12 Nov 2014

Why are men paying to learn how to abuse women?

The Home Office is being urged to deny a visa to a US pick-up artist teaching men how to sexually assault women – but campaigners tell Channel 4 News that women are facing a bigger issue.

Controversial ‘dating coach’ Julien Blanc cut short his Australian tour last week after his visa was cancelled in the wake of protests against his seminars.

Mr Blanc, who travels around the world teaching men how to manipulate women, is due to arrive in the UK for a series of seminars. But a petition on campaigning website change.org, calling for a ban, has gathered more than 5,500 signatures.

In one of Mr Blanc’s most widely publicised videos, he describes “seducing” Japanese women with all the subtlety of a billygoat in rut: “At least in Tokyo, if you’re a white male, you can do what you want.”

‘Trivialises abuse of women’

Sarah Green, spokesperson for the End Violence Against Women Coalition told Channel 4 News: “Julien Blanc is part of a culture which trivialises abuse of women. At worst this tells victims of abuse that what has happened to them doesn’t matter, and gives potential abusers the nod that such behaviour will not be taken seriously. We need an urgent public conversation about why a man like this can find a market and profit from the peddling of such vile misogyny.”

The campaign has thrown the world of pick-up artists into the spotlight once again after a disturbed gunman killed six people in California earlier this year. Elliot Rodgers, 22, killed six people and injured thirteen others before committing suicide in Isla Vista, California.

Rodgers was hailed as a hero by the underground pickup artist community for men unable to date women. Pick-up artists, or PUAs, often teach these men online or in seminars how to attract women.

‘Pop culture normalisation’

Rebecca Holmes, communications coordinator at abuse charity Tender, told Channel 4 News: “One of the most concerning elements of this underground movement of pick-up artists is the robust online following that many of their forums have.

“We worry particularly about young people who are just learning to navigate their own relationships and are therefore increasingly vulnerable to this pop culture normalisation of violence against women and girls.”

Katie Russell, media co-ordinator at Rape Crisis England & Wales added: “It is concerning that he [Julien Blanc] has been able to build a business and make money out of teaching other men to abuse and objectify women. It’s clear there is a real strength of feeling from a diverse range of people that this man should not be allowed to perpetrate his racism and misogyny in the UK.

“But there’s also clearly a wider issue here about the trivialisation and normalisation of violence against women and girls both here and around the world that we all have a responsibility to address.”

Channel 4 News approached Julien Blanc’s group RSD (Real Social Dynamics) on Tuesday, but have yet to receive a response.