Master of sex
Sacramento native Laci Green, the millennial generation's answer to Dr. Ruth, dishes on sex ed, body image and slut-shaming
Laci Green sounds just as perky when she answers the phone as she does when hosting her YouTube videos. She also says “hi” so that it sounds like she spells it on her blog: “Ohai!”
In short, the young sexuality educator, famous for explaining sex in no-nonsense terms for people who might actually like to have sex, is exactly what she seems to be. Green’s the host of her own YouTube channel, Sex+. She’s also one of the hosts for DNews, a Discovery Channel Web series and YouTube channel that explores science in everyday life, and she works as a sex educator for Planned Parenthood.
Green, who grew up in the Sacramento area and now lives in the Bay Area, is also the featured speaker at Sex + City, a four-day series at Sacramento City College that’s billed as “Sex-Positive Fun and Education.” Green will speak as part of the Thursday Night Threesome panel, which also includes Darrel Ray, author of Sex & God: How Religion Distorts Sexuality, and Jaye Cee Whitehead, author of The Nuptial Deal: Same-Sex Marriage and Neo-Liberal Governance.
Certainly, Green’s schedule is packed, but it doesn’t seem to wear her down. Whether she’s discussing why women should avoid douching (“[Vaginas are] like a little ecosystem. It maintains and cleans itself”) or how a female can’t actually pop her cherry (“Moving into the world of reality, the hymen doesn’t completely cover the vagina at all”), the 24-year-old is upbeat and down-to-earth at the same time.
That translates to a lot of viewers who, hopefully, come away educated and on the road to satisfaction. More than 1.3 million viewers have watched Green’s “You Can’t Pop Your Cherry! (Hymen 101)” video—and her YouTube channel also features dozens of videos, covering subjects as varied as foreskins and “freaky” labia.
She didn’t set out to become a sex educator. In fact, the video series that launched Green’s career was initially just a hobby.
“I was always interested in gender studies, and so in college, I got involved in this group that was interested in sex education specifically,” Green explained. “I started the [YouTube] channel as a hobby, but it has turned into a much bigger thing.”
Green started making the videos in 2010, while still a student at UC Berkeley, where she’d also begun working as a peer sex educator in area schools.
“It’s my job now.”
She just might be the millennial generation’s answer to Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the frank sex therapist-turned-talk-show host.
“I don’t like to skirt around issues,” Green said. “I’ve always felt that people could benefit from being straightforward about things, and that includes sex education.”
“There’s a real problem with the way we talk about sexuality and the way we educate people.”
That problem isn’t just with the way we teach sex education—which, even in those schools that offer it, is taught as part of a health curriculum that mainly focuses on reproduction, pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. As Green’s videos make clear, there’s so much more involved in a healthy sex life.
“My formal [sex] education, when I went to high school, was very minimal, abstinence based,” she said. “Very little talk about birth control, really only talked about reproductive anatomy as it relates to making babies rather than about all of the parts that are down there.”
“I was 18 or 19 and didn’t know what a clitoris was, and that’s sad, to me,” she said.
She’s out to make sure everyone else knows what their body’s got and how it works—hence Sex+ episodes with titles such as “Clit-ical Thinking!” and “Vag!na Truth” and “The Sticky on Semen!” The videos are long on facts and don’t short the humor, either.
It’s a far cry from where Green started out in her understanding of sex and sexuality.
“I was brought up Mormon, so I was brought up in a household that really shamed and stigmatized sex,” she said. “I think that my entry into understanding my own sexuality and understanding other people’s sexuality was very painful. It just made me feel rotten inside, anything having to do with sexuality.”
And, while her parents weren’t too keen on her videos at first, they’ve reached an understanding. It helps, Green said, that she’s now able to support herself with her work—and that she’s “gotten a little better at articulating” her positions.
Her ultimate goal is to ensure access to “sex positive” education, an approach to human sexuality that assumes sex is a normal part of our experience that we need neither fear nor feel shame over.
“The big emphasis is on not being afraid,” she said. “It means not being afraid to get information, it means not being afraid to protect yourself, not being afraid of your body; a whole bunch of things.”
Fear, she said, “perpetuates a lot of really unhealthy attitudes in our society, starting with simple misinformation and going all the way to a culture that basically condones sexual violence, at least by being tolerant of it.”
As such, Green said her goal is to move sexual education and discussion of sexuality out of the shadows, cutting through any lingering embarrassment, and banishing fear.
“That’s the heartbeat of a lot of what I do and what I hope to convey,” she said.
Green’s focus isn’t limited to talking about genitals and what people can do with those parts. In her view, sex is about a whole lot more than bodies. In addition to a nuts-and-bolts approach to the physical side of sex, she’s also done videos that deal with relationships, consent, body image and social attitudes, like “slut-shaming.”
In fact, about half of Green’s videos—so far—deal with the negative attitudes many people have about their bodies, desires and identities.
So, where’s all that shame coming from?
“I think it’s a combination of forces,” she said. “Obviously, my perspective was that it was heavily tied up in religion. It doesn’t have to be that way, but it is. It’s also prevalent in every form of media. It’s a cycle that we’re kind of stuck in.”
The sort of frank discussion she’s engaged in is the first move toward what Green calls “getting out of the shame box.”
“It’s surprising how quickly you can shed that shame and realize, ’Wow, that was putting a dark cloud over me, and I didn’t even realize how much it was affecting me,’” she said.
Mariah Kolbe, a Sacramento City College student and member of the Sac City Feminists club—which, along with the Sociology Club, the Queer-Straight Alliance and Sac City Freethinkers, is sponsoring the college’s Sex + City events—said the club selected Green as a speaker because of the approach she takes.
“It felt like a good fit to round out … other serious topics with this sex-education vlogger who is really funny and who a lot of people are going to come to see it are already familiar with her,” Kolbe said.
It’s a fitting time for such discussion, Kolbe added.
Valentine’s Day brings a huge focus on relationships, she said. “But there’s no explanation about how to have a healthy one or what some of the dangers are in relationships. You never have people talk about abuse or consent or anything vital like that.”
Unless, of course, Laci Green’s in the house.