Natalie Portman opened up about her disturbing experiences of being sexualised in the media and by fans as a 13-year-old child actress, in an impassioned speech at the 2018 Women’s March in Los Angeles.
Natalie, who was joined onstage in downtown LA by fellow actresses Eva Longoria and Constance Wu, revealed that in the wake of her first film role in Leon: The Professionals, she was the victim of ‘sexual terrorism’ which included receiving a fan letter involving a ‘rape fantasy.’
Media outlets started to sexualise the 13-year-old Natalie in various disturbing ways, apparently discounting the fact that she was very much still a child.
‘A countdown was started on my local radio show to my 18th birthday – euphemistically the date that I would be legal to sleep with,’ she told the gathered crowd. ‘Movie reviewers talked about my budding breasts in reviews.’
The actress went on to reveal that her experiences forced her, at an early age, to adjust her behaviour (and adjust the film roles she took on) as a defence mechanism, explaining: ‘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.’
She began to reject any roles with kissing scenes outright and to, in her words, cultivate a ‘bookish and serious’ side to build up the appearance of a ‘prudish, conservative, nerdy, serious’ teen in order to feel safer.
‘At 13 years old, the message from our culture was clear to me. 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 said. ‘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.'