Holding a fat cigar between his fingers and taking a deep, ostentatious puff of smoke, Andrew Tate tells the camera: ‘Females are barely sentient.’
In his slow Estuary American drawl, and with light glinting off the top of his shaved head, Tate continues: ‘Females don’t have independent thought. They don’t come up with anything. They’re just empty vessels, waiting for someone to install the programming.’
The misogyny he displays is so patently flagrant it is almost laughable. This must be a joke, surely? Alarmingly, it is not. Tate’s ramblings have become increasingly popular on social media platforms, the oxygen for many of today’s impressionable young minds.
Clips from Tate have proliferated on TikTok’s For You page in the last month, with videos featuring his highly inflammatory opinions racking up a cumulative 11.4 billion views on the mostly Gen Z populated platform.
Now so insidiously influential, Tate – a former kickboxer and Big Brother contestant who has been questioned on human trafficking and rape allegations (which he has denied) – is more searched online than Donald Trump and Kim Kardashian.
Tate has become somewhat of a poster boy of a new breed of influencer that has wormed out of the internet’s darker fringes and into mainstream consciousness – the so-called ‘Alpha males’.
These men are fairly easy to spot in the wild West of the internet.
They are a compilation of different facets of the toxic masculinity that has lingered in society for a long time; brash, loud and arrogant, alpha men are the type to believe the brotherhood shouldn’t cry and showing any sort of emotion is a cardinal sin.
They perceive themselves to be strong and successful, talking about ‘hustling’ and ‘getting money’, often spouting out pseudo-philosophy no more intellectually nourishing than a nursery rhyme. And they absolutely, categorically despise women – who, more often or not, are described only as ‘females’, erasing them of even the most basic acknowledgement of their humanity.
Women are split into a dichotomy for many of these alpha male influencers: portrayed as duplicitous harlots out to ruin your life and break your heart, or stupid, simple beings enticed only by six packs and stacks of cash in the same way magpies like shiny objects.
Even the few ‘good’ women out there – effectively those who are pliant and servient – are to be treated with a sustained level of suspicion.
Naturally, alpha males don’t expose men to the same level of scrutiny, with the playing field distinctly uneven between the sexes.
In one of Tate’s videos, he explains that men should not ‘permit’ their girlfriends to go on breaks with mates: ‘She does not need to go on holiday to be a hoe on some random table because her friend met some random dude on Tinder,’ he spits into a mic, before reiterating that of course, it’s fine for men to go away together.
According to these ‘alpha males’, it’s necessary to manipulate women in order to keep them ‘loyal’ – with coitus often the end goal in their advice videos.
In another video by one ‘alpha male’ dating coach, men are encouraged to lie to women to ‘keep’ them interested. ‘Because when we’re honest and say all we want is to get into your sweet, watery guts, beep beep, they’re gone,’ he says. ‘Because women are f***ing backwards.’ The video has amassed over 120,000 views.
Alpha males may have come about as a response to societal changes when men now consider themselves victims, says Dr Lisa Sugiura, senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth. Her extensive research into gender and technology has shown how numerous ‘men’s rights’ groups on the internet, collectively known as the ‘manosphere’, are waging a ‘virtual war’ against women in a bid to re-assert their perceived ‘supremacy.’
‘There have been groups of these men mobilising for a long time to rally against feminism, challenge what they think is progress and to denigrate women,’ she explains to Metro.co.uk. ‘Since the #MeToo movement, which led to great progress and strides when it came to defending women from violence and sexual abuse, there’s always an equality backlash from groups of men desperate to position themselves as victims.
‘They believe that society “favours” women and for them, they need to strike back to reassert themselves to be back on top.’
Sugiura points to the current socio-political climate, with extreme views being presented in mainstream outlets making them appear more normalised.
‘There’s a real narrative that some men feel like they’re under threat,’ she adds. ‘If you look at Trump, he positioned men as victims after #MeToo and he was very vocal about men having a hard time. Elsewhere, the Depp v Heard trial was an absolute breeding ground for misogyny. Things have been whipped up into a hysteria, and some men are basically saying women are out to get them and shoving it down people’s throats.’
