Nate Parker Talks “Toxic Masculinity” & Consent

Photo: Aaron Davidson/WireImage.
Nate Parker addressed the controversy surrounding his 1999 rape charge following a Birth of a Nation screening in Los Angeles on Friday night. The writer, actor, and director had not publicly addressed the situation since learning that the woman he allegedly assaulted had died by suicide, except for a brief Facebook post earlier in August, even after the American Film Institute cancelled a screening of his film. But during a panel discussion and interview with Ebony magazine at the Merge Summit, Parker opened up about the allegations, discussing how the controversy has led him to learn about toxic masculinity, male privilege, and the concept of consent. “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," he began to explain during the Q&A, Ebony reports. But now, “This is happening for a very specific reason. To be honest, my privilege as a male, I never thought about it. I’m walking around daring someone to say something or do something that I define is racist or holding us back, but never really thinking about male culture and the destructive effect it’s having on our community." As for his 19-year-old self, Parker explained that at the time he defined his manhood "by how many women I could be with," according to The Hollywood Reporter. "I was a dog. I was wrong," he continued. "I hurt a lot of women...that type of male culture, that type of hyper-masculinity where your manhood is determined by how many women you get to say yes is destructive." Elaborating to Ebony after the Q&A, Parker spoke about his changing perception of consent. At the time of his rape trial, Parker admitted that he "never thought about consent as a definition, especially as I do now. I think the definitions of so many things have changed." How so? "Back then, it felt 19, if a woman said no, no meant no," he explained. "If she didn’t say anything and she was open, and she was down, it was like how far can I go? [...] It was simply if a woman said no or pushed you away that was non-consent." Parker went on to admit that his earlier responses to the rape allegations resurfacing were wrong and insensitive. "I was acting as if I was the victim," he told the magazine. "And that's wrong. I was acting as if I was the victim because I felt like, my only thought was that I'm innocent and everyone needs to know. I didn't even think for a second about her, not even for a second." "Every day, I’m reassessing what I’ve been taught against what I see, and the man I need to be if I’m going to call myself a leader of anybody," he said in closing. "I got work to do. I got a lot of work to do within myself."

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