In February 2013, Sophie met a man in a bar who later became her boyfriend. Like every romcom meet-cute with this exact storyline, the pair began dating until they came to the mutual realisation that they wanted to be together. Neither of them knew that night out – a beer-soaked bar floor and a chat with a stranger – would lead to a nine-year relationship. They also never could have predicted its end.
In January of this year, Sophie wrote on Reddit: “I’m so sad losing the person I loved for nine years but it’s exhausting.” She detailed how her partner had begun to parrot incel language and made her feel unsafe; he’d even denied she was a person of colour. Her post was titled: “My boyfriend has fallen down the Tate pipeline”.
In 2023, Andrew Tate’s impact is octopus-like and stretches far beyond the internet. The “alpha male” influencer’s deeply misogynistic messaging is parroted on school grounds, in workplaces and even within relationships, despite his recent arrest and social media ban.
The 35-year-old kickboxer and his younger brother Tristan are currently being held in custody in Romania until 27th February while police investigate allegations of rape and human trafficking – charges which they both deny. A VICE World News investigation obtained audio recordings of the older Tate in which he appeared to admit to raping a woman from the UK and boasted to her: “Am I a bad person? Because the more you didn’t like it, the more I enjoyed it.”
Tate has built up a legion of followers made up of mostly teen boys and young men enticed by his motivational self-help videos. But littered throughout his viral clips, which are reposted across YouTube, TikTok and Instagram, are claims that rape victims “bear responsibility” for their abuse; that he prefers to date 18-19 year-olds because he can “make an imprint” on them, and that women are a man’s property.
Women are now hearing those views coming out of their partners’ mouths. One woman, who asked not to share her name out of fears for her safety, was in a six-week relationship with a Tate fan last year. She initially met him through the gym, but they later matched on Tinder, dated, and eventually broke up due to several undesirable traits, including his appreciation for the influencer.
One situation particularly stood out to the 23-year-old, who is based on the East Coast of the US. “I had tried opening up to him about memories of past sexual assault being triggered,” she says. “Before I could even bring [the topic] up, he started talking about Andrew Tate.”
She immediately responded that she would not support someone who said they moved to Romania because they believed laws around rape were more relaxed. He replied: “He’s ‘Top G’ – he can rape whoever he wants.”
“After that,” she says, “I no longer felt it was something I could talk to him about.” A week later, they ended the relationship. The woman said while the situation still hurts, she’s relieved to no longer be with someone who holds such views.
Sophie – whose name we are withholding to protect her safety – is unsure when her partner first fell down the Tate rabbit hole. “I had seen some videos on TikTok [last year], warning women to look out for people who listen to or follow Tate.”
At first her boyfriend seemed uninterested in Tate, but this soon changed. “I guess he started listening to the talks Tate had [that weren’t about women] and realised some of it made sense, so the rest of it couldn't be that bad,” she says.
He began telling Sophie she was holding him back, and she should wait for him while he slept with other women. “He began calling me out for being too masculine – whatever that means,” she says. He also started telling her she needed to be more submissive and feminine.
Sophie eventually convinced him to stop listening to Tate, but the damage was done. “By then his TikTok algorithm had set in a lot of men’s rights stuff and other misogynistic content, so it was constantly being drilled in his head.”
He’d also started to put Sophie down, calling her “low value” – a common term in the manosphere – because she’d had more romantic partners than he did. “He would send me videos of the men's rights people basically saying he was doing nothing wrong so he kept doing it,” she says. This was on top of constant reminders she was worthless and no one would ever love her, so she had to accept his behaviour or die alone.
“There were also instances of him not taking no for an answer if he wanted sex, and I just had to go with it because he was entitled to me,” she says. The pair are now broken up, and it’s only recently that Sophie has confronted the scale of the torment she faced. “Now I am at a point where I'm grieving the loss of almost ten years of my life,” she says, “and starting to do some internal work to heal through the abuse.”
Sophie isn’t alone in having to deal with a partner who has been radicalised by the male influencer. Another woman, who asked to go by “B”, is still with a Tate fan. The 27-year-old, also from the East Coast, met her boyfriend on Hinge more than two years ago and realised that he had become a fan of Tate’s videos on traditional gender roles sometime last summer.
“I’ve noticed he will be more visibly upset about not having sex almost daily, and I feel like he sees it as kind of transactional, like if we go to dinner we should sleep together that night,” she says. “He’ll use OnlyFans to have those ‘needs’ met, and when I explicitly said I don’t like it, he told me it’s my fault he has to use the app.”
B’s partner believes modern feminism is wrong as “equality [isn’t possible] because of biological differences,” she says. Much like Tate, these sexist views extend to women’s accounts of sexual violence. “He’s always hesitant to believe anyone from Me Too and is first to call out how a man would be criticised for doing one thing while a woman gets off for it,” B adds.
B says she’s been significantly affected by her boyfriend’s transformation. “It makes me feel insecure and vulnerable that he could see me as solely an object for sexual gratification or that’s where my value lies,” she explains – though she says she is still hopeful he will change back to who he once was.
Tate has five million followers on Twitter, and despite TikTok removing content of his that violated its prohibition against exploitative content, fans continue to repost video clips of him that attract millions of views. Experts are extremely concerned at how far his influence has spread – not just among those old enough to date, but also among those still growing up.
“It’s important first to emphasise how young Tate’s audience is,” says Tim Squirrell, the head of communications and editorial at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, an organisation committed to finding solutions to extremism and disinformation. “They’re broadly not men, they’re boys. And what we’re seeing right now is teachers and parents expressing concern en masse.”
ISD have received reports of young boys copying Tate’s notorious hand gesture and telling girls their own age and teachers that they belong in the kitchen or shouldn’t be working – messages parroted by Sophie’s partner.
“What I can say is that when I speak to people in education – for example, to discuss counter-extremism practice – I have never had as many people come to a presentation or be as engaged as when I talk about Andrew Tate,” Squirrell says. “This is a problem across the country, and it’s not going away.”