A very British scandal: Women on trial for their sex lives
These TV shows uncomfortably reflect unfair ratios in the real world, and research into how women are unfairly treated also helps explain what happened to our sex scandal protagonists. Women who attempt to seek justice for privacy violations related to other image-based crimes, such as what is often referred to as “revenge pornography”, have been found to blame the victim, which which has long been observed in other areas of crime, such as rape. In 2016, a Crown Prosecution Audit found that in 309 rape cases in England and Wales, 13% of cases had applications asking the court to hear evidence of a sexual history – despite a ban legal which condemns this – and 8% succeeded. That’s almost 1 in 10 cases in which a woman’s irrelevant past sexual behavior has been used to try to discredit her. Along with ‘revenge porn’, a term commonly used to describe image-based sexual abuse, Australian research published in 2020 found that victims were seen as more promiscuous and more blameworthy when they were more naked in shared images. .
With the real-life stories of these TV shows, there’s a bizarre inference of women’s complicity in sex scandals that they absolutely didn’t want; Rand Gauthier, the man who stole Anderson’s sex tape, thinks it’s fair game because he can’t tell her apart from the pornstars he obsessively watches, and in A Very British Outrageous, the Duke thinks it’s fair game because he abhors his wife’s behavior. But these dramas also smartly toe the line of not suppressing the agency or flaws of its heroines – again, not fitting into the usual good girl/bad girl binomial. The Duke may be cruel, greedy, and violent, but the Duchess is no good foot either, writing forged letters in an attempt to disinherit her stepchildren and committing adultery for which she berates her husband. She wants the photograph taken; she documents her extraordinary sex life with memories taken from the lovers’ clothes, or by writing the coded letter “v” in her diary. The photograph was meant to be part of that treasure, privately locked away in a drawer, and carries even more meaning as her marriage deteriorates, her husband becomes more violent, and her dreams of a happy future become more futile. Anderson’s home video is similar, a recorded memory of the actress and her husband after their marriage, preserved forever. Lewinsky may not have known she was being taped, but she believed she was sharing important and valuable information with a friend. And why not? Why shouldn’t they participate in this recording and collection of important sexual memories?
Humiliation and victim blaming
For Impeachment: American Crime Story, the production team said Monica Lewinsky fought to have the scene included in which she showed Bill Clinton her thong. His insistence that his involvement in the case was visible is significant, perhaps because that is not what this series is about. He insists the deepest trust has been broken – secrets shared between friends. The case subjected Lewinsky to a life of public shame that she bore the brunt of, alongside the unequal power dynamics the series shows between her and the president.
Clinton may have emerged with a relatively intact marriage and presidency, but he doesn’t escape Impeachment: American Crime Story unscathed. The portrayal of Clinton’s desire to control the narrative in her favor is constantly challenged by everything from camera work, to handheld and shaking in her quirky, more predatory moments with Lewinsky, before becoming stable. and controlled as she gains more agency and distance from him. , to the dialogue itself. In one episode, mid-season, he says, “No one supports women more than me,” but the irony isn’t lost on either the audience or his own wife. In a later episode, Hillary Clinton tells her, “You confuse people just long enough to get what you want.” He and Linda Tripp are portrayed as villains, unlike the flawed but inherently likeable Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein). The viewer ends this series by grounding it far more powerfully than you have left for Anderson or the Duchess of Argyll. In their series, they are entitled to a certain feminist revisionism, but Lewinsky is granted retribution.