Monica Lewinsky Discusses the Year That Changed Her Life Forever

She talks about 90s culture, politics and the Internet's affect on her life and American history.

September 28, 2017 11:10 am
Monica Lewinsky
Writer Monica Lewinsky attends the 2017 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 26, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Dave M. Benett/VF17/WireImage)

Monica Lewinsky says that she is the first person to have her identity and reputation taken and savaged by the Internet. In an excerpt from The Naughty Nineties: The Triumph of the American Libido, by David Friend, and published by Vanity FairLewinsky talks about the year the changed her life forever.

Matt Drudge was the first person to publicly reveal Lewinsky’s name. However, prosecutor Kenneth Starr was investigating the president and became aware of 2o hours of tapes recorded by Lewinsky’s co-worker Linda Tripp and he widened the focus on his probe. According to Friend, Clinton’s false testimony before prosecutors would eventually lead to his impeachment. But it also led to the first-ever case of sexual shaming on the Internet.

Lewinsky, who has a Master’s in Social Psychology from the London School of Economics, is now an anti-bullying advocate, a public speaker, and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. Lewinsky says that her “private self” became a public commodity to protect the president.

Lewinsky spoke at length about The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America, written by Jeffrey Rosen. In it, Rosen said that “privacy law failed to keep Kennett Starr out of the bedroom of Monica Lewinsky, whose experience was a dramatic rebuke to the claim that women have no privacy to lose.” He writes that her affair forced America to redefine sexual harassment so that privacy and autonomy are preserved.

The United States vs. Monica Lewinsky was the action brought about Lewinsky during this time. To make a case against the president, they (Jones, Starr and Congress) first had to make a case against her. Her detail-by-detail grand jury deposition was ultimately released to the public.

Lewinsky blames five things for the erosion of privacy, which she says, of course, affected her life but the course of political history as well. Increased “tabloidization of celebrity in tandem with the surface treatment of politics” is number one, writes Friend. Number two is cable-news wars. Number three is the Internet and number four is a change in sexual mores. And finally, she credits the O.J. Simpson case, which Lewinsky says “spawned the whole talking-heads culture.”

Lewinsky is now a role model for human sexuality. She told Friend that there are people who have have been persecuted for their sexuality, and that they see some aspect of themselves in her experiences. Friend writes that in some ways, Lewinsky is “Exhibit A for the promise of a genuine second act in American life, even in the Internet age.”

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