The 36-year-old actress opened up to the crowd about what it was like to be a young female growing up in the spotlight, recalling that after the release of her first movie, Léon: The Professional, she excitedly received her first piece of fan mail. The Oscar winner says the note was ultimately a "rape fantasy" written by a man.
Portman says from that moment on, comments made about her body "served to control [her] behavior through an environment of sexual terrorism."
"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 recounted. "Movie reviewers talked about my budding breasts in reviews."
This sort of media attention led Portman to create a persona of modesty. "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 expressed. "So, I quickly adjusted my behavior. I rejected any role that even had a kissing scene and talked about that choice deliberately in interviews. I emphasized how bookish I was and how serious I was, and I cultivated an elegant way of dressing."
She continued, "I built a reputation for basically being prudish, conservative, nerdy, serious, in an attempt to feel that my body was safe and that my voice would be listened to."
Portman concluded, "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."