Natalie Portman has recently reflected on how the unwanted attention she drew as a ‘Lolita figure’ at age 12 negatively impacted her subsequent sexual expression
In a recent episode of Armchair Expert With Dax Shepard podcast, Natalie portman opened up about her adolescent struggle with her sexuality as a result of the intense scrutiny she was under from the start of her acting career.
In 1996, she played a 13-year-old character forming a relationship with a much older man in Beautiful Girls. In 1994, she played an underage orphan named Mathilda who develops feelings for a middle-aged hitman.
Portman said she "was definitely aware of the fact that I was being portrayed... as this 'Lolita' figure," referring to Vladimir Nabokov's widely-read 1955 book Lolita, a film adaptation of which she would later refuse to star in.
"Being sexualized as a child, I think, took away from my own sexuality, because it made me afraid," she added. The only way she could protect herself from the constant predatory media gaze was developing herself as a ‘conservative' and ‘serious’ person, which conflicted with her budding sexuality.
“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. But you don’t feel safe, necessarily, when there’s, like, older men that are interested, and you’re like, ‘No, no, no, no,’” she explained.
As a result, the actor built "fortresses," which "didn't allow a full expression of who I was at that time."
"I consciously cultivated that (persona), because it was ways to make me feel safe. Like oh, if someone respects you, they're not gonna objectify you,” she continued. “When I was in my teens, I was like I don't wanna have any love scenes or make-out scenes. 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."
The 39-year-old Academy Award-winning actor admitted that she eventually felt ‘safe' in the latter part of her career.