Most of us probably have biased opinions on the affair between Monica Lewinsky and President Clinton. Lewinsky must’ve been pretty lucky to have the opportunity to steal the attractions of a sitting president, right? That’s the culture that most of us experience everyday. We don’t see victims for what they are, and we don’t understand the nature of consent or coercion by those who hold great power. According to Lewinsky, the “Me Too” movement has given her a sense that she’s no longer fighting this internal struggle alone. Even so, she knows she has a long way to go.
When the affair became public knowledge, Lewinsky was thrust into the spotlight. That didn’t prevent the severe feelings of isolation from swamping her in the subsequent months and years. After all, who can you talk to about such a thing?
The line between sexual harassment and normal conduct may seem like a fine one to millions of Americans, but in reality the gap between the two is more like a bottomless abyss. We simply haven’t learned to look down when crossing over from one to the other. The fact that sexual conduct in the workplace is so difficult to define and understand is why many employers don’t allow fraternization among employees, especially between those in power and their traditional underlings.
Lewinsky has been struggling to define for herself exactly what happened. She believes that President Clinton abused his power, but that he did not sexually assault her. She even admits that because of the huge disparity in power between the two, the idea of consent “may be moot.” It’s easy to understand why she feels this way and, if true, then a sitting president can’t make any sexual advances toward anyone outside of the institution of marriage. That he was married at the time makes it that much worse.
Lewinsky admits that she made a number of mistakes during those years. She remembers the sheer terror of it all: if the public spotlight weren’t bad enough, her own mom had no choice but to testify against her in the court hearings that followed. She admitted that she was eventually diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the constant attacks. She believes she may have evaded some of the trauma had the event transpired today, during the time of the “Me Too” movement.