By Naomi Miles, Chair of Trustees
Andrew Tate is a man who, at least when it comes to women, stands against the basic moral values and principles of our society.
He openly speaks of women as property to be used and abused for men’s sexual gratification, and is subject to an investigation into allegations of rape and human trafficking in Romania.
Tate himself has now been banned from most mainstream social media platforms, with the exception of Twitter, and has attracted an avalanche of condemnation from his critics.
Part of what makes Tate so slippery and dangerous is his fluency in double-speak. He denies being sexist and misogynist and then boasts of being both; he claims to love and value women and then talks of controlling them like dogs; he speaks of respecting other people’s right to “believe and act as they wish” and then boasts about manipulating women to comply with his demands.
Tate should be someone who has forfeited his right to be heard and respected, a person whose online posts are relegated to an obscure corner of the web.
But he’s not. The fact is that Andrew Tate is as well loved as he is hated. He has a significant fan base. His videos are popular, having been viewed more than 11.6 billion times on TikTok alone, with many views from young men who admire and want to emulate him.
We cannot skate over the question: how has Tate gained such mainstream popular appeal among young men?
This is a point of cultural embarrassment and the symptom of a deeper malaise. Because far from being a cultural anomaly, Andrew Tate’s views on sex and women are straight out of mainstream pornography.
Tate is a self-professed pornographer. What makes him so problematic is that he didn’t appear to know (or chose to ignore) the social rules of engagement around pornography. We live in a society where pornography is normalised, but since we also believe in equality and non-violence, our society is in the awkward position where it can only accept pornography on the proviso that it remains out of sight.
However, Tate has forced us to see pornography in the cold light of day, where there’s no denying its sexism and misogyny. He has used social media to show us how he was living in a pornographic fantasy of his own making. His life in Romania embodies pornography’s central theme – namely, men’s sexual dominance over women.
In pornography videos, the ‘storylines’ generally revolve around men using some form of coercion, manipulation or violence to get women to do whatever they want. In Tate’s TikToks, he boasts about having ultimate power over beautiful women who existed to do his bidding. In a now-deleted post, he describes the loverboy method he used to recruit girls into making pornography:
“My job was to meet a girl, go on a few dates, sleep with her, test if she’s quality, get her to fall in love with me to where she’d do anything I say, and then get her on webcam so we could become rich together.”
But how rich do you think the women become? How equally do you think the profits are split?
Much like Hugh Heffner and his Playboy empire, pornography has been both Tate’s doing and his undoing. It’s brought him notoriety, fame and wealth, but it may lead to his ruin.
Most pornographers choose to lurk in the shadows, concealing their identities and trusting that for as long as they stay under the radar, they will be exempt from the usual standards of regulation, legal compliance and accountability.
As a society we have become adept at turning a blind eye to pornography’s flagrant celebration of sexism, misogyny, racism and abuse. We persuade ourselves that the violence we see isn’t “real”- that it’s somehow a kind of performance art that neither reflects nor affects ordinary life. As we wring our hands over the problem of rape culture, we carefully ignore a form of media rooted in the violation of our social moral boundaries. As we demand equality, we point the finger anywhere but at a vast global industry premised on the celebration of men’s aggressive sexual domination of women.
Our double-think is so firmly entrenched that anyone daring to question the abuse represented in pornography is branded an enemy of free speech. Commentators and campaigners against sexual violence scratch their heads at how some of the things Tate says (in the name of “free speech”) have been published on social media platforms, given that they break their terms and conditions. They raise concerns about the influence of his misogynistic videos on his young male audience.
And rightly so; but whilst these concerns are valid, they must surely lead us to a far bigger issue. Even with their 11 billion+ views, the influence of Tate’s posts fades into insignificance next to the millions of free online pornography videos consumed each day. Pornography sites care very little whether the videos they host comply with their terms and conditions, let alone the law. Their only real concern is making money from simulating our sexual desire at any cost. Their algorithms are designed to keep our sexual appetites piqued; once we’ve built up a tolerance to straightforward “vanilla sex”, they direct towards whatever extreme, hardcore content is likely to keep us coming back for more.
Pornography sites present users with graphic depictions of gang rape, child sexual abuse, incest, torture and all kinds of violence.The young men who watch this material are obliged to unhook their sexuality from the rest of themselves, ignoring any qualm of conscience and repressing the sense that what they’re watching is at odds with the values they hold (or should hold) as friends, fathers, lovers and even just responsible, law-abiding citizens.
Andrew Tate represents a problem of our own making. No doubt he, like millions of young men like him, was brought up on pornography. Tate has thoroughly imbibed its values and become a very public example of porn-ruined masculinity characterised by entitlement and an utter lack of responsibility, conscience and humanity. Pornography has stripped away his empathy so that he sees women merely as things to be used and abused. In dehumanising them, Tate dehumanises himself, acting the “Alpha Male” at the expense of basic human attributes like compassion or respect. The fact he has been such a role model for some young men should wake us up to the cultural vacuum that currently exists around masculine identity. We must do better.
How do we solve a problem like Andrew Tate? By dragging online pornography out of the shadows, where it quietly spreads its poison, into the light of day. This form of media undermines our belief in the essential dignity and worth of all people and turns what should be a beautiful, intimate form of human intercourse into a form of violence and abuse. To reclaim our sexuality, we have to call it out and hold it to account, just as we’ve done with Andrew Tate.