM on February 25, 2018 [55 favorites]


Nobody's mentioned yet that the article starts with her meeting Ken Starr for the first time?! Holy shit.

I still wonder if she's ever been able to get a job. Last I heard she still hasn't ever been able to.

Is there some kind of term for situations where it was technically consented to on her end but ...well, there were power differentials influencing that?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:30 PM on February 25, 2018 [1 favorite]


I never saw her as a monster either, but as someone who made Lewinsky jokes in the 90s, the way we treated and talked about her was shameful.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 8:32 PM on February 25, 2018 [9 favorites]


Is there some kind of term for situations where it was technically consented to on her end but ...well, there were power differentials influencing that?

we should make one. Asymmetrical consent?
posted by lalex at 8:51 PM on February 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


Asymmetrical consent?
Asiz Ansari Syndrome?
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:08 PM on February 25, 2018 [6 favorites]


I’m someone who has radically rethought my opinions of Clinton and Lewinsky since that time. When it happened, I think I mostly felt protective of Clinton because of the grotesque republican attacks. Now, I just wish that someone as gross as Clinton had never come to prominence so that there was never a choice between his grossness versus the GOP grossness. That was a false choice and one where both sides felt free to tear up Lewinsky.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:47 PM on February 25, 2018 [22 favorites]


Is there some kind of term for situations where it was technically consented to on her end but ...well, there were power differentials influencing that?

There is, yes. It's called coercion. As in "coerced consent is not consent".
posted by kafziel at 10:10 PM on February 25, 2018 [32 favorites]


"They tried to bury us; they didn’t know we were seeds."
I want this patched onto a large comforter. And printed on a poster. And embroidered on a cushion. And painted in 50 foot letters on the outside walls of prisons, detention camps, Amazon warehouses, etc.
posted by Thella at 10:56 PM on February 25, 2018 [28 favorites]


considering the power inbalance in the relationship

If nothing else (and there's plenty else) Bill Clinton knew full well the sorts of things that would happen to Lewinsky if details of his relationship with her ever got out. He was experienced enough in politics to understand the risks; she was not. He knew he had the power and connections to weather the potential media firestorm and that she did not.
posted by straight at 11:03 PM on February 25, 2018 [11 favorites]


Nobody's mentioned yet that the article starts with her meeting Ken Starr for the first time?! Holy shit.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:30 PM on February 25

No kidding. And Star uses the trick of treating her kindly, and sticking his hand out to shake her hand, knowing the social contract, someone sticks their hand out you take it. I don't. Not of ppl who have intentionally caused me harm. Fuck. them. I wish she'd have kicked him in the balls. Or spit in his face. Or at the least taken his hand, grabbed one of his fingers and broken it.

So. many. times. I've thought of Katherine Hepburn in poor Monica's shoes, she'd have scalded every goddamn one of those rat bastards, they'd still be shaking in their shoes.

Linda Tripp? God, what a disgusting pile of dogshit. What kind of human being does this -- answer, a disgusting pile of dogshit human being. Ken Star? A disgusting pile of dogshit. How dare he treat her as he did, that phony kindness. What a prick. Bill Clinton? Yeah, he's a disgusting pile of dogshit, too, but I damn sure do believe that he was in it with Monica, that she got inside on him. For christ sake, they were sending each other love notes in the personals of the local newspapers. She was gorgeous, she was young and innocent and totally green, she was smokin' hot and mad in love with him, totally head over. And she got in on him. He was in it. And then showed not a shred of human decency when he got his tit caught in the wringer -- what a heartless bastard. What a prick. Goddamn, what a disgusting prick. And I'm not talking just because of reaching over the lines as he did, which is bad enough, but he's really a disgusting prick for not showing her any decency, for turning his back on her when she needed him, when he refused to show a shred of human decency.

How I've wished that Monica would have ripped him to shreds, publicly, that she'd attacked him viciously, honestly, heartfelt, head held high.

Monica Lewinsky was and is a victim of upwards of 4,734 DC insiders wearing sharp shoes that they kicked her with day after day, month after month. Year after year, as it turns out. How desperately I wanted her to stand up, her beautiful eyes to flash, to flare, to glitter with rage, to tell each and every one of them to pound sand up their ass, to just go fuck off, to just go fuck themselves. Even then she had the grace and the style and the glamour to pull it off, she just never let her eyes flare with the rage that is in there, that has to be in there still from being trashed by all those pieces of garbage.

Imagine being Monica. No, really -- imagine that you're Monica, that you're young and green and attacked from every side. A nightmare, a living nightmare, ongoing, years and years. A ruined life. No one stood up for her. No one stood up with her. Everybody ran for the exits, except for those who ran for the hatchets to cut her to pieces with.

Monica, I'm so sorry it happened to you. As that woman told you, I also am so sorry that you were in it so alone. I'm glad you've made it through -- it does seem you've made it through the fire -- I'm so glad you've made it through. Wishing you peace on a chill, foggy Austin morning.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:57 AM on February 26, 2018 [33 favorites]


It was sexual harassment at a minimum, he was her boss. Certainly coercion.

