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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An update from the abyss: this past summer, I contributed to "IGLYO on…", the quarterly periodical published by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Youth and Student Organization. I wrote an article about the use of Internet communities and forums and their impact on identity formation among queer youth, particularly those marginalized by lack of access, resources, or role models in their community. It appeared in IGLYO’s June 2012 quarterly on social media.

I’ll be moving to Berlin at the end of February, and though I’ll be spending most of the following months settling in and finishing up book research, I hope to spend much of my free time meeting youth activists and others engaged in progressive work in Europe. If you plan on passing through Germany, shoot me a note! Am always interested in hearing the stories of strangers and playing biographer to vagabonds.

IGLYO on… is written by volunteers and enables young people across Europe to contribute their perspective to the LGBTQ movement. The publication is distributed to all member organisations and partners in hard copy, and is published four times a year. Peers are invited to contribute to a range of topics. Contact office@iglyo.com to order print publications to be sent by post.

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“He Came To Stay” | Explosion Proof Fall 2011

Forgot to blog this when it came out last fall, but here’s a personal essay I wrote about my relationship with Patrick (for Explosion Proof’s “State of the Union” issue). Simone de Beauvoir inspired the title. I was reading Tête-à-Tête at the time.

(To read the article, click to the individual page and right-click “view image”).

(Source: lenachen)

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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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“Confessions Of A Bad Feminist: I, Too, Wish For Beauty”Underwired Magazine | October 2011
I have a piece reprinted in Underwired Magazine this month. I don’t write all that frequently about body image — or my body, for that matter — but it’s one of the most common topics that readers ask me about. I’ve written before that I don’t feel comfortable giving advice on exercise or diet: 1) because I’m not anyone’s doctor and 2) because I think it’s misguided to equate “being healthy” with “looking ‘good’”, especially since definitions of attractiveness are anything but arbitrary. Another reason for my hesitance, however, is the fact that I struggle with how I look myself. It’s not like I’m sooo beyond superficial concerns about my waistline simply because I’ve taught myself some feminist theory. It’s an on-going, up-hill battle, and the above essay was one step toward a healthier body image. But I’m not there yet and I wonder if I ever will be. (More on this topic tomorrow.)
For the high-resolution version of the essay, click here.
Related posts on body image, dieting, and health:What Sex Blogging & The Freshman 15 Taught MeThe  Gym-A-Phobe’s Guide To Having Your Cupcake & Eating It TooReader Question: “How do you reconcile your feminism and beauty/fashion consumption?”Reader Question: “What are the merits of having small breasts?”The Blueprint MythSex And The Ivy: The Purge of Purging

“Confessions Of A Bad Feminist: I, Too, Wish For Beauty”
Underwired Magazine | October 2011

I have a piece reprinted in Underwired Magazine this month. I don’t write all that frequently about body image — or my body, for that matter — but it’s one of the most common topics that readers ask me about. I’ve written before that I don’t feel comfortable giving advice on exercise or diet: 1) because I’m not anyone’s doctor and 2) because I think it’s misguided to equate “being healthy” with “looking ‘good’”, especially since definitions of attractiveness are anything but arbitrary. Another reason for my hesitance, however, is the fact that I struggle with how I look myself. It’s not like I’m sooo beyond superficial concerns about my waistline simply because I’ve taught myself some feminist theory. It’s an on-going, up-hill battle, and the above essay was one step toward a healthier body image. But I’m not there yet and I wonder if I ever will be. (More on this topic tomorrow.)

For the high-resolution version of the essay, click here.

Related posts on body image, dieting, and health:
What Sex Blogging & The Freshman 15 Taught Me
The Gym-A-Phobe’s Guide To Having Your Cupcake & Eating It Too
Reader Question: “How do you reconcile your feminism and beauty/fashion consumption?”
Reader Question: “What are the merits of having small breasts?”
The Blueprint Myth
Sex And The Ivy: The Purge of Purging

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Sex Really | Are Stayover Relationships the Wave of the Future?

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.

(Source: lenachen)

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Dealbreaker: He’s Got an Asian Fetish | GOOD
Here’s an essay I wrote for GOOD Magazine about a very political issue that wields its head in my personal life. A snippet below:

By the time I met Pierre, I’d already encountered countless fetishists  trying to score submissive mates or a membership in the Joy Fuck Club.  What’s more, I thought I knew how to avoid these guys—the kind of men  who said they were looking for “Asian princesses” in their dating  profiles, who expected me to walk on their backs one night and wield a  wok the next. But  I soon learned that while a negative bias against a minority group is  fairly easy to identify, a fetish can be much trickier to detect and  dissect. Are attempts to speak Mandarin just misguided efforts to  impress me, a non-native speaker? Should I be flattered when a guy  compares me to Lucy Liu, an Asian actress to whom I bear little  resemblance? Is being attracted to a woman for her race really any more  offensive than dating her for her looks? Unlike sexually transmitted  infections, there’s no test for yellow fever, and a fetishist is rarely  inclined to disclose the affliction. 

Click over for the full piece.

Dealbreaker: He’s Got an Asian Fetish | GOOD

Here’s an essay I wrote for GOOD Magazine about a very political issue that wields its head in my personal life. A snippet below:

By the time I met Pierre, I’d already encountered countless fetishists trying to score submissive mates or a membership in the Joy Fuck Club. What’s more, I thought I knew how to avoid these guys—the kind of men who said they were looking for “Asian princesses” in their dating profiles, who expected me to walk on their backs one night and wield a wok the next.

But I soon learned that while a negative bias against a minority group is fairly easy to identify, a fetish can be much trickier to detect and dissect. Are attempts to speak Mandarin just misguided efforts to impress me, a non-native speaker? Should I be flattered when a guy compares me to Lucy Liu, an Asian actress to whom I bear little resemblance? Is being attracted to a woman for her race really any more offensive than dating her for her looks? Unlike sexually transmitted infections, there’s no test for yellow fever, and a fetishist is rarely inclined to disclose the affliction.

Click over for the full piece.