Was Natalie Portman told to act ‘sexy’ for adult men at 15? Actress reveals how early sexualization affected her
Natalie Portman made her onscreen debut at the age of 12 in the 1994 action drama film, 'Léon: The Professional'
Natalie Portman is no stranger to Hollywood. The Academy Award-winning actor has been in the world of movies and entertainment since she was a 12-year-old making her onscreen debut in the 1994 action drama film 'Léon: The Professional'. Later, in 1999, Portman gained international recognition for starring as Padmé Amidala in the immensely successful 'Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace'. Apart from being part of the 'Star Wars' trilogy, Portman, in 2004, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and won a Golden Globe Award for playing a mysterious stripper in the romantic drama 'Closer'.
Portman, apart from her acting and directing, is also known for being an outspoken activist of various causes. In recent times, she has been a supporter of the #MeToo movement and has spoken against the exploitation of women in Hollywood and other parts of the entertainment industry. Most recently, as a guest on podcast 'Armchair Expert' with host Dax Shepard, Portman talked about the sexualization she faced as a child actor in Hollywood. "When you’re told that 'sexy' is what adult men want you to act like when you’re 15 years old, it can be very hard to form a healthy sense of adult sexuality in the years that follow," Portman was quoted as saying by She Knows.
She said, "I was definitely aware of the fact that I was being portrayed — mainly in kind of journalism around when the movies would come out — as like this Lolita figure. I’ve actually talked about it, I wrote a thing about it for the Women’s March a few years ago about how being sexualized as a child I think took away from my own sexuality because it made me afraid. It made me feel like the way that I could be safe was to be like, 'I’m conservative and I’m serious and you should respect me and I’m smart and don’t look at me that way.'"
She spoke further about the harrowing circumstances adding, "I feel like you build these fortresses around you…If someone respects you, they're not going to objectify you. You’re told as a girl and a woman that you’re supposed to want that, and that it’s a good thing, people finding you attractive or people thinking you're sexy. These words that we use around young girls in particular — and then it’s complicated because it doesn't necessarily always make you feel good or feel safe. You do have your own sexuality, and you do have your own desire, and you do want to explore things and you do want to be open but you don’t feel safe necessarily when there's like older men that are, like, interested, you’re like no no no no."
Back in 2018, during the Women's March in Los Angeles, Portman had talked about the "sexual terrorism" she experienced at the age of 13 after the release of 'Léon: The Professional'. She told the crowd, "I understood very quickly, even as a thirteen-year-old if I were to express myself sexually, I would feel unsafe. And that men would feel entitled to discuss and objectify my body to my great discomfort." She drew attention to the #MeToo movement stating that her first-ever piece of fan mail was a rape fantasy between her and a male fan, and that her local radio station created a countdown until her 18th birthday (when she would be of legal age to consent to participation in sexual activity).