the ch!cktionary

I'm Lena Chen, a writer, activist, and media producer who's been called a "skank" (by Bill O'Reilly) and "a small Asian woman" (by The New York Times). My favorite part of my workday is the hate mail.

For the unlikely story that is my life, read on.

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irregular features
Ask Lena: Reader Questions Answered
Anatomy of an Outfit
Bad Feminist Confessions
Freelance Friday: Career Advice for Young Writers
Hate Mail
Gratuitous Photos Of My Bulldog
Notes & Snapshots from Abroad
Recent Tweets @lenachen

My “blog-o-graphy” starts at Harvard, where I started the infamous Sex and the Ivy blog in 2006 and irrevocably wrecked my Google results. Criticized by some as “morally reprehensible” and praised by others for encouraging frank sexual dialogue, Sex and the Ivy has been featured in media outlets all around the world, which means that I’ve been mocked in more languages than you. Since 2006, I’ve been blogging near-daily on all things that amuse or perturb me (some frequent topics: dating, race, sexual health, dating, body image, etc.), but due to ongoing cyber harassment (of not only myself, but also close acquaintances and readers), I’ve turned the privacy notch way up. (If you’re wondering whether I’ve learned my lesson, however, the answer is probably a “no”.)

The first thing you should know about me is that I don’t consider myself an authority on sex and relationships. I have mixed feelings toward the portmanteau “sexpert”, and I generally think the self-help industry is a sham. Though I know more about birth control and reproductive health than most folks, I am not a doctor and I do not have a medical background. I advocate education, communication, and consent, but I never suggest any one-size-fits-all solutions. I prefer imparting knowledge over giving advice, and I often rely on cultural and historical information to correct misconceptions people have about gender roles or sexual norms.

At Harvard, I wrote my senior thesis on the rise of the modern American abstinence movement and the cultural history of sexual chastity. This research formed the basis for Rethinking Virginity, a conference I organized in the spring of 2010 on behalf of the Harvard College Queer Students & Allies and the Greater Boston community. That year, I also co-founded, along with my friend Abby Sun, Feminist Pride Day (formerly Feminist Coming Out Day) and the Feminist Portrait Project, which have since become incorporated into the Feminist Majority Foundation’s national campus programming.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a minor in Studies of Women, Gender, & Sexuality, I continued freelance writing and began speaking about youth sexuality, reproductive health, and women’s rights at conferences like SXSW and Sex::Tech and at universities such as Yale, Brown, Stanford, and Rutgers. I’ve written for print and online outlets, contributing personal essays, columns, and articles to publications like The American Prospect, The Boston Globe Magazine, The Sydney Morning Herald, Glamour, and Salon. In early 2012, I hosted the first season of Sexy Times, a web series about health, sex, and relationships that aired on, Alloy Digital’s award-winning alternative web portal for adolescent girls. You can also catch me online talking all things sex-related on Sex Really With Lena Chen, a webcast for The National Campaign To Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy

Currently, I’m writing a novel about a sex blogger who vanishes shortly before completing her tell-all memoir. Someone will probably call it “chick lit”, and I will bemoan the marginalization of women’s writing and the limitations of genre, so I should probably add a preemptive “No Pink” clause to the book contract I’ve yet to obtain. When not playing agony aunt to teenage girls across America, I enjoy yoga, the occasional prophetic vision, and the ironic pleasure of a hipster t-shirt slogan. I live in Boston with my German roommate and our English bulldog, Hamlet. If you’d prefer a blander version of me, check out my corporate-friendly biography and portfolio.