Ms. Lewinsky testified that her physical relationship with the President included oral sex but not sexual intercourse.(38) According to Ms. Lewinsky, she performed oral sex on the President; he never performed oral sex on her.(39) Initially, according to Ms. Lewinsky, the President would not let her perform oral sex to completion. In Ms. Lewinsky’s understanding, his refusal was related to “trust and not knowing me well enough.”(40) During their last two sexual encounters, both in 1997, he did ejaculate.(41)
According to Ms. Lewinsky, she performed oral sex on the President on nine occasions. On all nine of those occasions, the President fondled and kissed her bare breasts. He touched her genitals, both through her underwear and directly, bringing her to orgasm on two occasions. On one occasion, the President inserted a cigar into her vagina. On another occasion, she and the President had brief genital-to-genital contact.(42)
-From The Starr Report, independent counsel Kenneth Starr’s report to the House on President Bill Clinton
Before the Lewinsky scandal, I thought a blowjob had something to do with a vacuum cleaner. Schoolyard rumor. I was ten when the scandal broke in January 1998, and my class, a particularly precocious cohort (pauvre Madame Partridge), feasted on it. I was repeating some of my grade’s greatest Clinton cracks to my mother when she interrupted me. “Do you even know what a blowjob is?” And that’s how I learned that sometimes people put other people’s genitals in or on their mouths to give pleasure.
According to the Starr Report, which is available in full on the Washington Post’s website, President Clinton wasn’t so into the giving; “he never performed oral sex on her.” He offered, once, in a “bathroom encounter,” but Ms. Lewinsky “stopped him because she was menstruating.” How incredible is it that we know that! Monica’s menses as part of the public record! Thanks to this old white guy’s inquiry, we also know that, during one BJ, “the President stood leaning against the doorway of the bathroom across from the study, which, he told Ms. Lewinsky, eased his sore back.(37)” We know that Monica and the President had phone sex 10 to 15 times and that, “after phone sex late one night, the President fell asleep mid-conversation.(62)” We know that Monica and Bill exchange gifts:
Ms. Lewinsky gave him, among other things, six neckties, an antique paperweight showing the White House, a silver tabletop holder for cigars or cigarettes, a pair of sunglasses, a casual shirt, a mug emblazoned “Santa Monica,” a frog figurine, a letter opener depicting a frog, several novels, a humorous book of quotations, and several antique books.(78) He gave her, among other things, a hat pin, two brooches, a blanket, a marble bear figurine, and a special edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.(79)
The Clinton affair was made for the minds of the barely pubescent because what sexually mature adult would believe it’s their business to know what their President does with his cock? (I said it: cock. Genitals, sexual relations, oral sex. Cock, fucking, blowjob.) Even I, at ten, understood the deposition was ludacris [sic]. What’s your fantasy, America?
We can do it in the white house
Tryna make them turn the lights out
Champaign with my campaign let me do the damn thing
What’s my name, what’s my name, what’s my name
“Monica Lewinsky began her White House employment as an intern in the Chief of Staff’s office in July 1995,” reads the first line of “Part II: Initial Sexual Encounters” of the “Narrative” bulk of Starr’s report. Part II and III (“Continued Sexual Encounters”) chronologically detail, in over 5000 words, Bill and Monica’s hookup. It’s like slash fiction but better because it’s true—a young ingenue, the capital-P President; meet me in the Oval Office and don’t forget the pizza. How many procrasturbation breaks do you think Ken Starr took while writing it? How many Americans got boners reading it?
The Lewinsky scandal came down to a dress—a cumstained navy blue dress from the Gap, now infamous. Monica’s dress was what prompted this digression into a fifteen-year-old scandal. This bi-week on Forever 69, I wanted to rhapsodize on the traces left by s-e-x on our clothes: the rips and tears, the stains and smears; the button long gone which you dare never replace as its absence represents the eyes wide shut ache of your cunt as it was when that button was torn loose. But as with most essays (I try, I try), my initial prompt was overwhelmed in the research. Ken Starr, America—I can’t get over your perverted detail.
