In 1998, White House intern Monica Lewinsky, at 22, was having sex with US President, Bill Clinton, creating sensational headlines around the western world at least. In 2015, seventeen years after the sexcapade, Lewinsky addressed an audience for Ted’s Talk with her subject “The Price of Shame”. Never too late for a good sexy story! During her 15-minute monologue, she articulated her ‘mistake’ for falling in love with her boss who just happened to be the president of America. Acknowledging her shame, she elaborated how her feelings of humiliation were most painful and pernicious as her passionate sentiments became enveloped in a ‘cult of humiliation’ on social media and in cyberspace. Much of the contempt, both of self and from the social environs, was engendered I suggest, by pre-ordained distorted attitudes pertaining to sex for young women with its politically correct norms of behaviour. These norms imply a conformist, conventional and conservative perspective for young women and good sex, almost a contradiction in terms. For Bill Clinton it was a very different denouement. While he was impeached in Congress, the Senate issued its ‘forgiveness,’ allowing him to keep his presidential job despite initially  denying his affair with Lewinsky. His wife, Hillary, remained as a loyal and good ‘first lady’ beside him. Monica Lewinsky suffered in a way he never did, let alone never would or could, in western culture.
Moreover in a quality newspaper in Melbourne recently it was reported that a British businesswoman and TV personality, Saira Khan, who I’ve never heard of, publicly admitted she granted her husband of 11 years ‘a sex pass’ for freedom to enjoy sexual dalliances with women other than herself. She was 46-years-old, apparently not wanting to have sex with him anymore and instead gave him carte blanche to indulge outside the marital bed. He later denied he had any such arrangement with his wife. The columnist, first published in the Telegraph in London and reprinted in The Age, wrote how Khan was applauded for NOT conforming to an ancient set of relationship rules that pervade the social spectrum.
Many Hollywood stars, pop icons and sporting celebs are ‘dumped’ unceremoniously in a melting-pot of sexual shame due to supposedly inappropriate sexual indulgence still sullied as ‘contemptible’ in this 21st century. These consensual experiences, which I assume were pleasurable to the participants, are somehow perceived as harmful to others. As to how they are defies logic; maybe because there isn’t any, just an irrational obsession about people and their boudoir behaviour. I am constantly bemused by precious space in a newspaper devoted to sex issues that I couldn’t give a damn about. Yes, Khan is believed to be doing ‘marriage’ a benevolent favour or so the columnist argued, but shouldn’t it all be private and beyond our interest? Do we need some ‘famous’ woman, be it in Britain, America or elsewhere to set sexual standards for us? I am concerned that any woman, such as Lewinsky or Khan are either castigated or celebrated because of their sexual behaviour or attitudes, sex being the common denominator for their honour or humiliation. Men, too, can experience similar indignities relating to their sexual behaviour such as golf celeb Tiger Woods who acknowledged just a few years ago he has a sexual problem as too much of a good thing may be a problem after all, infamous cricket legend Shane Warne who was caught with his pants down in the media for his ‘sexting’ and sexual romps while married and more recently West Indian ‘stud’ cricketer Chris Gayle attracted attention for his claim he was THAT big you needed two hands to lift it. Interestingly, male waywardness seems more temporarily taunted than females, but social sexual mores can devalue the dick as much as the vagina when private and personal sex enters the public domain. That domain seems to focus on shaming sex for both genders depending on where you do it, how it’s suggested, who with and of course, it’s totally infra dig if you’re married to someone else. I don’t get it I’m glad to say.
More than 30 years ago when I worked as a journalist for a TV showbiz magazine, a female reporter colleague gloated over the ‘best’ story when some famous showbiz ‘star’ revealed trauma or heartache on a personal level, particularly about sex. Not just for her I realised, but also for the hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women, who bought and read this magazine. Knowing the rich and famous can fall off their glamorous pedestals excites some kind of perverse enjoyment for these readers by glorying in the shame of others, perhaps offering them therapy as after all, these people are just human too, like me and most others. Yet contrarily, these ordinary human beings are mercilessly persecuted in the media on an almost daily basis as more sinner than saint,  implying one should eschew sex unless it’s within the sanctity of a bona fide relationship.
This magazine, still on sale, is not alone in pandering to the salacious tastes abounding in suburbia. Too many women’s mags are testament to this penchant as I peruse the covers of these mags in my supermarket on shopping days. Be it about being fat, fucking or faking it, the famous fall foul over and over again on many fronts. Are people just inherently sadistic and cruel fulfilling their need for weekly therapy behind the printed page in a way that is far less stigmatising and more socially acceptable than anti-depressants or valium, albeit addictive nonetheless.
