Sex education has traditionally been taught by health teachers in classroom settings, but now one young woman is revolutionizing the way kids learn about sexuality by creating a no-holds-barred YouTube series.
Laci Green talks about relationships, feminism and sex on her YouTube channel and on her MTV show, “Braless.”
“I think that YouTube and the internet has created a space to be like, ‘We’re going to talk about it anyway, and if you’re uncomfortable, you can leave,’” Green said.
Green shot to internet stardom offering a safe space to ask questions and get no-nonsense answers about uncomfortable topics.
“My videos are meant to be an alternative to a sex education classroom, so you can learn about body issues, STIs, gender issues and how they play out in the world,” Green said. “I’m trying to cover all of the things I wish that I’d known when I was 12, 13.”
Raised in a Mormon family, Green said she felt ashamed of sexuality growing up and didn’t feel like she had places to turn for trusted information.
“That is something that a lot of young people experience, that sort of small town growing up and not really having anywhere to go to talk about sexuality and that’s why I started doing what I do,” she said.
And it’s paid off. She has nearly 1.5 million YouTube subscribers – her videos have over 100 million views -- and she was named one of Time magazine’s most influential online personas.
Green’s work comes at a time when only 24 states and Washington, D.C., require public schools to teach sex education, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Thirty-five states and D.C. still allow a parent to opt their child out of sex-ed.
“If kids are not getting some kind of education they are going to get wrong information or they are going to find out on their own, acting it out, which can lead to self-destructive behavior,” said Robi Ludwig, a New York City-based psychotherapist.
Green is billed as a millennial “Dr. Ruth.”
“What I liked about Laci is she’s not overly sexualized, she’s not selling her own sexuality,” Ludwig said. “Dr. Ruth was also this cute little person, this older woman, someone you would never expect to talk about sex who is talking about sex in this very easy and natural way.”
For millennials, one of those hot topics is consent and sexual assault prevention on campus – a cause Green often champions in her videos. Last year, she made waves with her “Wanna Have Sex Consent 101” video.
“I think conversations about consent are really critical and kids are not getting those conversations anywhere,” Green said. “If someone says that they’re not sure, that means, ‘No.’ The only thing that means ‘yes’ in my classroom, and the way I think it should be in the world is to say ‘yes,’ enthusiastically, verbally.”
Which is in part why Green said a few days before the election that she found now President-elect Donald Trump objectionable.
“He’s Voldemort,” she said. “I think that -- he has to be stopped…in terms of how he treats women, how he regards LGBT folks, how he has talked about people of color. He is a nightmare human.”
Trump is getting the full force of her crusade in the arena of sexual politics in her video entitled “Trumpocalyse.”
Although Green has built a base online, she also reached beyond the screen, speaking at military bases and colleges, and she hosted a question and answer session at VidCon tackling consent and sexual taboos.
Green said the response she gets from fans most of the time is “I can’t talk to my parents, I feel unsupported, thank you for being there for me.”
Green, 27, is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley, and currently lives in Los Angeles.
“When I was at Berkeley I studied legal studies and education, but my focus was really on sexual assault. All my internships and my fieldwork for my degree were about sexual assault and domestic violence prevention,” Green said.
Though she has no formal training in anatomy or psychology, Green is seen as a sex-ed expert in an age when some kids say they learned about sex through pornography. Green notes that her videos are self-researched and based on scientific studies.
“If you don’t have that formal education, then you don’t have a license probably, so you’re probably not held to the same high standard,” Ludwig said. “But there are people who are very well educated who are not interesting to listen to and therefore can’t get information out there in a way that really reaches people.”
Green sells herself as a feminist, a title that comes with its fair share of online attackers. “I feel like I’m in an abusive relationship with the internet sometimes,” she said.
But she says she’s determined to keep going to stand up to the bullies, motivated by the gratitude she gets from fans who send her notes of thanks and a commitment to providing access to resources so many young people are lacking.
“There was a never a moment for me that I was thinking, 'I made it, this is the YouTube thing,'" said Green. "It was more like, oh, people are talking. This is working, let’s keep doing it.”