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
Posts tagged "speaking"

After seven years in New England, I’m leaving Boston for good on Wednesday and moving to Germany in March.* Before I bid adieu to the East Coast, I’m making a pitstop at the Barnard Center For Research On Women in New York City to participate on a panel about young feminist activism.

I’ve spent the last few months writing less publicly to reflect privately on whether and how I can better serve the causes, communities, and people I’ve come to love during my time at Harvard and in Boston. What this means in practice: less time spent on the Internet, tweeting, Facebooking - and in its place: listening, thinking, journaling, surprisingly learning things I never thought I’d need or want to learn. Taking a break has helped me reflect on the work I’ve done (as part of a movement, as an individual) and the work I hope to do in the future.

Naturally, I thought this conversation at Barnard would be a lovely way to end my time in America, and I also liked the idea of being able to see friends and readers before my departure. I’m planning to spend February on the road in California, Lunar New Year with my mother, while the contents of my apartment/life got shipped to Berlin. So, when a bureaucratic error almost forced Patrick to leave the country last week, I cursed immigration laws, sort of freaked out, and almost cancelled everything in order to fly the coop literally and figuratively.

Needless to say, I’m glad that didn’t happen and that Harvard worked it all out. Because otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to all these lovely people :) Whether you’re a real-life friend or an online acquaintance or first-time reader, details are below - please, please, please come and say hello to me and spread the word and invite your friends.

FEMINISM AND BEYOND: Young Feminists Take on Activism and Organizing
with Lena Chen, Jessica Danforth, Dior Vargas, Sydnie Mosley ’07, Julie Zeilinger ’15, and Dina Tyson ’13

January 30, 2013 | 6:30PM
Event Oval, The Diana Center | 3009 Broadway, New York, NY

Young feminists have long battled invisibility. Countless media articles bemoan young women’s lack of activism or suggest that movements that “go viral,” like SlutWalk or Occupy Wall Street, have come out of nowhere. In fact, feminism among young people is as active as ever, constantly pushing boundaries both inside and outside feminist communities and engaging with issues new (privacy in the digital age, universal healthcare) and old (racism, rape). Young feminists today are consistently building coalitions and questioning narrow interpretations of what makes a feminist issue. This activism is local and transnational; in the street, in the classroom, online. It frequently engages with multi-layered identities and challenges itself as much as it shakes up the wider culture.

In this panel, moderated by Dina Tyson ’13, five feminist activists discuss their areas of interest, what they see as the major challenges for feminist movements, how organizing today compares to that by previous generations, intersections between feminism and other approaches to social justice, and how to build coalitions that can enact structural change.

This event is free and open to the public. Venue is wheelchair accessible.

Image courtesy Ennuipoet on Flickr, BY-NC-SA.

Getting ready to show my apartment today - so bizarre, but I’m just five weeks from moving out. New York is one of my last stops before I go onward to California (where I’m visiting family as my stuff gets shipped to Germany). In late January, I’ll be in NYC to say goodbye to friends and talk to people about book stuff. A final opportunity to get face-to-face time with so many people - it’s all a little overwhelming. I’ll also be speaking at Barnard College on the 30th - probably my last event for a while. I’d love it if any readers would like to attend. Please let your NYC-area friends know that this is happening :)

Young Feminist Activism Today

A panel with Lena Chen, Jessica Danforth, Sydnie Mosley ’07, Dior Vargas, and Julie Zeilinger ’15

Wednesday, January 30, 2013, 6:30 PM
Event Oval, The Diana Center

As long as there has been feminism, there have been young feminists. On the street, on college campuses, and online, young people have worked to break down oppressive systems and nourish creative communities that honor the worth and dignity of all involved. Young feminists continue to labor on a daily basis to change policies and perceptions around reproductive justice, policing and the prison system, popular culture, gender-based harassment and violence, sexuality education, and much more. With this panel, BCRW continues a decades long tradition of examining the forefront of young feminist activism with this group of dedicated activists under 30.

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.

Hey guys! Tomorrow, 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.

Here are the blurbs for my two workshops - first time I am doing the second one, but super excited for both. I did this conference last year and it was really fun :)

Hooking Up & Getting Down: The State of Casual Sex & the College Romance, 1:15-2:15pm

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, 4:45-5:45pm

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.

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 ;)

Missed our conversation about online love, digital intimacy and the future of dating? You can check out the best bits from the XOXOSMS Valentine’s premiere on Vimeo (or on Ustream for the full video from our livestream).

P.S. For press coverage of the event, check out this article on NYU Local.

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.

Love or hate Valentine’s Day, this week is all about L-O-V-E. So we thought it was the perfect time to premiere xoxosms, the short documentary about young people falling head over heels on the Internet. This isn’t your usual documentary about young people and technology—we’re not telling scary stories about sexting or stranger danger. xoxosms is a story of personal connection via the Internet: two people, opposite in nearly every imaginable way, cultivate a deep, intimate relationship via Facebook and video chat.

Join us now for the virtual premiere on Ustream, followed at 6pm EST by a panel discussion about how technology is changing the way get intimate and fall in love. I’ve embedded the Ustream channel above, so you can watch the film on loop all day.

(Don’t forget to enter today’s giveaway to win the Kiki C-Vibe from PicoBong and a copy of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s Best Sex Writing!)

Join me and XOXOSMS for Virtual V-Day!

In an LDR? Totally bummed you can’t snuggle up to your sweet this Valentine’s Day? We’ve got something just for you! On Februrary 14th at 6pm EST, join us for the premiere of xoxosms followed by a panel about love, intimacy, sex, and the Internet (all of our favorite things!). 

This is a date night for the 21st Century: fire up Skype (or gchat or oovoo!), connect with your beloved, and tune into the film together. Then stick around to have a conversation about how technology is changing the way we live and love. Panelists include director Nancy Schwartzman, Lena Chen of “Sex and The Ivy”, Twanna Hines aka “Funky Brown Chick”, writer for Ebony and Glamour, Melissa Gira Grant of The Guardian and The New York Observer, Samhita Mukhopodyay, Editor of, and Melanie Wallner from student focused online dating platform

Save the date!

(I’ll be in NYC this Friday through Valentine’s Day. Join me online for the livestream!)