The 25-year-old model covers InStyle's March issue, in which she talks about her colorful upbringing and her right to express her sexuality. Ratajkowski, who shares that her mother -- an English professor -- gave her a copy of Naomi Wolf's Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood when she was 12, fights against the notion that sexually expressive women are seen as attention-seeking.
"The main criticism that I get is, 'Aren't you just conforming to a patriarchal standard of beauty?'" Ratajkowski says. "Well, this is just the body I was given. I didn't do anything to it -- it's just my body. But even if I had altered it, that would be fine too."
She also stresses that it's her choice how to express her sexuality. The Gone Girl actress publicly slammed photographer Jonathan Leder in November, when he announced the upcoming publication of some nudes that he had shot of her in 2012.
"So, I used Twitter to reinforce an idea that I've believed in forever, which is that it's up to me to choose when and how I want to share my sexuality," she explains. "Of course, a bunch of the headlines were like, 'Emily complains about nude photos and then posts her own sexy selfie.' And I was like, 'That's exactly my point! The difference is, it's my decision to post that.'"
The beautiful brunette says she's gotten attention for her looks as young as four years old. She's been modeling since she was 14, but calls her upbringing solidly middle class.
"I come from such a middle-class background, so it was intimidating to be all of a sudden around really fancy, snobby people," she says about her modeling career. "I mean, I've always loved aesthetics and fashion design, but I didn't feel super-connected to the grandeur of it all."
Her interests also didn't fit those of a typical teenager. "Whenever a Spice Girls song came on, everyone knew the words, but it was, like, totally over my head," she recalls.
These days, Ratajkowski is carefully weighing her next steps in her career. The actress bluntly says she regrets some projects she took on after 2014's Gone Girl. Though she doesn't name names, she had parts in the 2015 Entourage movie, as well as in Zac Efron's We Are Your Friends, shortly after starring in the Ben Affleck hit.
"At the time I thought, 'I'm going to just make a bunch of money and then go back to school,'" Ratajkowski explains. "To be honest, I hadn't figured out that I had a real career on my hands. So, I was like, 'OK, this person wants me to do this? Cool.' And then all of a sudden I realized that these projects are just not me. That's when I shifted toward more meaningful things."
"There are some people who fit into categories very well. But then there are a lot who don't," she also says about herself.