I just finished watching the 3-part docuseries, The Clinton Affairs, on A&E. I laughed, I cried, I yelled at my television like an old man watching a football game.
Ok, I didn’t actually laugh, but I did loudly scoff whenever I heard something absurd. I’m quite sure I viewed the series through a different lens than most. As someone who has been through a political sex scandal (though there was no actual sex in mine), I know what that kind of intense pressure and that kind of slut-shaming feels like.
I knew the series would be hard to watch, but I didn’t expect to have quite as many extreme reactions — and not just emotional responses, but physical ones as well. (If you don’t know anything about trauma, I highly recommend a book called The Body Keeps The Score.) Not only did I tear up a few times while watching, I literally got cold chills throughout my body. I dissociated a bit, and ended up with a headache by the end of the first part and felt so sick to my stomach that I couldn’t eat dinner.
Maybe my new diet plan will be to watch this docuseries every night! Just kidding, I don’t hate myself quite that much.
I noticed many parallels between Monica’s situation and my own. We were both 22-years-old when our unfortunate situations began. Do you remember being 22? Were you an idiot?
Trick question, we all were. You think you’re an adult at that age, because legally you are. But in reality, how much does a 22-year-old know? Not much.
It’s hard to comprehend what the consequences of your actions might be at that age. It’s hard to imagine that one decision could derail your life in such a major way. No one thinks that way when they’re 22.
Hearing Michael Isikoff refer to Monica as “an extremely young woman” and Lucianne Goldberg describe her as a “child, virtually,” made me tear up. I don’t remember a single reporter saying that about me or standing up for me in that way.
I had to do it myself, because no one else was going to defend me. Other parallels I noticed: Bill promised her jobs. Weiner knew I wanted to be a writer, so he told me he would get me a job writing for Politico. He also offered to help me get a condo in Chicago.
Another similarity is that we both sat around waiting to hear from them. We couldn’t call them, they called us. And at 22, it’s easy to get sucked into that kind of situation. A powerful man is giving you attention and affection, it’s a bit like a drug.
It’s easy to get swept up and ignore the rest of your life, which is what I did and what Monica expressed as well. “I had no way to reach him.” she said. “If he called me I couldn’t call him back, I was completely at his mercy.” Same, girl. Same.
They show a clip in the series of Clinton celebrating on stage with Kevin Spacey. It’s a bit ironic. Is there some sort of special, privileged sexual predators club?
I got the feeling watching this series that Clinton helped pave the way for Trump. People often say, “Oh, we’ve never seen anything like Trump! Scandal after scandal, and it’s like none of it matters!”
Um hello, he is not the first president that this happened with. Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, Monica. This is not a new phenomenon.
[Editor’s note: Of course, the media famously dubbed Ronald Reagan “The Teflon President,” because it claimed nothing stuck to him. In his case, the biggest scandals were about affairs of state, not sex, and a main reason nothing stuck was because the media didn’t do its job fully reporting the various scandals surrounding Reagan, especially the Iran/contra affair.]
Men like Bill Clinton and Trump see women as vessels for their sexual desires and nothing more. During the scandal, a lot of people saw Monica and Paula Jones as the real villains. While watching the docuseries, it is apparent — once again — that Bill Clinton is the true villain.
The series recalls something Clinton lawyer Robert Bennett said about Paula Jones: “Be careful what you ask for, you may get it. I had a dog like that who just wanted to catch cars. And he successfully caught one one day, and I have a new dog.”
Bennett begins by saying he’s sorry for making that comment, but then he brings up a Maureen Dowd column that says he compared Paula to a dead dog, and he denies it. Well, which is it? Are you sorry or are you not?
They also showed a clip of Bill Maher saying, “Monica Lewinsky should apologize to America. She’s the home-wrecker.”
This caused me to yell at my TV so loudly I scared one of my cats. To imply that the “other woman” has more responsibility than the MARRIED MAN for the situation is painfully, and obviously, stupid.
It’s a sentiment that was thrown my way time and time again. Monica said there was a point during peak scandal that she would alternate between hysterically crying and shutting down. “I remember looking out the window and thinking that the only way to fix this was to kill myself,” she said.
When BuzzFeed outed me, I ran through all the different ways I could kill myself, trying to decide what way would be the least traumatic for my dad, who would inevitably be the one to find my body. Are those the thoughts a happy home-wrecker has? Or are those the thoughts of someone who is profoundly distraught over what happened? To place the blame on the young women in these situations — not the married, older, more powerful politicians — is truly despicable.
The media has to be more responsible in the ways they talk about women involved in sex scandals. The docuseries mentions the “nuts and sluts defense” of Bill Clinton — thanks Maureen Dowd — which felt all too familiar.
In my case, it was leaked that I had been on a sugar daddy dating website to make me seem less credible. I was poor white trash who spent time with wealthy men for money.
Monica was called a “spoiled Jewish princess.” She recalled the the docuseries,”I was crushed by the lack of support in the media. It seemed everything was seen through partisan eyes and there didn’t seem to be too much humanity.”
The latter is a very important point: if you’re in a sex scandal with a Democrat, expect all hell to break loose. The media will torture you, relentlessly. However, if you’re in a scandal with a Republican, especially one as unpopular as Donald Trump, you’ll be a media darling. Stormy is so lucky that Trump is a Republican! Honestly, journalists wonders why people hate and distrust them, but if you’re a woman who has dealt with the media, you fully understand the sentiment.
“It’s a very long period of floundering and feeling unbelievably stuck in the old narrative of Monica Lewinsky that was created,” Monica says towards the end of the docuseries.
That struck a nerve, because I’ve done a lot to try to rebuild my life post-scandal. I went back to college and got a degree, will continue my education, and plan to write a book eventually.
But it’s going to take a long time, and many more years of therapy to be at peace with what has happened. I’m thankful I have someone like Monica to look to, someone who has gotten through the hard parts and has turned things around for herself. The narrative about Monica Lewinsky has changed, and I hope the same happens one day in my case.
I also hope the media has learned a lesson, namely, that it’s not necessary to redeem women in these scandals two decades after the facts if you don’t vilify them in the first place.