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.


Posts tagged press


Feminism is no longer a dirty word - CNN.com

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.


Catch me on the above HuffPost Live segment talking about the United Nations declaring contraception a human right. To which extent are nations like the United States fulfilling this so-called “right”? Has health care reform alleviated reproductive health costs or do people continue to make compromises on their sexual health?

This winter, I’m working on a series of articles related to the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the sexual life and health of Americans. Have you benefited as a result of the new provisions or are you still struggling to find affordable, reliable reproductive health services? What kind of trade-offs do you make as a consumer (generic vs. brand-name birth control)? If you’d like to share your experiences on paying for and accessing reproductive care (including but not limited to birth control, emergency contraception, STI testing, vaccination for HPV, and preventative screenings such as those for cancer), please get in touch with me at lena [at] lenachen [dot] com. I’d love to chat!

(Source: The Huffington Post, via lenachen)


25 Under 25: Most Influential Women on the Web 2012

Flattered to be included in CollegeCandy’s annual 25 Under 25 round-up :) Check out the full list of notable bloggers, Tweeters, entrepreneurs, and personalities over at CollegeCandy.


Marie Claire | "The Asian Thing"

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.


Wait to have sex? | YouBeauty.com

Say you’ve started seeing someone you really like. As far as you’re concerned, how long will it take before you have sex?
  • 1-2 dates
  • 3-5 dates
  • 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.

(Source: lenachen)


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)