Nate Parker says his initial comments about the 1999 rape trial that has resurfaced thanks to the interested in The Birth of a Nation came from a “standpoint of ignorance.”
Nate recently spoke with EBONY.com and gave what probably should have been his first interview since all the controversy began. He got candid about his 19-year-old self, consent, male privilege, and how he feels about being called a rapist.
Peep an excerpt from the interview:
EBONY.com: You started out tonight addressing the controversy, and you talked a lot about male culture and toxic masculinity. So I want to kind of compare. What, at 19, did you know about consent?
Nate Parker: To be honest, not very much. It wasn’t a conversation people were having. When I think about 1999, I think about being a 19-year-old kid, and I think about my attitude and behavior just toward women with respect objectifying them. I never thought about consent as a definition, especially as I do now. I think the definitions of so many things have changed.
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: Yes to, like, hanging out? Or yes to, like, sex?
Nate Parker: If I can be just honest about it, just being down. Back then, when I was young and we were out being dogs it was about is she down? You think she down?
EBONY.com: Was that a question you would actually pose to her?
Nate Parker: No.
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 relationship, 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.
EBONY.com: You’re talking about sex?
Nate Parker: Yeah, it’s like, do you wanna have sex tonight? No? Okay.
EBONY.com: But that wasn’t…
Nate Parker: No, asking that question outright when I was younger? No. I just want to preface this all, I keep saying it, I’m learning, still. I’m 36-years-old and I’m learning about definitions that I should have known when I started having sex.
EBONY.com: You mentioned that your initial comments about the resurrection of this incident were self-centered, and from an emotional place on your behalf. So do you understand why people are struggling with…
Nate Parker: Absolutely! I understand now, but I was speaking from a standpoint of ignorance.
EBONY.com: Two weeks ago, you mean?
Nate Parker: Yeah. Well, when you don’t know, you don’t know. It’s like, if I don’t know how to swim and two weeks later I know how to swim, I know how to swim. Honestly, when I started reading them comments I had to call some people and say, What did I do wrong? What did I say wrong?
I called a couple of sisters that know that are in the space that talk about the feminist movement and toxic masculinity, and just asked questions. What did I do wrong? Because I was thinking about myself. And what I realized is that I never took a moment to think about the woman. I didn’t think about her then, and I didn’t think about her when I was saying those statements, which was wrong and insensitive.
I just really wanted to know more about what I was talking about. People were saying, why isn’t he speaking soon? Cuz I still didn’t know nothing. I don’t want…this ain’t the hype for me.
To read the rest, head on over to EBONY.com.