She has said, on more than one occasion, that it was consensual. She says so in this article, as well.

There may indeed have been some power-play dynamics going on that may have influenced her perspective, but I think it does Monica Lewinsky a great disservice to not take her at her word when it comes to her own agency in her own sexual life.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:16 AM on February 26, 2018 [18 favorites]


Well then you can use the language she uses in the article. A "gross abuse of power."
posted by Zalzidrax at 4:23 AM on February 26, 2018 [18 favorites]


I think it does Monica Lewinsky a great disservice to not take her at her word when it comes to her own agency in her own sexual life.

"Her word" is that she knows a great many things now that she didn't know at 22, and that she has a very different perspective now looking back than she did even four years ago. and knowing that she was a fucking intern at the time doesn't require taking anybody's word for it, it's public record.

[at the time, the extent of my take was that how could she possibly knowingly sleep with a married man and then excuse it as being in love or feel victimized? as I mention above, I was a young teen at the time, absolutely self-righteous and with no experience whatsoever of sexual coercion or workplaces. being younger than her at the time but older now than she was then is a dizzying perspective shift. It should be. I'm not even ashamed of how I thought about it then, because I was so young and so ignorant. as was she. that is one of the things I learned by getting older.]

[different comment]
And I would vote for Monica for anything, with much less hesitation than Hillary.

it is really remarkable how thoroughly she avoids the name and the subject of Clinton even when discussing Clinton's husband, which I figure is part incapacity for saying anything positive that sounds sincere, sense of decency/optics about appearing to insult the wife of a married man she was involved with even this long afterwards, and absolute disinclination for playing into any cheaply misogynist good girl vs. bad lady puppet melodrama. I only wish everyone else could do the same.

also, I wish everyone would shut the fuck up about how hot they think she is, now or then. caring about her looks at the expense of her person hasn't gotten any more respectable in the last twenty years and in my idealistic dreams I would like to think it has gotten less so.
posted by queenofbithynia at 5:04 AM on February 26, 2018 [65 favorites]


I still think Linda Tripp is a monster.

I never saw her as a monster. She was cast as a villain because she spoke out...

She was cast as a villain because she was one. She cultivated Lewinsky's friendship for the sole purpose of attacking Clinton with the confidential information she obtained from her "friend." That using the information placed that friend in a horrible, destructive position did not seem to bother Tripp at all. Her picture belongs on a poster with the caption WITH FRIENDS LIKE THIS, WHO NEEDS ENEMIES?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:44 AM on February 26, 2018 [35 favorites]


really the worst part of the Hill/Lewinsky years, for anyone who wasn't them, was all the truth we had to hear. germaine greer wrote that women have very little idea of how much men hate them. it may have been true at the time she wrote it, in general, and for some individuals even still. but those of us who grew up in the 90s, we know.

From the Foreword to Jack Holland’s A Brief History of Misogyny:
He began work on Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice in 2002. The topic was quite a conversation starter. A common response from other men, when my father told them what he was working on, was an assumption that he was writing some sort of defence of misogyny, a reaction he found startling.
2002.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:57 AM on February 26, 2018 [18 favorites]


queenofbithynia: at the time, the extent of my take was that how could she possibly knowingly sleep with a married man and then excuse it as being in love or feel victimized? as I mention above, I was a young teen at the time, absolutely self-righteous and with no experience whatsoever of sexual coercion or workplaces. being younger than her at the time but older now than she was then is a dizzying perspective shift. It should be. I'm not even ashamed of how I thought about it then, because I was so young and so ignorant. as was she. that is one of the things I learned by getting older.

Repeated for truth.

The first time I lived through something similar, among my very first thoughts was an ice-cold bath of "omigod, this is probably how it started for Monica." It was a major part of the hard boundary I held – and yes, in addition to the boundary "bad idea to sleep with married person", because if anyone thinks that powerful, experienced, older people on the lookout are incapable of lying convincingly to younger, less-experienced people, well.
posted by fraula at 5:59 AM on February 26, 2018 [11 favorites]


I was about 18 when all of this was happening and I admit to laughing along with all the Lewinsky jokes because I thought that's just what you did. Yeah, I was a (young) woman and I considered myself a feminist, but you know, this woman was clearly at fault and deserved it. I think somewhere there was a question in my mind about the difference in power, but I completely bought into the idea that she was some kind of ... not quite "gold-digger" but a woman who somehow seduced the president.

At the time, 22 seemed very much like being an "adult" but looking back, 22 is impossibly young. I'm not trying to take away her agency or anything, but I wish I'd been able to extend more empathy to a woman who was, more or less, my peer.

But I've been thinking a lot lately at how, in my younger years, how passively complicit I was with so many things -- like the boys on our college dorm floor laughingly showing us porn -- and just going along with it because I figured that's just how things were. I wish I could go back and tell myself it was OK to be not OK with it. I wish I could've let my inner conflict about this be a bit louder in my head.

