monica lewinsky

Read Monica Lewinsky On Consent, Trauma And #MeToo

In the wake of the 20th anniversary of the Starr investigation that publicly exposed Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky’s relationship, Monica Lewinsky has written a powerful and compelling essay for Vanity Fair on her relationship with former President Bill Clinton, discussing hauntingly its skewered power dynamics, and the trauma and isolation she experienced subsequently.

The growth of #MeToo as a powerful movement collecting women’s voices on all manners of trauma — from rape to sexual assault to the sorts of sexual traumas we are unwilling or unable to classify into legal categories — exists in sharp contrast to the media treatment of Lewinsky just twenty years ago. Lewinsky’s role in what was deemed a ‘scandal’ of Presidential proportions saw her treated as an object of humor, bullying, and harassment. Lewinsky has in the past revealed that she had been branded names such as tramp, slut, and whore as a result of the incident, and was nearly suicidal as a result of the public humiliation and harassment that she faced.

Lewinsky has spoken movingly in the past about her experiences with trauma and depression, and the intensity of her anxiety and exhaustion being in the public light after the Clinton incident. Her Vanity Fair piece builds off on this theme, and her words are shocking and powerful reminders of those feminism has left behind, and those who it must acknowledge and lift up in the age of #MeToo. Lewinsky writes about the uncomfortable power imbalance that she experienced with Bill Clinton, and how their relationship, though ostensibly consensual, was marked by “the power dynamics, his position, and [her] age.” She ruminates about what it means to consent to a sexual and intimate relationship, as a 22-year-old, with a 49-year-old who also happened to be the most powerful man in the world. And she writes, movingly, about what this means for her place in the #MeToo movement, the trauma she has experienced ever since, and how to heal that trauma — personally, but also collectively.

Lewinsky writes with thoughtfulness, intelligence, kindness, introspection, and grace. We must consider ourselves grateful to have her voice in our movement, and strive to do better collectively at maintaining the momentum to always hear out and lift up the survivors among us.

Header image via TED.


Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and politics, intersectional feminism, criminal justice, human rights, freedom of the press, the law and feminism, and the politics of South Asia.

Meg is a law student in California. She's interested in law and gender, race and criminal justice, human rights, cats, and sports.

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