Natalie Portman lent her voice to the Women’s March Saturday, and revealed that the public’s demeaning sexualizing of her at just 13 led her to streamline her career only to roles that made her feel safe from what she called “an environment of sexual terrorism.”
Portman, 36, spoke to a crowd of more than 500,000 at the march in downtown Los Angeles Saturday, and said her first taste of sexual harassment came after she starred in her first film, 1994’s “Leon: The Professional.”
The Oscar-winning actress told the audience that her excitement for the release of the film, in which she played a young girl seeking revenge for her family’s murder, quickly soured when the focus turned from her acting abilities to her sex appeal.
“I excitedly opened my first fan mail to read a rape fantasy that a man had written me. A countdown was started on my local radio show to my 18th birthday, euphemistically the day I would be legal to sleep with. Movie reviewers talked about my budding breasts in reviews,” she said.
Portman explained that in order to feel safe from men’s objectification of her body, she began rejecting roles that placed her in sexual situations, including kissing scenes.
“I emphasized how bookish I was and how serious I was and I cultivated an elegant way of dressing. I built a reputation for basically prudish, conservative, nerdy, serious in an attempt to feel that my body was safe and my voice would be listened to…. I felt the need to cover my body and inhibit my expression and my work in order to send my own message to the world: that I’m someone worthy of safety and respect,” she said.
“The response to my expression from small comments about my body to more threatening deliberate statements served to control my behavior through an environment of sexual terrorism.”