But I'm happy that I can look back on these things and let myself feel differently about them.
posted by darksong at 6:01 AM on February 26, 2018 [13 favorites]


I continue to be amazed that Lewinsky has managed to come out of all of this and emerge into public life *so* together and *so* well-spoken. I feel like she managed to navigate some horrible branching maze where most of the branches end in substance abuse and lowbrow talk shows.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:18 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Dave Chappelle, not himself a notable feminist, did a bit on her (all the way back in 2000) that, while not perfect (like saying she wanted to fuck a man with power and that's all), still managed to identify: that she was the only victim, that people (especially women) were being unfairly harsh to her, that she was young, that there power differentials. I was 17 when I saw that special, and it just instantly overwrote everything I thought about her and her place in the news.
posted by palindromic at 6:21 AM on February 26, 2018 [7 favorites]


you cannot run away from who you are

Ken Starr seems to have gotten off scott free.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:31 AM on February 26, 2018 [12 favorites]


Great article. I just wish Vanity Fair didn't append it with Bill's mug as a "follow more Clinton articles" tag. This deserves to stand on its own without him.
posted by Easy problem of consciousness at 6:36 AM on February 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


Ken Starr seems to have gotten off scott free.

This is sort of cold comfort right now, because everyone should feel the consequences of their actions, but history is sure as shit going to remember Ken Starr for what he is. That jackass's name will live on, and not in the way he would prefer.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:54 AM on February 26, 2018


As a reminder, Ken Starr resigned as chancellor of Baylor University because of a sex scandal involving the football team. What goes around, and all that.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 6:59 AM on February 26, 2018 [18 favorites]


I will go to my grave saying Clinton should have lost the presidency. Not for the pseudo-criminal bullshit charges brought up by the GOP but because it is not acceptable for the leader of the free world to tomcat around with fucking interns. It ain’t criminal, but that shit should get you fired every time.

The damage he inflicted on the country has been subtle, but pernicious and long-lasting. If the Democrats hadn’t circled the wagons around him back in 1998, we wouldn’t be dealing with a proto-fascist in the White House today.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 7:09 AM on February 26, 2018 [7 favorites]


I will go to my grave saying Clinton should have lost the presidency.

As if he was the exception to the rule.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:14 AM on February 26, 2018 [15 favorites]


As if he was the exception to the rule.

Touché.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 7:15 AM on February 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


I completely bought into the idea that she was some kind of ... not quite "gold-digger" but a woman who somehow seduced the president.

A 22-year old woman should know better than to be seduced by one of the most powerful and charismatic men in the world. But you can't expect a 50-year-old married man to be able to resist the seduction of a young woman!

at the time, the extent of my take was that how could she possibly knowingly sleep with a married man and then excuse it as being in love or feel victimized?


Because she has the moral duty to honor a relationship Clinton has been in since she was a toddler.

(I'm not at all criticizing the self-reflection of the people I quoted but the attitudes many of us had at the time.)
posted by straight at 7:19 AM on February 26, 2018 [11 favorites]


Great article. I just wish Vanity Fair didn't append it with Bill's mug as a "follow more Clinton articles" tag. This deserves to stand on its own without him.

On the other hand, that photo/link is followed by this, which is not at all what I'm used to seeing after a Monica Lewinsky article:
Monica Lewinsky is a Vanity Fair contributing editor.
posted by straight at 7:24 AM on February 26, 2018 [10 favorites]


Interesting, if Bill Clinton had lost the presidency, would Al Gore have had an easier go of saving the planet? Could he have more easily won the next election?
posted by Oyéah at 8:14 AM on February 26, 2018 [2 favorites]


As a reminder, Ken Starr resigned as chancellor of Baylor University because of a sex scandal involving the football team.

This seems like soft-selling what happened: "In a 2017 lawsuit, victims suing the university alleged that from 2011 to 2014 at least 31 football players committed at least 52 rapes"
And the football coach, university board, andchancellor (Ken Starr) knew about it and tried to cover it all up.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:15 AM on February 26, 2018 [34 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: She has said, on more than one occasion, that it was consensual. She says so in this article, as well. There may indeed have been some power-play dynamics going on that may have influenced her perspective,

As many of us have said in this and other related threads, consent is not a given when there are vast power imbalances between people in a relationship. There is a sincere question of whether consent can be possible in such situations. She says this in the essay. Also, there is no 'may have been' or 'some' here. There is no question that large and troubling imbalances existed between them. She is now saying so herself.

but I think it does Monica Lewinsky a great disservice to not take her at her word when it comes to her own agency in her own sexual life.

These are her words, today:
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. 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.)

But it’s also complicated. Very, very complicated. The dictionary definition of “consent”? “To give permission for something to happen.” And yet what did the “something” mean in this instance, given the power dynamics, his position, and my age? Was the “something” just about crossing a line of sexual (and later emotional) intimacy? (An intimacy I wanted—with a 22-year-old’s limited understanding of the consequences.) He was my boss. He was the most powerful man on the planet. He was 27 years my senior, with enough life experience to know better. He was, at the time, at the pinnacle of his career, while I was in my first job out of college.
Taking her at her word is quite important, yes. But that simplistic excuse has been used by people for decades to declare that her agency eliminated any possibility that she might have been coerced or been negatively affected by the power differential that clearly existed between them. Since she herself now raises those questions, it seems inappropriate to say, "we should listen to her" and then not do so.
posted by zarq at 8:23 AM on February 26, 2018 [26 favorites]


"Coercion" doesn't quite seem to capture it either, though, as it implies a level of unwillingness that Lewinsky is saying she didn't feel. My understanding of what Lewinksy is saying is that she wanted, and consented to, her relationship with Clinton, but that because of the power differential between them, her consent was not enough for the relationship not to be one of exploitation. I think that's what she means by "the idea of consent might well be rendered moot."

