Gwyneth's dating complaint outrages British men. Her comment that Brits are too shy to ask her out prompts stiff-upper-lip Brits to defend their maligned manhood

When you have a new movie to promote, it’s probably not a good idea to alienate a whole country — or even half of a country. But that’s what ”Possession” star Gwyneth Paltrow seems to have done with her dismissive comments about British men. Having complained in a recent magazine article that Englishmen were too shy to ask her out, she prompted the usually stoic Brits to make emotional defenses of English manhood in numerous British papers.

Paltrow, who had suggested earlier this year that she might like to move to London, apparently no longer feels that way, judging by the comments she made to the U.K.’s Now magazine. She said that, when she was starring in ”Proof” on the London stage earlier this year, only two men asked her out during her stay. (One was identified as ”A Knight’s Tale” costar James Purefoy). ”British people don’t seem to ask each other out,” she said. ”If someone asks you out, they are really going out on a limb whereas in America, it happens all the time. Someone will come up to you and ask you for dinner and you’ll say ‘Sure.’ It’s no big deal and no weight should be attached to it. It’s only dinner for God’s sake.”

The response has been nearly unanimous, from the right-wing Sun (”Give our British men a break, Gwyneth,”) to the left-wing Daily Mirror (”Sorry Gwyn but you nasal, gum-chewing U.S. girls are frighteningly sexless and just plain dull.”) The Daily Mail theorized that Paltrow is still hung up on ex Ben Affleck, writing, ”The real reasons Gwyneth is unhappy: she’s lost her man to Jennifer Lopez.”

The Mirror’s Kevin O’Sullivan defended the stiff-upper-lip ways of his countrymen, contrasting them with Paltrow’s famously weepy Oscar acceptance speech for ”Shakespeare in Love.” He wrote that, during her speech, he ”frantically searched for a sick bag. I believe I speak for millions of unromantic Brits when I say I will NEVER forgive you for your Niagara Falls weeping as you thanked everyone you’d ever met.”

Only the Times seemed to concede Paltrow’s point. Suggesting a list of eligible British bachelors for the 29-year-old actress, it named newly available steeplechase jockey Richard Johnson (who recently split from royal granddaughter Zara Phillips), but said of him, ”He is a tad boring and rumored to be prone to jealousy.”