Natalie Portman documents ‘sexual terrorism' at Women's March
Oscar winner Natalie Portman has told how an environment of “sexual terrorism” as a teenager led to her covering up her body and “inhibiting her expression and her work”.
The actress, 36, joined other Hollywood stars on stage in Downtown Los Angeles to share their experiences during one of the many Women’s Marches being held across the country on the anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president.
She recalled her coming of age as she filmed her first big project, 1994’s Leon: The Professional.
Flanked by Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria and actress Constance Wu, she recounted her experience.
She said: “I turned 12 on the set of my first film The Professional, in which I played a young girl who befriends a hit man and hopes to avenge the murder of her family.
“The character is simultaneously discovering and developing her womanhood, her voice and her desire.
“At that moment in my life, I too was discovering my own womanhood, my own desire and my own voice.
“I was so excited at 13 when the film was released and my work and my art would have a human response.
“I excitedly opened my first fan mail to read a rape fantasy that a man had written me.”
The Star Wars actress went on to say that a local radio station had started a countdown to her 18th birthday, adding: “Euphemistically the date that I would be legal to sleep with.”
She continued: “Movie reviewers talked about my budding breasts in reviews. I understood very quickly, even as a 13-year-old, that 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”.
The actress said she “quickly adjusted her behaviour”.
She explained: “I rejected any role that even had a kissing scene, and talked about that choice deliberately in interviews. I emphasised how bookish I was, and how serious I was and I cultivated an elegant way of dressing.
“I built a reputation for basically being prudish, conservative, nerdy, serious in an attempt to feel my body was safe and that my voice would be listened to.”
She ended her speech saying that, aged 13, the message from “our culture was clear”.
“I felt the need to cover my body and to 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 explained.
“The response to my expression, from small comments about my body to more threatening deliberate statements, served to control my behaviour through an environment of sexual terrorism.”