If, at any point in the last few months, you’ve had to Google exactly who Andrew Tate is, you’re not alone.
According to Google Trends’ Year in Search Report for 2022, “‘Who is Andrew Tate?’ was the most popular search term starting with “Who is” in the United States. Across the globe, Tate himself was the 8th most searched person, placing just behind con artist Anna Sorokin (or Delvey) and in front of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
Before being publicly owned by Greta Thunberg and subsequently arrested for sex trafficking charges, Andrew Tate was once a kickboxer turned social media personality. And for those lucky enough to have existed outside his sphere of online influence (and good for you), it’s hard to imagine just how big Tate’s following once was.
Just before his accounts were shut down, he had 4.7 million followers on Instagram, 768,000 subscribers on YouTube, and over 11 billion views on TikTok. Women and gender non-conforming folk would know just how bad sexism is allowed to get on these platforms, and so actually getting yourself banned from one — let alone several — means that the problem is really serious.
In the case of Andrew Tate, dubbed “the King of Toxic Masculinity,” his hyper-masculine, violently anti-woman views were deemed unsafe by Meta, which owns both Facebook and Instagram, based on their policies on dangerous organizations and individuals. TikTok banned him due to company policy on misogyny and hateful propaganda.
But where did he come from, and how exactly did he end up in Romanian police custody? Before we dive in, a trigger warning is in order: This article contains mentions of rape, sexual assault, and violence. If any of those topics are likely to upset you, please read through other pieces here on A Little Bit Human.
A Brief History of Andrew Tate
Early Life and Early Fame
Born Emory Andrew Tate on December 1, 1986 in Washington, D.C., Tate’s first sport was actually chess. At the age of five, he learned to play with his father, who was an international master. He was so good that he began to compete in adult tournaments as a child. When his parents divorced, Tate’s mother moved both him and his brother Tristan to a town called Luton in England.
At the age of 19, he began training in boxing and various martial arts. Just three years later, in 2008, the International Sport Kickboxing Association (ISKA) ranked him 7th overall in the light-heavyweight category in Britain. Weighing 198 lbs and standing 6’3”, Tate lost nine times across a career of 85 kickboxing matches. By the time he retired from kickboxing in 2013, he had been world champion in two weight divisions.
By 2015, he and his brother Tristan were running an online webcam sex business out of an apartment in Luton. It was an enterprise that he’d later replicate and grow in Romania.
In 2016, he was cast to be part of the 17th season of the reality show Big Brother — his first real opportunity at fame outside of kickboxing circles. He didn’t last a week.
At the time, the news about him being kicked out by showrunners was linked to homophobic and racist tweets. Later, reports detailed that his removal was because of a video of Tate slapping a woman and proceeding to beat her with a belt — acts that he claimed were consensual.
But recent reports from Vice World News reveal that it was actually a police investigation due to suspicion of rape that made Big Brother producers remove Tate from the show. Contrary to the claims above, Hertfordshire Police had received criminal complaints from two women who had worked in Tate’s webcam business in 2015, and these complaints were what led to him being removed from the show.
One complainant said that Tate had strangled her at least five times and had seen him doing the same to other women at least 10 times. The other woman reported being raped by him.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the UK police force’s track record, the investigation moved at a snail’s pace. They did, however, inform Big Brother showrunners about the ongoing investigation into Tate in June 2016, which led to his removal from the show.
But it wasn’t until 2019, four years after the complaints were made, that the Hertfordshire Police submitted the case to a lawyer at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which is in charge of assessing whether a conviction is possible for cases investigated by the police.
In the end, and despite evidence submitted by the complainants, the CPS declined to prosecute. Tate walked away with a severely shortened TV stint, and not much else in terms of consequences.
Becoming the King of Toxic Masculinity
Instead of correcting the behavior that got him booted out of TV, Tate leaned into it.
After his brief stint on Big Brother, Tate shook the dust off his shoes and continued on with his webcam business. On the Fresh and Fit podcast, he had bragged, “At one point, I had 75 women working for me in four locations and I was doing $600,000 a month.”
His meteoric rise to fame was due in part to his next online venture: a program called Hustler’s University, an online education program that charged members $49 monthly to learn about stock trading, cryptocurrency, and e-commerce.
