Sex positivity speaker Laci Green’s visit to campus, sponsored by SHIC, OPEN and GWSS SEPC, on Tuesday, Jan. 28 was overshadowed by a series of tweets that Green posted online claiming she had been harassed by Grinnell students following her talk.
Green gave a talk on Tuesday entitled “Relationsh!t,” where she spoke about healthy relationships, dating and communication tips and dating violence.
After her talk Green had an exchange with students where she became upset by what she claimed were attacks made on her.
“It’s unbelievable that I made a tumultuous 15 hour journey to visit Grinnell only to be harassed by students in the audience,” Green tweeted.
“I’ve visited 50+ universities and have never experienced such inappropriate, invasive behavior from students. Reflects poorly on the school,” she wrote in a second tweet.
The talk was sponsored by SHIC and was well-attended, with students filling JRC 101. Most had positive things to say.
“Her presentation felt humorous and light,” wrote Anya Vanecek ’15 in an email. “It seemed pretty clear she was trying to reduce the anxieties we tend to have about our sexualities and spoke about overcoming that aversion herself.”
“To me it was a really great presentation,” said Nicole Albrecht ’16, a peer educator at SHIC and the primary organizer of the event. “There was a huge turnout—more than I expected—and everyone seemed to be enjoying it, people were engaged … And I think that’s what should be focused on.”
Following the talk, a number of students came up to Green with questions. Two of the students were Devyn Shea ’17 and Corson Androski ’16, who were concerned by some of the things Green said.
“We just wanted clarification on two different issues,” Shea said. “Some of the things that she said were very alienating—to me at least—and I think that one of them was that she used the homophobic slur ‘dyke’ a couple times, and not as a self-referential thing, not as a self-identity, but as a way to describe a party she didn’t like.”
“I think I know where she’s coming from on that,” Shea said. “I think that she doesn’t mean to be homophobic, but that’s still a slur and I still associate it, at least, with homophobia and with violence.”
According to Shea, she and Androski asked Green if she could explain why she had used the word and what she meant by it, but Green became upset and accused them of attacking her.
Green clarified what she meant in a blog post on Wednesday, Jan. 29.
“The parties I was referring to were actually called ‘Dyke Parties’ in an official sense, and it’s a pretty well-known event at the school and in San Francisco,” Green wrote. “I understand why some would find it upsetting, I really do. And I’m truly sorry for using the actual name. I regret it given how monstrously it’s been construed.”
Shea also said during her talk Green had recommended a certain type of contraception as being ideal for trans people, but that she clarified later she had meant trans men taking testosterone.
“She was conflating trans men with trans folks,” Shea said, “and I think when you’re a sex educator, you have a responsibility to be as accurate as you can be, especially when you’re talking about marginalized communities.”
That was the only instance in the talk when Green mentioned trans people, Androski said.
“If the only information is an offhand comment, then I think that it’s especially important that it’s talked about right,” he said.
Androski and Shea said they didn’t intend to be confrontational or make a big deal out of their inquiries, which is why they waited until after the presentation to speak with Green. They said they maintained a respectful tone and apologized when Green became upset.
“We really could not come up with any way that we could have come off as threatening,” Androski said.
But when Green began accusing the students of calling her homophobic, the microphone picked up what she was saying. Androski said this made him feel uncomfortable.
“I felt she was yelling to get the attention of the entire room,” he said. “It felt very much like a display to get other people’s attention.”
Green criticized Androski and Shea’s actions in her blog post.
“While you should absolutely give feedback where feedback is due, ganging up on someone, planning an aggressive confrontation with no intention to have a conversation, looking to start a fight, interrogating someone about their sexual orientation—it’s harassment,” Green wrote. “It’s completely inappropriate and no way to solve a problem.”
Other students engaged Green further on Twitter, continuing the conversation—and criticism.
Regardless of whether the criticism was valid, many Grinnell students and members of staff were worried about coming across as offensive.
“As the exchange became more heated, Grinnell was made to seem increasingly hostile and unwelcoming: it looked like we chased her out of town,” Vanecek wrote.
Vanecek described a joke her classmates made in class.
“[We observed that] Grinnellians tend to be very open and accepting of opinions—as long as they already agree with them,” she wrote. “This event is symptomatic of something that I think deserves greater attention and should not be viewed as an isolated event.”
Others agreed that Grinnell should figure out how to move forward from this incident in a positive way.
“The fact of the matter is we brought in a speaker who left feeling worse than she came in feeling and that should concern everyone at Grinnell,” Albrecht said.
“We, ‘the college,’ may want to continue to look at how we help individuals to dialogue with one another in ways that are truly civil and how we present ourselves to guests we invite to our campus,” wrote Director of Campus Center Operations and Student Activities Michael Sims in an email to the S&B. “It is a little sad that the positives of the event are being overshadowed by what [clearly] seems to have been an unfortunate interaction between the speaker and a couple students after the program had concluded.”