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In Andrew Tate’s recent interview with Tucker Carlson, the popular influencer and masculinity guru defended himself against accusations of human trafficking that have recently dogged him in Romania. Tate is currently under house arrest for the charges of rape, sexual assault, and forming an organized criminal network to sexually exploit women. Tate and his brother Tristan are accused of luring seven women to Romania through false promises of marriage, and then forcing them by means of intimidation, surveillance, and physical and sexual violence to make pornographic videos.

Tate’s fame as a defender of “masculinity” goes hand in hand with his excoriation of feminist ideology and its ubiquity in elite Western institutions—what he frequently refers to as “the Matrix.” Against such ideology and its ostracizing effects on men, Tate has popularized a brand of lifestyle that is attractive to young men on account of its apparent exaltation of masculine virtues like strength, discipline, and independence. According to his admirers on the right, the charges against Tate in Romania amount to an attempt to “cancel” him for his dissidence, making him into a symbol of the fight for free speech. It was ostensibly just this framing that justified his appearance on Carlson’s new Twitter-based show. 

Few among those who defend Tate—including Carlson—have attempted seriously to examine the evidence supporting the charges against him. The strongest witness against Tate, it turns out, is Tate himself. In response to the Tucker interview, one Twitter user produced a video juxtaposing Tate’s defense with several other clips, in which he proudly admits that he and his brother Tristan first “got rich” as pimps running a “webcam business.” Tate boasts, “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.” He insists that his female victims secretly enjoy his violence toward them, examples of which feature in the video. He also brags about leveraging the affection young men develop for his female performers to get them to sign over “their houses, life savings, loans, all of it to me.”

If Tate’s own words bear any truth, then the “masculinity” he preaches is little more than a cover for something deeply perverse and abusive, which no “conservatives” worthy of the name—especially not Christian conservatives—should have any business defending. 

In an article for Compact on Tate’s cruel worldview, Louise Perry points out that the Christian ideal of sexual chastity was perceived as a sharp mortification to the male ego in the setting of the ancient Roman Empire. Indeed, not only in the celibate vocation of many early Christians and their monastic disciples, but also in the strict monogamous discipline of marriage, the practice of chastity was a rigorous asceticism to which the elite male class of Rome was radically unaccustomed. This is corroborated by the extensive research of Michel Foucault, in the fourth volume of his History of Sexuality, where he describes Christian marriage in the early Church as an ascetic discipline nearly on par with monasticism. On this view, the very purpose of marriage was to discipline the concupiscence of the flesh that afflicts human nature as a result of Adam’s fall. 

To be sure, a certain ethic of self-discipline—what Foucault famously called “the care of the self”—did prevail in Graeco-Roman antiquity, but it ultimately entitled its practitioners to a purportedly legitimate form of self-aggrandizement that was simply not permitted to the practitioners of Christian ascetical virtue. Incidentally, it could be argued that Foucault himself embraced just such a Roman ideal in his personal life, attempting to integrate the excesses of sexual indulgence (in his case, sadomasochism, pedophilic rape, and the intentional spread of HIV) with the quasi-aesthetic “techniques” of self-care, as though the practice of such discipline entitled him to the pleasures of the flesh. 

A similar ethic of entitled self-exaltation pervades the online cult of masculinity fostered by Tate, and it too involves ascetical practices (however adulterated): a man should go to the gym, cultivate stoic self-discipline, become resilient by doing hard things, et cetera. As Tate proclaimed in his interview with Carlson, “life as a man is pain and suffering . . . because you’re going to have to go through a ton of s—t and have a terrible life to become a good man.” 

But where exactly does this asceticism lead? Toward what vision of the good? Self-discipline can be directed toward many virtuous ends. It can also be used for lower, amoral purposes like making money, gaining status, and acquiring power. If it serves only to justify or enable indulgence of one’s carnal desires—enjoyment of which is “earned” through hard work and “pain and suffering”—then this is a pagan asceticism governed by unreflective impulse. It is both alien and inferior to Christian asceticism, which serves transcendent ends.

Whether in marriage or in monasticism, Christianity demands self-denial at every stage of the journey, and not merely in preparation to indulge some higher egoism. A Christian is called to unconditional and unreserved self-emptying, in imitation of Christ’s own kenosis, whereby he fulfilled perfectly the will of his Father. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” Jesus tells his disciples (John 14:9). Likewise, as disciples of Christ, we are to live so that others see Christ in us. As St. Paul writes, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20). The purpose of Christian asceticism is precisely to break down this “I,” along with all of its self-centered desires, so that Christ may take over. There is little space left in this ethic for the brutish “strength” of a Tate-esque masculinity. On the contrary, Christianity requires precisely weakness: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

A final warning for right-wing Christians, men in particular. Although it rebels against the Christian ideal of chaste monogamy, Tate’s chest-beating and narcissistic masculinity can still infiltrate the safe haven of Christian marriage itself. The ills of progressive feminism do not warrant the rationalization of male narcissism in any context. Christian men must be on guard lest they turn marriage itself from its original ascetical purpose and make it into just another protected outlet for their libido dominandi. In the end, Tate’s vision of strength simply isn’t strong enough. True Christian virtue—and Christian manliness—demands kenotic strength that embraces human weakness. Such strength is quite literally divine.

Jonathan Culbreath is a writer and independent researcher living in Southern California.

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Image by Anything Goes With James English licensed via Creative Commons. Image cropped. 

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