Sex and the Ivy

Enough, now. Here is the truth.

Filed under: Blogging — Elle June 10, 2008 @ 8:42 pm

I didn’t expect anyone with any modicum of common sense to disseminate these rumors further than they’ve already been disseminated, but clearly I was wrong. It’s bad that completely anonymous strangers with no stake in my life have chosen to so thoroughly gut it and put it on display on my behalf. It’s worse that perfectly intelligent people believe what they say and encourage this rumor-mongering by reposting the defamatory content. You guys work for thisrecording. Don’t you have to fact-check or something before you just post something to the Internet? Anyway, that’s enough, now. I’ve been ignoring this mess for two months and it’s time for an explanation. A long one.

Even Julia Allison, who epitomizes the trials and triumphs of blogebrity, said after a tumultuous Tumblr run that “none of this has been worth it.” I don’t know what I’ll eventually get out of Sex and the Ivy, or out of The Chicktionary for that matter, but I’m also reaching the point where I can no longer see any benefit to doing what I have been doing for the past 22 months. A book deal? A reality TV show? A job at some “edgy” new media company too self-congratulatory to actually be edgy? None of these options — and all of them have been offered — are terribly interesting to me, perhaps because they require that I sacrifice my independence and creative control. What I’d really like to do is to graduate and to become a nomad, to read what I want to read and to write what I want to write, and (most of all) to just be left alone, at least as far as my personal life is concerned.

That last thing has always been the problem from the beginning: people misunderstand my choice to reveal certain elements of my life. It does not entitle them to dig for the parts I do not share or to actively interfere in events that have nothing to do with them. That’s why it’s not worth it anymore, or at least, that’s why I’m approaching a point where things are no longer worth it. I used to get irritated by the harassing emails that ruined my day; I used to get angry when other people — be they Gawker or my classmates — just didn’t understand me. But those things I eventually got used to. Something far more sinister is happening now, a line I didn’t even know existed is being crossed, and it makes everything that has preceded it seem awfully trivial in comparison. I wrote in a letter to Kennedy recently:

I wonder, of course, if this is all worth it. I wonder this all the time, from the beginning really, since the stakes rose with every month and it seemed like any given moment in time was a huge risk, that that moment was really it, really as bad as it was going to get for me and was I in or was I out?

Well, nearly two years later, I’m pretty sure that that moment is, in fact, this one.

I started blogging publicly two years ago in August 2006. I had just been dumped by a Republican investment banker, was living at home in LA with my mother and then-14-year-old sister, and worked 40 hours a week at marketing and PR internships. Freshman year at Harvard sucked. I considered that summer recuperation. I was certain sophomore year would get better. I had, after all, just gotten out of my first adult relationship. Did I really need further preparation than that for my 19th year?

The answer was a resounding yes. I had no idea what my blog would turn into. People ask, “But you had to know. With a name like Sex and the Ivy, what did you expect?” Not this. I’m on the verge of 21 and this is not at all what I had in mind. Actually, I couldn’t have predicted Year 2 of the Blogging Life even after Year 1. Because the first 12 months, bipolar and destabilizing as they were, were still exciting and educational once you subtracted the agonizing heartbreak and emotional dysregulation that came with dead-end boys and public scrutiny. The second 12 months? Pretty smooth sailing except for the nagging feeling that my world could crumble at any second. And it did. Once, twice, and again.

Two of those apocalypses have been blog-induced. The first was the naked photo debacle. The second has been the systematic deconstruction of my most recent relationship in online forums. Actually, “systematic deconstruction” sounds much too fair for the circumstances. It sounds like some of the commentary might even have merit. In reality, trolls on my blogs are accusing the guy I’m dating of sexual harassment, assault, and general unethical behavior despite having nothing to go on but a blog entry with a disclaimer. Patrick’s identity (as in, pertinent information like his full name, address, and occupation) wasn’t even public until someone conducted a witchhunt and posted that information on Juicy Campus. Up until then, the most I showed of him on my blog had been the back of his head. And then various gossip blogs were emailed about our supposedly illicit affair (luckily, they had the good sense to ignore these “tips”). The rumor mill continued churning. Posters on the notoriously defamatory AutoAdmit decided to dismantle his entire life, our entire relationship. They took my blog posts about aggressive, consensual sex to mean that I was being coerced or assaulted when I’ve never so much as fought with Patrick or heard him raise his voice. The funny thing is, no one is actually concerned about my well-being, even if they pretend as if this “investigation” into my relationship is for my own good. How do I know their intentions? Well, for one, Patrick has received multiple emails telling him what an awful person he is. I’ve received nothing, and I’m supposed to be the grateful victim of this rescue effort. I ignored it all and assumed that anyone remotely relevant would never read the trash being written. Then the trolls began emailing people in Harvard’s sociology department, people in the administration, people Patrick works with. Strangers I only knew through names on course catalogs and official announcements read skewed accounts that portrayed Patrick like a predator. I can deal with criticism. This is complete invasion of privacy. This is defamation.