Now, as the American presidential vote is just days away, there has been more and more media focus on and exposure about both Trump and Clinton’s sex lives. As Trump is condemned by millions of women worldwide for his ‘locker room talk’ about ‘grabbing a women by the pussy’ and his supposed sexual misdemeanours with many women, his entourage has slammed opponent Hillary for her husband’s supposed sexual misdemeanours. Trump’s alleged tax evasion and his racist stance on Muslims and immigration recede into a background of irrelevance most of the time. Clinton’s possible secrecy violations rendered likewise insignificant, though the FBI’s re-opening its investigation has spotlighted their significance again. However, it’s Clinton’s aide’s earlier marriage (implicit is their sexual liaison) to a ‘sexually’ disgraced former politician  that seems to have reignited a flame of fire.  One local journalist referred to this sexual media mire as ‘gutter’ politics but it is not the first time, and I’m certain it won’t be the last time, where the sexual behaviour and/or attitudes of politicians take centre stage in the political landscape. As a young girl in my early teens, I read about British MP and Crown Minister John Profumo whose political career was destroyed by the public knowledge of his sexual relationships, albeit with a call girl. Too many policies, plans and performance are subsumed as unimportant compared to the more significant arena pertaining to sex. Indeed, last weekend, a well-respected Melbourne daily newspaper devoted several pages of its magazine to discussing observations by both a male and female reporter of cable television’s coverage of the election campaign. Stand out comments I noticed were by the male reporter who watching Fox News referred several times to ‘short, tight dresses’ worn by its female news reporters as if their apparel denoted their status as ‘sex objects’. Maybe they are, but who gives a damn what they are wearing if they ask the right questions. Of course, the male reporter didn’t comment on their journalistic skills or lack thereof. Their appearance he implied spoke volumes about them as broadcast bimbos and tantalising tarts touting for Trump. Clinton, with her more rotund aged body, is sadly circumscribed to wear sexless, long jackets and pants suits, not mentioned of course, her husband’s sordid sexual history shaming her by association. Sex writ large in our global media network!
There has also been recent media controversy in Australia about the government’s proposed same sex marriage plebiscite and the educational program Safe Schools, where sex and people’s private preferences have attracted public gaze engendering contempt and condemnation for other than ‘normal’ heterosexual sex. In so many spheres of our lives, sex is used as a predominant predictor of both aberrant and acceptable attitudes to be admired or abhorred, depending on perspectives proclaimed as sane, sensible and safe. Anything distant from that delusional distortion of human behaviour is denounced as dangerous to democracy and of greater relevance it seems, our collective social sanity. The irony, as I understand it, is an absurd anathema to a sense of freedom we should all be entitled to enjoy where sex no longer makes news because of prurient and perilous assumptions by the status quo. Maybe it is because so many people are intrinsically voyeurs who enjoy the sexual revelations of others however meaningless they are to their lives. The social impact of sullying others’ sexual indulgences seems of paramount importance not just in the media but to people in all corners of the globe. Be it pornography or plain old-fashioned permissiveness, sexual pundits seem determined to disparage any behaviour that contradicts their perception of permissible sexual norms. Sex is the name of the game underpinning our politics and the public interest.
It is a never-ending story about sex enshrined in human history in one way or another from thousands of years ago to the present day with different twists depending on who is involved, what they have indulged in and with whom. It is as if sex is a ‘crime’ per se, unless sanctioned in law between one consenting adult man and one consenting adult woman in holy matrimony with the 2.2 offspring as biological determinism decrees. As people’s lurid sexploits become malicious gossip in the world’s media, online or more significantly, off line, what is at the core of this endless intrigue about others’ sex lives? Why do we care, let alone, why should we even bother to be interested when it’s about people we have never met and never will who are of no import in our lives? Will the past sexual comments of Trump as they’ve been reported or Clinton and her husband’s purported sexcapades affect how they will do business in the White House? I would hope they had more important matters to attend to with sex shelved into the trite basket of superfluous trivia. Monica Lewinsky clearly paid a ‘price of shame’ for ‘sex’ with the President and I can only fantasise that her story is buried in the annals of the past for the White House on voting day on November 8. I’m quite sure however there’s more to come. Stand by for the next instalment.