Friday 13 December 2019

#MeToo has led me to rethink issue of consent, says Lewinsky

Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky said she has been re-examining her affair with former US president Bill Clinton
Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky said she has been re-examining her affair with former US president Bill Clinton

Rob Crilly

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 twenty-something intern.

In a 'Vanity Fair' article, she said that she was in awe of women who confronted powerful men but said that she was still working through the events that made her a household name some 20 years ago.

It led her to realise that the path to their affair was "littered with abuse of authority", she added.

"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 Mr 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.

Mr Clinton was impeached for lying under oath about their relationship but was acquitted by the Senate and escaped removal from office.

For Ms Lewinsky, the result was a lifetime running from reporters as her personal life was revealed to the world.

Her own 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."

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 Ms 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.

Irish Independent

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