"The only way she thought she could have any influence was through sex," says a 24-year-old public policy student in Washington for a summer internship. "I don't think anyone should use sex for power. If you want to have unattached, unemotional sex, that's fine. But using it for power is wrong."
What is an acceptable motive for having unattached, unemotional sex?
Jessica Cutler says she is trying to look on the bright side of her notoriety.
(Photograph by Kyoko Hamada)
"Pleasure," she says.
"I HAVE A 'GLAMOUR JOB' ON THE HILL. That is, I could not care less about gov or politics, but working for a Senator looks good on my resume. And these marble hallways are such great places for meeting boys and showing off my outfits."
This is Jessica's very first blog entry, posted at 5:32 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5. But that's not where the story of Jessica's blog began.
Jessica grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., the oldest of three daughters raised by a former U.S. soldier and his Korean-born wife. Her parents fought a lot, remembers Jessica, who was in junior high when they divorced. Her mother moved out, leaving the girls to live with their father. They started leading largely separate lives.
"We all got cable in our rooms," Jessica says. "We all would just go to our rooms at the end of the day and watch the shows we wanted to watch."
From first grade through junior high, Jessica spent one day each week in a special program for gifted and talented children. Jessica and some of her schoolmates describe the program as pure free-to-be-you-and-me fun: Nobody graded them; nobody gave them homework; nobody cared if they finished anything.
Those classes left a mark on Jessica. "They tell you, 'You guys, you are smarter than most people,' " recalls Jessica, whose closest friends remain the girls she met in that program at age 7.
Jessica finds it curious that she and several of her gifted classmates became underemployed slackers with attitudes. She wonders if that traces back to the lessons they learned in the gifted program. "You kind of create your own moral universe," Jessica says. "It's like, well, I like myself. If other people don't like me, then whatever. I'm out of here."
During Jessica's teen years, her mother wasn't at home to offer admonitions about sex or romance, but lessons were easy to come by. Jessica, a comparative late-bloomer, remembers some high school classmates casually listing the guys they'd slept with and coming up with 20 or 30 partners.
"Sex wasn't taboo from the beginning for our generation," says Alexandra DeLuca, 25, one of Jessica's closest childhood friends. "We had sex education classes from an early age. The assumption was you were going to have sex soon, if you weren't already. My parents never gave me the idea that sex was bad. My mom was surprised that I wasn't having sex in high school. It never was this secretive thing you are supposed to be ashamed about." The breakout movie of Jessica's junior high school years was "Pretty Woman," a 1990 remake of the Cinderella story starring Julia Roberts as a prostitute who falls in love with her wealthy john, played by Richard Gere. He takes her power shopping, and they live happily ever after.
"Actually, I hated that movie when I saw it as a young teenager," says Jessica, who was 12 when the movie was released. "I was, like, that movie is incredibly sexist."
Yet as a teenage student at Syracuse University, she dated a 38-year-old doctor who liked to take her shopping for clothes . The gifts he bought her, she says, made an impression. "That's the standard you hold every guy to for the rest of your life."
At Syracuse, Jessica worked on the school newspaper, fell in love, lost her virginity, bounced between her father's home and friends' apartments, partied and received lousy grades. She left after four years without earning a degree, although she listed the credential on her résumé. She insists she wasn't trying to mislead anyone. She says she didn't realize that she hadn't been awarded a diploma until it was reported in the post-blog media frenzy. She says she must have had some unreturned library books or unpaid parking tickets that prompted the university to withhold her degree, although she hasn't bothered to check.
Her fondest memory of college was a summer internship in New York City with Nickelodeon, where she wrote funny stories for the cable network's magazine for children. It was a moment when life promised to be as fun and creative as her days in the gifted and talented program.
The moment was fleeting. After college, Jessica says, she squatted with friends in an apartment under construction in New York. She didn't have a career plan, always figuring she'd worry about the future later. As she worked a series of low-level jobs, she came to believe that no matter how smart a woman was, it was her looks that mattered.
"I used to read, like, Ms. Magazine and all that stuff when I was in high school," she says. "I was really, like, earnest back then. When I grew up and saw the way people are, I had to adapt. It's more about your looks than anything you can do. If you are not attractive, if you are fat, you don't get seated [at a restaurant], like, in the window or outside. If you want to do what you want to do, you have to look a certain way."
Jessica did. She burned through men and jobs in rapid succession and for much the same reason: She could not stand to be bored. And she bored easily. The way Jessica saw it, suckers were stuck doing things they didn't want to do. Jessica refused.
