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Emily Ratajkowski Reveals How Sexualizing Her Own Body Made Her ‘So Unhappy’

By Gwen Farrell··  7 min read
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Emily Ratajkowski Reveals How Sexualizing Her Own Body Made Her ‘So Unhappy’ Alamy
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Model and actress Emily Ratajkowski is known worldwide for her looks, which are hard to miss.

The now 30 year old first caught attention at age 21 when she appeared almost completely nude in singer Robin Thicke’s raunchy music video for his 2013 hit “Blurred Lines.” Now, Ratajkowski is releasing a memoir entitled My Body in which she discloses a number of traumatic events, even some that occurred at a disturbingly young age. In a candid and sometimes painful interview with the Sunday Times Magazine, Ratajkowski disclosed that in the process of retaking control of her image, she began sexualizing her own body and became “so unhappy.”

The “Blurred Lines” Controversy

Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and rapper T.I. released “Blurred Lines” in 2013. From Thicke’s album of the same name, the song was controversial from its initial release. While some praised its catchiness and genre-mixing instrumentation, others lambasted the song (written about Thicke’s now ex-wife, Paula Patton) for its commodification of women, alleged misogyny, and open glorification of so-called rape culture.

Thicke told Howard Stern the song is essentially about how he took his wife, “a good girl,” and turned her into a bad girl. (Thicke and Patton divorced just two years later in 2015.) With lyrics like “I know you want me,” “I hate these blurred lines,” and “the way you grab me/must wanna get nasty,” it would be hard to misconstrue Thicke’s meaning even if he hadn’t spelled it out for us. Nevertheless, the song was nominated for several Grammys and other accolades, even winning the Top Hot 100 Song, Top Radio Song, and Top R&B Song.

Ratajkowski was exploited and assaulted by the very figure she was meant to be promoting.

If the song wasn’t controversial alone just for its lyrics, the music video would’ve accomplished that. Pharrell and Thicke are seen frolicking and cuddling in bed with a number of young nude models, Ratajkowski being one of them. The unrated cut of the video was originally taken down, but the video still managed to garner millions of views, and today, it sits at 768 million on YouTube. 

It’s only recently that Ratajkowski has come forward to address her experience on set of the video, and her experience with Thicke. She reveals in her new book – released November 9 – that at one point, Thicke stood behind her and groped each of her breasts, later saying that she was humiliated and didn’t react as she should have at the time. The director of the video, Diane Martel, corroborates Ratajkowski’s description of the incident, recalling that Thicke later “sheepishly apologized” though neither he nor his representatives have responded to her statements. 

Emily Ratajkowski Reveals More Non-Consensual Sexual Incidents

While promoting My Body, her new book of essays detailing her life, Ratajkowski disclosed a number of other troubling topics to the Sunday Times Magazine. 

At 15, Ratajkowski says she had her first sexual experience, which was non-consensual, with a male named Owen. At the time, Ratajkowski says she was too drunk to refuse the advances, and that afterward, she “hated” herself. She adds that for so many women she knows, “their first early sexual experiences border on non-consensual.”

Ratajkowski has also previously alluded to a sexual assault in 2011 perpetrated by photographer Jonathan Leder. During the incident in question, Ratajkowski describes how she was at Leder’s home in the Catskills for an unpaid lingerie and nude shoot. While sitting on the couch next to him after the shoot, she says he painfully penetrated her with his hand. She detailed the assault in 2020 in an article published by The Cut, to which Leder responded, “You really want to believe the girl who bounced around naked with Robin Thicke was a victim?”

She was paid $25,000 to attend the Super Bowl with a Malaysian financier.

Ratajkowski also provides insight into her paid experiences accompanying older men to events and even to Coachella. At one time, she was paid $25,000 to attend the Super Bowl with a Malaysian financier and dinners and other glitzy events where she says “the transaction wasn’t defined” and “the terms of the agreement weren’t named.” Though she has since left that line of work, Ratajkowski says it’s not uncommon for older, powerful celebrity men to particularly prey on women who they know are struggling financially, calling it “manipulation.”

Ratajkowski's Feelings Are Tragic but Unsurprising

In her new memoir, Ratajkowski has inadvertently revealed what so many young women are discovering about being sexualized in the digital age: it isn’t all glitz and glamour. In fact, though she received a certain amount of fame for her appearance in the Robin Thicke music video and for her role as the sexy other woman in Gone Girl, it’s evident that in building her career around her appearance, Ratajkowski was left open and unguarded to be altogether exploited by the media.

If there’s one thing we know about the media, it’s that no matter how hard you try, others will use and abuse your own talent or likeness for their advantage, no matter how many statements and revelations or candid interviews you might make. That’s why female sexuality is so powerful in the first place – it can be used for our own feminine benefit, or a price can be put on it, and one’s appearance can be bought and sold like a product.

“I had succeeded by commodifying my body. So why was I so unhappy?”

Ratajkowski, by her own admission and at a young age, had achieved an enviable amount of success, fame, and recognition in a short amount of time. “I had succeeded by commodifying my body,” she says. “So why was I so unhappy?”

Any feminist, even by today’s moronic standards, might look at Ratajkowski’s appearance in Thicke’s video and call it the epitome of female empowerment. But it wasn’t. In reality, she was exploited and assaulted by the very figure she was meant to be promoting, and she came out on the other side of it damaged and hurting. Why are overly sexualized women so unhappy? Why does hookup culture make us miserable? Because in the end, our bodies, however attractive, aren’t the most interesting things about us. Our bodies, especially when used for superficial or insignificant means, don’t make us empowered by virtue of flaunting them in risqué or provocative ways, and that’s the unfortunate truth many young women are finding out for themselves.

Closing Thoughts

Before Ratajkowski was a recognizable public figure, she was already being paid – not for her talent but for her appearance and the amount of sex appeal she at a young age could contribute to a glamorous setting. There’s something extremely disturbing about that, and the fact that according to her, it’s still the status quo in the most elite of circles.

Knowing what we know now, it’s understandable why she, and so many others, are struggling to reclaim their female identity. Whether you’re an influencer, OnlyFans creator, model, or otherwise, being told continuously and consistently that your only worth is your body has a deleterious effect on any woman.

Our worth as women is complex, but it lies in all the inherent characteristics we have that males do not. Only by embracing and harnessing those qualities – the ability to nurture and create, to name a few – do we reclaim an identity solidified in true empowerment. 

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