Put another way, consent is necessary, but not sufficient. She was 22 years old, had no material power in the relationship, and lacked understanding of the political and personal dynamics at play. She had nothing like the experience necessary to know what she was in for if (when) the relationship was discovered, or how completely she would be abandoned by both the man she thought she loved and the social and professional structures around her. Clinton, on the other hand, did. In accepting her consent to a relationship, he had to have known that she couldn't understand the implications of what she was consenting to, and certainly knew that he wasn't prepared to repay her trust with the loyalty and honesty it merited.

Clinton exploited Lewinsky's youth and naivete, and I think that is enough for us to judge him harshly. Lewinsky seems pretty firm that she claims agency for the decisions she made and the emotions she felt, and for us to say that she could not consent, or that she was coerced, seems to me to deny her that agency.
posted by biogeo at 9:30 AM on February 26, 2018 [36 favorites]


Clinton exploited Lewinsky's youth and naivete, and I think that is enough for us to judge him harshly. Lewinsky seems pretty firm that she claims agency for the decisions she made and the emotions she felt, and for us to say that she could not consent, or that she was coerced, seems to me to deny her that agency.

I believe this describes a situation in which she had none:

She was 22 years old, had no material power in the relationship, and lacked understanding of the political and personal dynamics at play. She had nothing like the experience necessary to know what she was in for if (when) the relationship was discovered, or how completely she would be abandoned by both the man she thought she loved and the social and professional structures around her.

Either "she couldn't understand the implications of what she was consenting to" or she could. In the former case she would have no ability to consent based on a lack of competence. We use a similar litmus test for children. Children below a certain age cannot give consent in part because of the power differential involved (making the act coercive) and also in part because by their nature they cannot have the knowledge and awareness needed to be able to consent. Clearly Lewinsky was not a child. But if the power differential is so vast that she does not understand what is being done to her, then there are parallels.

I absolutely do not think her voice and opinion in the matter should simply be ignored. But whether she was competent to give consent at the time seems particularly important. It would be the difference between sexual assault (a crime) and a mutual, consenting relationship.
posted by zarq at 9:44 AM on February 26, 2018


There was only one monster in that entire affair, and that was the man sitting in the Oval Office.

No. Starr was a monster, an operative of the GOP looking to "get" Clinton in any way possible. By dipping into this affair and putting Clinton in a position to deny it so he'd have perjured himself... this was so far off course of the investigation Starr was supposed to conduct that it's shameful. Not saying Clinton did the right thing, but it was clear Starr was simply searching for anything he could hurt Clinton with.

Starr's behavior as independent counsel - including many leaks from his office during the investigation, and his abuse of Lewinsky to go after Clinton - qualify Starr as much of a monster as Clinton, perhaps more. Just because his offense wasn't sexual in nature doesn't mean he should be seen as any less a monster.

Many in the GOP, especially Newt Gingrich - which I include in the scope of this "affair" if we're referring to Starr's pursuit of Clinton - most certainly qualify as monsters. Not least because while Gingrich stood and accused Clinton of improprieties he was equally guilty of sexual infidelity and hypocrisy.

There were plenty of monsters, sadly.
posted by jzb at 10:22 AM on February 26, 2018 [17 favorites]


And the irony is most every person who stood up against Clinton fell to their own sexual scandals.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:39 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


But whether she was competent to give consent at the time seems particularly important. It would be the difference between sexual assault (a crime) and a mutual, consenting relationship.

This is such an either-or construction that I honestly can't see how it can exist in the real world. Surely there's a continuum here, influenced by the amount of power wielded one of the people involved.
If Leweinsky had been happily consenting to sex with another 22 year old, all fine and dandy. Another 22 year old she works with- possibly issues, but okay. Another 22 who is her boss- that's a problem. A 50 year old that is her boss- really a big problem. The most powerful person in the world, who is her boss and is aware of just how much damage they can do to a younger, more vulnerable person- you've gotten to the point where 99 percent of the responsibility for ensuring that everyone emerges from the encounter unscathed is on the older person. That person needs to have the wisdom and maturity that their position holds to be part of the equation. I don't think that erases the competency and consent of the victimized person. It's more a "with great power comes great responsibility". That idea in itself would be a paradigm shift among many powerful people who seem to believe that power absolves them of responsibility. I don't believe that people have to be less competent to be abused; and actually feel that construction is harmful to smart, capable, consenting adults who nevertheless find themselves being taken advantage of.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:50 AM on February 26, 2018 [27 favorites]


