Monica L. today and Ken Starr’s porn novel, then

Former and infamous White House intern Monica Lewinsky has penned perhaps the single most pretentious magazine piece I have ever read in Vanity Fair (and I’ve been a subscriber over two centuries and two millennia).  Sample:

Isolation is such a powerful tool to the subjugator. And yet I don’t believe I would have felt so isolated had it all happened today. One of the most inspiring aspects of this newly energized movement is the sheer number of women who have spoken up in support of one another. And the volume in numbers has translated into volume of public voice. Historically, he who shapes the story (and it is so often a he) creates “the truth.” But this collective rise in decibel level has provided a resonance for women’s narratives. If the Internet was a bête noire to me in 1998, its stepchild—social media—has been a savior for millions of women today (notwithstanding all the cyberbullying, online harassment, doxing, and slut-shaming). Virtually anyone can share her or his #MeToo story and be instantly welcomed into a tribe. In addition, the democratizing potential of the Internet to open up support networks and penetrate what used to be closed circles of power is something that was unavailable to me back then. Power, in that case, remained in the hands of the president and his minions, the Congress, the prosecutors, and the press.

Er, AARGH! ( And I mean this as a matter of manner [style] and not of matter [substance]. This is not an isolated attempt at regurgitating an entire thesaurus in a single paragraph, alas.)

But I do remember writing about it AT THE TIME.

And, serendipitously, this showed up from Teh Internets yesterday (those tubes that cause information to flow, according to the late Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska) entirely unbidden [originally published in THIS WEEK WITH TEETH, Vol. 2, No. 20, September 12, 1998, by my friend, the late editor and publisher Paul Prensky — I have cleaned up some minor typos, and illustrated it, but otherwise, it is exactly as written in 1998, nearly twenty years ago]:

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.true-crime/XhF7RMX5DNU
alt.true.crime*

[* Yes. An actual USENET news group, before the trollbots wrecked everything.]

Reality’s bitch

9/13/98

I received this several days ago, but have not seen it online, yet. Don’t know where else it might be available. Hope the author, Mr. Hart Williams, will forgive my reposting of his copyrighted material.

———- Forwarded message ———-

Ken Starr’s Porn Novel
by Hart Williams © 1998

Unlike Mr. Kenneth Starr, Inquisitor General, I don’t have any skeletons in my closet – they ceased to fit in my closet long ago, and these days I rent space for them in a warehouse.

One of them is this: I was an editor at HUSTLER magazine when I was 23 years old.

This might not seem germane, except to let you know that this opinion is a PROFESSIONAL opinion, rendered by a professional: had Starr’s porn novel(entitled “In Re: Madison Guaranty” or “The Starr Report” which I downloaded this afternoon) come in the mountain of slush I had to wade
through each and every morning, I’d have tossed it in the trash.

Make no mistake: it IS pornography, but not very good pornography. For pornography to be effective, the setup has to be good – the actual sex tends to be very much the same as one writes it, although an ability to write with panache helps. Still, as my job was to ADD that panache, I used to look merely for good source material that I could rewrite into something approaching English.

And, of course, the FIRST rule of good pornography is that it is FANTASY, and not the frightening spectre that sex so often becomes in the real world. Don’t talk about unwanted pregnancies, about divorces, about ugly affairs, or sleeping in the wet spot. Keep it happy.

On this ground, Starr fails miserably. It seems apparent from context that the man (let’s call him “Bill”) is an older executive, while the girl (let’s call her “Monica”) is a “sweet young thing” fresh out of college, interning at Bill’s firm to get that all-important resume-filler that can eventually land her a good job in Corporate America.

From the get-go, “Monica” seems to have her sights set on Bill. (It is all told from Monica’s perspective; Bill has refused to kiss and tell — a “failing” that Starr excoriates him for) She flirts manically, bragging that at one point she made a point of reaching up to ‘accidentally’ show Bill her thong underwear under her jacket. As with many portions of Starr’s novel, this doesn’t quite parse, but that’s the way he writes – dull and spare, but filled with nearly explicit sex that doesn’t quite show any panache: “In the course of flirting with him, she raised her jacket in the back and showed him the straps of her thong underwear, which extended above her pants.”

With apologies to Tommy Tutone.

Finally she corners him alone in “George’s” office. She tells him that she has a crush on him, and he admits that he’s had an eye on her. “In the windowless hallway adjacent to the study, they kissed.(154) Before returning to her desk, [Monica] wrote down her name and telephone number… “.

