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Moms And Dads, Teach Consent Along With The Birds and Bees

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FATHER TALKING DAUGHTER SERIOUS
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I understand the verdict, however disappointing. I understand that a judge cannot convict someone of these types of crimes when there is doubt. So where does that leave us? Angry.

I was never sexually harassed by Jian Ghomeshi during my time at CBC. But like so many of my friends, I felt the humiliation and victimization of a predatory sentiment toward girls from various acquaintances in my teens and 20s.

When I was 13 a friend's dad asked if he could teach some of us to French kiss.

At 15 I was followed by a man who was masturbating in public, and he circled the phone booth with his penis out even as I called the police.

At 16, while I worked at a pet store, a man in his 40s pulled me aside, pointed at my breasts and said "I'll take those two, please." I cried in the bathroom for half an hour.

When I was 18 I woke up to a "friend" undoing my pants after I had vomited and passed out.

At 24, a fellow actor told me again and again how stupid I was -- "literally the stupidest person I have ever met" -- before trying to kiss me.

I got out of those scenarios without any physical harm, but that period of helplessness nags at me. I sympathize with Ghomeshi's accusers and with my younger self. We questioned whether what was happening was OK. If only we knew then what we know now.

It'll take more than that to stop the men who prey on women, but still, there's something to be said for teaching girls a sense of entitlement to their bodies.

I daydream of travelling back in time and asking my parents to sit down with me again and again through those young years and give me an honest elaboration of The Talk:

Mom and Dad, I know this makes you uncomfortable to talk about. I sure don't want to hear it, either. But I need to. You're the people I trust most, and my first line of defence against regrettable or unwanted sexual encounters.

Don't limit the sex talk to periods and how babies are made. See which one of you I'm more comfortable with, and tell me EVERYTHING! Hormones are new to me, as is this driving feeling of needing a guy I like to like me back.

Talk to me about the ways I can express my feelings for someone, and tell me that having sex with someone won't automatically make them like me back. Tell me how people can be driven by their desire, regardless of feelings, and sometimes regardless of what's right and wrong.

Teach me that the only good sex is consensual and safe. Explain to me what those words mean. Don't just give me a curfew, explain what it's for.

Ask me if there have ever been times when I didn't feel safe. Talk to me about instincts, and teach me to follow them.

Explain my rights to me: that even if I've kissed a guy, gone to his place, flirted all night, I STILL have the right to decide at any point that I've had enough. Explain to me that some guys might find that behaviour confusing, and may not respect my decision.

Tell me what I should do if the person doesn't want to stop. And ask me how I think I could avoid dangerous situations.

Dad, still cuddle me when I'm a teenager. I know you're weirded out by my changing body, but if you pull away your affection, I'll be more likely to seek it out from others.

Mom and Dad, don't just tell me not to drink or do drugs. Tell me specifics. Tell me how it will impair my judgment or my ability to protect myself. Tell me if I choose to try it anyway, I should protect myself by asking a girlfriend to keep an eye on me.

Ask if I have any ideas on how I could keep myself safe. Mom, when I'm a little older, explain to me that there are different types of sex that appeal to different people. Explain, even if you're dry heaving when you do, that this is something that is only OK if BOTH people decide they want to try it.

Dad, remind me that I'm loveable when I feel self-conscious and insecure, and tell me how someday I will fall in love with someone who will treat me well. Treat each other well to be an example for me.

Thanks Mom and Dad. Now, go have these same conversations with your sons. It's one way to guarantee they'll never utter the words "I thought it was OK. She never said 'no.'"

It'll take more than that to stop the men who prey on women, but still, there's something to be said for teaching girls a sense of entitlement to their bodies. In my case, it might have empowered me to react with anger and defensiveness instead of shame and insecurity.

Those latter feelings can linger.

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