Lena Chen

is a reluctant sexpert, a feminist and queer activist, and a walking case study on bad publicity. Once called the "self-appointed poster girl for ... brainy girls gone wild", she authored the blog Sex and the Ivy about her misadventures and sexcapades as a Harvard undergrad. Her reputation has never quite recovered.

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Upcoming Speaking/Travel Dates

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 …

JANUARY 22-30
Visiting Family in Los Angeles, CA

FEBRUARY 5
Panel for Sex Week At Yale in New Haven, CT

FEBRUARY 14
Panel for XOXOSMS Internet Premiere in New York City, NY

MARCH 9-13
SXSW Interactive/Film (for Sex in the Digital Age panel) in Austin, TX 

APRIL 1-3
Sex::Tech 2012 (for XOXOSMS screening and panel) in San Francisco, CA

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 :)

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How The Internet Changed My Sex Life | Audrey Magazine

I was a guest columnist for Audrey Magazine’s Fall 2011 issue. Here’s a snippet of my piece on how online dating has altered the way we choose partners:



With the array of choices online, it’s tempting to rely on search features that comb through user databases to spit out results based on age, ethnicity, religion, education and even dietary preferences. The criteria with which you can assess potential partners range from the trivial (pet ownership status) to the maddeningly obscure (foreign languages spoken). Should a romantic decision really come down to whether someone is more of a dog person or a cat person? The Internet can make dating seem like an interview process. It’s easy to get caught up in looking for the next best thing or to falsely believe that you don’t need to compromise on your vision of an ideal partner or relation- ship, because there’s always that elusive better offer.



In this day and age, what happens virtually isn’t distinct from “the real world”; it’s part of it. I think OkCupid, Grindr, and similar services can be really fantastic ways to meet people (as long as you don’t get addicted, as SO many of my friends have). I know plenty of folks who have turned online flirtations into offline relationships, but just as many who end up in unfulfilling cycles of serial dating.

The article’s not up on the magazine’s website yet, but my editor just sent the PDF to me. To read the whole thing, click here.

How The Internet Changed My Sex Life | Audrey Magazine

I was a guest columnist for Audrey Magazine’s Fall 2011 issue. Here’s a snippet of my piece on how online dating has altered the way we choose partners:

With the array of choices online, it’s tempting to rely on search features that comb through user databases to spit out results based on age, ethnicity, religion, education and even dietary preferences. The criteria with which you can assess potential partners range from the trivial (pet ownership status) to the maddeningly obscure (foreign languages spoken). Should a romantic decision really come down to whether someone is more of a dog person or a cat person? The Internet can make dating seem like an interview process. It’s easy to get caught up in looking for the next best thing or to falsely believe that you don’t need to compromise on your vision of an ideal partner or relation- ship, because there’s always that elusive better offer.

In this day and age, what happens virtually isn’t distinct from “the real world”; it’s part of it. I think OkCupid, Grindr, and similar services can be really fantastic ways to meet people (as long as you don’t get addicted, as SO many of my friends have). I know plenty of folks who have turned online flirtations into offline relationships, but just as many who end up in unfulfilling cycles of serial dating.

The article’s not up on the magazine’s website yet, but my editor just sent the PDF to me. To read the whole thing, click here.

(Source: lenachen)

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Voice Of Russia | Violence Against Female Bloggers

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

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The Girls' State Of The Union Video Contest

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 :)

(Source: lenachen)

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Bedsider.org Is Here For All Your Contraceptive Needs

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 :)

(Source: lenachen)

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The Daily Beast | The Reality Of Misogyny Online

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.

* And yes, these are actual comments I’ve gotten.

Related posts on online harassment:

Slut-Shaming In Action: A Warning To Readers
Cyber-Bullying & Slut-Shaming: A Cautionary Tale
Reader Question: “Why Do You Think You Have So Many Haters?”
This Is What Slut-Shaming Looks Like

Have you encountered harassment online? Tweet it with the hashtag #mencallmethings and #threatoftheday or leave it in the comments below. Please use a pseudonym for your own protection.