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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Posts tagged lgbt

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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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In the latest episode of Sexy Times, I give advice to girls who aren’t quite ready to come out yet. Do you have an obligation to tell your friends and family about your sexual orientation? What happens if you aren’t ready yet? Watch the above video and check out the past editions of the Sexy Times series over at gURL.com.

(Source: lenachen)

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High fashion, minus the labels | CNN.com

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.

(Source: lenachen)

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Despite having blogged rather prolifically about pretty much every other aspect of my sex life, I haven’t ever  publicly admitted my “number”. Readers have asked several times over the  years, but I’ve always been hesitant to reveal what is perhaps the only  secret left in my arsenal. I recently came clean in Marie Claire’s February issue, which profiles five women and their “numbers”. (Spoiler: in case the above photo from the story didn’t already tip you off, I’ve slept with 30 men.)
Why didn’t I discuss this before? While I can intellectually  acknowledge the existence of double  standards, I think in practice,  it’s a lot easier to deny that one is a  “slut” than to deny the entire  concept of sluthood. Blogging about sex forced me to confront the  personal becoming political at a much earlier age than other women, but  although I write about gender norms and progressive sexuality, I find it  hard to practice what I preach against the steady stream of slut-shaming and moral judgment. But even if it makes me squirmish, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.
I do, however, have the following disclaimer: given all the work I’ve done debunking the concept of virginity and arguing for a more inclusive stance toward sexuality,  I’m conflicted about the entire idea of a “number” in the first place.  I’ve never  believed that it makes much sense to privilege vaginal  intercourse over  other types of sexual acts, especially since that  discounts the  experiences of those who diverge from the heterosexual  norm. (And as  illustrated by the story of Carlin Ross, another subject  in Marie  Claire, not everyone who does diverge necessarily  identifies as gay or  bisexual, but may nonetheless view same-sex  encounters as equally  satisfying and formative experiences.) So while  being honest about our “number” might be a good start toward becoming  comfortable with our sexuality, I think it’s wiser to encourage women to  talk more openly about their sexual histories in general, whether or  not the acts involved include that narrow yet murky concept of “sex”.

Despite having blogged rather prolifically about pretty much every other aspect of my sex life, I haven’t ever publicly admitted my “number”. Readers have asked several times over the years, but I’ve always been hesitant to reveal what is perhaps the only secret left in my arsenal. I recently came clean in Marie Claire’s February issue, which profiles five women and their “numbers”. (Spoiler: in case the above photo from the story didn’t already tip you off, I’ve slept with 30 men.)

Why didn’t I discuss this before? While I can intellectually acknowledge the existence of double standards, I think in practice, it’s a lot easier to deny that one is a “slut” than to deny the entire concept of sluthood. Blogging about sex forced me to confront the personal becoming political at a much earlier age than other women, but although I write about gender norms and progressive sexuality, I find it hard to practice what I preach against the steady stream of slut-shaming and moral judgment. But even if it makes me squirmish, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is.

I do, however, have the following disclaimer: given all the work I’ve done debunking the concept of virginity and arguing for a more inclusive stance toward sexuality, I’m conflicted about the entire idea of a “number” in the first place. I’ve never believed that it makes much sense to privilege vaginal intercourse over other types of sexual acts, especially since that discounts the experiences of those who diverge from the heterosexual norm. (And as illustrated by the story of Carlin Ross, another subject in Marie Claire, not everyone who does diverge necessarily identifies as gay or bisexual, but may nonetheless view same-sex encounters as equally satisfying and formative experiences.) So while being honest about our “number” might be a good start toward becoming comfortable with our sexuality, I think it’s wiser to encourage women to talk more openly about their sexual histories in general, whether or not the acts involved include that narrow yet murky concept of “sex”.

(via lenachen)

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The Chastity Ring-Around | The American Prospect

Want a preview of my thesis?

Check out The American Prospect for my piece exploring the emerging college abstinence movement. There are fleeting references to the “hook-up culture”, marriage trends, anti-queer social conservatism, and feminism, all of which factor into my thesis in some major way. This is essentially the condensed version of the 80-page behemoth I must produce by March 11th.

Even though I’m sinking into the depths of thesis hell, I’m pleased that I found the time to write this article, since it ensures that more than three people wind up reading the results of my research. (Though again, this represents 1/20th of everything I must write for my thesis.)