Uma Thurman Gives Some Straight Talk About Being Sexualized As A Teenager

Uma ThurmanUma Thurman is a 42-year-old mother of three and an undeniably successful actress. She just finished up a stint on the new drama Smash and she has multiple movies in the works according to IMDB. Her A-list status is firmly in place, and one would imagine that the statuesque beauty feels content in her own skin.

But recently, Thurman opened up about her confidence as she grew older, but also about being thrust into very mature and sexualized roles at a young age.

When speaking about her experience in Dangerous Liaisons, a 1988 film that she shot with John Malkovich, Uma was extremely straight forward about the uncomfortable situation her role presented for an 18-year-old girl.

“I could not stand being the inflatable sex doll everyone wanted me to be. I was naive, sexually, when I made that film and it felt paralysing to be thrust in to this overtly sexual image which had nothing to do with who I was.”

It’s not something that we hear from actresses very often, the difficulty of being thrust into adult situations long before your emotionally ready to handle them. It’s part of the reason why so many question the very grown-up lives led by child stars who have been forced to mature too quickly. And especially for women, it’s a statement about the sexualization that occurs from the minute they step foot in the industry.

Thurman’s comments made me remember an interview with Mila Kunis, where she lamented being photoshopped as a teenager to appear “sexier” in men’s magazines. The star explained of the photo augmentation,

”[It] was a horrible thing to do, because then you have these boys who assume that you look this way when you don’t”¦. So I showed up to class, you know, out of the shower and in sweatpants, which is the way I look when I show up to work at 6 AM and is not necessarily the way that I look when I walk out of the hair-and-makeup chair at 10 AM. But I think for a 15-, 16-, 17-year-old kid, that’s a hard thing to fully understand. It’s like, ”Why are this girl’s tits not popping out and why does she have no makeup on?” It’s uncomfortable..”

Kunis too began working in the entertainment industry as a teenager and was put in some very adult positions with her on-screen “boyfriend” and now real-life supposed love interest, Ashton Kutcher.

Thankfully, things worked out for Thurman and Kunis. Uma admitted, “It took me until about 35 to walk without being self-conscious,” but she obviously seems happy now. But both of these women are the lucky, successful ones. There are plenty who don’t make it past that early objectification and into a more respected career.

We put young women in adult positions and then we applaud them as great actresses, adapting to situations that they’ve never experienced. Instead of marveling at their ability to be “the inflatable sex doll” long before they’ve gained any confidence in their sexuality, maybe we should try to show a little more respect and support for young women who want to hold off on the sexualized roles. Maybe we should focus on creating realistic and well-rounded characters that young girls don’t have to be uncomfortable or embarrassed to portray.

(Photo: Michael Carpenter/

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