Online petition against 'pick-up artist' Julien Blanc gathers more than 6,000 supporters

SINGAPORE - An online petition to prevent self-proclaimed "pick-up artist" Julien Blanc from coming to Singapore has gathered close to 6,000 supporters in four days.

The petition started on Nov 14 on change.org is addressed to Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and is in anticipation of Mr Blanc's possible attempt to come to Singapore. As of Tuesday night, it had 6,494 supporters. It has a target of 10,000 signatures.

A dating coach at California-based Real Social Dynamics (RSD), Mr Blanc travels round the world advocating the use of physical aggression and emotional abuse to convince women to have sex, according to videos of his workshops on YouTube.

One of his techniques to "open" a woman is to approach her and choke her before covering her mouth to keep her quiet.

Ms Charis Mah, who started the petition, wrote in it: "To allow this man or the group that he works for into Singapore legitimises sexual assault and predation, and sends a message that women are playthings or objects without agency."

Ms Mah told The Straits Times that the response seems quick, and that she finds the show of support heartening. She contacted the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware) before putting up the appeal, she said. They told her they would support her and share the petition with their network, she said. They highlighted how Mr Blanc's suggestions also contravene Singapore's laws, she added.

This is the first petition Ms Mah has ever started. "I thought a petition would be a fast and effective way to highlight this issue to our relevant authorities and request their action, especially since the other countries' petitions have already paved the way," she said.

Brazil was the latest country, on Nov 14, to reject Mr Blanc after details of his techniques emerged recently. An online petition urging the Brazilian government to deny him a visa collected 280,000 signatures in just two days. Brazil's actions came a week after the Australian government revoked his visa, forcing him to cancel a tour and leave the country ahead of schedule.

Similar online petitions were started in Canada and Japan. He was due to be in Singapore on Nov 20-22 according to screenshot of Mr Blanc's company's website, but the tour dates have been removed since the global outcry. The British also have an ongoing petition, and government officials have asked for his visa to be denied.

The backlash against him gained traction when Ms Jenn Li, based in the United States, started a Twitter campaign. She came across the video of his lecture about Japanese women, which was derogatory, and started the hashtag #TakeDownJulienBlanc.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg