Check out Carol Costello’s story about how perceptions of feminism have shifted among Millenials.
I told her that the types of conversation that excite me the most today are the ones being started by people who don’t see themselves fitting into mainstream feminist narratives. It’s been really heartening to see how the Internet has emboldened and empowered people who have traditionally been marginalized and underserved. Perhaps feminism, like other social justice movements, is moving toward a more collective/democratic approach that emphasizes mass action rather than distinguishing a few exceptional leaders or “heroes”. I’m certain that the most significant action to come will be led by the radicals operating on the fringes, those who are creating communities one hashtag or Tumblr post at a time, those who are speaking to audiences that are not beholden to academic, political, or economic institutions (see Suey Park and #NotYourAsianSidekick, the student-led "I, Too, Am Harvard" multimedia campaign, etc.).
The Internet has helped many activists in my generation to mobilize support and start dialogues around the issues relevant to our communities. Your average teenage feminist has more tools and resources at their disposal and a more nuanced understanding of gender than ever before. I’m excited to see the democratizing effects of social media transform the way we pursue change.
As part of their Feminism/s series, the Kelly Writers House at the University of Pennsylvania is hosting a panel tomorrow night on sex writing. I’ll be speaking at 6pm in the Arts Cafe - come join us! The talk will be followed by a Q&A and reception :)
FEMINISM/S PRESENTS: SEX IN JOURNALISM Wednesday, February 5th at 6:00pm Arts Cafe, Kelly Writers House (3805 Locust Walk on the University of Pennsylvania campus)
What do we talk about when we talk about sex? Join us for a discussion on the role of sex in journalism. Panelists include acclaimed journalist JULIA ALLISON; blogger LENA CHEN; KELSEY McKINNEY, online editor of Foxing Quarterly; and DAN REIMOLD, media scholar and author of “Sex and the University.” Moderated by ARIELLE PARDES. Come join the conversation.
Co-sponsored by The Fund for Feminist Projects and the Povich Journalism Fund.
I’m speaking tonight at Pomona College and will be in Los Angeles until Wednesday. If you’re in the Claremont area, come check this out :)
Faith and First Times: Sex, Society and Religion Thursday, October 4th, 7:00-8:30pm Rose Hills Theatre, Pomona College
In today’s modern age, female sexuality has become less taboo to discuss. Whether through Cosmopolitan Magazine or Victoria’s Secret, society is beginning to explore a certain brand of female sexuality. Yet many women of faith are faced with the dilemma of embracing their sexuality while still maintaining religious traditions that value virginity and purity, while secular women often feel these cultural representations are not a true expression of their experiences. Come join the Pomona Student Union at Faith and First Times, an event aimed at exploring the influences of religion on virginity and how it effects women in today’s society.
I talked to Ji Hyun Lee for this April 2012 Marie Claire feature on Love & Race. The piece I’m quoted in examines Asian American women’s experiences with fetishization in dating and relationships. As interracial couplings become more common, how do racial biases and misconceptions impact those who are fetishized and what does it reveal about the culture in which we live? Last fall, I wrote about my own encounter with a fetishist for GOOD Magazine’s Dealbreakers column.
The past two months have been a whirlwind of deadlines, travel, and house guests, but now that Patrick’s finally graduated, I get to call him Dr. Boyfriend, and I’m excited to figure out the post-Boston gameplan. (I’ve been living here since the fall of 2005! Another winter? I can’t handle it.)
Rejecting the institution of marriage for the umpteenth time
No promises as to when I’ll return to regular blogging, as I’m more concerned about off-line work for the moment. That said, I’ll be redesigning TheChicktionary.com (and possibly even this site) some time within the next year. It’s one of the top items on my post-book to-do list! Feel free to continue sending in reader questions, though I may not be able to answer right away :)
Say you’ve started seeing someone you really like. As far as you’re concerned, how long will it take before you have sex?
6 or more dates
Only after the wedding
If you’ve ever read my Bedsider essay on the first time I shared dinner and bodily fluids with the Roomie, you already know my stance on first-date sex. Granted, not everyone wants to start off their relationships with a bang (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun!) and that’s pretty understandable given that we each have varying degrees of tolerance for strangers in our bed and morning-after regret. So when I spoke with Nadia Goodman for her piece on deciding how long to wait, I struggled to give universal advice on a topic with not-so-universal opinions.
I feel like a lot of the anxiety over having first-time sex with a new person stems from the desire to make things go perfectly, and timing is one of the few things that we can actually control. Dating can be a high-stress affair complete with expectations, fantasies, and assumptions - who knows what pans out once the clothes are off? And though I am not the type of person who wishes they could take back their sexual history (or really, any part of my personal history), I wish there were a way to express that I’ve had dissatisfying or disappointing experiences in the bedroom without folks assuming that it means I wish I could take it all back. Because the truth is, I don’t want to take it back, not even the bad, awkward, unremarkable sex - isn’t that stuff at least partly responsible for making me more aware of my needs and desires? For me, the risk of jumping the gun by jumping someone’s bones is well-worth taking, precisely because I wouldn’t want to be with a person who would judge me for that.
So, those are my two cents. Now I’m curious to hear how you would answer the question I posed in the beginning on the post.
Hey guys! I’m headed to San Francisco to attend Sex:Tech, the 5th Annual Isis Conference on New Media, Youth, & Sexual Health, where I’ll be speaking on a panel about online intimacy and relationships. Then I’ll be in Los Angeles from April 3rd to 6th to do an event at Pomona College. It’ll be a hectic week of work and travel, but I’m hoping to see both of my parents and some friends while in town. I’m going to try to make it back to California at least one more time (when I don’t have any professional obligations) before I make the big move to Berlin. And maybe next time, I can bring the two boys?
Below is the info on the two events :)
xoxosms: Authentic Relationships and Online Identities 11:30am, Monday, April 2nd at Stanford Court Renaissance in San Francisco, CA
How do we navigate online identities and relationships? Can you really “know” someone you’ve never met? Is it safe to form relationships online? Enjoy a film screening of “xoxosms”, a new short documentary by Nancy Schwartzman that follows two star-crossed lovers in the digital age. Following the screening, we’ll discuss the idea of “digital intimacy”, and the authentic and healthy relationships to be found and nurtured online. Featuring Nancy Schwartzman (Filmmaker and The Line Campaign), Cory Silverberg (sexuality.about.com and ISIS Board Member), Heather Corinna (Scarleteen), and Lena Chen (Sex and the Ivy).
Writing Sex Positively: A Discussion with Lena Chen 7pm, Thursday, April 5th at Pomona College in Claremont, CA
What is sex-positive writing, and at which point does it become a political act? How has the feminist or sex-positive blog-o-sphere reshaped social activism and cultural criticism? Is the Internet an effective tool for social change or does it merely maintain the status quo and replicate offline power structures? In a moderated conversation, Lena Chen, a “reluctant sexpert, a feminist and queer advocate, and a walking case study on bad publicity”, will discuss her career as a blogger, speaker, media commentator, and activist. She’ll answer questions about the future of new media and publishing, professional options for feminists and progressives, and the pros and cons of working within the non-profit industrial complex. RSVP for the event on Facebook.
Catch me at this SXSW Interactive panel next week … I arrive in town this Wednesday and will be there for six days. *Very* excited to see Austin!
SEX IN THE DIGITAL AGE Monday, March 12 12:30PM - 1:30PM Driskill Hotel - Driskill Ballroom
As the Internet has become an increasingly integral part of our daily lives, it’s transformed virtually everything about how we live—from how we communicate with friends and family, how we get our jobs done, and, yes, how we flirt, find lovers, and explore our sexuality. In many ways, this evolution has been a positive one, bringing us amazing new ways to connect with the rest of the world, but it’s also had some unforeseen consequences. Just over a decade ago, when the country was reeling from the aftermath of the Lewinsky scandal, who could have imagined that one day a congressman would be forced to resign from his post after a scandal that involved no sex, no illicit meetings—in fact, nothing more than some online flirting and a few ill advised sexts?
Sex in the Digital Age examines how the Internet has transformed our relationship to sexuality: what it’s given us, what it’s taken away, and how it’s transformed our ideas and expectations about how our friends, lovers, and public figures can—and should—behave.
Here’s a quick read for your lazy long weekend! A CNN piece I was quoted in:
Twenty-year-old, 6-foot-1 Andrej Pejic is a model for success: a women’s size 2 or 4; angular cheekbones; full, pouty lips; bleached-blond hair; and impossibly long legs. Yet the walk down the runway — often squeezed into a ladies’ size 10 shoe — hasn’t always been a smooth and glamour-ridden one.
Bosnian-born Pejic grew up as the younger son to a single mother of two. He spent most of his childhood in a Serbian refugee camp before moving to Melbourne, Australia. While others are quick to attach labels to Pejic — he’s been referred to in the media everywhere from “James Blond” to “gender bender” to “femiman” — androgynous sensation Pejic isn’t so quick to constrict himself to a particular description… [continued]
I don’t think there should be an “acceptable” way to dress or to present yourself according to your gender, so I think it’s pretty awesome that Andrej Pejic has taken the fashion world by storm. As I mention in the linked article, however, visibility can only do so much to counter the existing gender binary, and let’s not forget that profit interests are the reason why Pejic’s strutting down the runway.
In fact, rather than subverting norms, might this trend in gender ambiguity reinforce them? Pejic’s look is first and foremost a source of profit for the agency and designers who employ him. There’s a big difference between appearing androgynous and being trans or gender-queer, but a fashion spread is not going to articulate all those nuances, nor does it even touch upon the kinds of prejudice or outright violence that many trans folks encounter because of the way they dress. Your average 20-year-old transgender person is not a highly sought after model, yet they’re the ones who aren’t insulated from harassment, discrimination, and physical violence. That isn’t to say that Pejic doesn’t encounter ignorance as well, but he enjoys some economic insulation, which shouldn’t be underestimated. Employment is a privilege that many trans people can’t count on (since gender identity and expression aren’t constitutionally protected rights). All in all, I have my doubts about whether this trend actually challenge mainstream ideas about beauty and gender or if it merely fetishizes androgyny.
The conference was organized by Lena Chen and the Harvard Queer Students’ Association, and brought together an incredibly diverse and impressive group of feminists, who dropped some serious knowledge on all things virgin-themed. One of the most interesting parts of the panel was learning how much misinformation exists around issues of virginity, sex, and our bodies. I’ve compiled ten myths uncovered- and debunked- at yesterday’s conference.
Virginity is a topic I’ve written a ton about - and to be honest, after spending a year researching it for my thesis, I’ve had to take a bit of a break from the subject. But I think Lori’s piece was such a great summation of the discussion that I had to repost! If you’re interested in learning about how virginity relates to slut-shaming, the institution of marriage, queer sexuality, and ideas about the hymen and female anatomy, … seriously, read it.
Holy crap, traveling for the past month has totally done a number on my skin, immune system, and sleep schedule. Three more days in China and then I’m off to LA for a week - yet another climate and time change. Never thought I’d be looking forward to returning to the frigid New England winter, but I’m longing for some normality (and a wardrobe change) after weeks on the road.
After I get back to Boston on the 30th, I’m going to be in proposal writing mode for the indefinite future so there will be fewer new articles and blog posts coming up. Though most of my literary output will remain private for a while, I’ll have a web series coming out soon and I’ll be doing sporadic speaking gigs. That said, I’m trying to cut down on travel and extraneous obligations, so I can spend as much time as possible in Boston and not get sick like I did last year when I was running about doing Feminist Coming Out Day. I only have half a year before my Berlin move, and I have to seriously reorganize my life to make writing and my codependent relationship with my best friend my two top priorities :)
Here’s an incomplete list of where I’ll be in upcoming months …
I also have to visit LA one more time before I move to Germany (or my mother will actually kill me) and I may make it over to DC at some point, but that’s all to be determined. I was also originally supposed to do a reunion with friends in New Orleans in early March, right before SXSW, but sadly, I don’t think I can afford that at the moment. (Unless someone wants to fly me over to speak, pretty please?)
Due to lack of time/money/energy, I don’t think I’ll be adding much more to my plate this spring, but as always, shoot me an email if you’re interested in hosting me as a speaker. I’ll update the above list as details get solidified (there’s a few Harvard events and some local stuff I’m still getting confirmation on). Also, for everyone who’s been inundating my inbox, I’ll be back in civilization this weekend and hope to have a handle on late emails by next week.
Now … it’s time to end this Asia trip on a high note! It’s right before Chinese New Year, and I can think of no better place to start the Year of the Dragon than in Shanghai :)
Following up on my post about the recent Twitter campaigns to bring awareness to gendered cyber harassment, here’s a link to a radio segment I did on the topic as part of Jamila Bey’s SPAR (Sex, Politics, and Religion) show, airing on Voice of Russia’s American outlet (AM 1390 in DC / AM 1430 in NYC). Rebecca Watson, the founder of Skepchick and co-host of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe, was also a guest on the show. Rebecca discussed her own experiences with online harassment, which included a troll who was eventually arrested for making death threats against her.
Check out the audio recording of the show at the link above.
For related posts on online harassment, check out the “haterade” tag on TheChicktionary.com
UPDATE: The Women’s Media Center has extended the deadline for its Girls’ State Of The Union contest to December 12th.
The Women’s Media Center invites girls from all over the United States, ages 14-22, to create a 1-5 minute Girls’ State of the Union video in response to the President’s speech. Like the President’s report, the Girls’ State of the Union will sum up the condition of the country—with special emphasis on the welfare of girls—and an outline of what the President’s legislative agenda and priorities for congress should be.
Five finalists will be highlighted on the Women’s Media Center’s YouTube channel and a group of diverse and talented celebrity and new media influencer judges (including yours truly) will choose the winner. The winner, along with her parents or guardians, will be flown to Washington, DC to present her State of the Union report at the National Press Club in January. For more details on how to enter, check out the official webpage.
Don’t forget that I’m also judging the Feminist Flash Fiction contest over at MookyChick. The prize is £100 and a one-year subscription to BUST Magazine for the writer of the best submission under 200 words. Think: haiku, six-word memoir, etc. Just make it short and sweet. Best part? You can enter more than once!
Good luck, and please reblog and spread the word widely :)
As many of you know, the National Campaign To Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has been a client of mine for the past two years. Today, they are launching Bedsider.org, and I’m SUPER EXCITED to introduce such a relatable and valuable resource to you guys. Given the litany of contraceptive options out there, it can be intimidating to navigate those waters on your own. Birth control is one of the number one topics that I get questions about. I hope that Bedsider will offer the answers I can’t, while allowing you to hear from real users themselves.
In coming weeks, the National Campaign, in collaboration with the Ad Council, will distribute Bedsider PSAs to more than 33,000 media outlets (in television, radio, print, and web) as part of the first-ever multimedia public service campaign aimed at addressing unplanned pregnancy among young women in America. Bedsider, a comprehensive online and mobile program, helps sexually active women 18-24 find the right birth control method for them and use it carefully and consistently in an effort to prevent unplanned pregnancy. At Bedsider, visitors can explore, compare, and contrast all available methods of contraception, set up birth control and appointment reminders, view videos of their peers discussing personal experiences, and view animated shorts that debunk myths about birth control.
Some of my previous writing for SexReally has already begun appearing on the Bedsider blog. I can’t wait to share the new ways I’ll be working with them in the months to come :)
It’s been an eventful week for the targets of online misogyny. Just a few days ago, bloggers began tweeting under the hashtag #ThreatOfTheDay to bring awareness to the violent threats and harassment they face everyday on the Internet. Yesterday, Sady Doyle at Tiger Beatdown wrote about how she was completely blindsided by the extent of the sexism she encountered as a woman blogger:
What I got, friends, were comments. Comments about myself. And blogs about myself. And message-board discussions, also about myself. And e-mails. What I got was what every woman (feminist or not) and openly anti-sexist person (woman or not) on this our Internet gets: I got targeted. With threats, with insults, with smear campaigns, with attempts to threaten my employment or credibility or just general ability to get through the day with a healthy attitude and a minimal amount of insult.
