Monica Lewinsky may have consented to her mid-1990s affair with Bill Clinton, but the facts are thus: 1) she was in her early 20s and he was in his 50s, 2) he was her boss, and 3) he was President of the United States. In 1998, that was fodder for scathing tabloid headlines and late-night monologues, but in 2018, we know that the line between consent and coercion is much blurrier, and what happened to Lewinsky carries far more weight than mere scandal gone viral.
Indeed, as Lewinsky points out in a beautiful essay she penned for the March 2018 edition of Vanity Fair—which you should read in full—she is only just now able to grasp where her story, and the stories of women like her, find their place in the #MeToo movement. The subsequent outing of the Clinton scandal thrust both her and the nation into a “year of shame and spectacle,” as she describes it, one in which she felt alone and abandoned by both the public and by Clinton himself, who let the media rip her apart even though he “actually knew me well and intimately.” It wasn’t so different from the fates of women who spoke out about their abusers and found their stories dismissed and reputations dismantled. The difference, Lewinsky writes, is that thanks to the #MeToo moment, these women no longer have to speak out alone: