Julien Blanc is rightfully condemned, but who is willing to confront the global economy of misogyny?

It’s easy to blame a globalized and systemic issue on “a few bad guys.” This is exemplified by cases like “dating advice consultant,” Julien Blanc. Blanc tours the world teaching men “pickup artistry.” He demonstrates the misogyny inherent in the pickup enterprise by teaching other men to use his violent and emotionally abusive techniques in their approach to women. After public outcry condemned his actions, Blanc was kicked out of Australia before he could run his planned seminar in Melbourne. His methods include choking women and pushing their faces into his crotch — behaviour that is typified in pornography. But while Blanc has been rightfully criticized, the institutions that profit from such imagery go unchallenged.

Globally, sexist violence has reached epic proportions with one in three women affected. While the social factors are often questioned, the economic and political drivers are less so. This violence must be understood in the context of the global economy. Until the institutional drivers of sexual exploitation are confronted, we will see more and more men like Blanc. In fact Blanc is hardly an exception to the rule; in a globalized and misogynist consumer culture, Blanc plays the game to a T.

In decades past, particular sexist trends could be potentially contained within national cultures or boundaries. Today, under advanced globalization, those boundaries are less clear. American-based men like Blanc can sell misogynistic pickup seminars anywhere in the world and, with few exceptions, be understood and rewarded. More than ever, women are unanimously viewed as objects for male conquest. Violence against women and sexual objectification flourish. Driven by colonialist systems like the military and “sex tourism,” sexual exploitation is not a coincidence of globalization; it is one of its very foundations.

The sex industry struck gold by globalizing, first through the American military complex, later via the international banking system and its economic policy, and then via the Internet and tourism. Misogyny is a universal language. Sex and pornography require no translation, no explanation and no particular vernacular. The US industry association “Adult Video News” may reward titles like “I Wanna Buttf*ck Your Daughter” or “Ass Blasting Anal Whores,” but globally these images speak for themselves. Global economic inequality has long played a role in sexual exploitation. Only with the proliferation of pornography have these issues been broadcast — increasingly in live feeds for huge profit. If the adage goes “sex sells” then sexual exploitation sells better.

Pornography provides the propaganda for global sexual exploitation and serves as a training ground for abuse. Most pornographic films include violent acts toward women. In 2010, research showed 88 per cent of the most popular porn videos depicted violence against women. Porn-led trends like “facial abuse” have encouraged a culture of dangerous sexual aggression, demonstrated by men like Blanc. The consequences are serious — in New Zealand, 25 per cent of girls under 14 who have had sex were forced or raped. Teen girls also increasingly report being expected to perform anal sex. This is part and parcel of the porn repertoire that seemingly has no limit. Snuff porn and BDSM porn, along with practices like “rosebudding” have driven a global narrative of necrocapitalistic practice. “Necrocapitalist” in that both consumers and merchants find their climax through suffering or death. Sexual violence is increasingly confused with mutually enjoyable sex. It is often seen as a consumer’s right to purchase, but as Sex Trafficking Survivors United founder Rebecca Mott said, “no man has died from lack of sex, but millions of the prostituted will and have died.”

We are living in a world wallpapered with pornographic imagery, but the link to wider exploitation is either ignored or outright denied. Users even argue the sex industry can actually reduce sexist attitudes and violence. This goes directly against 2010 meta-analysis, most recent experimental evidence, and Nordic state legislation review which shows the opposite.

Western consumer culture reduces these issues to a matter of individual “choice” but this fails on numerous levels. Firstly the sex trade is not a “sexual choice;” it is a globalized institution with significant economic and political power. Secondly, consumer choice may restrict or violate the rights of others. Some UN member states estimate between 60-90 per cent of women in the sex trade are trafficked and Thai estimates show 40 per cent of the sex trade is child sex abuse and around 90 per cent of trafficked girls are underage. Indigenous women are also highly overrepresented in areas of the trade.