The most powerful person in the world who is also widely believed to be the most personally charismatic politician of his generation.
posted by lalex at 10:57 AM on February 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


If Leweinsky had been happily consenting to sex with another 22 year old, all fine and dandy. Another 22 year old she works with- possibly issues, but okay. Another 22 who is her boss- that's a problem. A 50 year old that is her boss- really a big problem. The most powerful person in the world, who is her boss and is aware of just how much damage they can do to a younger, more vulnerable person- you've gotten to the point where 99 percent of the responsibility for ensuring that everyone emerges from the encounter unscathed is on the older person. That person needs to have the wisdom and maturity that their position holds to be part of the equation. I don't think that erases the competency and consent of the victimized person. It's more a "with great power comes great responsibility". That idea in itself would be a paradigm shift among many powerful people who seem to believe that power absolves them of responsibility. I don't believe that people have to be less competent to be abused; and actually feel that construction is harmful to smart, capable, consenting adults who nevertheless find themselves being taken advantage of.

And when that 50 year old is already a serial sexual assaulter with multiple victims prior to all of this, I think it's entirely reasonable to say that he knew exactly what he was doing, and that she really, really didn't.
posted by kafziel at 10:58 AM on February 26, 2018 [6 favorites]


I really want to break the injury done to Lewinsky into two very distinct categories. First, she was a twenty-two year old woman who had a consensual affair with an incredibly powerful forty-nine year-old man. On that, I think Clinton behaved very badly, and exploited her, and committed significant wrongdoing. But I can't make sense of it as a narrative of sexual coercion, even given the mindboggling power differential. It doesn't even really fit to me as importantly similar to workplace sexual harassment generally -- he wasn't baiting her into the relationship with the implicit promise of career advantage, the internship was a time-limited job that wasn't really part of a professional track for her.

What Clinton did was bad, but without the aftermath, it would seem... gross? problematic? like an awful lot of consensual relationships women in their twenties have with much older men, which in retrospect were exploitative and awful, but which seemed like a good idea to the women involved at the time.

And then there was the extended period of hauling her through the gutter and making her a laughingstock and a pariah. And while Clinton's bad conduct is a but-for cause of that having happened, obviously, he desperately didn't want that to happen -- it happened because she was being used as by Ken Starr and the Republican party as a weapon against him. That injury wasn't in any way an ordinary result of the kind of older-powerful-man/much-younger-woman relationship both Clinton and Lewinsky thought they were engaging in, and while I think relationships like that are a terrible idea in general, it seems off to me to thinking of getting publicly shamed the way she did as a natural result of that sort of thing.
posted by LizardBreath at 11:07 AM on February 26, 2018 [8 favorites]


I am really glad to see Monica Lewinsky having her #MeToo moment. It makes me furious to hear that the poor woman had such a hard time getting work post-scandal. I hope she finds peace and contentment and all the vindication.

I recall the Clinton scandal very, very well, and one thing that hasn't been mentioned is that liberals were afraid of looking like prudes. "Well, in FRANCE, adultery is no big deal! Blah blah 'MURKIN PURITANISM!" said the Sophisticated Sues and Sams. Now, of course, France has its own "Me Too" campaign and the whole idea of power and consent is being re-examined, as well it should. (Personally, I think that if you have what it takes to be President, you have what it takes to resist sexual temptation, especially when it comes to the people who work for you.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:08 AM on February 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


biogeo: Clinton exploited Lewinsky's youth and naivete, and I think that is enough for us to judge him harshly. Lewinsky seems pretty firm that she claims agency for the decisions she made and the emotions she felt, and for us to say that she could not consent, or that she was coerced, seems to me to deny her that agency.

zarq: I believe this describes a situation in which she had none:

biogeo: She was 22 years old, had no material power in the relationship, and lacked understanding of the political and personal dynamics at play. She had nothing like the experience necessary to know what she was in for if (when) the relationship was discovered, or how completely she would be abandoned by both the man she thought she loved and the social and professional structures around her.


For me, these aren't the same . The first is her emotional/sexual agency, but the second is a social/political capital that isn't at all the same. While they might be related in context, we can, I think, acknowledge that women can own their sexual agency even in the presence of factors outside of their control. Or in Lewinsky's case, outside her experience and therefore ability to predict and account for. And I think that's what she is doing - rejecting blame for the exploitative part while recognizing that it wasn't on her to feel bad about her desires and emotions. I whole-heartedly agree with oneirodynia, because (generally speaking) it's not on the young woman to feel bad, regretful, or infantilized about their desires or emotional attachments. But the older/more powerful partner absolutely should feel obligated to take all appropriate steps and be punished proportionately if not.

Because of the how often women are infantilized about their own sexual wants, I am loathe to say that there is no possibility of consent in power imbalance situations, as squiffy as we may find them, but I do think that it is not the only standard that needs applying to these situations. Consent may be given, but it can still be wrong in other ways.
posted by cui bono at 11:29 AM on February 26, 2018 [4 favorites]


oneirodynia: Fair points.

