Sex and the Ivy

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.