Catherine Deneuve has defended men's rights to hit on women as she came out publicly against the #MeToo movement.

The 74-year-old actress is among over 100 French women in entertainment who have put their name to an open letter published in the Le Monde newspaper which denounces the social media campaign against sexual harassment, along with its French counterpart #Balancetonporc, which translates ''Expose Your Pig.''

The letter, as translated by The New York Times, begins: ''Rape is a crime. But insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor is gallantry a chauvinist aggression.

''As a result of the Weinstein affair, there has been a legitimate realisation of the sexual violence women experience, particularly in the workplace, where some men abuse their power. It was necessary. But now this liberation of speech has been turned on its head.''

The women claim the #MeToo movement - which inspired Hollywood's Times Up movement against sexual harassment, sexual assault and gender bias in the entertainment industry - has led to a string of public accusations against men, placing in the same category as sex offenders without giving them a chance to defend themselves.

They write: ''This expedited justice already has its victims, men prevented from practising their profession as punishment, forced to resign, etc., while the only thing they did wrong was touching a knee, trying to steal a kiss, or speaking about 'intimate' things at a work dinner, or sending messages with sexual connotations to a woman whose feelings were not mutual.''

The women - who include Oscar-nominated actress Deneuve among them - argue that the #MeToo movement could end repressing sexual freedom, rather than empower women.

They write: ''A woman can, in the same day, lead a professional team and enjoy being the sexual object of a man, without being a 'promiscuous woman,' nor a vile accomplice of patriarchy.

''The philosopher Ruwen Ogien defended the freedom to offend as essential to artistic creation. In the same way, we defend a freedom to bother, indispensable to sexual freedom.''

Though the letter does not attempt to define what constitutes sexual misconduct and what does not, they state they are, ''sufficiently farseeing not to confuse a clumsy come-on and sexual assault''.

Many people have already come out on social media in anger against the publication of the letter.

Asia Argento, an actress who accused Harvey Weinstein of raping her, tweeted: ''Catherine Deneuve and other French women tell the world how their interiorized misogyny has lobotomized them to the point of no return (sic)''