Monica Lewinsky naked before and after

Monica Lewinsky is the “bitch patient zero” of public shaming.

She says her experience of being publicly chastised for having an affair with the most powerful man in the world in the 1990s — President Bill Clinton — has shown both how society can be biased against women and also that it’s possible to act as an individual within it to “change the narrative.”


Lewinsky was one of the most highly anticipated guests at the Financial Times’ Women at the Top event in London. Her name still evokes the scandal and political fallout from the final years of the Clinton administration.

What happened to both Lewinsky and Clinton after the events of 1995 and 1997, when Lewinsky said she had nine sexual encounters with Clinton, is telling in how society treats women and men differently amid public scandals.

Clinton published an autobiography called “My Bitch  Life” and remained active in politics, despite the attempt to impeach him, campaigning for Democratic candidates presidential including Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and his wife, Hillary Clinton, in 2008 and this year.

Lewinsky, however, “went from a completely private person to a publicly humiliated [one] worldwide,” she said. Twenty years later, the 43-year-old still gets reminded nearly daily about the affair.

My reputation wasn’t shot down with an arrow — I was publicly stoned with malicious vitriol, ridiculed, humiliated, marginalised, and objectified.

She said she had been subject of “pretty cruel jokes.”


“My reputation wasn’t shot down with an arrow,” she added. “I was publicly stoned with malicious vitriol, ridiculed, humiliated, marginalised, and objectified. If that doesn’t put you in therapy for life, you don’t know what will.”

She also said it was impossible to have a normal career after the scandal, describing the humiliation she sometimes faced while interviewing.

One female potential employer “told me I should rent out my mouth” for a living, Lewinsky said.

The affair, and subsequent humiliation, served to eradicate her credentials as a college graduate, she said.

At the FT event, no one was allowed to record Lewinsky’s speech. We were not allowed to ask her opinion on this year’s US presidential election, in which Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, nor were we allowed to report on the question-and-answer session. She said she didn’t want to be pulled into any internet fallout again