An open letter written by author Catherine Millet and signed by 100 women, including French film star Catherine Deneuve was published in Le Monde on Monday, which claimed that the #MeToo debate on sexual harassment has resulted in a "denunciation campaign," and warned against a "climate of totalitarian society."
While the letter acknowledged that it was necessary to raise awareness of sexual violence against women, the signatories argued that "the freedom to importune someone is essential to sexual freedom" and that "insistent flirting" is not a crime.
The signatories came under fire two days later from women's rights activists for denouncing the movement.
Women's rights activists wrote their own letter, signed by 30 women and published Wednesday by news portal Franceinfo.
"The signatories of this [Le Monde] letter deliberately mix a relationship of seduction, based on respect and pleasure, with violence," wrote activist Caroline De Haas in response.
"How can one imagine for a moment a liberated society in which women freely and fully command their bodies and their sexuality when more than half of them claim to have already suffered sexual violence?" De Haas wrote.
France's former presidential candidate Ségolène Royal posted on Twitter: "Too bad that our great Catherine Deneuve joins this appalling text."
While activist Tarana Burke started the hashtag in 2006 to give a voice to victims of sexual assault, the movement grew rapidly after allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein surfaced publicly in October.