It’s also a bit of a pyramid scheme: Hustler’s University was promoted primarily through an affiliate marketing program that provided a commission to existing members who shared videos of Tate and recruited other members. The new members are then eligible to sign up for the marketing program, too.
Again, those outside of Tate’s target market might find it difficult to take the site seriously. Hustler’s University, which had no institutional accreditation whatsoever, had a website that was almost comical in its dedication to a certain brand of masculinity. Think videos of fancy cars and yachts with women in them. But the affiliate marketing program was successful at pushing members to make it viral on social media platforms, leading to a staggering 127,000 members before the site was shut down. In August 2022, Stripe pulled out of processing digital payments for the website.
A big part of Tate’s virality was his inflammatory views about women and what he likes to do with us. In his videos — and again, the level of misogyny here is almost cartoonishly awful — Tate straight up says that women can’t drive, belong in the home, and are a man’s property. Styling himself as a cigar-smoking, car-loving, gun-toting, well-muscled playboy, he would talk about choking women and destroying our belongings.
He also had a lot to say about rape. While the rest of us watched the Harvey Weinstein scandal unfold, Tate was proudly expressing support for the disgraced producer on his social media accounts. In a deleted tweet, he wrote: “If you put yourself in a position to be raped, you must bare [sic] some responsibility.” The statement got him banned from Twitter in October 2017.
In that same bizarre rant, he had also tweeted, “I’m not saying it’s OK you got raped. No woman should be abused regardless.“ Though the latter statement is definitely true, it goes against plenty of what Tate has proudly declared about himself prior. In a recently released audio clip, he admits to “love raping” a woman who had accused him of rape.
Tate was so dead-set on discrediting victims and claiming that men were the real victims of the #MeToo era that he decided to move to Romania. In a disgusting old video, he said that “probably 40% of the reason” he moved from the UK to Romania was for the latter’s relaxed sexual assault laws. Tate added, “I’m not a rapist, but I like the idea of just being able to do what I want. I like being free.”
Apparently, he was under the impression — a wrong one, we now know — that he can’t be charged of sexual assault there.
But for years after his move, he was able to grow what one might call a business and another might call organized crime, while also peddling an extremely abusive ideology of “alpha masculinity” to young men and teen boys online.
In a podcast aired in 2021, he said, “I will state right now that I am absolutely sexist, I am absolutely a misogynist…There is no way you can be rooted in reality and not be sexist.”
The Road to Romanian Jail
By August of 2022, nearly five years after Twitter kicked Tate out of the platform, other social media sites followed suit. Following an online campaign by organizations like Hope Not Hate, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube all moved to deplatform the King of Toxic Masculinity within weeks of each other.
Tate, of course, did his best to pretend he was the victim in the situation, saying, “The media is spinning a false image of me, on repeat, and Instagram bowing to pressure is a massive shame.”
He goes on to describe his content — which includes graphic descriptions of how he would assault a woman who accused him of cheating — as “a beacon of light, teaching people of all genders and races how to respect one another for years to come.” Tate laments that without him, a self-proclaimed misogynist, “these fans can not learn important lessons of love.”
Of the male hearts that this statement touched, one of them might’ve been Elon Musk’s.
His controversial takeover of Twitter introduced massive lay-offs and a slew of policy changes, including one that did away with permanent bans on the platform. This meant that Tate, alongside other figures like Jordan Peterson, Kathy Griffin, and The Babylon Bee were allowed to come back to Twitter.
As Tate made his gleeful return to spewing brazen cruelty on the platform, Romanian authorities were closing in on him. As early as April 2022, police were already searching Romanian properties connected to both Andrew and Tristan Tate as part of a criminal investigation related to crimes of human trafficking and rape.
On December 27, Tate woke up, decided to log on to Twitter, and attack (of all people) Greta Thunberg. Precisely what possessed him to do this, I can’t tell you. After all, the 19-year-old climate activist has built a reputation of smartly out-trolling trolls who happened to be VIPs, including Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and Boris Johnson.
Maybe it’s because he’s built a career out of making inflammatory statements and capitalizing on how platforms incentivize extremism. Maybe he didn’t realize the level of cringe in being a man in his mid-30s starting beef with a GenZer. I truly don’t know.
