There’s a question on the screen: What is rape culture? As the answer is revealed, 360 audience members brace themselves for an hour of disturbing facts and an amusing parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” music video.
“Taking Down Rape Culture” was one of a series of events hosted by Student Health Outreach and Promotion (SHOP) in light of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, an annual campaign to educate people on sexual violence and sexual assault prevention. The event on April 23 featured sex education activist Laci Green, who offered an in-depth look at our culture’s attitudes and responses to sexual violence.
“Rape isn’t about what a person wears. It isn’t about how drunk another person is. It’s not about how horny someone is. It’s about power and control,” Green said, referring to sexual domination as the “driving cause of rape” in our culture.
Green is the 25-year-old host of “Sex+,” a YouTube channel with over 1.3 million subscribers and a series of bite-size videos that serve as a source of sex education for young adults.
According to Green’s official website, her channel is visited by 5 million people every month, making Green “one of the most popular sexual violence prevention advocates and sex educators accessed outside the classroom.” She is loved by viewers for her friendly demeanor and ability to deliver useful information in a funny, impartial way.
“[Her sex education is] not condescending or judgmental,” said SHOP organizer and fourth-year student Amelie Meltzer. A “diehard” fan since 2009, Meltzer described Green’s videos as “down-to-earth, easily accessible and easily understood.”
During her presentation, Green addressed rape culture as a “serious, widespread social problem” and discussed various factors that contribute to the unsettling trends of sexual violence in the United States.
“It’s a lot of different forces coming together to create this giant machine,” she said.
These forces included the tolerance of rape within judicial and educational institutions, the trivialization of rape in popular culture, victim blaming and gender roles. The LGBT-inclusive conversation also touched on transphobia-fueled sexual assault — including Green’s personal experiences.
Students who attended the event described Green’s approach to the material as informative and relatable, distinguishing it from other forms of sex education they had received, like parental advice or in the classroom. These settings generally omit the topic of sexual violence altogether.
“She’s not forcing you to follow her mindset,” second-year Sara Iniguez said. “She portrays herself as somebody who is very easy to talk to and she’s very inspirational because she has an open-minded outlook on life.”
Third-year Melissa Leung recalled her high school sex-ed class, which did not mention rape culture or consent.
“It was about fear mongering in a way,” Leung said. Leung had a much different experience regarding Green’s presentation. “Not only did I learn a lot, but it also reaffirmed my values and that I believe everyone should gain awareness because [rape culture] is a very prevalent, problematic social issue.”
But the issue doesn’t stop at the schoolhouse gates. Since July 1, UC Santa Cruz’s Title IX office has received 100 reports — 29 of which were sexual assault — and UCSC is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for how it handles sexual violence and sexual harassment complaints.
Toward the end of the event, Green focused on possible ways to combat rape culture through presenting various action items for individuals and institutions to follow. Her suggestions included enacting survivor-friendly legal protocol, holding perpetrators accountable and providing ongoing consent education.
Green also advocated for legislative approval of a “Yes Means Yes” consent policy, which states only “yes” constitutes consent during a sexual encounter, rather than silence or the absence of “no.” Last year, California became the first state in the nation to sign this policy into law.
“By enacting all of these things and more, we can heal the world,” Green said in her final comments to the crowd. “It is easy to turn a blind eye to sexual violence. It is easy to pretend that it’s not going on, to enable it to continue. But we can’t. We need to get serious about this, we need to pay attention to what’s going on and take action.”