Forget the pro-Clinton backlash. Isn't it past time for a pro-Monica backlash?

Throughout the hideous Clinton soap opera, no one has had to endure so much for so long as the 25-year-old from Beverly Hills. Lewinsky has been let down by her lover, her best friend, her lawyers, her advisers and by the public.She has seen the most intimate details of her private life published by virtually every newspaper in the world, has had her mental fitness questioned by the president and every half-baked pop psychologist who can make it onto cable television. She has had her clothing turned into Jay Leno jokes and her weight inspected with all the delicacy one normally expects from the supermarket tabloids.

And all the while, she has been essentially under house arrest, her life suspended indefinitely in midair. For all this, she has been rewarded with a public approval rating barely distinguishable from Mike Tyson's.

Sexism, it seems, rules. In the public's mind, Clinton is a foolish man who cannot control his libido. But Lewinsky is a tramp, for whom no empathy is possible. Clinton may be an adulterer, but adulterers can be forgiven. Not so the foul temptress, even when she's less than half the man's age.

Suddenly, in the third wave of victimless feminism, the intern has to stand up for herself. This was not, these feminists now argue, a case of sexual exploitation.

Excuse me? If this wasn't a case of exploitation, then what is? Is there any greater power differential than that between a 22-year-old intern and the most powerful man on earth?

Sometimes, even in the brave new world of post-feminism, victimization still happens. And, at the hands of Clinton, Lewinsky was a sexual and emotional victim.

It also seems to me that Lewinsky, alone among the major characters, has behaved for the most part decently through this saga. Apart from a few tantrums, she was relatively understanding. Yes, she told several friends, but she was having an affair with the president, for goodness' sake!

Yes, she asked for a good job in New York. But that was after she had been fired for her love affair, exiled to a job she hated and left with her phone calls unreturned.

Her direst threat was to tell her own mother - but hadn't she already told her mother? Even now, she has kept an honorable silence, when the temptation to defend herself must be enormous.

For a very long time, she did all she could to avoid betraying her lover, even to the point of signing an affidavit that denied the affair. Once cornered, she resolved to tell the whole truth. The most stunning aspect of the Starr report is how far this young woman was prepared to go to abide by the law, even to the extent of opening herself up to grotesque public scrutiny. What a contrast with the president. If this morality tale is essentially about honesty, then Lewinsky is clearly its heroine.

It says something about the president's seductive narcissism that, even now, he has made this affair about himself, and has somehow become the victim. But Lewinsky uniquely deserves that honor.

Exploited by a lover, betrayed by a friend, hounded by inquisitors and violated by the media, she has paid far more than a reasonable price for the sin of misplaced, youthful love. She surely deserves much better. From all of us.