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Nate Parker sat down with Ebony on Friday following a panel discussion in Los Angeles for his first interview since writing an essay earlier this month on the death of the woman who accused him of rape in 1999. What ensued was a sometimes-uncomfortable discussion of sexual assault, consent, homophobia and the subconscious effects of male privilege.

Parker, 36, is the writer, director and star of Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Birth of Nation, for which Fox Searchlight paid a record $17.5 million. Birth, the story of the slave rebellion led by Nat Turner, is due in theaters Oct. 7 and is predicted to be an awards-season darling.

But the biggest moment of his career to date is being overshadowed by the events of one night in 1999 when he was a 19-year-old sophomore at Penn State University. He and a wrestling teammate, Jean McGianni Celestin, were accused of raping an unconscious female student who had come over to their apartment. Parker was acquitted but Celestin served six months. He appealed when his sentence was extended and the case ended in mistrial.

The story resurfaced in mid-August when the accuser's brother divulged that she had committed suicide in 2012 after years of depression and anxiety caused by that night at Parker and Celestin's apartment. On Aug. 16, Parker posted an essay sharing his reaction to that news: "I look back on that time, my indignant attitude and my heartfelt mission to prove my innocence with eyes that are more wise with time. I see now that I may not have shown enough empathy even as I fought to clear my name. Empathy for the young woman and empathy for the seriousness of the situation I put myself and others in."

During the panel discussion Friday, he revealed that he's not angry about the story's resurrection in the media. “This is happening for a very specific reason,” Parker explained. “To be honest, my privilege as a male, I never thought about it. I’m walking around daring someone to say something or do something that I define is racist or holding us back, but never really thinking about male culture and the destructive effect it’s having on our community.“

Afterward, Parker told Ebony's Britni Danielle that he hadn't given the rape case much thought in the 17 years since his acquittal, which he admitted sounded privileged. In fact, he likened male (and white) privilege to an addiction. "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."

Parker's own daughter just began college, which put the concepts of privilege and consent in stark relief for him. "The crazy thing is a lot of people – a lot of men, if I’m just speaking for myself – don’t really start thinking about the effect of hyper-masculinity and false definitions of what it means to be a man until you get married or until you have kids. Because then all of sudden you have something to protect. In all actuality, we got to do better about preparing our men for their interactions with women."

He added, "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." Compare that to 2016: "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 (having sex), her body language. I’ll ask my wife."

He imagined a conversation between his 36-year-old and college-age selves: "If I could have grabbed him earlier before this incident, or even just going to college. Because for me, it’s about this incident, but it’s about a culture that I never took the time to try to understand. I never examined my role in male culture, in hyper-masculinity. I never examined it, nobody ever called me on it."

He's also rethought previous statements about the LGBT community and whether he would play a gay person. "The fact that I said I wouldn’t wear a dress, or that I’m not interested in gay roles, I can see now that was being exclusionary. It was being insensitive, and it was being homophobic. And guess what? I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everyone who ever read similar comments or just got wind of something was said. I’m growing in my understanding in my relationships with (the) LGBT (community). I had to ask people I know like, is this homophobic? A couple people said yeah. And I was like, oh."

The bottom line for Parker? "I gotta face injustices in my own community. I gotta face my past, whether it be 17 years ago or 17 minutes ago. I gotta be able to look at it and say, well, you know, I have engaged in hyper-male culture, and I’m learning about it, and I’m learning how I can change and help young boys and young men change."

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