#MeToo, says Lewinsky. My fling with Clinton was abuse
Former White House intern says she's reconsidering her past depictions of the relationship - and whether it was consensual
Monica Lewinsky has said the #MeToo movement has forced her to rethink whether she was able to consent to a sexual relationship with Bill Clinton amid the power dynamics of a president and a 20-something intern.
In a Vanity Fair article, she said she was in awe of women who confronted powerful men, but said she was still working through the events that made her a household name 20 years ago.
It led her to realise that the path to their affair was “littered with abuse of authority”.
“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,” she wrote.
“I’m beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot.”Her affair with Clinton became public during the 1998 investigation led by Ken Starr, the independent counsel.
The story of her Oval Office trysts and a blue dress made her fodder for tabloids and the punchline of many jokes.
Clinton was impeached for lying under oath about their relationship but was acquitted by the Senate and escaped removal from office.
For Lewinsky, the result was a lifetime running from reporters as her personal life was revealed to the world. Her mother was forced to testify against her before a federal grand jury and she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the scandal and the publicity it wrought.
In the article, she described how she was reconsidering her past depictions of the affair, which she had always insisted had been consensual.“I now see how problematic it was that the two of us even got to a place where there was a question of consent,” she wrote.
“Instead, the road that led there was littered with inappropriate abuse of authority, station and privilege.”
'Conspiracies of silence'
She attributed her new take to the wave of #MeToo protests and the accounts of numerous women of the abuse they suffered at the hands of powerful men.
“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,” she wrote.
Next month marks the 20th anniversary of the first time her name was revealed, a period she said altered the course of her life forever.For a time Lewinsky used her celebrity status to pursue commercial opportunities — designing handbags under her own name and working as a spokesman for a diet plan. But she left the public gaze to pursue a master’s degree in psychology before returning to the public eye in 2014 to speak out against cyberbullying.
Since then the worlds of American politics, entertainment and media have been rocked by a catalogue of sexual harassment and abuse allegations, which began when stories emerged about Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
Lewsinsky said she hoped new activism and a reshaping of public life meant perpetrators would no longer be able to use isolation as a weapon against women.
Where she suffered from years of online abuse, she said she was encouraged that women could now find a place among supporters and sympathisers on social media.
“That I had made mistakes, on that we can all agree,” she wrote.
“But swimming in that sea of Aloneness was terrifying.”
– © The Daily Telegraph