British star Keira Knightley has declared that she no longer wants to act in sex scenes directed by men, saying that she objects to the “male gaze” — a term of feminist film theory that describes the way men use the camera to turn women into sex objects.
Knightley, 35, said she would be willing to star in love scenes if a woman is behind the camera, but she said performing naked in front of a group of men doesn’t appeal to her.
“It’s partly vanity and also it’s the male gaze,” the Pirates of the Caribbean star said in the latest episode of the Chanel Presents podcast. “If I was making a story that that’s what it’s about, it was about that journey of motherhood and body acceptance — and I feel like, I’m sorry, but that would have to be with a female filmmaker — I don’t have an absolute ban. But I kind of do with men.”
She said that she is now “too vain” about her body after having two children:
“I don’t want it to be those horrible sex scenes where you’re all greased up and everybody is grunting. I’m not interested in doing that. I feel very uncomfortable now trying to portray the male gaze. Saying that, there’s times where I go, ‘Yeah, I completely see where this sex would be really good in this film and you basically just need somebody to look hot.’ So therefore you can use somebody else, because I’m too vain and the body has had two children now and I’d just rather not stand in front of a group of men naked.”
Feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey popularized the term “male gaze,” arguing that male filmmakers transform women into passive objects of their sexual desire. But she also claimed that women can also be guilty of the “male gaze” by internalizing the way men look at women.
Keira Knightley said in 2019 that the best sex scene she ever shot was in Atonement.
“The best sex scene I’ve done onscreen is the one in Atonement, on the bookshelf. It was both the best sex scene, but also [the best] to shoot,” she told Vulture. She said director Joe Wright choreographed the scene “within an inch of its life.” As a result, she and co-star James McAvoy “felt utterly comfortable and not exposed, and like we could deal with it. It’s never gonna be fun, but we could deal with it.”
The two-time Oscar nominee has stated that she prefers to act in period films because in modern-day movies, the female characters “nearly always get raped.”
“I don’t really do films set in the modern-day because the female characters nearly always get raped,” she told Variety in 2018. “I always find something distasteful in the way women are portrayed, whereas I’ve always found very inspiring characters offered to me in historical pieces.”