Suck on this
Conservative politicians in the USA declared themselves appalled that Bill Clinton appears to have survived the Lewinsky scandal. As Newsweek noted, after an initial plummet in the popularity polls, Clinton went on to gain more points than JFK during the Cuban missile crisis or George Bush after the invasion of Iraq. In future, it seems that rather than start a war to deflect from domestic crises, presidential aides will simply need to find a woman willing to claim she has aided the president.
It seems the American public do not much care if their president has been caught with his pants down, nor do they seem very bothered by the idea that he may have told a junior member of staff to lie. Conservatives have blamed this on the 'liberal' value-systems of moral relativism - a sign of our depraved and demoralised times.
Paradoxically, however, there is something conservative in the public shrug at Clinton's carryings on. The tolerance of Bill partly rests on the principle that the devil you know is better than the devil you don't. To many Americans, things don't seem too bad right now - so perhaps it is better to turn a blind eye. Certainly, for Americans who are 'proud to be American', there is - to borrow an expression from commentator Jonathan Alter - 'no upside to getting to the bottom of the story'. Impeaching or forcing the resignation of a president who is seen to be otherwise competent risks further undermining the system of government. Who wants that? Far better to let matters rest.
But there is more to the collective shrug than that. Could it be that the American public are rather less hysterical than political journalists, commentators and gossip writers imagine? More mature and worldly-wise than are the media pundits themselves, even? Washington may have worked itself into a feeding frenzy at the thought of presidential fellatio followed by presidential lies, but my guess is that most normal people would be at least as shocked by the fuss as by the offences.
Lots of pious journalists have suggested that the president's trustworthiness would be irreparably undermined if he were found to have lied and asked Lewinsky to lie. Where are these people who trust a political leader? Surely everybody assumes politicians lie. More than that, we know they do and they know we know they do. And can any journalist really be so naive as to believe that people would trust any president to be truthful, honest and open about sex? Especially about sex on the job? Particularly about having his cock sucked by an unpaid office junior? Be real!
It seems pretty likely that Mr Middle-America privately acknowledges that, if he were in the president's position, it would take the North American equivalent of the Spanish inquisition to force him to admit it within the hearing of the wife - never mind the whole world. It also seems pretty likely that Mrs Middle-America knows that, if Lewinsky was making accusations about her husband, she would want him to lie to spare her humiliation. There is some truth in the adage that: 'a lie about sex is not the same as a lie about anything else.'
But then we are talking about the USA, and the USA has clung harder to God-fearin' family values than we depraved Europeans. Even their language is different. We talk about 'affairs' - with the implication that sex outside marriage is something that 'happens'. They talk about 'adultery' with all of its biblical implications of sin and damnation. Surely this must make it harder for Americans to accept a president rumoured to engage in 'unnatural sexual practices'?
A colleague in Pittsburgh thinks that America's tradition of Puritanism may partly explain the public indulgence of Bill. His impression was that workmates were relieved to find out that oral sex (still defined as sodomy in some US states) was commonplace. 'Suddenly you could talk about it', he says, 'and you could almost hear some guys thinking: "I always knew I liked it, but I never knew it was normal." The rest were thinking "If it's good enough for the president of the United States...I must talk with Mary-Beth".'
Perhaps fear of enthusiasm for oral sex was why most vitriol spat at Clinton came from that particular type of 'victim' feminist who believes sex is something men do to abuse women. To their credit most women commentators assessed Clinton on the effect of his policies rather than his penis. But you can always rely on the likes of Andrea Dworkin to hit a man when he's down. As she explained to Guardian readers: 'Bill Clinton's fixation on oral sex - non-reciprocal oral sex - consistently puts women in states of submission to him. It's the most fetishistic, heartless, cold sexual exchange that one could imagine.'
Dworkin should stop relying on her imagination. A man with his cock in a woman's mouth is in a uniquely vulnerable - even submissive - position. And further-more, some women - maybe Monica - just love it.
Reproduced from LM issue 108, March 1998