Nate Parker continues to explain himself.
Parker is the director and star of “The Birth of a Nation,” a highly-anticipated fall film about racial injustice that has been overshadowed in recent weeks by a past rape case.
Parker, now 36, was charged with rape while a student at Penn State in 1999. He was acquitted, and the accuser committed suicide in 2012 at the age of 30.
“The Birth of a Nation” is a drama about Nat Turner’s slave rebellion in 1831. Parker plays Turner.
Speaking at the Merge Summit in Los Angeles on Friday night, Parker said it was “very difficult to talk about injustice and not deal” with the rape charges in a public way.
“When I was first met with the news that this part of my past had come up, my knee-jerk reaction was selfish,” he said, according to a report by Ebony.
In an interview with Ebony’s Britni Danielle, Parker spoke about what he called “toxic masculinity and male privilege.”
He said his perception of consent has changed.
“It wasn’t a conversation people were having,” he said. “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.”
Danielle asked Parker how he would label the incident that led to the rape charges.
“I’ll say this, I think that [there] are more things than the law,” Parker said. “I think there is having a behavior that is disrespectful to women that goes unchecked, where your manhood is defined by sexual conquests, where you trade stories with your friends and no one checks anyone.”
Parker said he believes most people wait too long to think about the effects of “hyper-masculinity and false definitions of what it means to be a man.” Too often, men don’t understand until they have kids or get married, according to Parker.
“In all actuality, we got to do better about preparing our men for their interactions with women,” he said.
“The Birth of a Nation” got rave reviews at the Sundance festival in January and was bought by Fox Searchlight for $ 17.5 million. It opens in theaters on October 7.
The controversy over Parker’s past has shadowed the movie ahead of its release.