Catherine Deneuve.
Catherine Deneuve. CAROLINE BLUMBERG

Men should be free to hit on women, says actress Deneuve

ONE of France's most revered actresses, Catherine Deneuve, says men should be "free to hit on” women. She condemned a new "puritanism” she claimed was sparked by sexual harassment scandals.

On Tuesday Deneuve, 74, (pictured) and 99 other French women denounced a "backlash against men” in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

That response included millions of women taking to social media to share stories of being sexually harassed or assaulted. Worldwide they used the #Metoo hashtag and in France, many used #SquealOnYourPig (#balancetonporc).

The 100 said the #Metoo campaign was fuelled by a "hatred of men”.

"This urge to send men to the slaughterhouse, instead of helping women be more autonomous, helps the enemies of sexual freedom,” the 100 women said in a column in Le Monde.

"This vigilante (online) justice has punished men in their jobs, forced some to resign, when all they did was touch a knee, try to steal a kiss, talk about 'intimate' matters in a work diner.”

The minister responsible for reducing violence against women, Marlene Schiappa, told Reuters the Weinstein scandal forced a rethink of harassment in the "land of romance and seduction”.

"We defend a right to pester, which is vital to sexual freedom,” the letter said.

The writers, performers and academics who wrote the letter deplored the wave of "denunciations” and branded it a "witch hunt”.

"Rape is a crime, but trying to seduce someone, even persistently or awkwardly, is not - nor is being gentlemanly a macho attack.”

Men had been dragged through the mud for "talking about intimate subjects during professional dinners or for sending sexually-charged messages to women who were not attracted to them.”

It claimed "legitimate and necessary protest against the sexual violence that women are subject to, particularly in their professional lives”, had turned into a witch hunt.

"What began as freeing women up to speak has today turned into the opposite - we intimidate people into speaking 'correctly', shout down those who don't fall into line, and those women who refused to bend (to the new realities) are regarded as complicit and traitors.”

"The accidents of life that might touch a woman's body should not necessarily affect her dignity, and should not - no matter how hard they are - make her a perpetual victim,” it said.

Women who were strong enough to demand equal pay, it claimed, would "not be traumatised forever by a fondler on the metro”, even if it is a crime, preferring to see it as a "non-event”.

The signatories, who included a former porn star who is now an agony aunt said they were defending sexual freedom, for which "the liberty to seduce and solicit was essential.”

Oscar-nominated Deneuve, 74, is best known outside France for her role as a bored housewife who spends her afternoons as a prostitute in Luis Bunuel's classic 1967 film Belle de Jour.

The letter was also signed by Catherine Millet, author of the very explicit 2002 memoir, The Sexual Life of Catherine M.

Social media gve the letter a mostly hostile reception, quickly becoming the most tweeted story on Twitter in France.

Last year Deneuve expressed annoyance with the #MeToo social media campaign.

"I don't think it is the right method to change things, it is excessive,” she said.

"After 'Calling out your pig' what are we going to have, 'Call out your whore'?”

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