Why the hoopla? He is a graduate student and he used to be my teaching assistant, which makes our relationship about as scandalous as a senior dating a freshman. Nonetheless, it’s a fact that the Internet ate up, distorted, and spat back out. Google the mess. There are more pages than I care to read about this matter. This is the first time I’ve blogged about how we met or how we know each other. I assumed that doing so would just encourage rumors and inaccuracies, but now that things have escalated, there’s no reason to protect an open secret. So these are the facts: He’s 28, a Ph.D candidate in my department (sociology), and German by birth and citizenship. He owns a bulldog. He went to Yale. He used to lead my discussion sections and grade my papers. By the time we went out on our first date, it’d been months since he last did either. Far from punishing him, all university sources consulted in the ugly PR aftermath are on his side, have confirmed that he has broken no rules, and believe he probably has a case for libel. Contrary to internet speculation, he was not removed from the Graduate Student Council but resigned after a two-year term. His name is Patrick and the only error in judgment he’s made in this entire ordeal is dating a girl who writes a blog with detractors vile enough to not just interfere in her life but also in his.

Is that enough? Here’s more: We met in 2006 during my sophomore fall. My best friend and I whispered about the cute TF in between taking lecture notes, but Patrick was just a distraction from my 10-11am on Mondays and Wednesdays, not an actual fixation. He never made a move on me when I was his student. He had a girlfriend and was, after all, my TF. It wasn’t a possibility either of us considered. Our only personal interaction was office hours, where I first met his dog Hamlet. A year and a half later, neither ethical barrier remained. He found out about my crush by coincidence through a Q&A in The Crimson. Our first date was at The Beehive in Boston’s South End. I saw him again the next night. That first week, I spent four nights with him. And so on until we got to where we are now. What else? He makes me soy lattes in the morning. Half my life is currently stored in his basement. The only photos of us together are on Polaroids. We do grocery shopping at Deluca’s on Charles Street. We give each other books to read. He met Kennedy when he visited Germany last month and held me the numerous times I cried about her this spring. He is an atheist. What more do you want to know? He takes photos of me with a Leica M6. His sister is an artist. Enough? Or more? How much am I supposed to give to prove there is nothing to hide?

I have a blog where I write more of the truth than most people are ever willing to admit, but whatever I keep private is construed as controversy and scandal. I can’t date someone without being worried that his name will be published, and Patrick is not even the first to get “outed”. For all of the above reasons and many others, I see suicide on the horizon. Sex and the Ivy is not dead, but it’s on its way there. Two weeks ago, Bluehost shut down Sex and the Ivy because my scripts were running inefficiently (whatever that means). Patrick twiddled on my control panel, upgraded my Wordpress, called customer service for me, and convinced them to put it back up again. The guy whose reputation I’m ruining helped me fix the website that’s made him infamous by association. Think about that for a second.

I don’t know how many Patricks there are in the world, but I’m going to guess not many. And my friends? It might not seem too difficult to be buds with the local sex blogger, but acquaintances dropped like flies after I started blogging. Nowadays, I have a pretty good idea of who my real friends are, and their job is not easy. So I’m tired of making their lives even harder. I’m tired of making my own life harder. I’m tired of the word “libel” in bed, of forwarding each other defamatory emails and links, of discussing “legal options” over dinner. I’m tired of having to check Google alerts on his name. I’m not a masochist, and I’m certainly not a sadist. I can’t give anything anymore because people then expect everything. I’ll always write but I doubt Lena the Sex Blogger will survive the year, and as far as suicides go, this is one that will hardly be mourned.

I told him in the very beginning that I didn’t want to make his life complicated. I tried to explain about my blog, about the drama that had already ensued. He didn’t believe that it could get so bad. “What are you,” he teased. “Like E-list celebrity?” I laughed. I agreed it was ludicrous. But I’d been in the game long enough to know that people fixate on the most asinine things. I prepared him for the worst case scenario, but no amount of preparation could ready someone for the type of fallout that occurred here. If he left, it would be easy for me to be sad or bitter and to blame my blog for ruining my life. But he hasn’t left and if he does, it won’t be because of this. And so I find myself with an odd kind of burden. I can’t simply be sad or bitter. I have to do everything I can to make things as right as possible. Because caring about me is far harder than it should be, and yet still, he makes me soy lattes in the morning.