For all the good guys who will never be like Nate Parker

***TW: graphic description of sexual assault.***

A little over a week ago, I went out on a first date. Both of us are black and we both do film-related work. Throughout the afternoon, we were both invested in discovering each other. We were even cool in our attempts to impress one another.

Then he wanted to talk about Nate Parker.

If you don’t know: Parker is a thirty-six year old actor and filmmaker. He screened his directorial debut The Birth of a Nation at Sundance in January and sold it for 17.5 million dollars. It’s a major feat for any filmmaker, especially a black one. The film is due to be released in October and recently it’s come out that in college he (and Jean Celestin, a co-writer of the film) raped a woman. Celestin was convicted. Parker was not.

My date didn’t say that he wanted to talk about the contemporary relevance of the film’s subject, Nat Turner’s rebellion. He didn’t express any curiosity around the excitement and commitment to the film from an industry so racist and white. I had to assume he wanted to know my opinion about Nate Parker having raped someone. I shook my head, “No, I really don’t want to talk about it.”

“Why?”

“I just don’t have high expectations for men when it comes to talking about sexual assault.”

“Why?”

At that point I knew what would happen: he would insist on the conversation somehow so that he could express a viewpoint that he considers to be progressive or pro-women in some way. This has happened to me before. But I decided he was interesting enough and that this may turn into an even more interesting conversation. So I asked him to share his opinion.

He told me that he’d never be caught up in a situation like Parker. He even began to detail the incidents from a night in college when he could have taken advantage of an intoxicated woman but he didn’t (presumably because he knew it would be wrong). Then he went back to my statement about not having high expectations.

“Because men tend to be defensive when it comes in these conversations. You telling me that you would never be in a situation like Nate is a defensive statement.”

There are no good guys in these situations. None.

Last weekend, Ebony Magazine released an interview that Britni Danielle conducted with Nate Parker. A lot of people expressed their disappointment about the interview on Twitter. There is very little room for celebrities to use media platforms for anything beyond brand maintenance and damage control. And so many media outlets have given Parker (as they’ve done with other men in this position) the space to be dismissive and unapologetic about the assault. We don’t expect authenticity but there is some discomforting honesty in this Ebony interview. I’m struck by these statement in particular:

 

Screenshot 2016-08-29 at 11.25.27 PM

The goal is to get the girl or to get as many girls. This is efficiently achieved through manipulation.

Screenshot 2016-08-29 at 11.25.47 PM

Relationship is not the goal. Remember the goal is to get sex from the girl. Her desires are not even a concern. Thus this internal conversation.

Parker emphasizes his age. That was who he was at nineteen. My ex is in his thirties and if you asked him today if he knows what consent is, he will say yes. I will disagree. I think he has those same internal conversations that Parker describes. I think the same of the men who’ve assaulted my friends:

The man who removed the condom during intercourse with my friend. His shame only set in when it was time for her to terminate the pregnancy. (I had to take the five hour bus ride to accompany her because he refused to show up.)

The man who took my friend off the street and raped her until she bled? He thinks he knows what consent is because he gave her his business card afterward. She held onto it until she was ready to release that trauma.

Not long ago, one of my closest male friends restated his defense of Kobe Bryant. He refused to believe the woman even though Kobe admitted to the rape (in his non-apology). There are men in my life who refuse to listen to women. I’ve spent a lot of time struggling with this. Hating them and cutting them off. I’ve worked through some of this with professional help. I’ve learned about creating boundaries in relationships that I can’t abandon. I still hate that the burden of this work is on me (always on the woman). I protect myself by not expecting much. Nate Parker won’t admit to the rape. I don’t expect him to. But never in my lifetime have I witnessed a male celebrity admit to still learning about healthy sexual relationships. I’m being sincere as fuck when I say I hope the Ebony interview provides an opportunity for self-reflection. I hope the men in my life and all the rest of the “good guys” interrogate their own actions with sexual partners.

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