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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 | Harvard Sex Blogger: My Ex-Boyfriend Leaking Nude Pictures of Me Changed Me Forever

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 12:38:47 +0200 | Harvard Sex Blogger: My Ex-Boyfriend Leaking Nude Pictures of Me Changed Me Forever:

“What happened to me was not an occupational hazard of feminism. It’s an occupational hazard of being a woman. Men’s bodies are not used as weapons against them, and shame is a language that women have learned from birth. We are told that sex is something that can hurt us, that we have to constantly be on the defensive lest we attract negative attention. If we are criticized or attacked, we are asked what we did to deserve it.

What does it mean that we live in a world where this kind of thing not only happens to people, but also that there is no shortage of spectators happy to gawk and cheer on the perpetrators? Neither the law nor public opinion has been on our side. Women like me, who try to fight back, only turn themselves into bigger targets. We are blamed for not silencing ourselves and not learning our lesson the first time around.”

I had the pleasure of visiting the U.K. to debate a racy...

Thu, 01 May 2014 12:52:25 +0200



I had the pleasure of visiting the U.K. to debate a racy proposition at the Oxford Union. Though the Union calls itself “the world’s most prestigious debating society, with an unparalleled reputation for bringing international guests and speakers to Oxford”, the actual event was far less stuffy and much more racy than one might expect! I’m not sure if it reflects the rest of the world’s sentiments, but the vote for the evening’s gathering was a firm AYE. Thank you to the student organizers and to my fellow panelists for the lively discussion.

Proposition: This House Believes Promiscuity Is a Virtue Not a Vice

Thursday, May 1, 2014 - 8:30pm
The Oxford Union

PARIS LEES: A prominent journalist, presenter and transgender rights activist. The founder of META, the first magazine in the UK to be aimed at the trans community.
ELLE EVANS: Model and actress most famous for her appearance in Blurred Lines music video.
LENA CHEN: The author of Sex and The Ivy, an honest first-person account of her sexual experiences while an undergraduate at Harvard.
NOEL BIDERMAN: Founder of, a site that helps married men and women meet for discreet liaisons.

SPENCER MATTHEWS: Star of Made In Chelsea and foreign exchange broker at ICAP.
LIZ JONES: A former fashion journalist and columnist for The Daily Mail, known for her confessional writing.
ANDREW SELOUS MP: The Conservative MP for South West Bedfordshire since 2001. Regularly speaks in Parliament in support of the traditional family.
JASON ROYCE: Director of Romance Academy, a programme that aims to help young people make informed choices about sex and relationships.
HARRY BENSON: Director of Communications at the Marriage Foundation, an organisation that champions long-lasting stable relationships within marriage.

Hi folks! This week, I’m in San Francisco, where the...

Tue, 01 Apr 2014 20:04:00 +0200


Hi folks! This week, I’m in San Francisco, where the Center for Sex and Culture is screening the new documentary by Therese Shechter. I first met Therese back in 2010 when she interviewed me for the film, and it’s been hugely gratifying to see this independent women-led project develop into a multi-platform educational tool for combating outdated gender stereotypes and sexual norms. Saturday’s screening will be followed by a Q&A with the director and film subjects. I’ve already seen it once on television and can’t wait to see this project on the big screen :) Here’s the synopsis:

It has launched both purity balls and porn franchises, defines a young woman’s morality–but has no medical definition. Enter the magical world of virginity, where a white wedding dress can restore a woman’s innocence and replacement hymens can be purchased online. Therese Shechter (who previously directed I WAS A TEENAGE FEMINIST) uses her own path out of virginity to explore why our sex-crazed society cherishes this so-called precious gift. Along the way, we meet sex educators, virginity auctioneers, abstinence advocates, and young men and women who bare their tales of doing it—or not doing it. “How To Lose Your Virginity” uncovers the myths and misogyny surrounding a rite of passage that many obsesses about but few truly understand.

Want more information? Check out the movie website and go beyond the film to the V-Card Diaries, a crowd-sourced collection of sexual debuts and deferrals.

“How to Lose Your Virginity”
Sat, April 5, 8pm – 10pm
Center for Sex and Culture
1349 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA

Tickets at the door: $8-25 sliding scale. Note: Because of the exhibits at the center, this space is 18+ only.

Feminism is no longer a dirty word -

Tue, 25 Mar 2014 22:41:00 +0100

Feminism is no longer a dirty word -

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.

Feminism/s Presents: Sex in Journalism

Tue, 04 Feb 2014 19:49:00 +0100

Feminism/s Presents: Sex in Journalism:


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 :)

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.

