Sex and the Ivy

Things I Learned During Spring Break

Filed under: Travel — Elle March 31, 2008 @ 6:34 pm

I just got back to the States two hours ago. This is what I learned:

If you suffer from irrational fear of flying, it is probably not a good idea to go back on birth control, skip your period, and become a hormonal mess the same month you fly upwards of 30 hours.

Yes, your nipple piercing will set off the airport metal detector. Yes, that large Greek woman did just feel you up.

Brief future travel companions on what to expect when vacationing with you: mood swings, middle-of-the-night dry heaving and sobs, obsessive webcamming with guy you’re seeing back in the States, mysterious mid-vacation disappearances to other foreign countries.

Just because you scored a discount on the five-star resort you’re staying at does not mean you can afford to eat at the five-star resort. Corollary: Euros look like monopoly money but they are not. Put down that piece of cake. It’s $20.

The Acropolis is fairly historically significant, so bring a book on it if you’re not going to pay for a guide when you visit. Otherwise, all your Facebook photos will be captioned “old, important-looking building.”

When in doubt, just get on the damn plane to Germany. You will not regret going. You will regret not going.

No, that guy wearing the scarf is not gay. He is just German. Corollary: Yes, those guys holding hands are gay. It is not a “German thing.”

In Greece and Germany, there is no difference between ice cream and gelato. All ice cream is gelato. Fatty, American ice cream does not exist. Corollary: There are no fat people in Heidelberg.

“I don’t speak German” is not an effective way of turning down men. Everyone in Germany speaks English. Corollary: Repeatedly saying the German word for no, “nein”, is also an ineffective way of turning down men. You best start making out with your female best friend instead.

Things the concierge at nice hotels will do for you include: retrieving you new contacts when you leave yours in Germany, make international phone calls on your behalf, get anything and everything short of endangered creatures delivered to your room, stall taxi drivers you’ve kept waiting for 20 minutes, turn the other cheek when you bring home strange Greek men. Things they will not do: tell you where to score drugs.

Murphy’s Law goes into full force during foreign travel. Your best friend will have a breakdown the day before you leave. She will not be in the “right” country (meaning the country you are in) when this happens. You will lose all your credit cards. The New York Times will depict you as some Ivy-educated, modern-day Suzie Wong even when you are not in the country to defend yourself. You will miss your flight home. Every form of transportation you use, including the CDG train, the RER, the T in Boston, and others, WILL BREAK DOWN. When you think you’re finally safe on American soil, YOU WILL LOSE YOUR LUGGAGE. So really, next time time you vacation, you should just buy a one-way ticket, make zero structured plans, and hope for the best. You will probably wind up in the exact same position anyway (that is, rocking back and forth in a ball in a corner of Terminal E in Charles de Gaulle).

If you miss your flight and do not have a credit card to buy a new one, the following will not convince French airline employees to put you on a plane: crying, begging, flashing, saying please in Spanish. No, they will not be impressed at your high school level grasp of a European language.

If your MacBook stops detecting wifi and you have no phone or calling card, the best idea when stuck in the airport is to LATCH ONTO AMERICANS FOR DEAR LIFE. No one else in Europe will give a damn about you, honey, and even the midwestern boy you’re crying to is only vaguely moved.

Guys who bail you out of tough situations (like getting stuck in France with no money or phone or dignity) are keepers. Especially if they promise you amazing sex once you’re on the same side of the Atlantic.

Money can be wired, plane tickets can be purchased, but dignity cannot be regained. Double-check you brought yours along for the return flight, because if you left in France, the French are not giving it back.

A Look Back and A Look Forward

Filed under: Blogging, Uncategorized — Elle March 29, 2008 @ 9:27 pm

Chen knew, as she told me later, that the culture reacts differently when women make the same decisions men do. Her own decisions were public knowledge, because she revealed them on her blog. Chen’s perspective on society, and Fredell’s, was borne out in the aftermath, as people wrote in to Ivygate, calling Lena Chen a slut, a whore,a total whore, a whore whore slut. And then someone by the screen name of Sex v. Marriage wrote in to say that most guys out there would rather end up with a girl like Janie.

