There’s a great article up at The Nation on ‘The Lewinsky Double Standard’. It discusses how differently we view men who have sex with much younger, less powerful women and women who have sex with older, more powerful men. Admitting an affair with an older, powerful man can, for many women, have severe consequences:
Clinton’s reputation has largely recovered from the affair that sparked his impeachment trial; Lewinsky’s never did. She got a master’s degree from the London School of Economics, hoping to do communications for a charity, but has been unable to get a full-time job. “Because of what potential employers so tactfully referred to as my ‘history,’ I was never ‘quite right’ for the position,” she writes, noting that the only offers she’s gotten have been those that would market her notoriety. She’s watched her friends marry and have children, their lives moving forward while hers has not. “With every man I date…I go through some degree of 1998 whiplash,” she writes. Imagine, at 40, being defined by a blowjob you gave at 22. Lewinsky is scarcely exaggerating when she compares herself to Hester Prynne. Her life has been deformed by slut-shaming, a phrase that had not yet been coined when she was catapulted into infamy.
And, perhaps discouragingly, this is sometimes an area in which feminists have contributed to the harm:
During the scandal, the primary feminist argument was about sexual harassment, about whether or not the affair was consensual. In their zeal to argue that the dalliance wasn’t exploitative—and thus that Clinton hadn’t committed a public transgression—some feminists went so far as to argue that Clinton was Lewinsky’s victim. “Here’s a cute, sexy, young president, he’s known to have had a lot of sexual affairs,” said Erica Jong during an all-female discussion of the scandal that The New York Observer convened at Le Bernardin. “He might stimulate the fantasies of all the young women who work in the office. And particularly the ones who are a bit father-obsessed and obsessed with older men and feel neglected. So, it’s possible that Clinton has had many more such attacks than we even think.” Attacks! As if the poor president only capitulated under the intern’s siege. There was little room, back then, to see Lewinsky as both an active agent in the affair and a person whose dignity and privacy deserved protection.