While the US was enforcing its brand of sexual exploitation on girls and women in the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea and more, American liberal feminists were debating the role of choice and agency for those exploited. Those who criticize such issues may be framed as “anti-sex” or “anti woman,” even, but Western “choice” rhetoric actually works to legitimize exploitation of the economically vulnerable. Arguments for choice, agency, or “feminist porn” provide opportunities to expand sales instead of ethics.

Lydia Cacho’s investigations found that sex traffickers use “choice” rhetoric to justify their trade. At the age of 18, exploited children supposedly become free and willing adult workers. This creates a dangerously blurred line given that the “teen” genre remains the most sought-after porn, not to mention the epidemic of child sex abuse pornography. Buyer preference for younger women sets the scene for child sex abuse.

Developing economies have neither the resources nor the structural integrity required to indict child sex abuse. High levels of tourism are usually dictated by international economic policy and the laws against trafficking remain fragmented — Australia only implemented legislation in 2005. To make matters worse, male punters of the sex industry report they are not concerned if a woman is forced, trafficked, or otherwise. With the exception of a few Nordic states, the customer can buy sex anywhere in the world. Much like the pickup enterprise, the sex tourist trade congregates online. Entire search engines are dedicated to informing “sex tourists” on how to best exploit girls and women in any country.

Left-leaning sex trade supporters commonly argue that all industries are exploitative under capitalism and that, therefore, the sex industry is like any other. Those who survive the industry tell a different story — that the degradation and lifelong pain is incomparable, unquantifiable, and unimaginable; that the suffering continually recurs as their abuse is trafficked on film around the world, over and over. The rates of PTSD experienced by survivors of the sex trade attest to this, being equal to those of war veterans. Those who have done the soul-wrenching work of writing their sexual exploitation into memoirs may be derided as “anti-sex” and intimidated, harassed, or stalked online. Sexual exploitation is defended as though it were sexual liberation. This attitude is bolstered by mainstreaming the sex trade into wider culture, media and business, where men like Blanc thrive.

The industry exploits global inequality, frames abuse as entertainment, promotes violence and degradation, fosters racism and sexism and is, nevertheless, often defended as some kind of sex-positive utopia. Yet this is the academy for men like Blanc. While Blanc receives well-deserved criticism, the global industry behind his attitude and the practices he promotes also requires serious critique. What use is confronting one individual misogynist if a global economy of misogyny goes on condoned?

What’s more concerning than individual men like Julien Blanc is that these attitudes are not rare, they are proliferated by politically powerful transnational enterprise. Blanc and his ilk need to know they are not entitled to women, but they are unlikely to learn while our economic, legal, and political institutions reflect the opposite. Consumers need to take off the porn-coloured glasses and critique the industry for what it is: a global trade in human rights abuses that makes sexual abuse of women profitable and more men like Blanc inevitable.

 

Laura McNally is a psychologist, consultant, author and PhD candidate. Her current work draws upon critical theory to examine the limitations of corporate social responsibility and liberal feminism. She blogs at lauramcnally.com.

 

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Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • anne cameron

    Pornography brings in more money in British Columbia than the logging, fishing, and mining industries combined.

  • Meh

    Firstly: loooooove your writing (and great piece).

    Secondly: I actually followed the Julian Blanc protests and the happenings at St Kilda and outside Crown. I thought it was fantastic that people were actually giving a shit (as I’d never seen that before). But in the aftermath I started clicking through the twitter comments and found that a number of people supporting Blanc getting his arse kicked out of the country were also people with twitter descriptions that said ‘pro-kink’ and ‘pro-bdsm’. I sat there thinking, “WHAT THE FUCK?”

    There’s some seriously distorted thinking out there. I screamed through the screen: “So, if the women consented to him treating them like shit then it would be ok?!?” UGH I’m too fucking annoyed to even think about it.

    Thank you for presenting an argument that makes us think beyond Blanc and shitheads like him, and onto the systemic problem of men’s violence against women. THANK YOU!!!

  • I am glad that the aggressive, hyper-masculine jerk was kicked out of my country, but I am concerned for women in other parts of the world, who have to put up with him and the men who listen to his nonsense. I am also concerned that he and other anti-feminists will want revenge as a result of this.