This is such an either-or construction that I honestly can't see how it can exist in the real world. Surely there's a continuum here, influenced by the amount of power wielded one of the people involved.

The thing is, this hasn't been about other people or various other hypotheticals. It's about Lewinsky, an intern, and the most powerful man on the planet. When we're discussing adults, there is definitely a continuum of consent. But my feeling is that in this specific case, the power differential was so large, that it shifts the possibility of consent to an extreme low. This situation was so unique I don't really know how to assess the possibility of consent except to say it feels like it may have been impossible. Maybe that's wrong.

However, I'm really, really not trying to use her case as a metric for judging other cases or applying it to everyone who has ever been in a relationship where there is a power differential. If I gave that impression with my comment, I apologize. Wasn't my intention.

If Leweinsky had been happily consenting to sex with another 22 year old, all fine and dandy. Another 22 year old she works with- possibly issues, but okay. Another 22 who is her boss- that's a problem. A 50 year old that is her boss- really a big problem. The most powerful person in the world, who is her boss and is aware of just how much damage they can do to a younger, more vulnerable person- you've gotten to the point where 99 percent of the responsibility for ensuring that everyone emerges from the encounter unscathed is on the older person. That person needs to have the wisdom and maturity that their position holds to be part of the equation.

Completely agree.

I don't believe that people have to be less competent to be abused; and actually feel that construction is harmful to smart, capable, consenting adults who nevertheless find themselves being taken advantage of.

I solely meant competence in terms of Lewinsky being able to identify and understand how she was being taken advantage of by Clinton, which was in response to the description given by biogeo. The problem is, as Lewinsky herself notes, it's very complicated. She herself has taken years to process and draw certain conclusions, and how she feels about what happened today is not necessarily a great predictor of how she will feel about it in the future. On a personal note, I also tend to see and relate to #metoo topics and consent /power differential issues through my own particular lens, that of a CSA survivor, which is admittedly not always the best way of looking at them. There are obviously differences between a relationship between adults and the sexual assault of a child. I have to say, I regret making that comparison in my previous comment -- it felt right at the time, but rereading it now, it seems quite disrespectful to her.
posted by zarq at 11:31 AM on February 26, 2018 [7 favorites]



And when that 50 year old is already a serial sexual assaulter with multiple victims prior to all of this, I think it's entirely reasonable to say that he knew exactly what he was doing, and that she really, really didn't.

Certainly. But that's orthogonal to my point that we have to undermine Leweinsky's competency in order for her to be the victim. Strong, powerful, smart, capable, resourceful people can be victims.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:32 AM on February 26, 2018 [1 favorite]


Lewinsky seems pretty firm that she claims agency for the decisions she made and the emotions she felt, and for us to say that she could not consent, or that she was coerced, seems to me to deny her that agency.

The entire piece is about her own re-evaluation of agency and power dynamics and consent, and how she has only just recently even been able to crack the door of her "safe" narrative (that she had full agency and wasn't exploited by Clinton, just by everyone else). And she's an incredibly smart woman, she will have read ahead in the literature and knows intellectually what happens when you start to dismantle your safe narrative.

The essay is almost a warning: we all (given a certain age range) went through this together, and we're all going to end up recontextualizing this together because of #metoo and just the blooming definition of sexual assault now, and just like completely unfamous women are waking up every day now suddenly realizing "that thing that happened to me was Wrong and it was Bad and I hadn't quite known that before", this is happening to her too.

It is in no way condescension or criticism of her (or any other victim) to agree that the context and framework we have today around consent are light-years more advanced than what was available to her at the time and that she had continued to hold on to as a function of her PTSD.

She says:
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. 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.)
And then she says:
“This” (sigh) is as far as I’ve gotten in my re-evaluation; I want to be thoughtful.


(And I believe the "This" (sigh) is both a reference to the previous paragraph that includes the definition of consent, and also the internet shorthand of quoting something and simply replying "This.")

I think she knows that she - and all of us who also carry trauma related to that particular historical event that is her personal trauma - is looking down the barrel of comprehending on a gut level that she was sexually assaulted by the president of the United States (in a time when presidents weren't widely reputed to do so) and then effectively put on trial for it.

As for this:
But I can't make sense of it as a narrative of sexual coercion

It's coercion because it cannot not be coercion. In the presence of a very powerful high-ranking person, consent cannot be given. You can not consent to sex with the warden, you can never consent to a person who can - if you displease him - have you arrested by Secret Service or disappeared or publicly humiliated until you are unemployable and at risk of being murdered by fans or obsessives, without significant precautions.

This fact is a reckoning that we are seeing play out across Hollywood and Silicon Valley, as well, as these men throw tantrums when told that they cannot have any woman they want anymore because of how consent works. There do appear to be a handful of extremely powerful men out there who do (and have for a long time) understood this - I remember hearing some stories about Bill and Melinda Gates's early relationship that kind of got played as him trying to golddigger-test her or something but I think were actually about the two of them negotiating the issues of the power dynamic so that everyone understood what they were coming from; this appears to be how Princes William and Harry have navigated the horrible things that happened to their mother, by making sure the women they marry have as much of an idea of what they're getting into as can be communicated without experience.

