*Actor/Director Nate Parker (“The Birth of A Nation”) is responding to the negative talk against him due to a rape case he was associated with back in his college days at Penn State University. The negative conversations about him are threatening to derail attention about his upcoming film about Nat Turner’s slave rebellion, which is being called a classic by Hollywood insiders.
In his interview with Ebony, Parker says his awareness and consciousness about consent have changed since his rape acquittal. As far as that 2001 rape case is concerned, for the record, not only was Parker cleared of charges, and charges were dropped against his “Birth” co-writer Jean McGianni Celestin.
“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,” he told Ebony. “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.”
In the Ebony interview, Parker also discussed how his perspectives and understanding have changed over the years now that he’s an actor, filmmaker as well as a husband and father.
“When you’re 19, a threesome is normal,” he said. “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.”
He said many definitions and expectations around consent have changed since he was in college.
“I’ll say this: At 19, if a woman said no, no meant no,” Parker said in the interview. “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.”
Parker has also reached out to women in his life for guidance. He talked about avoiding “toxic masculinity.”
“Honestly, when I started reading them comments (in response to his Facebook post) I had to call some people and say, ‘What did I do wrong? What did I say wrong?’” he said.
Here are a few critical responses to his Facebook posting:
Tracy Garrett: Sadly, it is not the rape charges that are most disturbing to me. It is the fact that you and your friends hounded and harassed this woman all over campus after she reported the rape… to the point that she tried to commit suicide twice in those next..
Niketta Scott: And now the victim shaming begins… It’s understandable to be disappointed and saddened when you find out that someone you respect gratefully has done something horrible like this.
Yesha Callahan: Nowhere in this statement is an apology. One day your daughters will leave home for college & I hope they don’t come across men who think that it’s ok and normal to take advantage of a woman who is drunk and passed out.
Here’s a quote from Parker’s August 16 Facebook posting:
“I have changed so much since nineteen. I’ve grown and matured in so many ways and still have more learning and growth to do. I have tried to conduct myself in a way that honors my entire community — and will continue to do this to the best of my ability. All of this said, I also know there are wounds that neither time nor words can heal.”
Parker’s message appeared the same day the brother of the woman who accused him and Celestin of rape told Variety that she had committed suicide in 2012.