– “Students of Virginity“, The New York Times on Sunday, March 30th 2008

It’s strange to look back to November when the NYT interviewed me for the above article. I don’t want to say I’m a completely different person now because I’m not (and on the surface, my life is basically the same), but a lot has changed in the handful of months since then. Last fall, I thought I’d finally gotten everything figured out. It’d been a year since my blog started, I’d already dealt with the fallout of being the Ivy League poster girl for sexual expression, and there didn’t seem to be any chance that I could top my debacle of a sophomore year. Then I went through what was probably the most traumatic experience of my life and I feel like even that description is an understatement. In the aftermath, I stopped posting regularly in this blog and I started chronicling all the un-sexy bits of my life instead. Gone were the things that made me infamous — blowjobs, lost condoms, attached men, cocaine jokes (okay, so the cocaine jokes stayed). In their place, I posted pictures of my friends at brunch, accounts of day-to-day school life, and quotes that amused me. Same life, less controversial take.

People have asked me recently — both readers and friends — if Sex and the Ivy is making a comeback. The truth? I really don’t know. I’m posting occasional entries, taking little steps toward resurrecting this website, and even now, I am not sure I want to bring it back full force. I like writing about sex and relationships and being able to resonate with my readers, but though I’ve learned to deal with the bullshit and stigma that comes along with this openness, I don’t think I’ll ever be okay with the amount of unwarranted intrusion upon my privacy. Sure, people call me a “whore” or “slut” or whatever the misogynistic term of the day is, but I can deal with that unfortunate consequence of patriarchal society. What I can’t deal with? Attacks on my family, judgments on my friends, people’s personal missions to out the guys with whom I’m involved, and crazy exes who disseminate my naked photos online. Criticism I can cope with, but attempts to systematically ruin my life or expose those I care about? Not so much. These are the consequences I don’t think I can ever be comfortable with or accept, the things I don’t think I should have to accept.

Here’s the number one thing I’ve learned from all of this: fame is fun for the first minute or so, but for the remaining 14, it just gets bothersome. It’s a constant struggle, especially after the photos appeared, to determine which opportunities are worth it and which ones compromise too much of my privacy. Nowadays, I turn down more interviews, answer personal inquiries more coyly, and share much less about my life. If you asked me now, I might not think it’s such a good idea to subject myself to an audience of 100 for a public discussion with the campus abstinence group. I don’t want to be a martyr, because frankly, it sucks to be told over and over that “most guys out there would rather end up with a girl like Janie,” that for some reason my writing about sex makes me less deserving of love. Even if I intellectually recognize that this is not the case, it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with blanket judgments about my value as a person.

I’ve been going out with someone recently, and though he’s made appearances on my blogs, no one but my friends know who he is. I want to keep it this way because I feel overexposed and not at all in control of what gets revealed about me. I want this little thing to be my own. And yet I get the feeling that sooner or later, if I don’t beat them to it, someone will out him. Because that’s how it always turns out. Because all it takes is one sighting of me with a guy for people to start speculating. The brave thing would be to say that I’m not going to live in perpetual anticipation of being outed or duck and take cover when I’m with him on campus or avoid writing about experiences I want to write about. The reality is more difficult. The reality is that I need to be careful, that I can’t defiantly declare “this is who I’m fucking so get used to it,” that I have to recognize the added risks that come with public life.

I used to tell people when I first started blogging publicly that I was figuring things out as I went along. I’m still figuring them out, which is why Sex and the Ivy is stuck in a strange limbo at the moment. I’m sure there’s a balance in there somewhere. I just have to find it.

Another thing: I have a slight bone to pick with the New York Times for their description of me as a “small Asian woman in a miniskirt and stilettos“. For starters, I was wearing a Cynthia Rowley dress that day and those who know the designer would agree that she hardly makes anything that could be mistaken for a miniskirt. My heels were also far less precarious and more conservative than stilettos (I remember because it was raining and even I wouldn’t have attempted such ambitious footwear on Cambridge’s brick-lined roads). Also, was it really relevant to add “Asian” to the description when my ethnic background had no bearing on the story and my last name already made it evident? And “small”? Really? Is it necessary to couple that with “Asian”? Perhaps I’m being oversensitive, but the whole eight-word description makes me cringe. It reduces me to a New England dragon lady, which is totally inaccurate from the truth but totally suitable for the purposes of portraying me as Janie Fredell’s polar opposite. Maybe that works for the Times‘ purposes but one-dimensional characters don’t make up real life.

