A collective of about 100 women has signed an open letter published in Le Monde today rejecting what it sees as a new puritanism in the wake of the sexual harassment and assault scandals. “Rape is a crime,” the women write. “Insistently or awkwardly hitting on someone is not.” Lamenting that the #MeToo campaign has led to “expeditious justice” for men who “may have touched a knee, tried to steal a kiss” or “spoken of ‘intimate’ things during a professional dinner,” the women further say they “defend a freedom to importune, which is indispensable to sexual freedom.”
Among the signatories, who include a number of doctors, sex experts, journalists and artists, the most famous name is Catherine Deneuve. Art critic and The Sexual Life Of Catherine M author Catherine Millet is also there.
The women write that “as a result of the Weinstein affair there has been a legitimate raising of awareness of sexual violence against women,” notably in the workplace. “This was necessary,” they say. “But this liberation of speech is turning on itself: People are being intimidated to speak in the right way or to stay silent on what makes them angry. Those who refuse to comply with such injunctions are looked upon as traitors, accomplices!”
The #MeToo campaign, the group says, has led to “denunciations and public accusations of people who, without giving them the possibility of responding or defending themselves, have been placed on exactly the same level as sex offenders. This expeditious justice already has its victims, men sanctioned in their job functions, forced to resign, etc, while their only wrong is to have touched a knee, tried to steal a kiss, spoken of ‘intimate’ things during a professional dinner or to have sent sexually suggestive messages to a woman whose attraction was not reciprocal.”
This has led to a “fever to send the ‘pigs’ to the slaughter,” which the opinion piece contends is “far from helping women to empower themselves,” and rather “serves the interests of the enemies of sexual freedom.”
Here are some further excerpts translated from the original French:
“As women, we don’t recognize ourselves in this feminism that, beyond the denunciation of abuses of power, takes the face of a hatred of men and sexuality. We believe that the freedom to say no to a sexual proposition is not without the freedom to importune. And we consider that one must know how to respond to this freedom to annoy other than by closing ourselves off in the role of the prey.”
“The purifying wave seems to know no limit… We censor an Egon Schiele nude on a poster… we seek the cancellation of a retrospective of Roman Polanski’s works… an academic finds Michelangelo Antonioni’s film Blow-Up ‘misogynistic’ and ‘unacceptable.’”
“Already, publishers are asking some of us to make our male characters less ‘sexist,’ to speak of sexuality and love with less disproportion or even to make it so that ‘trauma experienced by the female characters’ is made more obvious.”
“Above all, we are conscious that the human being is not monolithic: a woman can in the same day lead a professional team and enjoy being the sexual object of a man without being a ‘slut’ nor a vile accomplice of the patriarchy. She can ensure that her salary is equal to that of a man, but not feel forever traumatized by a rub on the subway, even if it’s considered a crime. She can even see it as the expression of a great sexual misery, or a non-event.”
The authors of the piece are writer/clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst Sarah Chiche; actress and BDSM specialist Catherine Robbe-Grillet; author Peggy Sastre; and author and journalist Abnousse Shalmani.
Along with Deneuve among the signatories are German actress and signer Ingrid Caven; actress and filmmaker Brigitte Jaques-Wajeman; actress Christine Boisson; and former pornographic film actress Brigitte Lahaie.