Nate Parker is finally speaking out about his past rape allegations that resurfaced weeks ago. The actor-director was found not guilty of raping a fellow classmate at Penn State University in 1999, but his friend and fellow writer on The Birth of a Nation, Jean Celestin, was found guilty and sentenced to jail—a decision that was eventually overturned.
Two weeks ago, Parker issued a statement on Facebook about the incident, saying that the sex was “unambiguously consensual.”
At a screening of his movie in Los Angeles on Friday, Parker opened up about the incident in 1999 and his reaction to the news about its resurfacing. He admitted that his statement came off as selfish.
“I think it’s very difficult to talk about injustice and not deal with what’s happening right now,” Parker said. “When I was first met with the news that this part of my past had come up, my knee-jerk reaction was selfish. I wasn’t thinking about even the potential hurt of others; I was thinking about myself.”
During a one-on-one interview with Ebony magazine, Parker also discussed consent and his 19-year-old self.
EBONY.com: So how does it differ for you?
Nate Parker: You mean like where I am right now?
EBONY.com: Yeah, as 36-year-old Nate.
Nate Parker: Put it this way, when you’re 19, a threesome is normal. It’s fun. When you’re 19, getting a girl to say yes, or being a dog, or being a player, cheating. Consent is all about–for me, back then–if you can get a girl to say yes, you win.
EBONY.com: So it was kinda like an assumption you were working on?
Nate Parker: Back then, it felt like…I’ll say this: at 19, if a woman said no, no meant no. If she didn’t say anything and she was open, and she was down, it was like how far can I go? If I touch her breast and she’s down for me to touch her breast, cool. If I touch her lower, and she’s down and she’s not stopping me, cool. I’m going to kiss her or whatever. It was simply if a woman said no or pushed you away that was non-consent.
Let me be the first to say, I can’t remember ever having a conversation about the definition of consent when I was a kid. I knew that no meant no, but that’s it. But, if she’s down, if she’s not saying no, if she’s engaged–and I’m not talking about, just being clear, any specific situation, I’m just talking about in general.
I think that’s a tough question, because the 2016 lens, even now in a relation I feel like I’m way more attentive and curious as to what my wife wants, if she feels like it, her body language. I’ll ask my wife.
Parker went on to state that he took the words of The Root writer Maiysha Kai to heart when asked about leading change:
Yeah. Every role I’ve ever taken, I said I want to be clear I’m not going to do anything that denigrates our experience, that’s going to speak power into our community. So when this thing surfaced …“healing comes from honest confrontation,” Maiysha Kai said that. And you can print this, I took those words to heart. She’s right. So I’m going to honestly confront this. This is all I can do. I’m not perfect, I’m a flawed man, but I’m willing to try to get better, I’m willing to listen. I’m willing to take input from people who are living it everyday.