Catherine Millet, author of the bestselling memoir, “The Sexual Life of Catherine M.”, claimed the campaign to counter sexual harassment was casting women as “victims and the fragile prey” of men.
The art critic was one of the movers behind an controversial open letter signed by film star Catherine Deneuve and some 100 other French women condemning the “wave of puritanism” they claim has been unleashed since the fall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
The letter set off an international furore, with feminists in France and elsewhere lashing the signatories for defending men's freedom to pester and “hit on” women.
“We are not idiots,” said Millet, as she hit back on French public radio.
“Rape and sexual violence should be criminalised, but we cannot ban the least little gesture, dirty word or inappropriate behaviour.
“It's crazy, we're stopping flirting now,” she declared.
Thousands took to social media to ridicule the letter's inference that women fondled on public transport should just get over it, and its outrage at men being sacked “when all they did was touch someone's knee or try to steal a kiss”.
But Millet said many women were horrified by the “totalitarian” atmosphere the #MeToo social media campaign had set off, where “everyone is scrutinising everyone else”.
She said several victims, including Samantha Geimer, who was raped by film director Roman Polanski when she was 13, have since signed their letter warning it had gone too far.
'Wish I had been raped'
Geimer said she “agreed entirely” with Deneuve and the other signatories, tweeting that “women need equality, respect and sexual freedom.
“We get that by standing up for ourselves and each other. Not by asking others to protect us and define what is 'allowed' for ladies,” said the
Hawaii-based writer, who wants the charges against Polanski to be dropped so she can get on with her life.
She said #MeToo was being “used against men rather than for women… to glamorise victimhood rather than to show recovery and strength.”
Millet, who has written graphically about her libertine lifestyle, said she was against a new tougher French law against sexual harassment.
All women need to do was to shout at men who rubbed up against them on the Paris metro, she insisted.
“It happened to me when I was younger but now unfortunately I am too old for it to happen. I would shout at them and forget it a minute later.
“Those feminists who want to cast women as the victim, the fragile prey of men are not helping. We have to teach women to be strong. Don't traumatise yourself for the rest of your life, it is not your fault,” Millet added.
But the 69-year-old writer added further fuel to the flames by standing by her claim last month that she “really regretted not having being raped, because then I could have shown that you get over it.”
Another signatory to the Deneuve letter, porn star-turned-agony aunt Brigitte Lahaie, caused an outcry Thursday by claiming on French television that some women have orgasms when they are raped.
A riposte to the letter by 30 French feminists had earlier branded the signatories as “apologists for rape”.
Reaction to Millet defence of the letter was equally vehement on social media, with her comments trending on Twitter in France and one meme aimed at her — “Excuse me, I have to go and vomit” — going viral.