1. Wire service reports the next day detailed the “cyber-gridlock” as millions of Internet users logged on to read the Starr Report. Twelve million people, according to Ken Allard of Jupiter Communications, tried to access the Report on Friday, September 11. CNN Interactive, at 2:45pm, reported garnering 340,000 hits per minute on their site; American Online reported 62,000 downloads during the first hour of its posting (Kaplan and Huhn) and 600,00 users logged on simultaneously (Reid and Hume)

2. The saga of Bill Clinton’s sex life unfolded in fits and starts over two years, but the week of January 17, 1998, when the name Monica Lewinsky first hit the headlines, was unprecedented.

A Washington research foundation, the Center for Media and Public Affairs, studied the amount of coverage during the first week of the scandal on the evening newscasts of the Big Three networks (ABC, CBS and NBC), and concluded that the Lewinsky story was the media’s “biggest feeding frenzy” ever. Between Jan. 21 and 27 [1998], the networks ran 124 stories on the scandal—more even than the 103 they ran during the week following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, last August. To be sure, the public ate it up: audiences for the shows soared. (Phillips 23)

3. Perhaps the best example of this metaphor is Saturday Night Live’s Will Ferrell’s brilliant impersonations of Attorney General Janet Reno. When the real Reno crashed through the set, surprising Ferrell, suddenly the social drama (the “actual” events) met cultural performance (the “what if” of play) head on.

4. The names of web sites I found most useful in collecting texts for this analysis are listed below, but none of them are active sites on the web. In September of 1998, startingpage.monica had six screen pages of links to Monica/Bill websites. I counted over 500 active sites. I think we’ve lost—with the exception of this analysis and my shoddy attempts at archiving—an amazing compendium of cultural material such as “Tasteless Clinton/Monica Lewinsky Jokes: In the Beginning”; “Official Guide to Zippergate”; “A Bill Clinton Joke Compendium”; “Banjo Bob’s Joke Page”; and “Welcome to the Clinton Humor Page.” In 2005, the Monica Lewinsky webring had only 24 active sites. The Monica and Bill Page is typical of what was once available. The Bill Clinton Joke-of-the-Day Page contains archived years worth visiting.

5. This tiny website stayed active for only a month. I did find this same image here.

6. In the years since Monicagate, a number of scholars have tried to make sense of the political, social, and sexual lessons of the saga. Not surprisingly, distinctions between the personal and the political centered much of the discussion. Political scientists turned again to polling data to rethink notions of framing policy issues, media effects, and public perception (see Shah, Watts, Domke, and Fan; Lawrence and Bennett; Ahluwalia; and Miller). Most found the divide between private and public either firmly fixed or operating as backlash: “For most, the scandal was not about the rule of law or punishing a president who had lied under oath or obstructed justice; it was about a zealous special prosecutor who had spent many of their tax dollars doing the dirty work of the far right wing of the Republican party” (Miller 728). Media theorists and professionals were especially hard on themselves, asking “What went wrong?” in their journalistic accounts of private affairs (Hickey; Witcover; Steep; Gartner). Public interest and “sex sells” are still at the heart of political scandal news, but caution in utilizing Internet sources is the new watchword. For feminists, the public/private debates ought to have been a dream come true, but sophisticated critiques of the gendered constructions of public and private didn’t enable new ways through the impasse (see Elshtain; Deem; Holmes; Perloff).

7. And for purposes of academic citation, equally difficult. In this essay, I do not offer web addresses for specific items. Most of the same jokes appeared on dozens of sites; the images were spread, and repeated, across them. In 1998, I cut and pasted from dozens of web sites approximately 40 pages of jokes—single spaced, in 8-pitch font—to save space and paper. These hard copies and jpeg files saved on my hard drive were my “data” for analysis.

8. The Dreyfus Affair is one of two Western examples Turner often mentions as a well-known social drama. Turner’s second example, and much more familiar to Americans of my generation, is Watergate.

9. For analyses of the masculinity of the office and of individuals who have held it, see Edelmen, Jamieson, Tulis, and Medhurst.

10. I discovered several versions of this particular joke. The highest numbers were 1,200 women; 98% of them said “never again.”

11. See Mary Lefkowitz for a critique of Joseph Campbell’s monomythic cycle as a thoroughly masculine view of heroism and heroic action.

12. I found more than 10 different versions of this text across the Internet, and this is just a tiny sample of poems that continue for up to 30 stanzas, encompassing a wide spectrum of Clinton infractions. Only last year I stumbled across the “real” author’s account of what happened to his creation. Tom Tomorrow, a political cartoonist and creator of This Modern World, created a cartoon with Ken Starr as “a Grinch-y independent counsel grilling Bill Clinton in a Dr. Seuss-style rhyme.” The dialogue was cut from the cartoon, pasted into e-mail, and began its internet journey with new additions by “folk” and without Tomorrow’s name. Tomorrow said, "Thanks to the instantaneous nature of the Net, by the time people saw my cartoon they accused me of plagiarizing ... myself” (Stecker).

13. The Starr Report offers this definition: “Phone sex occurs when one or both parties masturbate while one or both parties talk in a sexually explicit manner on the phone” (Malti-Douglas 90).

