As part of the SAMU Speaker Series, a Students’ Association of MacEwan University initiative that brings prolific public figures to the university to speak about issues deemed important to the modern student body, Laci Green came to Edmonton on March 3. After speaking to students on a number of topics, ranging from the anatomy of vaginas to the origins of circumcision in North America, the famous YouTuber and sexual health enthusiast answered a few questions about herself.
Just this week, Green was named one of the “30 most influential people on the internet” by Time. Starting her YouTube channel back in 2007 at the age of 17, Green says the original purpose of the videos was “to create a community online of people who were feeling the same way as I was.” The feeling she’s referencing came from the fact that she “was brought up Mormon and didn’t really have a lot of places to talk about sexuality and gender issues.”
After coming up short on answers both at home and elsewhere, Green decided to help others avoid getting similarly stonewalled by using the video uploading website, which was still quite new at the time. Now, since beginning a YouTube career spanning almost a decade, the Green has built up a large contingent of devoted followers, as well as a few groups who take exception to the content she produces.
Green says her audience is largely female. “I’m female,” she says. “We’re speaking to a shared experience.”
However, a substantial percentage of those viewing her videos are male. She estimates that her viewers are about 60 per cent female and 40 per cent male. They’re also quite young, according to Green.
“They’re mostly high school and college students,” she says.
Speaking of college students and, more specifically, her experiences talking at post-secondary institutions, Green is very positive.
“I love working with college students, because I feel very connected to them,” she says. “I’m not that much older than college students, [and] I feel like I’m able to have a foot in the outside world, and to keep myself keyed in to what’s going on in educational institutions.”
Green explains that this outlook has been useful in the past, as a means of promoting consent-based sex education and policies around sexual assault in schools.
“I’ve been able to work with thousands of truly remarkable student activists, who are making real changes,” she says.
Green completed a double major in legal studies and education at the University of California, Berkeley. She says her post-secondary schooling impacted her videos and teaching.
“I think it laid the groundwork for me to understand some of the systems theory around this stuff,” she says.
Green explains that her education was a key to “understanding how sex education, sexual assault policy, [and] sexual violence prevention fits into larger social systems, like the government, which is what I was studying.”
Given her rise in popularity over the years, however, Green has not been able to stay completely out of the crosshairs of people who disagree with what she is saying. She talks about having “a very dedicated contingency of MRAs — men’s rights activists.”
“They make videos about me non-stop, just basically saying what a feminist cunt I am,” she says.
Interestingly enough, she has received some criticism from feminists as well, due to disagreements on how she has worded some of her ideas. Her biggest opponents are still the MRAs, who have created “entire channels” dedicated to her — a trend she describes as “a little bit strange.”
In recent years, Green has become increasingly busy with a large number of upcoming projects, which comes as a mixed blessing for her. In order to deal effectively with so many prospective projects, she had to learn how to turn down some offers.
“I have a tendency to want to do everything that comes my way, and I needed to — am still learning to say no to some of that stuff,” she says.
Green explained that this was a difficult idea to get used to, “because when you really care about something so much, you want to be involved in it at all hours, and that’s not the healthiest thing.”
Ultimately, Green has been quite successful since starting her channel, and hearing that she has been able to help viewers has been an especially rewarding outcome for her.
“Most people tell me that my videos have helped them in some way,” says Green. “They’ve been a resource for them, they’ve helped them to feel less shame, to embrace their sexuality, to come out to their parents — all these things that are really just beautiful.”
Just before she was taken away to join the fans who had gathered to meet and take a few pictures with her, Green mentioned how uplifting it was to her that “there are people out there who get it — who understand, even if they don’t know me personally,” she says.
“I try to do the right thing and be a positive force in the world.”
Photo supplied by SAMU.