We know, of course, that he tried to recover with a video of him clad in a robe and smoking a cigar. At one point in the video, he receives two boxes of pizza (more on this later). The entire thing would’ve been hilarious if I wasn’t so uncomfortable from the second-hand embarrassment of watching him be so clearly bothered about losing a fight he picked himself.
Just two days later, on December 29, Romanian authorities arrested Tate for alleged involvement in human trafficking. He is one of four people, including his brother Tristan, currently detained for recruiting victims of a criminal porn scam.
According to Romanian officials, the suspects would trick women by pretending they were interested in genuine relationships — a human trafficking technique called the “Loverboy Method.” They then lured the women into houses where they would be forced to participate in pornographic acts on camera. The videos were then sold online.
Because of the timing of Thunberg’s very public own and the arrest, people were quick to speculate that there might’ve been a connection. Rumors then spread that the pizza boxes Tate received in the reactionary video tipped the police off about his location.
Sorry to burst Twitter’s bubble, but the rumors are untrue. They’re certainly funny though.
What I can give you are three truths.
The first truth is that Andrew Tate absolutely snitched on himself for years. In podcast appearances like this one, he bragged about recruiting girlfriends into performing sex acts on camera. In his old website, he bragged about his success with the Loverboy Method and offered to teach other men how to go about it. And in an interview, he bragged about a “total scam” of a business he and his brother Tristan ran, where they charged men who wanted to talk to attractive women. The Tate brothers charged men $4 per minute — and kept most of the money for themselves.
The second truth is that it was because of the bravery of Andrew Tate’s victims that he was put behind bars. They came forward as witnesses and allowed the Romanian police to do what the UK police couldn’t (or wouldn’t) back in 2015. And for that, they have all my respect.
Finally, the third truth is that — pizza box evidence notwithstanding — a 19-year-old woman got to him on Twitter with a “small penis” joke, and he has plenty of time to sit and think about that in jail.
A day after his arrest, Romanian prosecutors requested to extend Tate’s arrest period from 24 hours to 30 days, given that “the possibility of them evading investigations cannot be ignored.” As of this writing, a Romanian judge has rejected an appeal against this request. Given that the arrest warrant extension was upheld by the appeals court, prosecutors may request a detention of up to 180 days.
An Ugly Symptom of a Bigger Problem
Andrew Tate may be one of the most Googled names on the planet, but he is not the only big online personality promoting hypermasculinity to isolated, insecure men who feel somewhat disenfranchised by the movement toward gender equality (which, ironically, we’re still centuries away from achieving).
What sets Tate apart, however, is his encouragement of not just objectification and dismissal of women, but also his endorsement of physical violence. In podcasts, interviews, and videos, he brags about beating women up and forcing us into submission, and then acts like it’s only natural — good, even — to be expressing masculine dominance in that way.
In other words, Tate and his followers equate hyperviolence with hypermasculinity to an audience of young men and teen boys already somewhat exposed to the “us-versus-them” idea of the gender binary.
What’s more, Tate also attacks those who do not fit into this very narrow view of what a man should be. This includes people living with depression, whom he had described as “weak” and “lazy,” and even adults who like anime.
Still, Tate’s violently masculine messaging is part of a wider set of attacks on women and women’s rights — which includes the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade and the growth of incel and alt-right communities.
Offline, Tate’s abusive behavior was allowed to continue and worsen because of terrible policework on rape. And online, he thrives on platforms that amplify controversial and absolute statements: the more outrageous and divisive, the higher the engagement rate, and the greater the opportunity for schemes like Hustler’s University.
If there is anything to applaud in this whole story, it is the courage and strength of the women who came forward to speak out against Tate in 2015 and again in 2022. I wish they never had to suffer in the first place, but they did the work to help make sure Tate and his partners can’t harm any more women and men.
What the rest of us can do, aside from hoping the Romanian court puts him away for good, is to talk to our sons and brothers, believe victims who speak out, and amplify positive male role models where we can.
Lastly, if you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, you can get in touch with the National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1-888-373-7888, texting HELP to BEFREE (233733), or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.