    I wonder who was behind the protests against Blanc and why I did not hear about them earlier. I try to stay away from the social media world because it seems to be dominated by anti-feminists, reactionaries and pornography lovers, but I do associate with left wing activist groups. The protests are unlikely to have been the work of the wimpy, liberal “feminists” that attend universities (they think protests are too “radical” for them, yes that is what student politics is like nowadays) and yet I know that radical feminists have little influence over the left and the culture in general. This all seems very mysterious to me, but I maybe I am just out of touch with modern day, internet-fueled activism.

    • Zhanghe

      I first heard of the movement to take him down on Tumblr. The girl who started this is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30ZWKn6JBxg

      Note the horrible MRA comments attacking her appearance and everything else.
      But it snowballed in a matter of days, leading to the Facebook page here:
      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Take-Down-Julien-Blanc/749974028389906?fref=nf

      When I got on board, as a Canadian, the petition to keep him out of Canada was at 2k. So I advertised all of this on all my social media blogs ( I have a rather large following out there at about 40k). And it just kept going and going.
      Now Julien Blanc and RSD have been banned from AUS, Japan cancelled all his seminar dates ( with their own petition, and this was led by a foreign who taught english there and was disgusted), and as you know Canada.
      It took social media by storm. And Julien Blanc is not alone. His cronie and RSD company co-owner Owen “Tyler” Cook freely and openly admitted to raping a woman in Thailand, a video which he has sine taken down ( they are rushing to take everything down). But what he said has been captured everywhere including here:
      http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/11/13/romance-or-rape-california-dating-coach-under-fire-after-video-details-graphic/

      I’m so glad Feminist Current covered this. Thank you!

  • martin dufresne

    Dear Ms. McNally,
    I would be honoured to publish a French version of your tremendous article on the http://ressourcesProstitution.wordpress.com website, a multilingual portal of current news, articles, research and think pieces on sexism and sexual exploitation in general. Do I have your permission to type away?
    Martin Dufresne
    translator of feminists extraordinaires such as Dworkin, Ekman, Mott, Murphy…

    • Laura Mcnally

      Of course, thanks Martin!

  • The Real Cie

    What a disgusting gross creeper. Men like this take advantage of vulnerable women who are seeking approval. It wasn’t until I was older that I developed some self respect. Then I became what men like this call a “cold bitch.” Yes, and proud of it.
    I hate the “Pickup Artist” mentality.
    Of course, men should be taught not to engage in it.
    But as long as they still are, we all need to work to bolster women’s self-esteem, to help women believe in themselves so they don’t fall for this crap.

    • Missfit

      Absolutely. It saddens me that young women are taught to seek approval from men. We all need approval growing up and women do so in a world where they are taught men are worth more than them, where collectively, men’s thoughts and achievements are deemed more important than women’s, and where they receive the message that their value reside in their sexiness. I agree that we have to work on our girls’ self-esteem, we women have to counter this patriarchal culture, we have to create another one that will have young women seeking (and getting) their approval from other women who will value them for their humanity, thoughts and achievements included. Then when such women will engage with men, they will do so from a place of confidence and won’t passively accept ill-treatment from them (because that is what the Julien Blanc of the world expect and count on).

  • Sabine

    Over a hundred thousand people have signed a petition demanding the UK Home Secretary refuses this dangerous moron a visa. I also just read about a so-called British “comedian” known as Dapper Laughs whose material includes rape jokes and how to “pull” (read: sexually assault) women. Very similar to the aforementioned tosspot. His pathetic attempt to excuse his behaviour, coming after having been booted off TV after huge numbers of complaints, made me see red. You’ll see what I mean if you read about it here:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/11/11/dapper-laughs-newsnight_n_6142004.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

    Does there seem to be a shift in awareness concerning rape culture or am I being prematurely, albeit tentatively, optimistic?

