The issue of Hillary's masochism is reopened by James Bennet of the New York Times in "First lady backs up her man, once again" as he reports her response to the Monica Lewinsky eruption (perhaps it should be called the bubba emission). He says that "Hillary's just fine," answering the "poor Hillary" mantra of the pundits. We are told that Hillary "clearly had no illusions about Mr. Clinton's faithfulness" and now she is "in battle mode" as she was during the Gennifer Flowers exposé. In a contrast, Arianna Huffington calls Hillary "enabler-in-chief" in a column which 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 her marriage, the family and 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 co-dependent, a moral masochist who despairs but also facilitates the addiction of a spouse or companion to casual sex, alcohol, drugs or gambling. Like the chords in the blues, family themes are repetitive so we recall that Bill's mother Virginia was an enabler for her husband Roger's alcoholism during their 17 year marriage as 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 misbehavior. Of course Hillary doesn't want Bill to lose out 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 relationship that Hillary didn't enjoy sex and anyway Hillary was a lesbian so Bill was frustrated. Journalists report gossip about Hillary's ill-fated 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 infancy and childhood but they may channel its expression.
Let's look beneath the level of reality into the secret recess of Hillary's mind, into her unconscious, where bittersweet dreams and fantasies are the response to Bill's affairs with Monica and the others. Hillary first denies the events and then she sees them and next there is a kind of mental participation in them before she flashes back to real life and begins the battle to survive. This is a hypothesis but it is as plausible as a wife with an alcoholic husband who first looks the other way, then excuses him perhaps with compassion and finally picks up the pieces when he boozes again. You decide. At the least, moral masochism is 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 gossip. Her masochistic gratification is more complicated then the simple portraits in the media. Horror, anger, anxiety, dismay and fascination follow the infidelities. An outward manifestation is the observation by the New Yorker's Joe Klein that she was radiant with a roseate glow in a canary-yellow suit in the midst of the Monica affair while during the 1992 Flowers scandal she was "dressed to the nines."
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. Masochism is a "radical aesthetic practice," according to postmodern critic Mansfield while psychoanalyst Ross writing about The Sadomasochism of Everyday Life points out our fascination with the Bobbits, the Menendez brothers, Tonya Harding and O. J. Simpson. I'd add the Clintons.
What happened to Hillary to cause the moral masochism? This complex goes back to the Oedipal guilt she feels about her desire for Daddy Hugh and her hatred for her rival, Dorothy. This traditional Freudian view is complementary to the newer feminist explanation of development where the attachment of the girl for her mother is primary and is the vehicle for her love for the father and other men. A feminist view postulates guilt both about Hillary's hate for Hugh who has rejected her demanding childish love and her 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 Hillary's mental growth going 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. The most direct evidence is her predominately negative feeling about herself and the world in her own book as explained in the next section of this essay. Despite her powerful sublimations and conscious outlets, her nihilistic feelings are masochistic and so are her reactions of guilt and shame to them.
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An excerpt from Bill Clinton Meets The Shrinks, by Paul Lowinger
Copyright 1998 by Paul Lowinger