Monica Lewinsky has penned a powerful essay reflecting on the #MeToo movement—and how it has changed her views of the Bill Clinton sex scandal.
Just four years ago, Lewinsky emphasised that her relationship with the former US President between 1995-97 had been "consensual".
But now, following on from the thousands of women who have shared their experiences with sexual harassment and assault under the #MeToo hashtag, Lewinsky looks at her relationship with the powerful man 27-years her senior in a different light.
"Now, at 44, I'm beginning (just beginning) to consider the implications of the power differentials that were so vast between a president and a White House intern," she writes in the March issue of Vanity Fair.
"I'm beginning to entertain the notion that in such a circumstance the idea of consent might well be rendered moot.”
Lewinsky continues: "The dictionary definition of 'consent'? 'To give permission for something to happen'. And yet what did the 'something' mean in this instance, given the power dynamics, his position, and my age?
"He was my boss. He was the most powerful man on the planet. He was 27 years my senior, with enough life experience to know better."
The news of Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky broke in January 1998 during an investigation conducted by independent counsel by Ken Starr. Clinton was impeached for lying about their affair under oath, but was later acquitted.
Lewinsky’s name, looks and character were eviscerated for months in the media; she became the butt of late-night television jokes and was publicly shamed. For decades, she suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and experienced suicidal thoughts.
“I had my family and friends to support me. But by and large I had been alone. So. Very. Alone. Publicly Alone—abandoned most of all by the key figure in the crisis, who actually knew me well and intimately,” Lewinsky recounts.
“That I had made mistakes, on that we can all agree. But swimming in that sea of Aloneness was terrifying… And yet I don’t believe I would have felt so isolated had it all happened today.”
In the essay, the 44-year-old also paid tribute to the thousands of women and men who have spoken out—and campaigned against—all instances of sexual misconduct.
"One of the most inspiring aspects of this newly energised movement is the sheer number of women who have spoken up in support of one another,” she writes.
"I — we — owe a huge debt of gratitude to the #MeToo and Time's Up heroines. They are speaking volumes against the pernicious conspiracies of silence that have long protected powerful men when it comes to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and abuse of power.
"But I know one thing for certain: part of what has allowed me to shift is knowing I'm not alone anymore. And for that I am grateful."
You can read Lewinsky’s essay in full here.