Coercion is not a measure of how much the lower-status person "really" wants the interaction. Coercion is a force, it's why your company probably has a rule that you can't take gifts from a vendor that are worth more than $25 or $100 or whatever because it means you might be influenced - even if it costs the company more or the product is substandard to another vendor's product - to choose them when you shouldn't. That's why you get the water bottle, so yes maybe my logo is in your line of sight when you decide to buy more widgets, but unless it's a damn fine water bottle it's not an undue influence.

I think part of what makes this particular case of coercion especially gross, and if you read the essay carefully you see her point a toe at it a couple of times, is that aside from being the most powerful man in the world who did know better but did it anyway and without any sort of warning about what she was walking into, she believed that he loved her. That is also a form of coercion, one that we see from broke-ass dudes on up: have sex with me because I care about you and that makes it okay, that makes all of it okay, I'll take care of you if you get pregnant or your family throws you out or you are in some other way made vulnerable by agreeing to do this with me...thank you for your orifice, you can go now. She wasn't even trying to have a transactional relationship with him in return for power or favors or fame which is certainly a complicated loop in a coercive dynamic, she just liked a very charismatic man and the weight of his charisma and also his office made it feel very meaningful that he liked her back. You can't remove that from the equation without an exceptional amount of work, but that work didn't happen here and he didn't want it to and he required the power dynamic to keep it secret.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:32 AM on February 26, 2018 [32 favorites]


I remember reading her 2014 essay and feeling ashamed of myself for how I thought about the whole thing back when I was young person who was in college right when this was happening. I even made it a point to buy the comic book adaptation of the Starr Report (Amazon.com link) because of how "unusual" it was for these kinds of details to be coming out about a political figure's sexual habits.

I'm sorry for every uncharitable thought I ever had about Lewinsky. I'm glad she's speaking up about this again.
posted by TrishaLynn at 12:45 PM on February 26, 2018


The essay is almost a warning: we all (given a certain age range) went through this together, and we're all going to end up recontextualizing this together because of #metoo and just the blooming definition of sexual assault now, and just like completely unfamous women are waking up every day now suddenly realizing "that thing that happened to me was Wrong and it was Bad and I hadn't quite known that before", this is happening to her too.

I wish I could favorite this entire comment twice, but this part especially.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:15 PM on February 26, 2018 [17 favorites]


Ironically, I found my old journals from back in the day when the scandal was breaking. And there amongst the argument with myself about whether or not I should go to library school, was this little line:

And the Monica stuff...I mean, I totally get it. I'd bang Clinton if given the chance, he's awesome. But how the fuck do you not just keep your mouth shut? Like, banging the president is something that you keep as a secret for yourself and tell your girlfriends about in 10 years. Maybe show off a keepsake or something, but for the love of god, you know this president is haunted by scandal and the assholes are looking for any way to take him down. So keep your damn mouth shut.

And yet, I can't keep a secret about what I bought Dad for Christmas this year and I bought it the week before.


I am one year older than her. I never thought she was a slut or judged her for sleeping with him, I only thought she was dumb as hell to trust Linda Tripp. It is telling that it never occurred to me that Clinton should have kept himself under control.
posted by teleri025 at 2:43 PM on February 26, 2018 [5 favorites]


"I'm so sorry you were so alone.”
It's unbearable how she has suffered for all these years, and amazing that she is holding on and has written this fine essay. I hope that for the rest of her life she will receive the support and care she should have had from the first day.
Clinton used his power, and was alone responsible for the affair, regardless of what happened later, because he was in a position of power and no 22 year old could ever understand what they were getting into. But Starr and the Republican party abused that 22-year-old for political gain, to an extent that it has forever defined her life.
Bill Clinton is a flawed human being, and maybe there could have been a better president at the time. But I can't see how anything could ever legitimize dragging a young woman through all this. She writes that there has never been one day when the story has not been mentioned in the media. How is that OK?
posted by mumimor at 3:42 PM on February 26, 2018 [3 favorites]


I'd like to think that in this #metoo moment we could also revisit the hideous travesty that was the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings and revolting treatment dished out to Anita Hill. The time seems ripe.
posted by pleasant_confusion at 4:08 PM on February 26, 2018 [15 favorites]


Put me down with those who think we need better language to encompass situations like this. I think consent is such a subjective thing, meaning the only person who really gets to decide if something is/was consensual is the person giving the consent. And coercion of consent is a thing that definitely happens all the time, from explicit threats to repeated pestering and guilt-tripping. And there may have been that type of coercion from Clinton, I don't think we really know enough to gauge how manipulative he was towards her. But it still seems like the issue of power-imbalance is something else entirely.

I say this as someone who, when I was 20, had sex with a man 20 years older than me, while we were both drunk. I consider that encounter consensual because of the specific circumstances and particulars, which I don't want to delve into here. But I bristle a bit at being told that consent is impossible in certain situations, especially since it seems to always involve telling a woman that she didn't really understand what she was doing, instead of focusing on telling men that their sex lives aren't as consensual as they think.

