Within the tsunami of continuing revelations against Harvey Weinstein, one of the more damning revelations is how the Hollywood mogul used a vast network of spies and assistants to further his pattern of predatory behavior. Although Weinstein allegedly used physical force and threats against his victims, there’s also an undercurrent to the discussion regarding those men in power who (on a more subtle level) use their higher stature to exert influence and gain sexual encounters. This power imbalance has caused many go back and reexamine Bill Clinton’s mid-1990s affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Those who are reprocessing the scandal include Lewinsky herself. She was a 22-year-old White House intern who, comparatively speaking, held no power while engaging in encounters with the president of the United States. A few decades since her world turned upside down (and stayed that way), Lewinsky weighs in with a #MeToo perspective while penning a column for Vanity Fair, and she mulls over the problematic nature of consent in such situations:
“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.”
Lewinsky has always maintained that the relations between herself and Bill Clinton were consensual, but she now realizes that the issue was a nuanced one and runs much deeper than “yes” or “no.” She’s certainly not saying that she was forced into any encounters with the then-president, but in terms of influence and the power dynamic between an intern and the leader of the free world, she realizes that the subject is a cloudy one. Lewinsky goes on to express admiration for all those who have come forward against their abusers:
“I am in awe of the sheer courage of the women who have stood up and begun to confront entrenched beliefs and institutions. But as for me, my history, and how I fit in personally? I’m sorry to say I don’t have a definitive answer yet on the meaning of all of the events that led to the 1998 investigation; I am unpacking and reprocessing what happened to me.”
Indeed, it’s no surprise that Lewinsky declines to issue a definitive verdict on how she feels about that life-altering period of her past. Her name has become synonymous with scandal, and it’s probably impossible for her to distance herself from the situation, even decades later. They say that hindsight is everything, but perspective can be tough to come by when, as she previously told The Guardian, “The shame sticks to you like tar.”