Monica Lewinsky and Betty Page: Birds of A Feather?

Bettie Page and Monica Lewinsky offer curious parallels on how sex works in our political process.

Commentators on Betty Page sometimes say she had an innocent quality about her. I don’t know that I agree with that. I think she probably understood why guys wanted her to pose in the nude, and while playing bondage games. She would have had to have been borderline retarded not to know what was going on there, and the historical record gives no indication that she was.

I think the reason a lot of people look at Page’s photos and think “innocent” is that Page owned her sexuality. She was hot and sexy and she knew it, the thingsshe was doing when she posed were hot and sexy and she knew it and enjoyed it, and she was OK with it. It suited her just fine to be a woman whom men would happily photograph whether they had film in their cameras or not.

Page, by all accounts, wanted to be a movie star, but had absolutely no interest in politics. She absolutely did not seek out the role of national icon when she was called before the Kafauver Committee, a 1950s-era assortment of bluenoses determined to stem the rising tide of smut that was threatening to make America sexy. But that’s what happened to her, and to her everlasting credit, she didn’t wilt before all that official attention from 50s era asshole Estes Kefauver. He worked hard to get her to rat on her friends. But Page stood her ground and owned up to who she was and what she did. She was a lot stronger than any of the men who accused her. Page never claimed that she had been led, or seduced, or entrapped or enticed into her activities by some smooth-talking Lothario, she always accepted responsibility for her actions, which may well be part of the reason she’s admired as well as lusted after.

Now, let’s look at Monica Lewinsky. She was (and perhaps, is) a sexual adventurer, like Page, except that instead of modelling and posing and so forth, her adventuring was confined to thing itself, i.e., sex, something Page didn’t do, so far as we know, and considering how many people have been very interested in knowing, it’s probably fair to say, “something she didn’t do, period.”

There’s no doubt Lewinsky was attracted to politics and political men, but there’s considerable doubt as to whether or not she ever had any interest in becoming a sex celebrity before the fact. She was definitely interesting in fucking the President, but there’s no evidence she wanted to be KNOWN for fucking the President. The deed itself might be all the reward she was looking for, and in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we can reasonably assume that she did not. Remember, she never SOUGHT for her affair to become public, she just ran off at the mouth to a “sympathetic” co-worker, the backstabber Linda Tripp, who promptly spread the news to some Repubican gnomes, and the rest is as disgusting a bit of American history as you could ever want to experience.

But like Page, Lewinsky was strong. She owned her sexuality. She never claimed that Clinton had seduced her or led her on. She had seduced him, deliberately, starting with her deliberate thong exposure and moving on to the oral sex.

I admire that. The pressure to say she had been sexually harrassed, used, seduced, etc., must have been tremendous. That disgusting gnome Ken Starr was surely working to get her to say what was most to the Republicans’ political advantage, and what would have been to their advantage would have been for Lewinsky to say that Clinton had FORCED her to give him blowjobs, or at the very least, had awed/intimidated her into giving him one.

But she never did that. She stayed with the truth. She was strong. Like Betty Page was strong half a century ago.

I suspect that’s why both women are remembered with a certain sneaking fondness. They were sexual adventurers, but they stood by all that was best about being a sexual adventurer – they were sexy, bold and strong.

I also suspect that might partly explain the increased interest in Betty Page today. There’s a certain echo effect between her and Lewinsky. And in a time dominated by Republican women who would never DARE do anything their men wouldn’t approve of, like Laura Bush, or harridans who work through their men to obtain what they want, like Barbara Bush, we can use a few bold, daring, strong, adventurous women.

Moral conservatives see sexuality as a weakness. Their instinct is to attack it whenever it comes to public attention. They don’t even think about it. Arguably, many of them can’t. But the warped, perverted viciousness that characterizes their approach to human sexuality (basically, most moral conservatives would like to put people whose sexuality goes outside a very narrow range in cages for years - strangely, no one thinks this is strange) somehows brings an answering strength from some of those that moral conservatives attempt to victimize.

Chapter Two: Let’s compare the social impacts of Harry Truman and Rick Moranis.
In other words… huh?

She saved the cum stained dress.


What part of my post didn’t you understand?

I’m sorry, but there’s no paraell here. One was a pinup model. She let people take naughty photos of her.

The other was an intern who had sex with the president and then got caught up in a partisan campaign to bring him down.

