There's a stigma surrounding sex and sex-positivity. That's why it's important to openly talk about sex education — so there isn't confusion about consent or judgment.
For women especially, openly talking about sex and being sexually active has always been taboo. There's a double standard for women in our society: If you aren't sexually active you're a "prude;" but, if you're too sexually active, you're a "whore." This is a concept that is enforced in women from a young age.
"The double bind that women and girls are often placed in is this virgin-whore dichotomy, and it's – basically – you're supposed to be pretty and sexy and hot, but not sexual, right?" said Dawn Campbell, an adjunct professor in the Women and Gender Studies program.
Sex education should include teaching students that sex is a normal part of life, and it's okay to choose whether or not to have sex.
In elementary school, students are often separated by gender when taught sex-ed. Adolescents are taught about puberty, and, as they get older, learn about relationships, STIs, reproduction and more. But, where sex-ed misses out is by teaching abstinence-only education.
Abstinence-only education teaches abstinence from sex as the only morally acceptable option for youth and the only safe and effective way to prevent unintended pregnancy and STIs. However, this education rarely teaches about contraceptive methods and has a direct correlation to teenage pregnancy.
According to Campbell, the United States is one of the few countries that teach abstinence. When compared to some of the European countries and their comprehensive sex education, our sexual education system isn't getting the same results.
"These countries have low teen pregnancy rates. These countries have low STI rates. These countries have better policies surrounding consent and sex-positive equality in that way," Campbell said.
Of the top ten states with the highest teen pregnancies of females aged 15 to 19, five states don't mandate any kind of sex education. When a sex education program does exist, abstinence is required and emphasized while the use of contraceptive methods is not.
The most important topic to be taught in sex-ed is consent. This is important because there is, and likely will always be, problems with consent in our society. Whether the problem stems from not being taught the concept of consent or just simply not caring to get a verbal and enthusiastic "yes" from your partner, something needs to be done.
81% of women and 43% of men said they've experienced sexual harassment in their lifetimes, and that doesn't include unreported incidents. Furthermore, over 40% of women reported experiencing sexual violence. These statistics are in the United States alone.
Being taught consent and straying from gender norms and gender roles from a young age – as early as elementary school – could positively impact these figures, according to Campbell.
"We can start the conversation about consent and autonomy with our own bodies," Campbell said. "I think that's a way to break through some of the gender norms and gender roles that are so persistent in our society. I think we can take almost every issue back to gender norms, gender roles, gender expectations."
We have a long way to go to live in a world where the topic of sex will be a comfortable and non-stigmatized conversation, but we can start to get there through comprehensive sex-ed and open conversations.