In the middle of her YouTube video “Get Naked,” two men walk in on Laci Green filming her weekly vlog in a hostel locker room. “I run a sex positive youtube channel,” she tells them offhandedly. “This week’s episode is on body positivity.” The men leave without incident. To 14-year-old me, this moment was the most shocking part of Green’s YouTube channel, which at the time featured videos with titles such as “Boob Power!!1” and “Laci’s Guide to BUTT SEX”! I couldn’t believe that a person could talk so openly and casually about sex — let alone with two strangers.
I had my first sex ed class in fifth grade at a public school in Tennessee. The boys were sent to one classroom and the girls to another. The girls watched a video about periods and, to this day, I have no idea what the boys did. This culture of secrecy followed me into high school. The most memorable aspect of my high school sex education was watching my gym teacher whisper “penis” and “vagina” as if the words were too secret to be spoken aloud. “Consent” was never defined. The word “orgasm” was never mentioned. I didn’t know what the clitoris was until a friend of mine told me when I was 17. I had never actually seen a condom in person, let alone learned how to put one on, until college.
"I didn’t know what the clitoris was until a friend of mine told me when I was 17. I had never actually seen a condom in person, let alone learned how to put one on, until college."
My story isn’t unique; requirements for public-school-provided sex education vary from state to state, with only 24 states requiring sex-ed to be taught at all and only 17 states requiring that information provided is medically accurate. Across the board there is no mandate requiring pleasure-inclusive sex-ed. Queer sex-ed fares only slightly better, with only 10 states and D.C. requiring it. Most disturbing, only eight states require sex-ed classes to mention consent. I, like many teenagers, had to take my sex-education into my own hands and teach myself. As a closeted queer teenager with a lot of questions, I turned to the only place I could trust: Youtube. The site still had the cozy veneer of a childhood spent watching “Charlie bit my finger- again !” and “Potter Puppet Pals: The Mysterious Ticking Noise,” and this sentimentality mixed perfectly with its unfiltered, DIY style to create the perfect safe place to type anything into the search bar.
I started my DIY sex-ed journey watching Laci Green videos. I would come home after a tedious day of high school, lock my door, pop my headphones in, and pull up her channel in an incognito window. Time and time again, she saved me the embarrassment of googling questions like Is it okay to watch porn? and Does losing your virginity hurt?
The grainy camera quality and dorm room setting of Green's early videos made them feel like casual video chats with a friend. Her light, unashamed honesty made embarrassing subjects approachable. In her video Freaky Labia, she recounts a time she held a mirror to her labia to see what it looked like before launching into a vlog about how porn erases the diversity of labia sizes and colors. It was an insecurity I felt at the time — ignited by boys at my school who nicknamed a girl “roast beef” because of the appearance of her labia — and seeing it debunked gave me more confidence in my body. For an awkward teenager too embarrassed to even say the word “labia” out loud, Green was a role model — an image of the sexually confident adult I could grow to be.
This era of Laci Green didn’t last forever; the concessions she made to alt-right beliefs in 2017 ended my trust in her. As a trans person, her unwillingness to use trans-inclusive language surrounding sex (such as acknowledging that some men get periods and that not all women have vaginas) left me feeling alienated and angry. In her 2017 video “How Many Genders Are There? (Part 2)” (not linked in this article because I don’t want to drive traffic to it), she grants validity to harmful stereotypes about trans people and neglects to mention points of view that contradict her narrow presentation of how feminists view gender.
For example, in the video she says the idea that gender is based on personal identification, not sex, is a “Western, individualist approach to gender where we celebrate individual freedoms and choices.” This statement ignores the rich gender diversity and transgender presence in many non-Western cultures, and flat-out denies the ways in which colonization enacted by the West sought to eradicate this gender variance and impose strict binaries. In fact, the idea of gender identity not being based on sexual anatomy is well-rooted in history and present in many non-Western cultures.
"When trans people ask for the language surrounding sex to change, we are not “trying to remove all sex language from feminism.” We are asking for the language to be made more accurate."