  • Jan Dunlop

    Thank you for your work Laura. I am forever saying much the same thing (in a much less coherent and articulate manner) to my husband, as I hunch over my laptop, supporting individual activist actions – all the while being aware that the porn behemoth is creating similar problem of misogyny on a massive global scale.

    I teach about respectful relationships with a focus on pornography but am aware that our work is a ‘drop in the ocean’. Albeit, an important one.

  • Lee

    I love your writing, Laura.

    Julien Blanc is an angry, pathetic, self-loathing, emotionally-stunted 7-year-old. Misogyny is his sad little rage-outlet, it’s his the space where it’s safe to act out. There are, unfortunately, a lot of men like this.

    • Sabine

      If there were any doubts about the state of things for women in this world then the fact that this sinister, perverted, sicko creep can attract audiences across the globe should allay them. He should be charged with hate speech crimes and inciting men to rape.

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  • Lola

    Standing ovation.

  • derrington

    What I think is so interesting is that other types of violence driven by social hierarchy such as racism, homophobia etc is labelled by the attitude of the person doing the violence whereas violence against women is fragmented into a hundred different chards, domestic, honour, street harrassment etc in an effort not to link these all together on a linear scale of sexism. The location of where the sexist violence took place should be irrelevant and yet it is what is refered to, allowing the attitude to be invisible.

    The you have sexist media – porn – inciting violence against women and children – once again held to be outside of the normal frames of regulation of media promotion of violence against a distinct group of people in a way that racist and homophobic hate speech is not.

    I dont think most male led governments are really self aware enough of their own attitudes towards one half of their voting population. The trouble is, none of their parties address the issue of incitement of violence against women and hate speech in porn and they keep repeating the mantra that sexual media does not follow the same patterns that every other media does regarding its influence on public attitudes, which to my mind is like saying that oxygen works different in Canada than it does in the US.

    • Missfit

      Here is an article concerning Julien Blanc and the law: http://www.straight.com/news/770831/reasonable-doubt-julien-blanc-canadian-law-and-repugnant-acts

      From the article:

      ‘In Canada, section 319(2) of the Criminal Code states that it is an offence to communicate statements, other than in private conversation, which willfully promote hatred against any identifiable group.

      Considering that in a vacuum, one could see how by today’s standards, Blanc’s content could possibly be considered hate speech against women. However, if we scratch the surface, we learn that it’s not that simple. Section 318 (4) of the Criminal Code defines identifiable group as any section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation. Women as a whole would not be considered an identifiable group.’

      Here is another intersting article in regards to hate speech:
      http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/senate-likely-to-amend-transgender-rights-bill-senator-says

      From the article:

      ‘An NDP-sponsored bill making it illegal to discriminate against transgendered people may be amended by a Senate committee at the longstanding request of a Conservative senator. (…)
      NDP MP Randall Garrison is pushing the Senate to adopt his bill, which would make it illegal to discriminate or incite hate on the basis of gender identity, defined in his bill as an “individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the sex that the individual was assigned at birth.”
      Sen. Nancy Ruth wants the bill to not only add the term gender identity to the Canada’s hate speech laws, but the term “sex” as well. Those laws make it illegal to incite hate or genocide against a religion, ethnicity, but not based on gender identity or sex.
      Currently, under the advocating genocide section of the Criminal Code, an “identifiable group” includes any “section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” Garrison’s bill would add the words “gender identity,” while Ruth would also add the word “sex”: “colour, race, religion, ethnic origin, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”
      She argues her amendment would help transgender women who undergo sex reassignment surgery to make their physical appearance match the gender with which they identify. Once that transition physically into a female is complete, Ruth argues that transgender person would lose the protection guaranteed in Garrison’s bill.’

      Interesting that in order to make her claim more acceptable, the Senator had to insist that it would benefit transwomen…

      We need to push to have women, an historically oppressed group, gain legal protection from hate speech like other oppressed groups. Feminists should work on that. I know it has been tried before but we have to go at it again (at least in the US with Andrea Dworkin – I remember she reported something to the likes that a judge said that if hate speech against women became prosecutable, the justice system wouldn’t be able to cope).

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