However, Sugiura is quick to continue that misogyny is nothing new, with alpha male influencers having repackaged old ideas that have been propagated for years, giving them a shiny new veneer to make them sound intellectual.
‘Misogyny like this is a tale as old as time,’ she says. ‘To me, it’s the continuation of the pick-up artistry movement of the early 2000s, where men would prey on and manipulate women into sleeping with them. Alpha males are just the next logical step of all these pre-existing groups.’
Richard La Ruina argues otherwise. The British dating expert and former pick-up artist behind the cult video game series Super Seducer, insists that a hatred of women was never the motivation for those looking to learn pick-up techniques.
Now 42, married and retired, La Ruina does concede however, that he’s put enough distance between himself and his past lifestyle to acknowledge major, glaring problems with the practice.
‘A lot of the stuff that was done at the time did objectify women,’ he admits. ‘Going to bars and saying which women were our “targets.” It sounds bad, for sure. A lot of the language was horrible.
‘But I don’t think a lot of people necessarily had nasty intent. For many men, it was about trying to improve yourself and get dates.’
Richard’s take on pick-up artistry is certainly rose-tinted, seeing as the practice encouraged predatory behaviour from men and has strong link with the incel (involuntary celibate) movement – a disturbingly large online subculture characterised by extreme misogynistic beliefs and a sliding scale of violent behaviour – with a slew of failed PUAs joining the ranks.
In extreme cases it has even led to murder – in Plymouth, 22-year-old Jake Davison engaged in incel forums before going on a shooting spree, killing five people, and injuring two others, in August last year.
According to Richard, his primary aim was to help shy, nerdy guys, not unlike himself (he only had his first kiss at 21), to gain the confidence to meet women.
He also points out that, rightly or wrongly, pick-up artistry was initially embraced by the mainstream when it became prolific in the late noughties, not unlike the way some are celebrating alpha males on social media now.
‘I was a dating expert on ITV and BBC, talking about pick-up,’ Richard says. ‘My book was published by HarperCollins and Random House – there’s no way mainstream publishers would touch a book like that now.
‘The Game by Andrew Strauss was a bestseller, and yet everything in that book was horrid. Women are rated out of ten, described as ‘obstacles’, women were outright lied to. It was so dodgy. But that didn’t stop the book being popular.’
Now, Richard is left worried about the sorts of vulnerable young men that he used to help being constantly exposed to alpha male dating gurus, such as Tate.
‘There’s always going to be lonely men, the question is what to do with them,’ he explains. ‘There’s no moderate content aimed at them which focuses on self-improvement.
‘Compared to the early days of pick-up, there’s a lot more anger out there now. It’s almost as if battle lines are being drawn, and it’s very anti-women. And I do understand how it’s quite attractive to blame others rather than yourself.
‘This content appeals to boys who are frustrated and it turns them into angry men. It’s quite worrying.’
Sugiura is dismissive of La Ruina’s claim that there is no moderate, reasonable and non-toxic dating advice out there for young men. However, she does acknowledge that it may be more difficult to find when it is drowned out by stacks of uploads from alpha males.
‘The algorithms are so skewed,’ she explains. ‘If someone is to type in: “I’m lonely and depressed”, or even the innocent “how do I get a girlfriend”, they will find stacks of sexist and misogynistic material.
‘This is what’s really frustrating – there are genuine problems that men face. But these “men’s rights” groups that make up the manosphere are not about supporting or helping men at all. Their main concern is misogyny and justifying their hatred of women.’
It is disturbingly easy to ‘gamify’ the algorithms on some social media platforms to churn out whatever bile you like. For all of Tate’s garbage on TikTok, he is not the only person actually posting it.
The vast majority of his rantings have been posted on the video-sharing platform by fans of his on burner accounts, effectively flooding the algorithm until Tate videos pop up on the For You page.
Gaming TikTok’s algorithm is a worryingly easy feat, says internet expert and commentator, Ryan Broderick.
