On March 30th, the New York Times online posted an article called "Students of Virginity" about abstinence clubs at Harvard University. In it, the writer contrasts Janie Fredell, the leader of the True Love Revolution abstinence group, with Lena Chen, a student with a blog that she uses to discuss her experiences at Harvard. Chen's blog is provocatively titled "Sex and the Ivy: A Bleeding Heart Nympho's Guide to Harvard Life".
I have a real problem with the way that Randall Patterson wrote this article. First of all, do we need yet another commentary on the virtuosity of some white woman? I mean, I think it's wonderful that Janie Fredell is living her life according to the principles that make sense to her. I wish the same for myself and my daughter and every other woman and man on Earth. What I don't like is the very judgmental nature of her organization. Sexuality is a very personal thing. I don't think it's anyone's business to try and force their views (about it) on others. If I want to know what you think of my sex life, I'll ask, okay?
My biggest issue with this article is how Fredell is cast as this intellectual and intelligent woman with very nuanced views. Patterson explores how Fredell bases her abstinence stance on a combination of religious, philosophical, and feminist ideas. And how is Chen described?
PERHAPS NO ONE at Harvard represents the hookup culture better than Lena Chen, a student sex blogger...
Can it get any more one-dimensional that this depiction? Patterson doesn't just stop there, unfortunately. He goes on to say,
Chen’s viewpoint, as she explained it to me, was not complicated. “For me, being a strong woman means not being ashamed that I like to have sex,” she said. And “to say that I have to care about every person I have sex with is an unreasonable expectation. It feels good! It feels good!”
The story Fredell told me was rather more involved. I caught her at a very interesting moment, she said. In making life decisions, she said she always tried to answer the question, How can I be happy in the future? and two internships had lately revealed that she might not be happy as a lawyer. Fredell was now considering a career in psychology, perhaps specializing in early childhood development. The hours were better, she thought, and would leave more time for the work she also wanted to do — that of a wife and mother.
What about Chen's plans for the future? I mean, generally speaking, women don't go to Harvard just to find hot guys to have sex with. If Patterson is going to compare Fredell and Chen, why wouldn't he also ask her those questions? If you still don't think that Patterson was trying to depict Chen negatively, listen to how he describes the lunches that he had with each of the two women.
Chen was a small Asian woman in a miniskirt and stilettos who ate every crumb of everything, including a ginger cake with cream-cheese frosting and raspberry compote. Fredell, when the dessert menu came, paused at the prospect of a “chocolate explosion,” said, “I may as well — I mean, carpe diem, right?” And then reconsidered — she really wasn’t that hungry.
Notice there was no mention of Fredell's race, but, for some reason, Patterson thought that Chen's being a "small Asian woman" was relevant to the story. And what relevance in how much they ate? There is none...unless you're trying to portray Chen as reckless, greedy and foreign as opposed to the dainty but thoroughly modern
This article is a complete train wreck. It must be seen to be believed. You should also check out what Chen has to say about it here on her blog:
A Look Back And A Look Forward