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Rachel Kramer Bussel

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So What If Monica Lewinsky Is Single? An Open Letter to the Daily Mail

Posted: 03/15/11 07:12 PM ET

Dear The Daily Mail,

I understand that you need to sell newspapers, but I read your article on Monica Lewinsky twice and, after coming away with no new information about her each time, am puzzled over why you would print this. Is her single status really news?

While you thoroughly rehashed the fact that Bill Clinton basically had an affair with her then threw her under the bus, we already knew that. You quote her extensively from 2004... seven years ago. The only new quotes come from a "friend" of hers in the National Enquirer.

The details you portray are not in dispute; no one is claiming that Lewinsky and Clinton had intercourse. The fact that their affair consisted largely of her blowing him led to, you might remember, a major cultural inquiry into whether oral sex "is" sex. You might want to read the most excellent anthology Our Monica, Ourselves: The Clinton Affair and the National Interest (NYU Press, 2001) for a nuanced look at the politics at play.

I'm especially interested in Lewinsky, and perhaps protective, in part because I got my start in erotica by writing a fantasy story about her called "Monica and Me" that was published in the anthologies Starf*cker and Best Lesbian Erotica 2001. I later started dating a woman who was a fan of both the story and the intern behind it, who later wound up meeting Monica at a party for the magazine Heeb (she told Monica about the story, and from what I was told, had no problem with it).

She fascinated me because I thought she was hot (still do) and admired her chutzpah in going after the man she wanted. Was she a little naïve? Probably... but who wasn't at 22? I believe she did fall in love with him back then and that he fed her romantic fantasies because he was intrigued by her, and that kind of attention, and got off on the power trip of having a young woman literally on her knees, obsessing over him, if I may play armchair psychologist to a former president. I don't judge him for that, but I do judge him for then blatantly lying while making her out to be the one telling an untruth. In doing so, he did far more lasting damage to her life and career than he has suffered.

Beyond that personal interest, though, the fact is that while I can read about Bill Clinton eating a veggie plate in US Weekly's celebrity sightings along with his political work in the mainstream press -- and the fact that he's still extremely popular and, oh yeah, married to the Secretary of State -- Monica Lewinsky's name is forever going to be associated with Clinton and the ensuing scandal. She's had to try to build a career and life after that, while for Clinton the affair was just a blip on an already-existing career. No matter what else she does, like get her master's degree in social psychology from the London School of Economics, that is what she's going to be remembered for. I think if we all took a few seconds to have some empathy and imagined our most embarrassing act being forever publicly linked to our name, we might be less harsh in judging Lewinsky.

Also, here's a news flash: lots of 37-year-old women are single. Lots of young women have affairs with older, more powerful men. I admire her for weathering the scandal and not letting the over-the-top slut-shaming, which continues to the present (See "You might as well hang it up. You were a fling, a bug on a windshield, a phase - if your 'romance' even existed at all." at Gather) get her down.

As to the claim that she would "would take him back in a second," I have a lot of trouble believing that's true, but even if it were, by all accounts, Clinton is extremely charismatic and I'm sure that, married or not, plenty of women would want to sleep with him, or more. If he were single, I bet plenty of his female Hollywood friends would be more than a little interested. He's not my type, but I can concede that he is probably the perfect definition of "silver fox." But the idea that Lewinsky is pining for him seems like a convenient way to basically say, "Pity the single, childless lady," and by extension, any single woman in her thirties.

Maybe, just maybe, Lewinsky wants to stay out of the spotlight and have as close to a normal life as she can. Maybe she is just going about her life... kind of like everyone else (except she hangs out with Terry Richardson). The idea that her being single and childless is some sort of affront (to who, exactly?) and tragedy (of her own making seems to be implied) is offensive. Considering that she never sought out the spotlight, and when it was thrust upon her it was almost always as a way to hold her up as an example of the woman who "brought down a President," I think we should give the woman a break. There are plenty of women clamoring for the spotlight who want us to talk about their latest conquests. Maybe you should focus on them instead, or actually ask Monica what she's up to rather than rely on sketchy tabloid hearsay.

Sincerely,

Rachel Kramer Bussel

Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) is a New York-based author, editor, blogger and event organizer. She has edited 38 anthologies, including Gotta Have It, Passion, Orgasmic, Fast Girls, and Bottoms Up, and is the Best Sex Writing series editor. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture.

 

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