‘It’s all about trying to promote a trend,’ he explains. ‘For example, if you look at a dance trend – one dancer may have started it, but the reason it starts gaining popularity is because lots of other dancers post videos on TikTok trying to copy it.
‘Effectively, if one account posts something, and then lots of other accounts put up a really similar piece of content, that sends a signal to TikTok’s For You page that this is a “trend” that needs to be elevated.’
Broderick continues that there is no shortage of content of Tate to choose from, as he regularly features on podcasts and clip shows spouting his inflammatory views.
‘Andrew Tate is not smart or savvy,’ Broderick says. ‘But he’s figured out that there’s lots of men who have podcasts and if he shows up with sunglasses, smoking a cigar and says the craziest thing you’ve ever heard, that clip will go viral.
‘It doesn’t matter even if a video is posted to critique or question what these alpha males are saying. They don’t care if you’re laughing at them, it just feeds them and they get bigger.’
What’s problematic for Broderick is how darker internet communities, such as incels and the alt-right, can infiltrate these spaces through memes and coded language, which then serve as a gateway to their troubling ideologies.
Already, videos by alpha male content creators have been uploaded with hashtags such as #redpill – the false belief of ‘enlightenment’ where society ‘favours women’ and you can ‘change the system’. Videos with the tag have cumulatively reached tens of millions of views. Tate features in several clips.
‘If a 13-year-old is on TikTok and he sees a video with the red pill tag or someone talking about it, he can simply look it up and there will be a lot of men who will be ready to tell him all kinds of dangerous stuff,’ Broderick explains. ‘He’s not going to sit and read a broadsheet newspaper explaining the reality and the dangers of these movements. He’s going to look on TikTok or Reddit or Instagram and see someone like Tate, who looks like an action figure and says increasingly damaging stuff.’
It’s worth noting that TikTok has made some effort to remove or ban some dangerous or misogynistic content. #blackpill, the belief that women only choose partners on their looks and a general acceptance of hopelessness and nihilism, is banned, as is #femoid – a derogatory term for women, which some incels consider to be less than human.
But for Sugiura, the problem goes far beyond social media. ‘These young boys may start seeing this stuff on TikTok but then go elsewhere for more information,’ she says. ‘There’s so many unregulated sites and forums where it’s a free-for-all; hate speech is encouraged.’
So what can be done to try and curb the damage that alpha males, and their potential entrées into harmful online communities, are doing?
Sugiura points towards the UK’s Online Safety Bill, which is currently on hold as parliament is suspended – and needs serious amendments for it to be effective.
‘Gender is not currently included in it,’ Suguira explains. ‘When it is disproportionately women that are on the receiving end of abuse online. But thatwill make platforms accountable for dealing with the problem. However, it doesn’t deal with the people who are actually uploading the content in the first place.
‘We need to implement better education in schools so we tackle these narratives, and provide a place for boys and men to get support in the real world so these beliefs just aren’t presented as the norm. We’re all too quick to look in isolation at the extreme things, like incels or alpha males, but not the wider connotations of having these ideas of male supremacy and the misogyny readily available on mainstream platforms.’
Broderick argues that more sophisticated algorithms, and more effective moderation against harmful terms, is necessary.
‘If TikTok wants to be the future of social media, it needs to fix its algorithm to stop it favouring distributive linked content,’ he says. ‘If you can make a trend by just flooding the For You page with one guy’s nonsense, it’s not a good or feasible algorithm. It needs to sophisticated enough so it’s just not pumping junk at people.
‘Banning TikTok is not the answer, but it is about putting pressure on governments around the world to ensure that moderation on different platforms is up to standard.
‘What has to happen is we need to stop young people seeing these hugely inflammatory and damning stuff in the first place. Because, really, once someone like Andrew Tate is on the For You page, you’ve already lost.’
When asked for comment, a TikTok spokesperson said: ‘Misogyny and other hateful ideologies and behaviours are not tolerated on TikTok. Our investigation into this content is ongoing and we are removing accounts and videos that violate our Community Guidelines. We are continually strengthening our policies and enforcement strategies as part of our work to keep TikTok a safe and inclusive space.’