Green goes on to say trans-inclusive feminists want “to remove all sex language from feminism” and “rhetorically erase sex from the conversation or to overcomplicate it to the point of meaninglessness.” This is a misrepresentation of what a trans and nonbinary inclusive view of gender looks like. When trans people ask for the language surrounding sex to change, we are not “trying to remove all sex language from feminism.” We are asking for the language to be made more accurate.
For example, saying “pregnant people” instead of “pregnant women” doesn’t erase that some cisgender women can get pregnant and that sexism based on pregnancy is real. It just acknowledges that not all people who can get pregnant are women. It’s a necessary distinction considering that trans men who get pregnant are at a high risk for depression and lack of informed care and that trans youth get pregnant at the same rate as their cisgender peers. Trans-exclusive language is inaccurate language, and it has no place in informed sex education.
Green’s unwillingness to make this adjustment shuts out trans people, a population in desperate need of comprehensive sex education. She speaks as if it is impossible to acknowledge the oppression of cisgender women based on their bodies without conceding to the gender essentialist myth that bodies are inherently “male” or “female,” and that all “female” bodies look the same and have the same needs.
She was the first person to explain to me what transgender meant, and now she’s deliberately misquoting trans women to support the trans-exclusionary argument that including trans women in feminism means erasing the lived experiences of cisgender women. It hurts. Even though I never met her personally, I feel like she was the first person I came out to, just by virtue of clicking on her video “BOYS CAN HAVE A VAG!!” back in 2015. I grew up, but Green didn’t grow up with me.
As I headed off to college, I left Laci Green behind and began the next chapter of my sex education. No longer a teenager uncertain of my identity, I pursued Youtube sex educators offering more targeted content. I started watching UppercaseCHASE1 and Riley J. Dennis, both of whom are transgender and post videos reviewing sex toys. Their videos taught me that it was possible to find pleasure in my body, even as my dysphoria made my relationship to it complicated. UppercaseCHASE1 even made a video challenging the idea that trans people are less desirable than cis people, which helped me stop perceiving that there was a scarcity of people willing to love me or even be attracted to my body.
Still, there was a one big question neither Green nor my new Youtube favorites answered — how exactly does one have good sex? When I say good sex, I’m not just talking about having an orgasm. I’m talking about sex that feels good mentally, too, in which all consenting parties feel respected and satisfied. Just when I was about to give up on the question, I discovered the channel Sexplanations.
"The need for pleasure inclusive, queer inclusive, and consent based sex- ed is as important
Hosted by sex therapist Dr. Lindsey Doe, the channel offers a similar crash-course style to Green but with even more researched-based material. Doe ends every episode with her motto “Stay curious,” encouraging her viewers to continue to explore their sexuality and the questions they have about sex. Her video How to Get the Sex You Want changed the way I thought about communication surrounding sex. I learned that what makes sex good isn’t what happens during that act, but what gets discussed beforehand.
Yet even with all of this YouTube-guided research, there are still gaps in my knowledge surrounding my sexual health and sexual agency. In sexual situations I always feel like there’s an imbalance of knowledge, like there is some secret my partner knows that I don’t. While Google is always at my fingertips, I still feel robbed of the foundation of information about sex that sex education classes are supposed to provide.
Doing-it-myself worked out safely for me, but it doesn’t work out that way for everyone. On a personal note, Laci Green still has a fanbase of people who trust her and her fallacies — people who followed her in misunderstanding trans people and even possibly turned that misunderstanding into hostility. The need for pleasure inclusive, queer inclusive, and consent based sex-ed is as important as ever. I still have lesbian friends who don’t know that you can get STDs from lesbian sex. I still have cisgender friends completely ignorant of the ways hormone therapy can change a transgender person’s body. Most troubling, I still hear people express a murky understanding of consent at best.
A completely DIY approach to sex education is a dangerous system to rely on, and a lazy one at that. We deserve more from our schools, which abandon us to navigate our sexuality alone. We deserve more from our legislators, who vote to set sex-ed practices proven to be dangerous, such as abstinence-only education, as the standard. We deserve more from our culture, which teaches us that sex is inappropriate to ask questions about. We need a sexual health revolution, and that’s something I’m happy to DIY.