Beanie Feldstein: Female sexual awakening is still taboo in film

Beanie Feldstein has spoken of the importance of showcasing a teenage girl’s sexual awakening in her new film, saying it is still often seen as “taboo” for young women.

The Booksmart actress stars in How To Build A Girl, based on Caitlin Moran’s novel of the same name, and said she wanted the depiction of sexuality and exploration to be portrayed with humour and compassion.

She told the PA news agency: “It’s such a huge, important part of Caitlin’s novel that it had to be in the film, like there just was no way we could make an adaptation of that novel and not include her sexual journey, because it’s such a big part of her journey as a whole.

“I think so often in the media that I was exposed to growing up, like books, television, film, anything, boys are always kind of allowed to explore. It’s just so much more free in the discourse around boys, as far as masturbating or anything like that, it’s just like ‘Haha, Johnny’s in the bathroom for too long’ and with girls, you would never, ever speak of it.

“On network television in the States, it’s spoken about so freely when it comes to teenage boys, but it’s never spoken about with girls. It’s still so taboo, just girls being sexual, having any sort of wants or needs or anything, is still under the rug, or quiet, or embarrassing, or shameful.

“And Caitlin, the gift that she brings to the world, is just taking all of that away, and addressing something with humour and love and safety and I think so many woman, and people of all genders, just feel connected to how open she is, because it’s comforting, I think, when people just speak about something directly.

“It takes the shame away, it takes the embarrassment away, and we had to include that for Johanna, there was just no way we couldn’t.”

Los Angeles-born Feldstein added that even though the film is set in the 1990s and is about a girl growing up on a Wolverhampton council estate, her connection to her role was “instantaneous”.

She said: “You read Wolverhampton, England, 1993, and as someone from Los Angeles, California, who was born in 1993, there was no sort of reason that I should be instantly connected to the circumstances of the film, obviously.

“But I read the opening scene of her in the library, swinging her leg and daydreaming and I just could feel myself there. I don’t know how, but sometimes you have those magic moments when you’re reading scripts where you just know, and I had no reason to know.

“I think that the most kind of pure connective tissue between us is our love of the world. I’m a very sort of optimistic, gregarious person who is bubbly and outgoing and loves people and loves this thing that we’re doing in life, and I think Johanna is the same way.

“She really loves the world and she’s very hopeful, and I think even though we have very different life paths and circumstances and journeys and accents, obviously, the heart of where she begins is very much who I am, and so I knew our starting place was the same.”

How To Build A Girl is streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.