She proposed a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #MenCallMeThings. (And if you click on that link, you’ll see some pretty alarming examples of how far we’ve got to go.) Though I’d agree there’s an undeniably gendered nature to many of these attacks, I find it somewhat limiting that men are being called out as perpetrators and women considered their victims. Jessica Bennett at The Daily Beast wrote a story a few days ago about how misogyny plays out on the Internet, using pro-rape Facebook pages as an example. Having received a wide range of insults (based on my race, education, gender, sexual history, etc.) in wide range of forums (email, my comments’ section, anonymous message boards, hate blogs devoted to me), I can attest that gender is not the only component at play, though it has a significant role. According to my experience and social science, the overwhelming majority of online harassers are straight, white, cisgender men, but their victims run the gamut, though they tend to be people of color, queer people, women — in other words, those who are already part of socially marginalized groups. For example, I know many men who have been called pretty nasty things by other men because of their sexual orientation, race, political views, or gender identity. If you don’t abide by the rules of the “in-group”, you’re game for attack.
I take free speech seriously, so this is not just a case of some sensitive chicks not being able to take criticism. I deal with a lot of pearl-clutching and finger-wagging in my line of work, and I don’t expect most conservative people to agree with my views or my lifestyle. This isn’t about moral judgment, but something far more sinister. The type of people who call you “Asian human garbage” or tell you to “enjoy getting fired” are not god-fearing virginity pledgers who just want you to denounce your sinful ways and accept Jesus into your life*. Trolls are not interested in your immortal soul, and they’re not even really interested in voicing an opinion. Their mission is a very specific and scary one: to tear you down however they can, not simply because they want you to know that you are wrong, but because they want to make it impossible for you to keep doing what you’re doing.
In my case, it’s clear they want to force me offline. Why else would they go from attacking me and my family/friends/partner to defaming those who read my blog or “like” my Facebook status updates? The fallout is not inconsequential. Some people are, in fact, scared off the web. (Remember the Kathy Sierra incident?) Others, like me, simply start to self-censor or roll back their “public face”, often at a professional disadvantage. There’s no framework in place to identify or punish those who use the Internet to stalk, harass, and intimidate, so the impetus is on the victims to do something about it. Is a Twitter campaign going to put an end to cyber attacks and defamation? Unlikely, since I’m sure the perpetrators are well-aware that they’re engaging in questionably moral behavior. My hope is that media coverage and public attention of this issue will mitigate damage toward victims’ reputations and that reasonable people will think twice before they believe what they read on the Internet.
I’m judging an awesome writing contest over at MookyChick, a UK-based alternative women’s site. (You might remember this interview they did with me last month.) It’s easy to enter — the maximum word length for each entry is 200 words — and there’s a cash prize (as well as a feministy one) involved. Here are the details:
Slut shaming. Contraception. Body dysmorphia. Ladette culture. Impossible Disney princesses. The glass ceiling for women in everything from banking to comedy. Acid attacks in S Asia. Systematic rape in Sierra Leone. FGM. Saudi women permitted to vote but not drive themselves to the polling station. Being told it’s, uh, you know, dude, a little bit uncool to call yourself a feminist. Feminism is prevalent in all aspects of society and affects, ooh, pretty much 100% of the population!
To promote feminism in writing, Mookychick is proud to announce a new annual writing competition, FEMINIST FLASH 2011. It’s dead easy to enter, and you should. Right now! Channel your inner Dorothy Parker / Caitlin Moran / Margaret Atwood / Naomi Wolfe and you’ll win wealth, fame and a 1 year digital subscription to BUST Magazine.
The first-prize winner of the best haiku, poem or flash fiction (under 200 words) receives:
£100 (or your country’s equivalent)
Publication with a link to your blog on Mookychick
Happy Monday! I’m nominated for Most Influential Female Blogger over at College Candy. Check out all the nominees in the different categories and fill out a survey of who you think represents the best of the best — everyone who votes gets entered to win a prize from Rent The Runway :)
Listen up! If you haven’t subscribed yet to Ch!ckTalk, you need to do that like right now. All you commit to is one email per month (full of updates, awesome events, Hamlet photos, and unfinished writing I’m too embarrassed to post in public). Each month, I’ll also have a different sponsor (or sponsors) offering an exclusive discount to all list members and an awesome prize to one lucky subscriber.
