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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Posts tagged "virginity"

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.

So! The above was filmed two years ago when I was a college senior. I had just met filmmaker Therese Shechter who was working on the documentary HOW TO LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY, and we were both attending an abstinence conference being held at Harvard. It was the first spark of inspiration for the Rethinking Virginity conference I planned later that spring. My 22-year-old self’s camera presence aside, Therese’s awesome project is now so close to being completed but we need your help! In her words:

Our goal for How To Lose Your Virginity is to undo centuries of myths and contradictions around virginity, and to encourage an honest conversation with people navigating the confusing process of deciding when and why to become sexual. What do a rock violinist, an Ivy League blogger and an Ohio engineer have in common? They’re all subverting the virginity narrative in our film.

We’re excited to be back with a second Kickstarter campaign to raise money to finish up the film this fall, hire our composer and animator and license our footage. We are so close to being done, but we can’t finish without a successful fundraiser. BUT - If we don’t reach our funding goal by May 9th, we don’t get anything.

She has 9 days to raise an additional $10,000 on Kickstarter to reach their $35,000 goal (otherwise, they get none of it at all). I’ve been discussing the above topics with Therese for years, and this conversation is sadly STILL as relevant today as ever:

Since we debuted the film’s first trailer on Vimeo, we’ve had over 60,000 views, hundreds of blog posts and an overwhelming number of people speaking to each other through our online crowd-sourced First Person story series. Demand for this kind of information is so high, the trailer is already being used in university Human Sexuality classes across North America.

That said, independent films are notoriously difficult to finance and Therese can’t do it alone! I’m not in the habit of asking for readers for money, but having followed the evolution of the film, I can attest that Therese is the real deal and the stories she’s uncovered in her research represent such a diverse array of sexualities and experiences. They deserve to be shared with young Americans today! If you can make a pledge (even a dollar helps!), head over to the fundraising page on Kickstarter and check out some of the awesome rewards for donating. And please, please, please help get the word out about this important project by doing the following:

  1. Tell your friends, your feminist group, your peer educators, your teachers, etc. about this film and the fundraising campaign!
  2. Support Therese’s other great work (I Was A Teenage Feminist, the animated short-short Womanly Perfection, How I Learned to Speak Turkish)
  3. Check out HOW TO LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY’s blog, Facebook, or Twitter and reblog this post on Tumblr!

Thanks a ton, folks :)

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What do you think would be wrong reasons for someone to be abstinent from sex until marriage? I mean, of course there are obvious pro's to waiting (like not getting stds, unplanned pregnancy, whatever) but in which situations do you think that abstinence could possibly be harmful?
lenachen lenachen Said:

These are not all-encompassing examples, but I think it’s harmful whenever people alter their sexual behavior:

  • to fit in with their friends or to win favor with their peers
  • to conform to expectations based on their gender
  • due to a lack of information on or access to contraception and sexual health resources
  • out of shame for their sexual orientation or preferences

All of the above leads to a culture of silence around issues of sexuality. The result is that this incredibly integral part of our lives becomes a topic of misinformation and stigma, which translate into real-world consequences for human health and well-being. And let’s be real: waiting for intercourse nowadays doesn’t mean that one abstains from sexual activity altogether. Because if that were the case, kids with purity rings wouldn’t be getting pregnant. Anyone ever hear of “Just The Tip”? Yeah, thought so. (I’ve written before about how murky definitions of “virginity” become when moving beyond heteronormative conceptions of sexuality.)

I’m not going to be the arbiter of who’s Doing Sex Right. There are a lot of good and bad reasons for having sex, just as there are good and bad reasons for not having it. Bottom line: If you’re RSVP-ing to Rainbow Parties, don’t do it because all your girlfriends are going to be there. If you’re delaying sex, don’t do it because you believe some bullshit about “damaged goods”.

More burning questions? Ask Lena.

Related posts:

"Are feminists guilty of virgin-shaming?"
Reader Question: “Am I making a big deal over ‘saving it’ for marriage?”
Reader Question: “How do we ‘rethink virginity’?”

This Is What “Abstinence” Looks Like
Another reason why one shouldn’t take virginity too seriously. It’s ill-defined and often completely arbitrary.

This Is What “Abstinence” Looks Like

Another reason why one shouldn’t take virginity too seriously. It’s ill-defined and often completely arbitrary.