Then, creeping reality begins to set in. Monica lets Bill fondle her breasts: “She unbuttoned her jacket; either she unhooked her bra or he lifted her bra up; and he touched her breasts with his hands and mouth. ‘I believe he took a phone call . . . and so we moved from the hallway into the back office . . . . [H]e put his hand down my pants and stimulated me manually in the genital area.” While [Bill] continued talking on the phone … she performed oral sex on him. He finished his call, and, a moment later, told [Monica] to stop. In her recollection: ‘I told him that I wanted . . . to complete that. And he said . . . that he needed to wait until he trusted me more. And then I think he made a joke . . . that he hadn’t had that in a long time.'”

One deduces that Bill’s wife–like most American wives–is not interested in oral sex, while Bill-like many American husbands-is, although he’s had bad experiences in that area.

From this poorly written sex scene, we progress rapidly, as the young woman, Monica, takes control of the relationship, increasingly picking the times and places of their encounters, and crying on the phone, telling Bill that she loves him, and subtly threatening to damage him if he doesn’t play along. His participation seems limited to fondling her breasts, some kissing and manually manipulating her a few times. She, on the other hand, turns down his request to orally satisfy her in return, claiming menstruation.

'The Scream' Edvard Muench, detail, PD

This is all cloddishly written, though explicit in the extreme, as though Starr’s novel had been written by a very uptight monk, attracted by the salacious, but not quite willing to fill in details. (Perhaps he hasn’t had enough sex to add the “writer’s eye” details that make the difference between good fiction and deadly dull prose.)

We see Bill trying to disengage from Monica, but she won’t have it. Bill “told her that he no longer felt right about their intimate relationship, and he had to put a stop to it. [Monica] was welcome to continue coming to visit him, but only as a friend. He hugged her but would not kiss her.”

Her predatory talents justified, Monica laughs at poor Bill during an encounter when he “zipped up real quickly and went out and came back in . . . . I just remember laughing because he had walked out there and he was visibly aroused, and I just thought it was funny.”

But temptation plays on the older man: “After passing [Monica] in a hallway one night in late February or March, Bill telephoned her at home and said he was disappointed that, because she had already left … for the evening, they could not get together. [Monica said] that the call ‘sort of implied to me that he was interested in starting up again.’ … [A few days] Later, he telephoned her at her desk and asked if she would like to see a movie. His plan was that she would position herself in the hallway by the White House Theater at a certain time, and he would invite her to join him and a group of guests as they entered. Monica responded that she did not want people to think she was lurking around the West Wing uninvited. She asked if they could arrange a rendezvous over the weekend instead, and he said he would try.” She, the young thing, is all but completely in control.

Here, Starr relates what he considers a very “kinky” encounter: “In the hallway by the study, [Bill and Monica] kissed. On this occasion, according to Ms. Lewinsky, ‘he focused on me pretty exclusively,’ kissing her bare breasts and fondling her genitals. At one point, Bill inserted a cigar into Monica’s vagina, then put the cigar in his mouth and said: “It tastes good.”

Not exactly The Story of O, but Starr seems to think that this sort of rotten prose will sell to the mass market – though as a pornographer, I find it offensively amateurish.

Finally, she is transferred out of his office, but she manipulates a “sexual encounter” – to use Starr’s pedestrian prose – for the purpose of begging to be reassigned back to Bill’s office. Bill’s secretary is dragged into it. Bill’s friends are dragged into it, as they attempt to find her a job in another city – all the while, the perceptive reader imagines Bill struggling with his temptation to allow Monica her enthusiastic blowjobs and wanting to be rid of an increasingly ugly affair. She manages to wangle her way back in, restarting the affair:

She sends him a “personal” in the local paper on Valentine’s day, and finally, she visits his office two weeks later. “[W]e went back over by the bathroom in the hallway, and we kissed. We were kissing and he unbuttoned my dress and fondled my breasts with my bra on, and then took them out of my bra and was kissing them and touching them with his hands and with his mouth.

” ‘And then I think I was touching him in his genital area through his pants, and I think I unbuttoned his shirt and was kissing his chest. And then . . . I wanted to perform oral sex on him . . . and so I did. And then . . . I think he heard something, or he heard someone in the office. So, we moved into the bathroom.

“‘And I continued to perform oral sex and then he pushed me away, kind of as he always did before he came, and then I stood up and I said . . . I care about you so much; . . . I don’t understand why you won’t let me . . . make you come; it’s important to me; I mean, it just doesn’t feel complete, it doesn’t seem right.'”

