By Emily Cortes
Monica Lewinsky’s Twitter bio proclaims her as an “Anti-bullying activist, Ted Talk giver, Vanity Fair contributor, rap song muse.” She was just a 22-year-old White House intern when she was exposed for having a sexual relationship with the then president, Bill Clinton.
During the 1990s, the #MeToo movement was nonexistent, and frankly, not necessary due to the cultural understanding of sex, sexual assault, rape, and sexual advancments in the work place being something that men have always done and women must endure. Lewinsky was not labeled as a victim, she was labelled as the mistress in a situation that was out of her control. This was one of the first major public scandals surrounding politics and sexual assaults within our democracy.
It’s now, unfortunately, very common to hear about a policitican’s sex scandals, and it mostly has to do with the structure of power within our society. Men have always been at the forefront of educational, political, and socioeconomic advancements because women were given a lower standard by the men in power. This led to the domesticated lifestyle of the “stay-at-home-mom,” the “trophy wife,” and even the derogatory term familiarized by rapper Kanye West, “gold digger.”
However, times have soon changed and women are beginning to voice their stories and experiences of being on the losing side of a crippling power dynamic that not only holds power over our cultural understanding, but this abuse of power is coming from the hands of those we as a nation elected into political office. These people are trusted by the country to keep all citizens safe and ensure the ultimate protections of freedom, liberty, and justice.
Singer Beyonce and rappers Saint Jon, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, 2 Chains, and countless others have referenced Lewinksy’s sex scandal in over 40 songs since the late 1990s. All of the lines referring to sexual acts allegedly performed by Lewinsky, or referencing some type of presidential status, like in Kirko Bangz’s song, “I’m on the top floor / Presidential suite / Monica Lewinsky; presidential freak / Look at my rolley; presidential piece.”
If a musician were to reference a more recent sexual assault or sexual advacment that has come out within the past three to five years, they would probably be succumbed to “cancel culture,” but because of the cultural state this country was in during the 1990s, and because at the time Lewinksy claimed the seuxal relationship was mutualluy consentual, her story became a part of pop culture.
No consequences came from the Lewinsky and Clinton scandal after the news broke. Clinton denied having “sexual relations with that woman,” which was a lie, and was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. He was acquitted in the senate and finished out the remainder of his term.
The people who received the brunt of the Clinton scandal were, of course, Lewinsky, and Clinton’s wife, Hillary. Many viewed Hillary Clinton as a weak woman for remaining by her husband’s side after infidelity, yet this was another stigma that had yet been broken within the rules of politics.
In order to be a successful politician one must walk, talk, act, pretend to be the picture perfect person with a picture perfect family. The heart ache that comes with a relationship ending was not a concern for the American people, nor Hillary Clinton, who did not want to damage her own path into the political realm. Both women were responsible for taking the backlash and the embarrassment of being the cheater and the cheated. Bill Clinton came out virtually unscathed and is still extremely well respected both nationally and internationally.
In 2017, NBC News compiled a list of 8 political figures who were accused of sexual misconduct. They include State Representatives Bobby Scott, Rep. Trent Franks, Rep. Ruben Kihuen, Rep. Blake Farenthold, Rep. John Conyers Jr., Senator Al Franken who has eight accusers, Roy Moore, with at least nine accusers, and lastly, George H.W. Bush, with seven accusers.
In 2019, the Associated Press compiled a list of 90 state lawmakers who were accused of seuxal misconduct from 2017 to 2019. Thirty-three of them were either removed from office or had resigned before their removal, and 33 others received “other repercussions” ranging from probation to sexual harassment training courses, removal from house and senate committees, and very few receiving sentences. The last 24 lawmakers referenced were either mentioned in sexual harassment or sexual misconduct complaints, and recived no repercussions for those complaints.
The most recent accusations of sexual misconduct come from New York Governor Cuomo’s office aide, Alyssa McGrath, who was the first to publicly report Cuomo. McGrath stated that Cuomo would comment on her ringless left hand, question her divorce, and comment on her necklace he observed by peering down her blouse. After McGrath came forward, 35 other office employees spoke out and said that Cuomo’s office is “chaotic, unprofessional and toxic, especially for young women” to the New York Times.
Women are not the only ones who are survuviors of sexual assault. Many men, and even children, have come forward and accused politicians and their financial supports of sexual assult, sexual misconduct, abuse, and rape.
Here is a list of U.S. political officials and their financial supporters that have been charged or convicted of sex crimes with children and their respective party affiliations. Dennis Hastert (R), Congressman Anthony Weiner (D), Tim Nolan (R) , Mayor of Racine, Wisconsin, Gary Becker (D), Senator Ralph Shortey (R), Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (D), anti-abortion activist Howard Scott (R), Jacob Schwartz (D), County Commissioner David Swartz (R), Governor of Oregon, Neil Goldschmid (D), judge Mark Pazuhanich (R), Russell Simmons (D), anti-abortion activist Nicholas Morency (R), Illinois Congressman, Mel Reynolds (D), Edison Misla Aldarondo (R), New York Congressman, Fred Richmond (D), Mayor Philip Giordano (R), Senator from Alaska, George Jacko (D), Tom Shortridge (R), State Representative candidate for Colorado, Andrew Myers (D), Senator Strom Thurmond (R), Illinois Congressman, Gus Savage (D), pastor Mike Hintz (R), State Department official, Carl Carey (D), Peter Dibble (R), Maine Assistant Attorney General, James Cameron (D), Congressman Donald “Buz” Lukens (R), State Department official, Daniel Rosen (D), Richard A. Delgaudio (R), State Department official, James Cafferty (D).
There are many more not listed. Please research your political officials, before voting them into power and facilitating more abuse of civilians. Although many advancements have been made to protect women’s right to voice their personal experiences and to be believed, the accusations keep coming out.
Granted, each survivor of abuse has their own personalized timeline of when they see fit to speak out and share their experience, many of these survivors did not have a platform to speak out until recently. These are excellent spaces to uncover abuse, yet more still needs to be done to prevent abuse from even happening.
Many perpetrators act without fear of being caught which can be due to the fact that not many before them were caught, and did not show their predecessors how not to treat those you hold power over.