What’s Current: Jane Fonda reveals she was sexually abused as a child

Image: Nancy Pastor/Makers.com

During an interview in The Edit, Jane Fonda reveals she was raped and sexually abused as a child.

“To show you the extent to which a patriarchy takes a toll on females; I’ve been raped, I’ve been sexually abused as a child and I’ve been fired because I wouldn’t sleep with my boss and I always thought it was my fault; that I didn’t do or say the right thing.”

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Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Rachael

    I’m glad you covered the Jane Fonda interview. It’s vital women like her speak out. I liked that she pointed out how awful it is that actresses today are more sexualised than ever and are forced to get naked or lose work (really, how is this much different to prostitution?). We need to fight to stop this shit.

    • Rachel

      Agreed! when are people going to wake up.

  • Virginia Howard

    Re: Jane Fonda– oh NO!! (fuming emoji)

  • You know how prostituted women are more likely to have been abused as kids? I’ve wondered the same thing about actors, especially female actors, because of how dysfunctional working conditions are in Hollywood. I’m leaning that way more and more, now, too. There’s nothing wrong with acting – it can be a lot of fun – but acting in Hollywood, especially when you’re a woman, is pretty scary stuff. So I worry about the people who do it. There is no research on this.

    Anyway, I’m sorry this happened to Fonda, and kudos on her for speaking out.

    • susannunes

      The abuse goes back to Hollywood’s beginnings. Actresses like Clara Bow and Rita Hayworth were raped by their fathers as young girls.

      • Clara Bow’s mother tried to murder her during a seizure, too. A lot of male actors also come from dysfunctional backgrounds as well, though I think it’s easier for men to be character actors and avoid the worst of it.

        • susannunes

          Bow had perhaps the most tragic background of any of the major Hollywood stars. She never quite escaped her past, though she did care about her husband Rex Bell and loved her sons. She was not the slut depicted by the despicable Kenneth Anger in “Hollywood Babylon.” She was glad to get out of Hollywood after she married Bell, not liking it all that much, and moved to Nevada, living there until her final years of decline.

          She was a very good actress, both in the silents and in talking pictures. Her voice fit her perfectly, by the way. I enjoy watching her surviving films.

        • -Jane Don’t-

          I always wonder about actors and identity…As in, are they in a constant state of an identity crisis because they’re always playing someone other than themselves…?

    • Rachel

      I agree! I had exactly the same thought when I read about Jane Fonda – I mean, when you think about it, Hollywood is just the objectification of women. I’m sure there’s plenty of manipulation through sex, but even that aside, the fact the female actors are practically used and mannequins is bad enough.

    • Rachael

      That’s a very good point. I’d be curious to know too. And not just for Hollywood but for actresses who feel they need to get their kit off for any role – movies or TV. I especially don’t understand the women who do it and then turn around and say how awful it is and OMG the men should be doing it too (how about nobody gets objectified? That would be fun) and then they continue anyway. Kudos to the women who stand firm in their convictions and refuse to be used this way. It’s the same mechanism as pornography in the end.

      • Alienigena

        And the obligatory and often gratuitous sex scenes in TV and films. There are some really crappy films and TV series on Canadian Netflix and one of them, a bizarre western set in American SW featuring cannibals had a sex scene (had nothing to do with cannibal theme) within first 15 minutes and you just wonder, why was that there, to draw in a certain kind of audience? I have become like a former acquaintance of mine, someone who watches bad disaster or dramatic movies for their comedy value. Lately I have seen a lot of scenes in which the guy pushes the woman’s face against the wall or a tree or a window and takes her from behind. What the hell is that about? I read the book The Girl on the Train but didn’t really like the movie, which featured a weird sex scene (e.g. woman’s face pressed against tree). At least with books you can envision characters the way you want and the gratuitous sex scenes can generally be avoided (based on your book choice (literary fiction), e.g. anything not considered erotica or romance (history & mystery romances are also in this category) or action-based with a Bond like hero).

        • Rachael

          This is precisely why I don’t want TV and very limited movies.

        • -Jane Don’t-

          Nothing irks me more than gratuitous sex scenes.

      • The thing is, the actresses who say no are the ones we don’t know about, because they don’t get work. Unless you know them personally because you hang out with a local acting scene, which I did in Vancouver. I’m not sure how many (if any) of the women I knew there are earning a living entirely from acting, though. Most of the women I met in Women In Film were working behind the scenes, including accountants!

        • Rachael

          Oh I’m sure there are plenty who say no. As you say, their careers don’t go very far.

  • Cangle

    Fonda was pretty heavily pornified in Barbarella, it was quite provocative at the time.

    Now I understand why Fonda did seek to please men and chase husbands. Trauma bonded.

    Still, she acted out in the anti-war movement and I”ll always admire her for her many leadership initiatives in spite of her sexed up film star roles.

  • -Jane Don’t-

    Unfortunately, I know quite a few people who have been sexually abused as children. Mostly women, but also a couple of men. It’s freakishly common. 2 of them have substance abuse problems, but another woman quit drinking nearly a year ago and does a lot of therapy and support groups. I admire her a lot.