Memo to Monica Lewinsky: The guys aren’t intimidated; they’re repulsed.

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Hmmm. Really? I have known lots of guys who would only be repulsed if someone found out about it. They don’t seem to mind this sort of behavior when they’re on the receiving end of it.

    Seems to me this is a classic case of the old double standard — men may not mind hanging out with someone willing to “put out” but they sure don’t want to marry her. I think Ms. Lewinsky is paying a very steep price, publicly and privately, for the sort of eggregious youthful lapse in judgment that many other women — whose lives are not written about in the press — manage to put behind them.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Partly, it’s just that it’s impossible to look at Lewinsky without picturing her “not having sexual relations” with Bill Clinton. That much is just a function of the media spotlet, to be sure.

    But she’s a rather low-class girl, keeping a semen stained dress around as a souvenir and such. And she has a history of having affairs with married men in positions of authority over her. Hardly the kind of girl one wants to bring home to Mom.

    And, goodness, she was in her mid-20s at the time of her youthful lapse. How old do you have to be to be responsible for your conduct?

  3. Actually, she was 24 or so when the word got out — their relationship started two years earlier. As I recall, there was lots of press about the fact that she was only a couple of years older than Chelsea, who was then 18.

    Is it the fact that she had sex with “married men in positions of authority over her” that makes her low class? What does that make the married — and presumably older — men? Compare her behavior with the many, many women in their early and mid-20s who use sex in today’s social marketplace, either to get ahead, or consolidate power, or just because they think it’s what’s expected of them. Does that make them low-class as well?

    The bottom line is that most young women who engage in promiscuous sex early in their lives are very, very frequently permitted to put it behind them and are not — in this day and age — thought the worse for it. Men of any age — or marital status — are very rarely held accountable for their sexual behavior, and are almost certainly never thought of as “low class” as a result.

    There is no argument whatsoever that Ms. Lewinsky exercised extremely poor judgment — perhaps more than once. But then so did Clinton — older, presumably wiser, and in a much greater position of responsibility. Wanna bet me he can still get a date? Those who are repulsed by him usually cite political resaons, not the fact that he had “non-sexual relations” with Ms. Lewinsky.

  4. James Joyner says:

    I was leading an artillery platoon on the Fulda gap when I was 24.

    Both men and women are permitted to be fairly promiscous in today’s society, so long as they’re not married to other people, without being held in low esteem–so long as the sex is recreational.
    Does having sex with people in order to get ahead economically make one low class? You betcha. Prostitutes and porn actresses are generally not held in high esteem. Nor are the men who avail themselves of their services.

    I’m not disputing that Clinton is a low-class individual; I take that as a given. Can he still get a date? Sure, with low class women who will put up with just about anything to be with a rich, powerful man.

  5. I agree with you that this particular situation is distasteful. I agree with you that this sort of behavior generally is distateful. I agree that there are many, many young 20-somethings who don’t behave this way (my husband led a platoon in Vietnam in 1968 at 22). I even agree that Ms. Lewinsky has behaved in ways that can be described as “low class.”

    I maintain, however, that there is a double standard between how men who engage in this sort of behavior are viewed, and how women who engage in the same behavior are viewed. Men, married or otherwise, who take sexual advantage of willing women under their authority are simply not held accountable for it — unless they’re in the military — often enough for me to buy your assertion that such men are “held in low esteem.” I think they should be, but they just aren’t. Ms. Lewinsky was seduced by Clinton’s power and position, which he had no compunction whatsoever about using to influence her. Should she be held accountable for her behavior? Absolutely. Should she be allowed to learn from her mistakes and move on with her life, like other 20-somethings? Why not? Unfortunately, she will instead live her whole life paying for this mistake in a way that other young women simply do not — in large part because Bill Clinton abandoned her to an unbelievable media scourging while he denied responsibility. And I think the fact that this makes her repulsive to people is hypocritical and a shame.

  6. Kate says:

    One could feel sorry for Monica if she were living her post-Clinton life as though she wants past errors forgotten. Instead, she’s come up with various ways to remain in the public domain – flogging handbags on The View, giving interviews to GQ – that’s the sign of someone who’s still trying to exploit her notoriety.

  7. McGehee says:

    In fifty years she’ll be the center square on “Hollywood Squares” because of her C*****n “indiscretion.” (That’ll be the version hosted by whichever of Michael Jackson’s kids isn’t in an institution at the time.)

  8. Sorry, James–the Yorkie lady is right. This girl should be allowed to get on with her life.

    We know that she had a crush on Clinton, which he exploited. Was his power part of the appeal?–well, it probably didn’t hurt. Did she get involved with him simply because she thought he could get her advancement? I doubt it.

    And, Kate: given how badly this woman was treated by the White House, by liberals who were mad at her for largely symbolic reasons, and by the press, she might as well make a few bucks off of it. It’s not like she can work a normal job any more–not after what happened.

    The double standard is alive and well. And “feminists” who are supposed to stick up for women abandoned the girl who had been so badly used and defended the guy who used her.

    What I expect from conservatives is that they understand that the person who had the power to stop this was Clinton–and he had, as the powerful person in the relationship, greater responsibility to put the brakes on.

  9. James Joyner says:


    Who’s not letting her get on with her life? She’s made millions of dollars on her notoriety and is, as the ads say, free to move about the country. Does that mean decent guys must forget who she is and start asking her on dates?

    And, hell, Clinton was impeached. Conservatives mustered all sorts of antipathy for Clinton; it was the Left that refused to hold him accountable for his abuse of authority compounded by repeatedly lying under oath. But his sleaziness doesn’t excuse hers.