Nate Parker’s Comments About Consent Show How Addictive Male Privilege Can Be

It’s not very often that we get to really hear men talk about rape culture. That’s why Nate Parker’s interview with Ebony about consent and his 1999 rape allegation is worth a solid read, since it’s such an honest and chilling look into how complex male privilege really is. Parker was supposed to be a star this year for writing and directing Birth of a Nation, a drama about slavery in America. But, the media discovered that when he was 19 years old, he was at the center of a rape case in which a woman alleged he and two friends sexually assaulted her at Penn State University.

 

Parker was acquitted, and the woman committed suicide in 2012 after suffering from major depressive disorder with psychotic features, PTSD due to physical and sexual abuse, and polysubstance abuse, according to Variety.

Remember: he was acquitted. But now Parker has to talk about rape on press junkets for his film, which is possibly the only good thing to come out of such a terrible thing. In an exclusive interview with Ebony, Parker admits that when he was 19 and in school, he didn’t really think about consent as a concept. At all. He said, “Consent is all about — for me, back then — if you can get a girl to say ‘yes,’ you win.” It’s likely that if the allegations were contemporary, no one would be on the fence about Parker. But we didn’t talk about rape allegations back then.

Parker’s been really fucking honest about how he’s come to think about the incident and his case. In the Ebony interview, Parker said that when he was 19, sex was about gauging if a woman was “down.” It wasn’t a question he would really ask the girl point blank, just a thing everyone in the room could feel. He said:

“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.”

In the interview he also explained that as a kid, he never had a conversation about consent, and the blowback from reading about his rape allegation sort of blew his mind. “What I realized is that I never took a moment to think about the woman,” he told Ebony. “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.”

Parker attributes that to male privilege. “Just like you can be addicted to White Supremacy and all of the benefits, you can be addicted to male privilege and all of the benefits that comes from it. It’s like someone pointing at you and you have a stain on your shirt and you don’t even know it,” he told Ebony.

Holy shit. There’s something admirable in saying that out loud, even if it comes from a dirtbag. It doesn’t change anything, but maybe someone else will hear that and think twice this fall on a college campus, pouring cheap liquor into fruit juice for a girl. It’s sad that that’s just a measly hope.

The court go back and retry Parker officially, though he is being tried again in the court of public opinion. And he should be, because the legal consequences of rape culture never add up to the real-life consequences of rape culture. What he’s saying, now, when it’s too late, is something that most people would have wanted, for example, Brock Turner, to say. Parker is saying that he didn’t know what he did was wrong. We need to start teaching boys and girls that consent is a thing and it doesn’t matter if anyone is drinking or doing drugs or anything. Violating another person’s body in any way is wrong.

Parker also said in the interview that he talked to a friend about the allegations and she said, “When women go to college, there’s this mentality that boys will be boys. When women go to college, there’s this idea of, well don’t get raped.” Before Brock Turner, Stanford had 26 rape allegations in three years. How many weren’t even reported because of the “boys will be boys” mentality? It’s sickening. The only silver lining to listening to Parker talk about his own ignorance is that it’s not 1999 anymore and sensing that a girl is “down,” is finally not a good reason to take off her pants.