The Safe Word is “Elephant”

Filed under: Sex — Elle @ 3:58 pm

Look, guys. Quit equating aggressive sex with rape. I am used to having my bedroom conduct judged (even though no one is in any position to judge me), but I do not appreciate the implication that I’m encouraging anything but consensual intercourse.

The safe word is “elephant”. If I had wanted him to stop, I would’ve used it.

Nights and Mornings

Filed under: CK, Sex — Elle March 21, 2008 @ 4:10 am

Disclaimer: The following is completely consensual. It is not rape. I do not endorse rape. The guy in the following entry does not endorse rape. There is a difference between aggressive sex and sexual assault. I really do not think a disclaimer is necessary for this to be clear, but since so many commenters have expressed concern for my well-being, I thought I’d assure everyone that I’m not being abused on a regular basis.

I woke up Saturday morning with my cheek pressed into his chest and his hands softly gripping my back. My skin was sticky against his, and when I gently pulled away from him, I felt the faintest sting, as if I had peeled off a layer of myself in the process. His body had absorbed mine overnight.

I yawned and got on my side, turning away from him. I was awake, but barely, and I would’ve headed straight back into slumber if it weren’t for the three alarms — his desk lamp, his watch, and his cell phone — going off at ten minute intervals, much to my annoyance. He kept pressing snooze. Instead of deep sleep, I drifted in and out of consciousness for the next hour while he slipped one arm beneath my neck, the other around my waist, pulled me closer, and breathed into my ear. He touched his lips to my neck. I pressed my ass back against his crotch and felt him harden. We were both still half-asleep when I turned my head all the way around to kiss him. His mouth felt hot and I was hungry for it, even or maybe especially, in the morning when he tasted slightly bitter.

“You feel better?” he asked. He pulled away and rested his fingertips on my cheek. I nodded.

“Good,” he said. “Then maybe I won’t be as nice I was last night.”

He let his hand drop, lingering at my throat to briefly encircle it. I swallowed and closed my eyes. Practically asleep again, I started to murmur something about not being in the mood.

“You what?” he demanded fiercely. I jolted from my haze. His hand was back around my neck now, tighter this time. I hesitated before answering.

“I’m … tired,” I said carefully. “I don’t feel like having sex.”

“You don’t feel like it?”

He made it sound like the most inadequate explanation he’d ever heard. I shook my head. I felt like a girl.

“If you don’t feel like it,” he continued. “Then you shouldn’t have woken me up by rubbing your ass against my cock and making out with me.”

He had a wicked look on his face, the same one he had when he dragged me around his living room by the hair and forced my head down on his cock so hard that I had to strain to catch my breath. He didn’t have to say a word and I knew I was fucked. I was going to be fucked.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered.

His grip tightened.

The night before, I cried in front of him.

We stayed in. He broiled tuna steak, pan-fried asparagus, and poured Riesling from the bottle we picked out earlier. He chose it because he’d visited the brewery in which it was made. “How bougie of you,” I had teased when we were in the store.

While he made dinner, I sat in front of my laptop, deep in conversation with Kennedy over video chat. She was three weeks into her semester in Germany, and I was getting more and more anxious about the separation. Her first serious breakdown was the night before. I found out about it by reading her blog. Like with most things, she didn’t volunteer an explanation. I’d have to prod her for the full story.

So I did. I got her on webcam despite her insistence that she was sick and couldn’t speak, and for the first time since what seemed like forever, I saw her face. Kennedy was all there and she didn’t fall apart. Not even close. She told me about her new acquaintances and how German boys couldn’t dance. She said she was bored with the repetitive meals of sausage and potatoes. She spun her laptop around to show me her room. I listened. I laughed. I indignantly recounted my experience getting ignored by cashiers at the local piercing place, where my floral dress and platform heels made me look like Alice lost in Rebel-land. I marveled at her hair, still spirited and wild. We giggled about things irrelevant and irreverent. I introduced her to the man moving in and out of the frame behind me. He waved at the camera and said hello to her like her reputation preceded her. I’d already told him countless tales about this 5-foot wonder.

