In what may be the first visa application to be rejected on the grounds of sexism, a California man who runs seminars on picking up women was barred from entering the United Kingdom this week after thousands signed an online petition to protest against what they said were misogynist and abusive techniques, the BBC reported.
Julien Blanc, 25, a so-called pick-up artist who teaches seminars through the company Real Social Dynamics on how to attract women, was denied a visa to enter the U.K. after widespread online outrage about his teachings culminated in a Change.org petition calling for the country to bar him from entering, according to the BBC. The petition received nearly 160,000 signatures.
Critics say Blanc’s seminars teach men to pick up women by demeaning and harassing them. As an example, in one picture widely shared on Twitter, Blanc appeared to choke a woman with his hands placed around her neck while motioning for her to be quiet, according to a CNN interview with Blanc.
The Change.org petition referred to another video in which Blanc encouraged shoving women’s heads toward his crotch, and said, “At least in Tokyo, if you're a white male, you can do what you want.”
“Do not associate the U.K. with a man who chokes women around the world as part of his pick up game,” read the Change.org petition. “It's not only women who are affected; Blanc's misogynistic 'pick up techniques' directly exploit vulnerable men who buy into rape culture and end up believing that this is an appropriate way to behave.”
It added, “To allow this man into the U.K. legitimizes sexual assault and predation, and sends a message that women are playthings or objects without agency.”
U.K. crime prevention minister Lynne Featherstone told the BBC that she was "delighted Mr. Blanc won't be coming to our shores,” adding that she was "extremely concerned" by the "sexist and utterly abhorrent statements" he had made about women.
Blanc also had to cut short a tour through Australia after his visa was cancelled as a result of protests against his tactics, according to The Guardian newspaper.
“This guy wasn’t putting forward political ideas,” Scott Morrison, the Australian immigration minister, told The Guardian. “He was putting forward abuse that was derogatory to women and those values are abhorred in this country.”
In the CNN interview, a nervous Blanc offered an apology to “anybody he may have offended.” The interviewer referred to Blanc as “the most hated man in the world,” and chided him for another picture shared on Twitter in which he holds up a T-shirt with the slogan, “Diss fatties bang hotties.”
Blanc said the shirt was an attempt at humor and “taken out of context,” adding that many of his clients meet their spouses through his program.
When the interviewer asked Blanc about the picture in which he appeared to choke a woman, Blanc responded, “I just want to make it clear, that is not what I teach.” H called the photo a “horrible attempt at humor.”
Blanc appears to be the first person denied a U.K. visa for sexist behavior, though it has barred people from entering for related reasons. For example, Ugandan pop star Bobi Wine was denied a visa to the U.K. in August for his homophobic lyrics, and American singer Chris Brown was also denied a U.K. visa in 2010 after assaulting his then-girlfriend, the pop singer Rihanna.