Jessica and some of her friends adopted an attitude about sex that they knew was, in earlier generations, the purview of male cads. "I think men want to think that for women sex equals love, but it's not like that at all," says DeLuca, now a freelance writer in California. "Women can have a one-night stand for fun. It doesn't mean we are going to marry the man or even like him. We just thought he was hot.
"My girlfriends and I have talked about how if you have a one-night stand and he tries to cuddle with you, you are like, 'What are you doing? It's a one-night stand!' It's not like he's your boyfriend or anything. Women our age do talk about sex like men, and we do treat sex like men. It's not a terrible thing. That's what people our age do."
A life of sexual freedom and ironic detachment, however, is not always as much fun as it's portrayed in sitcoms, Jessica acknowledges. "It probably is just a huge defense mechanism, dating several men," she says. "Because you are, like, if it doesn't go well with this guy, there's always the others," Jessica says. "I think ultimately, with that kind of defense mechanism, all your relationships are kind of half-assed. You know?"
Yet Jessica always managed to make it all sound hilarious. Job disasters and ill-fated couplings were fodder for entertaining her girlfriends. Sure, it was weird when every older guy with a big job who offered to give her a "tour" of his office turned out to want to do it on his sofa. Sure, it was twisted when the psychiatrist she dated insisted on calling her Mommy. But if she could laugh about it, how bad could it be? If she could make others laugh about it, tell and retell the stories of her life as if she were polishing a "Seinfeld" script, then she was the one in control. Wasn't she?
Jessica moved to Washington last year. She thought it would be less expensive than New York, but more exciting than some hicksville. She shared an apartment with the boyfriend who had, in recent years, become the closest thing she had to a steady. Sometimes they talked about getting married. Most nights, they watched television together. On weekends, Jessica shopped for cute clothes. She was confused, she says now. If they loved each other, why was she so bored?
She began cheating with older, more powerful men she met around Washington, and she wasn't even sure why. Maybe, she says, it was for the sheer thrill. Jessica didn't hide from any of them that she drank heavily and used drugs such as ecstasy, she says. She's tried virtually every party drug, she says, and was amazed by how many men in Washington hadn't. "They will tell you, 'I have never done drugs' " she marvels. "Are you kidding me? . . . I would hope they are lying. How could you not even try it? . . . I think that's just part of being open-minded."
She took a job answering phones at a nonprofit organization, which was a problem. She hates answering phones. "I was kind of, like, resentful about it," she says. Inevitably, she was fired for poor phone manners.
"Somebody had, like, the wrong number," Jessica recalls. "They kept calling back to yell at me. And I got into, like, a thing with them. I told them, 'This is the wrong number!' I hung up on them. They called back and said, 'Don't hang up on me, can't you forward me?' I was like, 'No, get a phone book.'
"I was spoken to about it. Then a VIP -- I mean a VIP for, like, Washington, because I don't even know who she is -- called. I think she wanted me to say, 'May I ask who is calling?' I was like, 'Who is this? I need to know.' She complained about me."
Late last year, Jessica responded to a notice for an unpaid internship in the office of Connecticut Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman because people kept telling her that to get anywhere in Washington she needed Hill experience. She contacted the Lieberman staffer listed as a contact on the job posting, a man she would later write about in her blog. She got the internship and began in January. Her duties included occasionally answering the phone, she says.
To earn money, she worked as a hostess at I Ricchi, a pricey Italian restaurant across 19th Street NW from the Palm. That didn't last. It was raining hard the night that "K Street," the pseudo-reality television show featuring real Washington power brokers in scripted scenarios, held a premiere party at the Palm. The whole block was mobbed. Jessica's customers were mad they had to wait for tables. She kept losing their wet umbrellas and disappearing to look for them. When a manager chided her for ignoring her duties at the front door, she snapped, "I really don't give a [expletive].' And so ended another job. As always, Jessica telephoned and e-mailed her friends with madcap accounts of her latest job fiasco.
"Jessica has been fired from more jobs than anyone I know," DeLuca says. "She lists the jobs on her résumé that she's been fired from. Nobody checks that out. The reality, which Jessica knows, is that she's a very pretty girl. She can be charming when she wants to be. She gets hired as easily as she gets fired."
And that is why DeLuca figures that all the people who employed Jessica on the Hill deserved exactly what happened next. "If Capitol Hill is this shining example of anything, how did she get hired?" DeLuca asks. "That's why it's so silly, people getting mad at her for bringing shame on the senator's office or the Hill or the system. Look at the guy who hired her for an internship, then asked her out. Look at the woman who supervised her, then pimped her out. Something is wrong with the system. It's not her."