Catherine Deneuve branded an 'apologist for rape' after saying 'hitting on women isn't a crime'

Catherine Deneuve has sparked fury this morning

Catherine Deneuve has sparked fury this morning

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

French actress Catherine Deneuve is facing a torrent of abuse this morning after saying that men should be "free to hit on" women.

Deneuve was one of 100 well-known French women who wrote a letter, published in Le Monde, which attempted to draw a line between rape and flirting.

The letter denounced the wave of "puritanism" which has been unleashed by the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations.

"Men have been punished summarily, forced out of their jobs when all they did was touch someone's knee or try to steal a kiss," the letter read.

"Rape is a crime, but trying to seduce someone, even persistently or clumsily, is not - and nor is men being gentlemanly a chauvinist attack."

The letter singles out feminist campaigns such as #MeToo, which encourage women to take a stand and speak out against sexual abuse and harassment. 

The authors claim that "legitimate and necessary protest against the sexual violence that women are subject to, particularly in their professional lives", has descended into nothing more than 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 popular opinion] are regarded as complicit and traitors."

The letter was published just two after some of Hollywood's most famous women wore black to the Golden Globes ceremony, in protest at the sexual harassment allegations which have rocked Hollywood.

Weinstein is at the centre of the allegations, having been accused of harassment by a variety of women. The veteran director denies all allegations of non-consensual sex.

Last year Deneuve sparked outrage by defending another Hollywood director, Roman Polanski, who is still wanted by the US for raping a 13-year-old girl forty years ago.

Deneuve said she found the word rape "excessive", and subsequently received a rebuke from France's state broadcaster.

Read the reaction to her latest comments below.