Ms. Lewinsky testified that she and the President hugged, and “he said he didn’t want to get addicted to me, and he didn’t want me to get addicted to him.” They looked at each other for a moment.(440) Then, saying that “I don’t want to disappoint you,” the President consented.(441) For the first time, she performed oral sex through completion.(442)
When Ms. Lewinsky next took the navy blue Gap dress from her closet to wear it, she noticed stains near one hip and on the chest.(443)FBI Laboratory tests revealed that the stains are the President’s semen.(444)
I read somewhere dumb like the New York Times Style section that sexts are the new lipstick on the collar; that texts and other digital communications are regularly submitted during divorce proceedings as evidence of an affair; this is news. Lately, my affairs have mostly been digital. I have two regular playmates and a few promising flirtations, all of whom I interact with exclusively online, via viber, gchat, email and/or Skype. We share our desires (“i imagined your ass up against the wall and me on my knees, licking and slowly slipping my fingers inside”). We share selfies and amateur porn. We share orgasms, sometimes simultaneously, just not IRL. My e-ffairs suit my busy schedule, my refusal to compromise that schedule to accomodate someone else’s, and, more than anything, they suit my freshly starched intimacy issues. They are also, for now, novel (“another layer of sexuality”) and Daniel Bergner knows that’s what women want.
If I videotape myself coming alone in my bedroom and send it to another person who uses it to get off, does that count as “sexual relations”?
Sexting has become standard practice, like eating a girl out (Mr. President), a requisite for any longer-than-one-night lover, at least among my best girlfriends. Sexting, the selfie, and the sextape are ubiquitous, irresistible, reproducible, and may make it so that one day a sex scandal isn’t the only thing that can get a powerful dude ousted. (If I’d been cleverer in the early oughts, I would have thought to seduce and fuck Bush, because his foreign policy wasn’t about to get him impeached.) The Clinton scandal revealed more about America’s hang-ups with sex than it did Clinton’s proclivities, although it revealed those too. In gross detail. Because we wanted to hear it. Because we’re perverted in this puritanical Warholian voyeuristic way. The sext might change that. Make your own Blue Movie or Blowjob. Write your own depositional erotica.
My fellow Americans, we’re all here not just because we colonized this territory, slaughtered its natives, claimed our independence, and then started claiming our independence for nations abroad; we’re here because our forefathers and mothers fucked.
I’m not gunning for everyone to publicly broadcast their sexuality as I clearly like to do. Individuals, even Presidents, have the right to their privacy, if that’s what they desire. But maybe, in a post-Weiner-as-Mayor America, we’ll come to a place where we can, as Clinton pleaded, “stop the pursuit of personal destruction and the prying into private lives and get on with our national life.” What the President or any power broker does to get off should not matter; what matters is their work, the tasks we’ve brought them into public life to pursue. (This does not apply to rape, sexual abuse, Strauss-Kahn, but sex between consenting adults: that’s nobody’s business unless all parties want it to be. Basically, if Rahm Emanuel and his partner want to sleep with me, I should be able to play the unicorn without any of y’all Twitter commentating.) I’m over political sex scandals like I’m over women’s stories because, “they obscure the stories we should be hearing, that are already being told if we’d only listen.”
You know what I’m not over though? In the words of Ken Starr: “Initial and Continual Sexual Encounters.” My cyber sex life is fun, but it doesn’t substitute having a RL sex life. This polemic was prompted by my wanting to reflect on the ways that sex affects our clothed selves. In my last move, I lost a piece of luggage that contained my first love’s favorite worn flannel shirt, missing one button, and a tee that I’d traded, back and forth, never washing, with a long-distance fling. The loss of those two garments was like losing those lovers all over again.
The scent of a desired one on your shirt, the imprint of their thumb on your bicep, the tear in your jeans they found you through, these are the traces that can’t be replaced. Even writing won’t do. Because I may always remember his scent, but I can never know Bill’s.