14. The two-year long social drama of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair created an ever-shifting debate about the breach. Just what “rule” did he break? Clinton lied under oath. Clinton had an extramarital affair. Clinton obstructed justice. Clinton committed perjury. Clinton engaged in sexual relations with an employee. Clinton dishonored the office of the presidency. Pick a breach, any breach.

15. I do not mean to infer that the label alone is not harmful to women. Alex, a prostitute Sallie Tisdale interviewed, said: “It’s still true that the worse thing you can say to insult a woman is to call her a whore. ‘You fucking whore.’ It’s hard to grow up hearing that all your life and not internalize it. I know I have and it pisses me off, because this is a great line of work and it sucks that I have to carry around everybody else’s shame about it” (Tisdale 207).

16. Sallie Tisdale summarizes the amazing work of Martha Stein, a social worker who befriended prostitutes, and over four years, “claims to have watched 1,242 men with dozens of different women.” Tisdale relates some “surprising” findings of the sexual wants of these white, upper-class professional men: “Ten percent ‘exhibited homosexual impulses’; four percent cross-dressed during sex; forty-three percent wanted to perform cunnilingus. (A number of others said they were interested but too shy). One-third wanted anal stimulus or penetration. One-fourth had some kind of sexual dysfunction such as impotence. Almost every one wanted fellatio” (184-85).

17. “Initially, according to Ms. Lewinsky, the President would not let her perform oral sex to completion. In Ms. Lewinsky’s understanding, his refusal was related to ‘trust and not knowing me well enough.’ During their last two sexual encounters, both in 1997, he did ejaculate.”

18. Gary Hart jokes, according to Dundes, centered on cunnilingus and fellatio, perhaps because of the many puns available on the name Donna Rice: “Have you heard about the Gary Hart diet? You eat rice three times a day and lose everything” (Dundes 45).

19. Joan Didion’s observation on the Starr Report is fascinating. Didion characterizes the Starr-Report-Monica as the quintessential unreliable narrator. That is, “a classic literary device whereby the reader is made to realize that the situation, and indeed the narrator, are other than what the narrator says they are. It cannot have been the intention of the authors to present their witness as the victimizer and the president her hapless victim, and yet there it was, for all the world to read” (244).

20. Chelsea, interestingly enough, is not a common subject of joking, perhaps reflecting an understanding of what is “too much” in the realm of cultural parody. But one joke does stand out, not as condemnation of Chelsea, but as an indication of the difficult position her mother is in and her father’s role in creating those difficulties: Chelsea was getting ready to leave for college and Hillary used this opportunity to have a mother-daughter heart-to-heart talk. Hillary said, “We need to talk about sex and about being responsible. Are you sexually active?” Chelsea answered, “Not according to Dad.”

21. Perhaps the most telling criticism of her as wife and mother comes, not from the Internet, but from the Starr Report. Malti-Douglas analyzes the Starr Report’s frequent mention of the “absent” Mrs. Clinton:

Is the reader to surmise that Mrs. Clinton’s travels are what set the events in motion? The moral is clear: a wife should be by her husband’s side. In the sexual-moral world of The Starr Report, the liberated-woman First Lady has her share of responsibility in the affair. Thus it is that the narrator remarks that: "During the fall 1996 campaign, the President sometimes called from trips when Mrs. Clinton was not accompanying him. During at least seven of the 1996 calls, Ms. Lewinsky and the President had phone sex.” From Mrs. Clinton’s absence on the campaign trail, one progresses to phone calls to Lewinsky and from there to phone sex. (50-51).

22. First lady scholarship is a fascinating corner of history that questions malestream approaches to history centered on men’s public roles and policies. See, for example, Mayo and Meringolo; Caroli; and Gutin.

23. This web-site attributes Clinton’s presidency and policies to communist motives. The sexual social drama grafts nicely onto political ideology here, reflecting Laura Kipnis’ Marxist analysis of adultery: “Perhaps in the analogy of workplace protest we may find an idiom, like communism as theorized by Marx and Engels, through which to think about adultery as a form of social articulation, a way of organizing grievances about existing conditions into a collectively imagined form, and one which offers a vehicle for optimism about other, better possibilities” (294).

24. All of these philandering husband jokes were also told of Gary Hart (Dundes).

25. In her analysis of editorial cartoons published in newspapers depicting Hillary Rodman Clinton, Charlotte Templin explores a number of cartoons that picture the Clintons in bed: “Characteristically, the Clintons lie in bed back to back or side by side focused on documents, a book—something other than each other” (27).

26. Many Internet sites posted these three limericks as the “winners” in a contest that challenged writers to combine the names Monica Lewinsky and Ted Kaczinski, the Unibomber:

There once was a girl named Lewinsky
Who played on a flute like Stravinsky
‘Twas “Hail to the Chief”
On this flute made of beef
That stole the front page from Kaczinski.

Said Bill Clinton to young Ms Lewinsky
We don’t want to leave clues like Kaczynski
Since you look such a mess
Use the hem of your dress
And wipe that stuff off your chinsky.

Lewinsky and Clinton have shown
What Kaczynski must surely have known:
That an intern is better
Than a bomb in a letter
Given the choice of how to get blown.

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