Many people rightly took The New York Times to task for its obituary of Julian Bond last week. His great-grandmother, a slave, could not have been a “mistress” of his white great-grandfather, her owner. The power dynamics of slavery allow only for rape.
This week marks 17 years since Bill Clinton’s admission of a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. It occurs to me that Clinton’s lecherous persona would not be tolerated in the Office of President, in primaries, on social media, were he rising now. That the Left gave him an intentional pass was, of course, the chorus of Clinton-hating conservatives then. That progressives today question the possibility of consent when one party is the Most Powerful Man in the World is important, not just because it births another irony about the daylight between them and reactionaries regarding sex in general. More to the point: The Bill Clinton presidency would be impossible as a native development now. By 2015’s standards, he is a predator. The degree to which his inherent power muted the personal agency of Miss Lewinsky is a debate worth having, considering the limitations it assumes for the later. There are implications for feminism here, of course, but also for the wider issues about cycles of power and abuse.