Monica-Gayt: The Drama Surrounding CLinton and Lewinsky Bears a Remarkable Resemblance to the Position of Gay People in U.S. Culture Today

Article excerpt

Every culture gets the scandals it deserves, and we have the media extravaganza over Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Amid discussions of semen-stained dresses and penises with distinguishing features, public opinion polls indicate that most Americans feel that the president's sex life--not only while in office but in the office--is his own business. This idea of privacy is a kinder, gentler, heterosexual "don't ask, don't tell": We may not necessarily approve of what you do, but if done in private, it is your own business. Yet for the past half century mainstream American culture--particularly after the seismographic social eruptions of the sexual revolution--has been caught in the middle of an uneasy truce between a desire for the illusionary traditional, "safe" moral order of the past and the innate human instinct for increased personal and sexual freedom. This is the conflict in which William Jefferson Clinton and Monica Lewinsky have become featured performers.

At first glance gay men and lesbians might seem to have no special take on the scandal. One can't imagine a more typical and tawdry heterosexual situation, overripe even for Jackie Collins. Yet there are striking reasons why gay people might have salient insights into this complicated and emotionally confusing narrative, the most primary being that the drama surrounding Clinton and Lewinsky bears a remarkable resemblance to the position of gay people in U.S. culture today.

At New York City's first gay pride march, a lesbian held a placard reading, WE ARE YOUR WORST FEAR, WE ARE YOUR BEST FANTASY. Just as homosexuality has come to symbolize for many heterosexuals a scary break from traditional morality as well as hew, invigorating prospects of personal freedom, the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal has elicited similarly conflicted responses. That the president may have engaged in an adulterous sexual relationship with a younger woman or that that young woman happily agreed to have sex with the married leader of the free world are clearly violations of accepted social and moral teaching. Yet at the same time, many Americans--often chafing under a mandated sexual morality that only half of them accept--can understand the desire and impulse to act in similar ways. …