Quick, don’t think about elephants. You’re thinking about elephants, aren’t you? It’s okay, it’s not your fault; despite the word ‘don’t,’ “Don’t think about elephants” actually conjures up the idea of elephants. Similarly, telling people not to have sex while, say, intoxicated, creates associations in the brain between sex and intoxication. If we really hadn’t wanted you to think about elephants, we could have asked you to think about oak trees. If we really don’t want people to commit sexual assault, we have to teach them what to do instead.
To be clear, we think the vast majority of people inherently know that sex should feel good and that it’s a way to connect with each other. But we get a lot of confusing and incorrect messages about how to go about creating that experience, and violence prevention efforts can add to the confusion by creating fear around sex. Despite being a strong motivator, fear actually gets in the way of effective communication, connection, and self-awareness. To support people to be able to use the skills that promote positive interactions, we at Consent Beyond Yes aim to replace fear and shame with comfort and confidence.
Lastly, but very importantly, pleasure is good in its own right! Mutually satisfying sex isn’t good because it’s not rape any more than chocolate cake is good because it’s not poisonous. People seek sex because it feels good, and we want to help them achieve that goal.
TL;DR: 1) Mutually satisfying sex is good in its own right. 2) It works better to focus on what you want than what you don’t. 3) Fear makes it hard to practice good consent.