“She and Bill hugged, and ‘he said he didn’t want to get addicted to me, and he didn’t want me to get addicted to him.’ They looked at each other for a moment. Then, saying that ‘I don’t want to disappoint you,’ Bill consented.’ For the first time, she performed oral sex through completion.

“When Monica next took the dress from her closet to wear it, she noticed stains near one hip and on the chest.”

Starr continues in this vein for a long time, but I think the average reader is going to be more frightened of the sexual power of the 24-year-old fellatrix than in any “exploitation” by the older man. It is the old Coed Seduction game, played out in unrelenting fashion.

Starr, of course, engages in a lot of heavy-handed moralizing, but it doesn’t ring true. If he disapproves of this sort of thing, you wonder why he wrote the book.

One thing is certain, of course: the sweet young thing is innocent in Starr’s eyes, and the older Executive is seen as only worthy of cleaning out garbage cans in a penitentiary somewhere. The story is trivial, the prose pedestrian; and, sadly, the double-standard of “pure” woman/”beastly” man is played to the hilt. Does anyone take this sort of “moral” garbage seriously anymore? Still, Andrea Dworkin AND Rush Limbaugh will both probably love it. Oy.

fin.

———————
9/13/98
On 13 Sep 1998 16:21:01 GMT, wrote:
>>From: Reality’s bitch

>———- Forwarded message ———-
>>
>>Ken Starr’s Porn Novel
>>
>>by Hart Williams c 1998
>>
>
><<snip for space>>
>
>Vcz, this was a stitch. Thanks for the post.
>
>Michael

I agree whole heartedly. These were many of my exact thoughts as I
read Starr’s *report*, but I could never have put my thoughts down as
excellently as Hart Williams has done. Thanks for sharing Vcz.

tld

And that was the two decades that was. (You can also find the original officially posted here.)

A metaphorical taco

I really ought to point out that Ms. Lewinsky had, evidently, followed the SAME strategy with a college professor, but no one seems to remember, and right now no one can cede women the equality to ALSO harbor less than Simon-pure (or is that Simone-pure?) motivations and behavior. So I better not mention it.

America behind the 8-ball

My three practices (journalist/writer, visual artist and Buddhist) have always been about seeing the unvarnished truth.

Not “Truth” with a capital “T,” but, rather, “truth” with a small “t.” The temptation to alter slight bits, to emend the historical record, or to burnish the tale in a manner that makes the self/the family/the institution look better in the spotlight’s glare is generally almost inescapable. We want the black blacker and the white whiter, and fewer shades of gray. This is human nature, expressed at ALL levels.

Pre-Spanish-American War propaganda

It is a constant battle to NOT exaggerate, to report accurately, and, most of all, to report those facts that do NOT put one in the best possible light. Even the most scrupulous have been known to fall prey to this failing, so it is not unusual to see it at work.

Perfect honesty (in the human sense, and not the Perfect Sense) is extremely difficult for individuals, for families, and for nations.  And all three constantly rewrite their own histories to burnish the highlights and de-emphasize the lowlights.  Example: Consider the national amnesia over …

INVADING THE WRONG COUNTRY!

[Oopsies. ]

That is what I’m talking about.

It is extremely difficult to NOT justify and rose-tint one’s own memories. It is extraordinarily difficult to just see things as they were and as they are. This is why we pay countless TV pundits six figure salaries to continually tell and retell the national narrative from the scathing Right and the soothing Left (although there is no equivalency here; the Right went off the rails to take power beginning with Ray-Gun, and has moved ever-further into false narrative and extreme positions uncompromisingly held ever since; the Left has tended to drift over the same period) and why “down-the-middle” brand news is all but an endangered species.

Bloody fight at Occoquan, Va. by Alfred Waud

We have returned to the pre- and post-Civil War partisan news media. You can see its traceries in such newspapers as the Albany (Ore.) Herald-Democrat, or the Waterbury (Mass.) Republican-American.*

[*Fun fact: the Portland Oregonian started out as a Whig newspaper.]

And the newspapers wove the narrative that its readers preferred to hear. (The Richmond Daily Dispatch during the Civil War is a prime and fascinating example of the phenomenon.)

So, when you have an affair with the President of the United States of America that manages to paralyze the entire nation for a couple of years, the rewriting of that history is probably an existential necessity.

I will leave the reader to draw their own conclusions.

Courage.

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