The Sex Toy Stand, an online retailer of adult products, is sponsoring the debut edition of the newsletter. My first 100 subscribers will be receiving a unique promotional code for orders on their web store, and one person (chosen at random from those on the list) will win a $20 gift certificate to The Sex Toy Stand and a full set of Kama Sutra’s new Massage Candles (a $92 value!):
Sensually scented candles that melt from candle wax to a warm liquid massage oil in minutes, Kama Sutra Massage Candles are all natural and formulated with a proprietary blend of skin-conditioning coconut oil, shea butter and vitamin E. Scents include: Deep Ocean, Island Passion, Tropical Nights and Mediterranean Almond.
All you’ve got to do to receive a code and enter the giveaway (and all future giveaways) is to subscribe here to the newsletter. Next month? I’ve got an even cooler contest in store ;)
Hi folks, I’m currently up for the Best Blogger Awards at SHAPE Magazine — and the grand prize winner gets their own web show sponsored by the magazine! If you want to see a mainstream women’s website host a video series promoting positive body image and sexuality, please take a few seconds to click over and vote for The Chicktionary.
To promote my blog’s nomination, I’ll be hosting interviews with guest experts and doing giveaways of books, sex toys, and more! Get the first scoop on my social media-specific contests by following me on Twitter, liking my page on Facebook, and signing up for my new monthly newsletter. (I’ll be announcing a giveaway for the first 100 subscribers this week.)
So kids, I’m a nominee for the 2011 Social Media Award from the Women’s Media Center. If you’ve found my blogging and online communication strategy* to be helpful/entertaining/educational/etc., cast a vote for me here!
Y’all are always asking me for website recommendations, so here’s a tip: check out the other nominees in the category. According to the Women’s Media Center, “The nominees represent a diverse group of journalists, bloggers and tweeters who spread their ‘message’ by using their creativity and resourcefulness via the interwebs through social networking, blogging and mobile outreach.” I’m friends with several of the nominated women, so I can attest that they are as awesome personally as they are professionally. They do some fabulously creative work and represent a really diverse spectrum of interests (they’re not all writers, by the way). On the voting page, you can read bios for each person and click over to their site.
Thanks for voting! And because this IS a social media award after all, I encourage you to reblog, Tweet, and distribute this post widely ;)
* This “online communications strategy” largely consists of sneaking commentary about gender politics in between posts about domestic squabbles and inappropriate conversations I’ve had with my friends. Given my inability to sound or look like an adult in real life, I think I actually make a better impression from behind the computer screen.
What do you call it when you really like someone, spend the night together all the time, but don’t necessarily want to shack up? According to a team of University of Missouri researchers, that’s a “stayover relationship,” and it’s becoming a popular dating model for young adults …
So! This was the topic of my latest piece for SexReally.com, and I’m dying to know: has anyone heard of the term “stayover relationships” before or do you share the stance of my friend (below):
When I asked a female friend if I could talk to her about her thoughts on her own stayover relationship, she told me, “I’ve never heard of this term … i thought that’s just what couples did.”
Right?! That’s totally what I thought too, but I do think it makes some sense to distinguish the stayover model from cohabitation. As much as I cringe at trend stories, this is a social phenomenon that deserves more than a mention in The New York Times’ Style section. Why? Because it indicates that social mores and the experiences of young adults have changed dramatically in recent decades. From my article:
Plenty of people—not just young folks—do use the stayover model today with no fanfare. A couple generations ago, however, it never would have existed, at least not without some serious controversy. What changed in between? For one, women nowadays enjoy greater economic equality and no longer have to choose between living with their parents and moving in with their husband. It’s socially acceptable and economically feasible for them to live on their own, while simultaneously, the taboo against premarital sex have loosened. Young people today are also getting married later, in part because of higher education.
Call me a geek, but I’m pretty fascinated how courtship patterns evolve as a result of changes in gender equality and views toward queer sexuality. Definitely a topic worth further sociological examination.