An update from the abyss: this past summer, I contributed to...

Thu, 06 Dec 2012 13:00:14 +0100





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 to order print publications to be sent by post.

Catch me on the above HuffPost Live segment talking about the...

Tue, 20 Nov 2012 00:00:00 +0100

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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!

Virginity at Harvard | The Harvard Crimson The Harvard Crimson’s...

Thu, 11 Oct 2012 00:00:00 +0200


Virginity at Harvard | The Harvard Crimson

The Harvard Crimson’s magazine quoted me in this week’s cover story on student perceptions of virginity and the state of campus sexual politics. Sadly, I think that there’s still a tendency to think of sexuality in terms of an all-or-nothing/virgin-whore dichotomy, which is exactly how people end up being shamed no matter what their sexual practices actually consist of.

My stance has always been that these misconceptions and prejudices arise out of a collective unwillingness to talk about sex and our own desires (as well as our inner conflicts). In hyper-competitive environments, the self-consciousness and fear of failure that students feel toward academic achievement is totally reflected in how they negotiate their interpersonal relationships as well. It’s easier to judge others when we aren’t comfortable with our own sexuality. And in the end, that lack of transparency is what breeds insecurity in everyone, regardless of whether they’ve decided to stay abstinent or hook up,

Check out the whole piece for a sense of what sexual activity is actually like at Harvard today.

Faith and First Times: Sex, Society and Religion

Thu, 04 Oct 2012 00:00:00 +0200

Faith and First Times: Sex, Society and Religion:

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.

a·mok   [uh-muhk, uh-mok] noun (among members of certain...

Mon, 27 Aug 2012 00:00:00 +0200

a·mok   [uh-muhk, uh-mok] noun (among members of certain Southeast Asian cultures) a psychic disturbance characterized by depression followed by a manic urge to murder, a state of murderous frenzy.It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer an orange-haired joker gunned down the fourth wall of a Colorado cinema, and I didn’t know what I was still doing in Boston. I’m weird about shootings. The idea of killing people makes me sick, but when confronted with the rampages, the national tragedies, my impulse is to empathize not with mourning families or fallen victims, but with the perpetrator. He’s usually one of the losers or freaks, a social outcast, the kind of role I had always been assigned no matter my environment. What happened in Aurora had nothing to do with me, but I couldn’t help wondering who I would’ve become if luck hadn’t intervened, if it would’ve been me pulling the trigger instead, only in a different place at a different time.Frank said it was the most morbid thought in the world. (But of course, how could he relate to the character of the underdog?)Boston was bad enough. The sun rose at 6 in the morning, warming the black-tarred streets and mansard-roofed homes of a noiseless city. By the time I woke hours later, the temperature in our centrally air-conditioned penthouse unit had risen above 80 degrees, a result of leaving the windows open overnight for fresh air. A heatwave was sweeping through the country, its rays as indiscriminate as the aim of the joker, ravaging residents of coast and country alike. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything, least of all to write…             –Excerpt from “REAL ESTATE CURES FOR WRITER’S BLOCK” I haven’t read The Bell Jar from cover to cover in years. This fall, I’m going to take a page from Hunter S. Thompson and retype the entire thing by hand. I figure I might learn a thing or two given a few years of distance, and either way, it’ll be better than pitching thinly disguised stories about a writing professional who hates the professionalization of writing. All of my writer friends feel the same about their jobs, but none of them are passive-aggressive or ironic enough to actually approach their editors with such a story idea. I guess I should say “most” and not “all”, especially since I sleep beside a German academic with an appreciation for specificity, but come to think of it, all of my writer friends really do share my rapidly dwindling faith in the media and publishing industry. Earlier this August, the Hound and I were in Fire Island for ten days with ten books. The only one that got cracked open was The Bell Jar. Sylvia Plath was my sole like-minded companion in the darkest hours of my adolescence. She was the author who defined my girlhood by defying hers, and after I discovered her memoir at the age of 15, I had an annual habit of revisiting its pages. I don’t know why I ever stopped. Plath makes me think about a part of myself that I haven’t had opportunity to consider anymore, especially as the topics of my writing have become more professional, legitimate, closer to the mainstream. Look at my portfolio; I never really wanted any of this for myself. I wanted to write, yes, and I like “networking” if what you mean is finger food and compliments from strangers, but the travel, events, business cards, etc.? I spend more time on my Twitter stream than I do on stream-of-consciousness. I knew by the time I graduated college in 2010 that I didn’t want any of the things I thought I wanted all through my undergraduate years at Harvard. The only reason I pursued any sort of career in the traditional sense was because I needed to insulate myself from cyber bullies who couldn’t get over the fact that I wrote a sex blog when I was 19. Why should I have to encoura[...]

