by Sarah Lehr
Laci Green, a self-described “24-year-old sexuality geek,” runs her own YouTube channel called “Sex+,” which employs a feminist, sex-positive perspective to address issues ranging from the myth of virginity to the role of the foreskin to the danger of victim blaming in response to sexual assault. Sex+ enjoys over a million subscribers and reaches five million viewers each month. Green also hosts web shows for Planned Parenthood and for the Discovery Channel. Before delivering her presentation, entitled “Best Sex Ever,” to an enthusiastic, mostly female audience at Rosse Hall last Monday evening, Green sat down with the Collegian.
What is your best definition of “sex positive”?
It’s the philosophy that sex is a natural, healthy part of life and that, instead of shaming it and stigmatizing it, we should be open and honest about it.
Growing up, were conversations about sex normal in your family?
No. That’s why I started this project, and not just because of my family, but also because I got abstinence-only education and because I had nowhere to get answers.
Now, do you ever talk about your videos with your family?
No, I try to keep my family out of it. It’s too public. It’s just too much strain on our relationship.
Do you ever hear surprising or unusual questions while you’re on tour at colleges across the U.S.?
I would say the most surprising questions actually come online. People feel more comfortable emailing [questions to me]. But, for the first time, on this tour, I was reading things that people were saying on Yik Yak. It was during a sexual violence prevention talk [that I gave at another college] that had required all the fraternities and athletic departments to come out, and it was very jarring. It was good in the sense that I’m glad that they heard the talk. I just wish that I hadn’t read the comments [afterwards] because it was seriously straight out of the comments sections of one of my videos. It was really terrible.
Speaking of YouTube comments, after a barrage of online harassment that included death threats, you took a month-long hiatus from producing videos and were forced to move apartments. What can be done to make YouTube more hospitable to female video bloggers?
I think that there are a lot of things we can do, but ultimately it comes down to a culture outside of the Internet. It’s not just the Internet as this isolated little place. Because of the anonymity, the Internet is where a lot of widespread societal issues we experience [manifest themselves] in a really intense form. So, I think changing the culture in general is the number-one thing we can do, but I also think that platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr have a responsibility to act on harassment, which they usually don’t. They usually allow people to get away with really scary stuff. I think police forces need to be better educated on how to handle issues of cyberstalking and cyberbullying. They don’t know what to do about it because it’s so new and a lot of police forces are sort of in another decade.
Also, we need to support women on YouTube, vocally, because when you have so much vocal support it makes it so much easier to trudge through those growing pains of changing the way that we treat women online.
What appeals to you about YouTube as a medium?
I think that it’s very personal. When people see your face, see your mannerisms and hear how you talk, there’s a lot a nonverbal communication going on. I’m very much a talker and not so much a writer, so it allows me to be more articulate.
What was your own college experience at University of California, Berkeley like?
It was really great. I got really involved in the feminist movement and the sex-ed movement. I found myself politically, and figured out how to articulate and act on what I believe in. I get very nostalgic [about my experience], especially when I’m on college campuses. College is the only time in your life when your number-one expectation is to learn as much as you can. It’s the only time when learning is societally-sanctioned, as a rite of passage into adulthood.
What plans do you have for future projects?
I have a very large project that’s about to be unveiled. I can’t say what it is at this point, but is with a major T.V. network. It’s not on T.V., though. It’s for the web.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.