February 09, 1998

Hillary's Moral Masochism and the Monica Lewinsky Porno Flick

By Paul Lowinger

The Monica Lewinsky bimbo eruption (perhaps it should be called a bubba emission) reopens the question of Hillary's masochism. James Bennet's New York Times story, "First lady backs up her man, once again" tells us that "Hillary's just fine," answering the "poor Hillary" mantra of the pundits. Hillary "clearly had no illusions about Mr. Clinton's faithfulness" and


Monica Lewinsky

now she is "in battle mode" as she was during the Gennifer Flowers expose. In contrast, columnist Arianna Huffington calls her "enabler-in-chief" and holds her responsible for Bill's bubba eruption with Monica.

Masochism is the experience of suffering accompanied by pleasure. The connection between the pain and the pleasure is hidden in the unconscious. The sufferers bemoan their fate but feel martyred. She says she is doing it for the marriage, the family, the children and he can't let down his buddies, the company or the cause. This is what psychoanalysts call moral masochism, humiliation and failure which doesn't involve physical pain like being beaten to achieve a sexual climax. The ego is besieged with guilt from a punishing superego or conscience and the solution to this dilemma is to be punished by life. Nowadays like Arianna we are familiar with the enabler or codependent, a moral masochist who facilitates the addictive behavior of a spouse or companion even while in despair about the addiction to casual sex, alcohol or drugs. Like the chords in the blues, behavior in families is repetitive so we recall that Bill's mother Virginia was an enabler for her husband Roger's alcoholism during their 17 year marriage when Bill was growing up. Masochism including moral masochism begins during personality formation in infancy and childhood when sexuality becomes linked with pain and suffering.

The question of Hillary's moral masochism goes beyond just a defense of Bill, an erring husband by a loyal wife. This kind of masochism involves Hillary's unconscious enjoyment of Bill's behavior. Of course Hillary doesn't want Bill to lose politically and I have no reason to believe that she spends a lot of time feeling morally superior to Bill whom she really loves, admires and pities.

The counterpoint of Hillary's suffering is in the innuendoes. She complains to a journalist about "only getting laid twice a year." Gennifer Flowers says Bill told her during their affair that Hillary didn't enjoy sex and anyway Hillary was a lesbian so Bill was frustrated. In the background is the gossip about her involvement in an affair with her Little Rock law partner Vince Foster who committed suicide while he was a White House counsel. These emotions and events don't cause a masochism that began in childhood but they may encourage its expression. Dorothy's subservience to Hugh, the curmudgeon during Hillary's childhood was a factor too but masochism isn't just learned.

Let's look beneath the level of reality into the secret recess of Hillary's mind, into her unconscious, where dreams or fantasies are the bittersweet response to Bill's affair with Monica and others. Hillary first denies the events and then she sees them and this is followed by her kind of mental participation in them before she flashes back to real life and begins the battle to survive. This is a hypothesis but isn't this as plausible as a wife with an alcoholic husband who first looks the other way, then excuses him perhaps with empathy and finally picks up the pieces when he boozes again? You decide. At the least, the moral masochism and its role are there.

The question is how much pleasure is there for a serious, rational, religious woman in her husband's love affairs, some lurid and public but most known only by rumor. Her masochistic gratification is more complicated then the simple portrait of the media. Horror, anger, anxiety, dismay and fascination follow the infidelities. An outward positive manifestation of the infidelities and the defense of her man is the observation by the New Yorker's Joe Klein that she was radiant in a canary-yellow suit with a roseate glow the midst of the Monica affair and she was "dressed to the nines" during the earlier Flowers scandal.

Does Hillary's mind create a porno flick threesome with Monica and Bill? That's not necessary to this argument about her moral masochism but it is illustrative.

What happened to Hillary to cause the moral masochism? This complex goes back to the Oedipal guilt she feels about her desire for Hugh and her hatred for her rival, Dorothy. This old style Freudian view is complementary to the newer feminist explanation of development where the attachment of the girl for her mother is primary and it is the vehicle for her love for the father and other men. A feminist Freudian view can postulate guilt about hate for Hugh who has rejected her demanding childish love and hate for Dorothy's excessive demands for control. This alternative hypothesis doesn't see Dorothy and Hillary as rivals for Hugh but the effect on her character is similar.

These explanations are about her mental growth which goes awry and laying the groundwork for moral masochism. Onto this fertile soil falls guilt about the homosexual feelings for the teacher and then the attachment to Don Jones, the youth minister. But the most direct revelations are her predominately negative feelings about herself and her world in her book as explained in the next section of this essay. Hillary feels a lot of hate, fear, disgust and nihilism. Despite her powerful sublimations and conscious outlets, she reacts with personal guilt and shame to these emotions. The feelings themselves are masochistic and so are her reactions of guilt and shame.

Paul Lowinger
paulow@sirius.com

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