By the time dinner was ready, my conversation with Kennedy had already moved from the uniquely German (”Everyone eats gelato!”) to the mundane (”School starts in two weeks”). But I didn’t feel any more at ease after I logged off. Sure, Kennedy seemed fine in Germany. But she always seemed fine. Even when she was still at Harvard and not at all happy, it rarely showed. It took me well into our sophomore spring, a year and a half after we met, to even find out that she was depressed. I just didn’t know, I could never tell, and this was one of my best friends. I thought sleeping against her back for two months when I was 18 and lonely meant that I knew everything about her. But no one really did.

She was perfectly normal when she spoke to me hoarsely from her side of the world, and in a way, that only made me more worried. I didn’t want to see Kennedy fine. I wanted to see her honest … not that this wasn’t honest. It just wasn’t how I imagined she’d be the day after the tears and panic and anger I read about on her journal. I wanted to see that. I wanted to witness all of the worst, because I figured that watching her fall apart couldn’t possibly be as bad as simply imagining it.

He served dinner, and I could only think about my little friend in Germany. I sliced up the tuna on the plate and brought it to my mouth, once, twice, again, mechanically, but I couldn’t respond to the taste. I had to concentrate hard on his words, even harder on chewing, on each bite, because each piece after piece of food down my throat only brought the lump inside closer to the surface. I couldn’t swallow for fear of crying, so I barely said a thing.

In lieu of substantive conversation, we talked about the food. The tuna was good, could’ve used a little soy sauce so he retrieved some. The vegetables were over-seasoned, but more than acceptable. The wine was fantastic, but I already knew this since I’d been sipping on it since I started talking to Kennedy an hour ago. Thank you for making dinner, I said more than once. I should have helped. He assured me that it was fine. I was talking to my friend, after all.

“Are you feeling better about Kennedy now?” he asked.

“Yes,” I lied.

He asked more questions and I gave more answers, short one-word answers, barely emitting a breath as I spoke. I swallowed and swallowed after each response. I fixated on my plate. Dinner was quiet. I was somewhere else. I was someone else.

We finished. I cleaned. He pulled me to the couch. He kissed me, but I wasn’t really into it, and he could tell. He could tell about five minutes into dinner that my mind was unsettled. He wanted me to talk about her, to verbalize how I felt, which really was the last thing I wanted to do. I admitted I was worried. But I’m always worried, I explained. This feeling doesn’t ever go away, not since I found out a year ago what’d been going.

Then I changed my mind about talking. Actually, I told him, I don’t want to talk about this. Let’s focus on something happy. I closed my eyes suddenly and swallowed. He could tell. I could tell. My voice had almost broken. I was going to cry. I swallowed again. It’s okay, he said. Come here. I pushed my fists against his chest as he pulled me closer, but it was an empty gesture. He was stronger. I’m fine, I’m fine, I insisted. I nearly choked on the rising ball in my throat. Really, I’m fine. This repeated itself, a few times, and finally, I gave in.

I don’t cry, I told him. I really don’t do this. He thought I was silly, thought I was trying to be tough or brave or whatever people pretend at when they stifle tears. The truth was that I wasn’t worried about how I looked in front of him. But I would have liked to sustain the illusion that my best friend was perfectly alright. I don’t want to talk about this, I told him. I’ve never talked about this. I’ve never said this aloud or admitted to myself that I am terrified one day Kennedy will just decide to kill herself and there will be nothing that any of us can do to stop her. What if she does it and I don’t see it coming? And now, I could feel the pressure coming up against my throat and nose and eyes and I told him, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not even when we graduate, but what if years down the line when we are 24, 25, when she is far away in Europe again because that is where she will be after Harvard, what if then she decides to do it? What if none of this ever goes away, if I am always scared she will just be gone when least expected. What if my seemingly irrational fear actually materializes? What if I blink and don’t see it coming?

I’d never said any of this to anyone, certainly not to her and not even to myself. It would have made it too real. Admitting all of this would mean that I might not just be paranoid, that the worst case scenario could be realized. And he was the last person I expected to bear witness to my confession that my almost-sister can break my heart when I see how deeply her heart has been broken. I love her, and there are nights like tonight when I am certain I’ll lose her.

My eyes welled and a few stray streaks of liquid cascaded across my face. He wiped off each with his thumb and murmured in my ear something kind. I was surprised at my admissions. I didn’t think I was this scared, didn’t think her depression was this real. Maybe it had taken me until now to admit to myself that Kennedy hurt in a way I didn’t believe was possible for someone I once thought of as unbreakably strong.

