Natalie Portman Says "Being Sexualized as a Child" Made Her Feel "Afraid" and Unsafe

Natalie Portman shared that "being sexualized as a child" in her early films had a negative impact on her identity and her ability to feel safe.

By Ryan Gajewski Dec 10, 2020 8:24 AMTags
Watch: Natalie Portman Felt "Sexualized as a Child"

Natalie Portman is opening up about the heartbreaking way that she was affected by acting roles from her earlier years.

The actress was a guest on the Armchair Expert podcast on Monday, Dec. 7, where she told host Dax Shepard that playing sexualized characters at the start of her career had an insidious impact on her. 

Portman, who began acting at age 12, discussed her role in the 1996 film Beautiful Girls, in which her 13-year-old character Marty develops a relationship with a man played by Timothy Hutton. She told Shepard that it was clear to her that she was being portrayed as a "Lolita figure," referring to Vladimir Nabokov's classic 1955 novel about a girl who engages in a sexual relationship with a much-older man.

"Being sexualized as a child, I think, took away from my own sexuality because it made me afraid, and it made me like the way 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,'" said the Thor star.

Natalie Portman's Best Roles

"But at that age, 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," the 39-year-old Oscar winner continued. "But you don't feel safe, necessarily, when there's, like, older men that are interested, and you're like, 'No, no, no, no.'"

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Portman, who launched her career with the 1994 thriller The Professional that debuted when she was 13, explained that these feelings caused her to put up defenses and kept her from expressing who she truly was. 

"When I was in my teens, I was like, 'I don't want to have any love scenes or make-out scenes,'" she said. "I would start choosing parts that were less sexy, because it made me worried about the way I was perceived and how safe I felt."

Portman, who shares two children with husband Benjamin Millepied, concluded that she ultimately was able to find a safe space for herself. 

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