One made her sexuality public by choice. The other did not. One was explictly wrapped up in partisan politics. The other was not. One was valued for her physical beauty. The other was largely mocked for hers. Bettie Page’s story was about Bettie Page. Monica Lewinsky’s story was about Bill Clinton.

There’s no similarty besides the fact that both invlve sex in some form.

Eh? She was married at least three times. I kinda doubt she was virginal.

  • Tamerlane

Your motivation in writing it. Beyond a superficial sexual angle, Page and Lewinski have about as much in common as Mae West and Christine Keeler.

Hmmm, she’s openly disagreed with W’s emphasis on abortion & gay marriage.

Sorry to let a fact get in the way of your diatribe.

Man… that’s a stretch EC. I don’t know much about BP, but Lewinsky was not all that admirable. She was a self absorbed, needy, scheming whiner who pursued and fucked a sexually amoral married man who just happened to be the POTUS, and then (after being removed from proximity to the President) meowed for hours on end to her pal Linda Tripp about how unfair it all was, and how the President was going to divorce Hillary and marry her. I really don’t see much to put her in the “admiration” category.

Well, I think this is an interesting thought-exercise, at least, but it may belong in CS.

I like Monica. I think she’s a hell of a trooper and hated for – what, exactly? She was the honest one. Why do people hate her? Yeah, she got taken for more than a few rides, but I see no evidence that she was anything other than young and easily targeted by the likes of Clinton and Tripp. She fell for them both, hook line and uh sinker, as it were, and that may not be admirable, but it’s certainly not demonic. If I were Hillary I’d want to smack her upside her silly little head, but frankly, if I were Hillary the list of people with that coming to them would be extremely long.

As for how she’s like Betty Page, I don’t know enough about Betty Page, but despite the superficial differences I don’t think it’s absurd to compare two women who, in their times, were at the focal point of national discussions of female sexuality.

But we don’t know for sure why. A personal memo of the very icky sort or proof positive that Big Bill was diddling her? It is a good point though, and an indication that Lewinsky did eventually intend to become known as Bill’s other woman.

You’re just setting up a diffferent set of facts and implying that because they exist, my parallel doesn’t. Both were subjected to inquisitions by morally conservative groups, undoubtedly for mostly political reasons, but partly because that moral consevative outrage about sex exists, and both responded with great courage. Both had to have a certain courage in the first place to do what they did, though Page clearly needed more courage.

I do think you have a point in the last two sentences, but I’d perhaps phrase it differently: Bettie Page’s story was about the public display of sexuality in the media, Monica Lewinsky’s story was about private sexuality that leaked into the media.

I’m sorry, you’re correct, I should have said, “something she didn’t do publicly. Having sex on camera or for money wasn’t part of Page’s persona.”

I guess the main reason I wrote it was that I did see this parallel between Page and Lewinsky that you clearly do not. How many other women do you know of who have been subject to the sort of public inquisition of their sexuality that Lewinsky and Page were?

I don’t understand why nobody ever suggests maybe she just didn’t do laundry very often or wear things twice.

Actually, I read somewhere (can’t remember where right now), that the dressed didn’t get laundered right away because her weight was constantly fluctuating. No point in washing a dress right now if it doesn’t currently fit you. Maybe in six months or a year if you lose ten pounds then you bother laundering it and wearing it again.

off to google

Ah. The full text of the Lewinsky testimony and the relevant quotes:

I’m pretty sure most people who’ve heard of Betty Page remember her for being a bondage pinup and neither know nor care that she testified before Congress. If anything, that fact simply holds Congress up in a bad light, for wasting time on such things, i.e. Page isn’t a hero but Kefauver is an idiot (or if you prefer, a “disgusting gnome”).

If Page is getting mainstream recognition, it’s because bondage is just becoming borderline acceptable, moving from taboo to just kinky, helped along by the Internet and such films as Basic Instinct. Page may have been ahead of her time, but time does eventually catch up.

By contrast, who actually sees Lewinski as a sexual adventurer? She had an affair with a powerful married man. That is historically so common that part of the story was other nations wondering why the Americans were making such a big deal about it. Again, Lewinski isn’t a hero; Ken Starr and his backers are idiots for trading away their credibility for short-term political gain. The entire exercise accomplished nothing.

Personally, I can see Page being slightly offended by being compared to Lewinski: “I took chances and ran my life the way I wanted. She’s just some punk kid who let herself get used and then complained about it.” That’s just a guess, of course.