What would you change about the way our culture deals with sex?
I think it would all be to do with conversation and communication, particularly with the young. Because young kids start to have sexual feelings from very early on and oftentimes the immediate response is shame. Sex education is basically nuts and bolts, it’s not an emotional education. What I would add is sexually emotional education.
We’ve somehow relegated sex to our genitalia which is reductive and also completely wrong. People feel desire in all sorts of different parts of their bodies. When my daughter was eight and asking me about sex, I made her a little book with little gingerbread people [and labeled] where you feel things—yes you feel things in the groin, and you also feel things in the stomach, you feel things in the heart area, and you feel things here [indicates her head] weirdly, this is where it all comes from. So intimacy of communication from when we’re very, very little will really help us to navigate the feelings that we get in other parts of our bodies. We don’t include discussions about sex in our everyday lives, and the cost of that is very very high, very great.
You’ve said that filming the final scene – in which you are completely naked, staring at a mirror – was hard for you. Maybe it’s naive, but I would have thought that as an actress who is famous and celebrated for your appearance, you wouldn’t feel that way.
I’m not famous and celebrated for my appearance. I’m not. I’m famous and celebrated for my performances. I’m certainly not famous and celebrated for my appearance. I think I managed to scrape into film just cause – I don’t know why, it just worked. My face is not very symmetrical, actually. But if you think that any kind of fame or celebratedness releases you from the shackles of self-loathing in terms of the body, then yes, that is naive and wrong. It just doesn’t happen.
I think one of the great tragedies in our lives – in women’s lives – is the time, the effort, the energy, the passion that we’ve wasted on not being able to accept our own bodies. And I think it’s very, very difficult to undo that but somehow we have to try. That’s my contribution – it’s a small contribution but that’s all that I can do and people will follow up so that we normalize normal bodies, bodies that haven’t been treated, haven’t been industrialised in some way and made acceptable. We’re all used to comparing ourselves to bodies that are not, generally speaking, what human beings have.
What would young Emma think of you doing this movie?
I would hope that she’d be very excited. As excited as the older self. I don’t think I could have played this before now. Movies do that – they kind of come along at the right time the same way that books come along at the right time and the people that you need to meet come along at the right time. I think as a young woman, a young feminist, I would have been very grateful for this opportunity.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed. Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is available to stream on Hulu. Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.
This article was originally published on GLAMOUR US.