25 Under 25: Most Influential Women on the Web 2012

Wed, 25 Jul 2012 23:06:18 +0200

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"

Sat, 23 Jun 2012 23:06:00 +0200

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.

Happy Summer!

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 17:49:52 +0200


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.)

My novel is chugging along but I know the blogging has been sparse. Here’s a fly-by update of what I’ve been up to:

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 (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 :)

Wait to have sex? |

Tue, 12 Jun 2012 17:09:03 +0200

Wait to have sex? |
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.

Here are some snapshots from last month’s second annual...

Wed, 11 Apr 2012 20:53:42 +0200





Here are some snapshots from last month’s second annual Sex, Love, & Dating Conference at Rutgers University :) Since I had a big gap between my two workshops, I took the opportunity to sit down and chat with some really lovely students.

Below are the workshop descriptions - I’m becoming bored of talking about the hook-up culture, to be honest. After writing my thesis on the topic and blogging at length about it, it seems like I’ve learned all that I can. That said, I’m thinking of developing the slut-shaming workshop into a full-length talk for next year…

Hooking Up & Getting Down: The State of Casual Sex & the College Romance

Half a century after the sexual revolution, premarital sex is today the norm, and social conservatives lament the rise of the so-called hook-up culture. What does dating in college look like today? Are abstinence advocates onto something when they warn that casual sex has effectively killed romance? Will fooling around before marriage endanger your future marital bliss — or even make you less likely to marry?  What if you want to opt out of hooking up altogether? Part-interactive workshop, part conversation, this talk takes a humorous look at dating through the ages and encourages audience members to explore modern courtship through their personal experiences. Come prepared to share your opinions and questions on topics like first-date sex, consent, peer pressure, and dating rules.

Slut Walks, Walks Of Shame, & Sexual Double Standards

Hussy. Whore. Harlot. Tramp. “Slut-shaming” may be a modern term but the stigmatization of women’s sexuality has a rich cultural history. The fear of social reprisal can affect everything from the way we dress to how we communicate with our sexual partners and peers. In a society with supposed sexual freedom, how does slut-shaming reinforce existing gendered norms and threaten young people’s identity and emotional well-being through cyber bullying and real-world harassment? How does the “slut” label limit our ability to vocalize our desires or express ourselves, and how are double standards stratified by race, class, and religion? Most importantly, is there a way to reappropriate the term “slut” and reclaim it in the name of sexual liberation? This talk discusses the speaker’s personal experiences with “slut-shaming”, the “fallen woman” as a social construct, and the ways these stereotypes manifest themselves in pop culture and in our everyday lives.

In the latest episode of Sexy Times, I give advice to girls who...

Thu, 05 Apr 2012 13:00:09 +0200

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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

Headed to California for Sex:Tech & Pomona College event

Sat, 31 Mar 2012 21:08:00 +0200

Headed to California for Sex:Tech & Pomona College event:

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 ( 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.

My Sex In The Digital Age panel was really fun/funny. (Perhaps...

Mon, 19 Mar 2012 19:06:15 +0100


My Sex In The Digital Age panel was really fun/funny. (Perhaps to be expected when one is on the same panel as the person who first broke the story of their sex scandal, hah.)

If you couldn’t make my #digitalsex panel, check out coverage from NOW Toronto and The Daily Texan (or on Twitter).

It’s the debut of Sexy Times, my new web series airing weekly on...

Fri, 09 Mar 2012 23:26:55 +0100

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It’s the debut of Sexy Times, my new web series airing weekly on Alloy Digital’s! So I filmed this way back in the fall of 2011 - and while I think the opening credits and overall editing are rocking and SO worth the pain, I remember a brutal shoot in which I sweat like a pig and thought, “These hot lights rival Bikram yoga in intensity.” Glad that part of the ordeal stayed on the cutting room floor …

Check out episode numero uno (above) on what to do when you want to use a condom but your partner doesn’t, let me know what you think (pretty please!), and keep an eye out on a new clip every Friday with some handy sex and relationship tips.

Hint hint:’s target demo is younger girls and teens, but I like to think that I give all-ages advice ;)

Going To Austin For SXSW?

Mon, 05 Mar 2012 20:19:24 +0100

Going To Austin For SXSW?:

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!

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.