I think there really must be some ground in between saying there's nothing wrong with a sexual relationship with such a drastic power imbalance and saying an adult woman is incapable of giving consent in the same way a child is.
posted by threeturtles at 7:40 PM on February 26, 2018 [9 favorites]


And then there was the extended period of hauling her through the gutter and making her a laughingstock and a pariah...That injury wasn't in any way an ordinary result of the kind of older-powerful-man/much-younger-woman relationship both Clinton and Lewinsky thought they were engaging in

Clinton understood that risk a whole lot more than Lewinsky possibly could have. She had no idea what she was risking, but he did. And he obviously didn't inform her of the risk. Sounds like did just the opposite by convincing her he loved her and would protect her.
posted by straight at 8:10 PM on February 26, 2018


I think of consent in this case more along the lines of informed consent in healthcare. An adult can consent to a medical procedure, but if a healthcare provider hasn't spent some time and energy making sure the patient understands the risks and benefits of the procedure, the consent is not considered ethically obtained, and the fault's on the provider, because they're the ones with experience and training and expertise and so they're the ones with the responsibility in the situation. In unequal relationships, the onus should be on the person with more experience and power to make sure they're acting ethically and not misleading others. Not because the less-powerful person is childlike or incapable of consent, but because they lack the information and experience necessary to judge the situation realistically.
posted by lazuli at 8:28 PM on February 26, 2018 [14 favorites]


I think it's probably a mistake, or at least likely to be unproductive, to try and broaden the definition of "sexual assault" to include what happened to Lewinsky. That term is, at the end of the day, a legal one, which must, if we want to use it to put predators behind bars, have a pretty bright-line/yes-no/in-or-out definition.

What Clinton did to Lewinsky was wrong, and we need some term to describe it which doesn't overload an extant term that should probably be allowed to remain a descriptor of a specific (and particularly awful) thing.

I also think it's probably good to recognize that what (hopefully) is happening in US culture right now is more than just a redefinition or goalpost-move of "sexual assault", but the realization that there are host of (sometimes) legal behaviors that are still not acceptable if you want to have people treat you as a non-shitty human being, and to which a nitpicky moral-legalism defense—always the last refuge of scoundrels—doesn't apply. "But it was legal" should be the standard that just barely keeps you out of prison, not a seal of approval from society at large. I don't know when we started accepting that as a defense in public (and it extends, I think, beyond #MeToo or issues of sexual power dynamics) and lost the ability to make moral judgement calls outside of a courtroom, but we should find it and take it back. I hope that's what's happening.

On preview, I think threeturtles basically covered what I was trying to say.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:55 PM on February 26, 2018 [9 favorites]


I just think you are all pretty awesome people here in this thread, no hamburger, you're all kindly and respectfully working together to figure out how we should feel about That now.

The wrestling with agency and consent is something I'm very very familiar with as a domestic abuse survivor. Because I genuinely do think I had agency and I definitely can't handle dismissing that feeling or deciding that I didn't have agency. But I also know that I was coerced and manipulated and in many ways had very few options.

The best I've been able to say is, "I made choices, but they were not unconstrained."

So of course I have such a strong sense that I had agency, because I did! I was making decisions! But I didn't have every single choice available, and for many reasons, I didn't have access to some choices I would have greatly preferred. And--this is important--the WAY my choices were constrained was fundamentally unfair and unjust. It doesn't matter if they were also illegal, or not, because I'm just arbitrating in the court of my self-regard, and what matters here is, that wasn't fair.

shrug anyway that's where I live. Viva Monica.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 9:14 PM on February 26, 2018 [28 favorites]


Yes. Viva Monica!
posted by harriet vane at 7:04 AM on February 28, 2018


I really appreciate the article, and I agree with the support shown to her. I liken the culture catching up to her experience to Sinead O'Connor's protest on Saturday Night Live finally being followed by the Boston Spotlight expose of Catholic priests' abuse of children. The truth was there all along, but some people weren't paying attention. (I'm aware it's a faulty metaphor; pick apart if you like. Plus, yes, I didn't go get the accents for the appropriate expose and Sinead letters.)

But what I did come here to say is that while she was alone with her experience, and it was her name in the press and being smeared everywhere, she clearly wasn't truly alone. She had people to lean on for help. It's mentioned how hard it was for her to get work, but that means something different to me, apparently. If I were to get caught in a scandal like this and lose my job and get blackballed in my town, I would lose my house, sell my car and live in a pickup, if I was lucky. I don't have family to fall back on. I'm not jealous; I just want to point this out --- it seems like a really big misnomer, and I think it's important. I wanted to be sure I wasn't misunderstanding, so I went to the wikipedia page and looked at her life in the 2000's. She was sponsored by a weight loss company, she had a line of handbags, she had some high profile things going. When all of those didn't pan out and she couldn't work in her field, she spent some time overseas. Those things take resources. And I get it. Being an intern at the White House means you're already at a certain level. But "she couldn't find work" --- let's define our terms clearly so we know what that means.
posted by knitcrazybooknut at 5:10 PM on March 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


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