We were in bed within two hours. I had barely cried but I felt exhausted, drained by the experience of fighting him for the right to keep my face dry only to lose anyway in the end. I fell asleep curled up next to him on the couch as he rubbed my temples. When I woke up again, I was midair in his arms en route to his bedroom. He placed me down, brought the covers to my neck, and kissed my forehead. He read next to me until he felt ready to retire and then he pulled me against his body. I was barely awake. It was the first time we spent the night together without having sex.

His grip tightened, and I started to gasp for breath. Even though sex had been the very last thing on my mind when we went to bed, I couldn’t help getting wet from the feel of his hands around my neck. By the time he forced open my mouth with his cock, I was eager to spread my legs for him. He always pushed it a little deeper than what I could comfortably take. He was more than halfway down my throat when I couldn’t stand it anymore and had to pull away. He asked me if I wanted him to fuck me and I nodded yes.

He knew exactly the right buttons to push, the right tone of voice to use, the perfect things to say and the perfect moment to say them. The very first time we had sex, he put restraints around my wrists. There were things I let him do that I never let anyone do. There were things I didn’t let him do that he did anyway.

I came on top. He said he wanted me to fuck myself on his cock, so I did. I straddled him and rocked back and forth until my clit throbbed and then everything else throbbed and my mind went blank for a brief, blissful moment. I stopped feeling anything but him inside me. I stopped thinking anything but here, now, this man in this bed in this apartment in this country in this side of the Atlantic.

“Awake now?” I asked him.


“Me too.”


Filed under: Sex — Elle March 13, 2008 @ 2:36 pm

Two days ago, I reached a personal sex record: six times in 12 hours. Six.


When I got home (and thank god I actually left or who knows how many more times we would have done it), I headed straight for my bed and promptly passed out for nine or so hours. Marathon sex is a tiring endeavor. And I had a midterm the next day. Yikes.

It is not physically possible to sustain my sexual routine of late. I have had more sex in the past two weeks than I have had during the rest of junior year combined (that would be the previous six months). This overindulgence is the result of finding the most sexually compatible partner I’ve ever had. He’s attractive, sure, but more importantly, he knows exactly what I like in bed, picks up on all of my physical cues, and makes me love things I never thought I’d even want to try. We’re well-matched, and I’m honestly enjoying the best sex of my twenty years. I can’t wait to have more of it. I’m just not certain my body can take it.

Take, for example, last weekend’s physical wear: chafed lips and an aching jaw. Giving blowjobs too frequently actually rendered my mouth useless for more conventional activities (like you know, eating). Have you ever given so much head that it hurts to chew food? I didn’t think it was possible either, but a few days ago, I found myself in enormous pain during a multi-course dinner. This was after I spent the whole weekend with lips so dry and swollen red that I was seriously beginning to channel the “competitive skiier” look.

And still we can’t get enough of each other. Last night, I met him at the T station and handed him a treat from BerryLine, the local frozen yogurt place. “How sweet of you,” he said, meeting my upturned face with his lips on mine. “Let’s get on the train.”

“Wait, I’m not coming,” I laughed and resisted the tug of his hands on my arm. “I’m just here to say bye.”

“Oh, you’re not?” he said. His surprise was evident. We’ve been spending every spare second together. Of course the assumption was that I’d follow him home.

“No, I should stay here. If I go back with you, we’re not going to work. Besides, we’ll see each other tomorrow. We’re going to spend the whole night together.”

“Well, actually … that’s good. I’m proud of you. I’m glad you have the self-control.”

“One of us has to have some!”

“Come here,” he whispered. He cupped my face with his hands and leaned in slowly for a kiss. This is awfully public, I thought, but the gentle flick of his tongue over my lips brushed away any concerns about being spotted. And then quickly: a confirmation of the next day’s plans, a promise for feedback on the yogurt, a hasty glance back as if to say goodbye again, and I was off.

A half hour later, I was back at the frozen yogurt shop chatting with my girlfriend when he text messaged me, “The yoghurt was excellent! Thank you so much!”

“You’re excellent,” I responded.

“Haha, enjoy your night of rest,” he wrote back.

I think I laughed aloud. In the immediate future, at least, rest will be a rarity.

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