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The self-destructive gospel of the Passport Bros
The Passport Bros say they’re seeking love from "traditional" women abroad. Critics, however, say it is simply a new-age twist on an age-old practice.
Auston Holleman says it was all a misunderstanding.
The YouTuber with over 50,000 subscribers traveled to the Brazilian city of Salvador in January, where he began recording a series of videos for social media.
In one particular video — several were deleted after his content began to go viral — Holleman claimed that Brazilian women are “extremely easy” and “if you're a man and haven't had sex in Brazil for a long time, there must be something wrong with you."
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The Fort Worth, Texas native approached women in the Bahian capital in several videos and asked them questions about sex and dating. In a viral (now deleted) video, Holleman can be seen at Porto da Barra Beach, asking two women how long it would take for them to go back home with a man they just met, and then tells his audience to “get your passport” after one of the women responds that she wouldn’t make him wait. The women reportedly said their responses were taken out of context.
“I didn't give permission for him to film me and put it on social networks,” explained one of the women Holleman recorded, who said she was embarrassed by the video, according to Folha de S.Paulo, a Brazilian newspaper. Another woman said the 24-year-old influencer changed the subject when she asked for the name of his channel.
After receiving much criticism online, Holleman began to walk back some of his previous commentary on Brazilian women. "I am not saying Brazilians are easy for everybody … What I’m saying is, for a man that’s well-mannered, well-dressed, that has put in the effort to raise himself, he will have an easier time in Brazil as opposed to where I was from,” he said in a YouTube video. "I want to apologize for releasing these videos and showing ignorance to certain aspects of Brazilian culture." He also attempted to clear up what he meant in an interview with FOX 26 Houston.
His actions could lead to more than just criticism.
In March, the Public Ministry of Bahia launched an investigation into Holleman for sex tourism after the influencer was seen encouraging foreigners to obtain their passports in his videos, according to CNN Brasil. Holleman has denied all allegations, and also said in March that his attorney told him that his name is not under investigation.
However, the Ministry confirmed that an investigation into Holleman was indeed launched and is “still in progress.”
The YouTuber was contacted for this story, but he has stopped responding to requests for comment.
Enter the Passport Bros.
Holleman was, at the time, a self-proclaimed “Passport Bro,” a loose group of North American men who use their passports to travel the world in search of “traditional” romantic partners — some of whom believe feminism is destroying Western civilization. There’s even a song about the movement.
Critics, however, say that the Passport Bros movement is simply a new age twist on a very old phenomenon: sex tourism, a multi-billion-dollar industry worldwide, in which men — and women — have been traveling abroad in search of dating, relationships or sex, for decades, long before the advent of social media.
However, the rise of social media and influencer culture has led these men to come up with their own name for the phenomenon and are popularizing what was once an open secret through the power of vlogs and TikTok videos. Much of their content is centered in the developing world, in countries like Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, Colombia — and Brazil.
While some have dated and started relationships in their travels, other Passport Bros have landed themselves in precarious situations, like being drugged and robbed in Colombia after matching on a dating app or having to crowdfund $100 to get back home from the Dominican Republic. And in other cases, they can find themselves on the wrong side of the law.
Mike Pickupalpha and David Bond, two North American “dating coaches,” are being investigated by Brazilian authorities after the influencers and their group Millionaire Social Circle, a dating coach and networking program, were accused of sexually exploiting Brazilian women. According to The Intercept Brasil, women who had attended a party thrown by the group in São Paulo said they were unaware of the true intentions behind the event and were treated as “guinea pigs” for new Millionaire Social Circle recruits.
The men have denied the allegations, claiming they’re under attack by feminists.
Inside the Manosphere
Every man with a passport is not a Passport Bro. There are cases in which men leave America in search of love and are able to find it. However, the Passport Bros are very open on social media networks about their desire for “traditional” women who don’t subscribe to so-called “feminist” ideals. “[These] men get together to exchange experiences on how to more easily convince these girls, who normally have a much lower financial condition than theirs, to have sex with them,” criminal attorney João Raposo said of groups like Millionaire Social Circle.
Many have created entire brands on social media platforms like TikTok or through vlogging on YouTube and podcasting. The group is a subset of “the Manosphere,” an online network of hyper-masculine, misogynistic male-oriented groups that oppose feminism.
But Passport Bros themselves say there is no set definition.
A Passport Bro, who goes by the pseudonym No Excuse, ran an informal poll in a Facebook group of nearly 10,000 self-identified Passport Bros to find out why they choose to travel abroad. He said about 20% were looking for relationships, marriage or starting a family, while 80% weren’t looking for relationships. “Does that mean 80% of those men are paying for prostitution? No. Some men are traveling for cultural reasons,” said No Excuse, who also is the founder of the Passport Bros Podcast.
“Everyone that considers themselves a Passport Bros, they all travel for different reasons. It’s not really a defined thing,” he explained. “A lot of men are just attaching themselves to the term because it sounds cool.”
Mohamed Aboshanab, a lawyer and founder of a company called Passport Bros (this company is separate from the broader movement), agrees that there is no set definition for the term and that he is “totally against sex tourism.”
“I'm a more traditional family man who likes the idea that people would like to go to other foreign countries for more traditional, conservative women,” Aboshanab explained. “I’ve seen many men, whatever their background, ethnicity or origin and they are desperate for more traditional women. [These men] are fed up with the hookup culture.”
While men like Anthony “Dream” Johnson have largely been the face of the manosphere, some Black men have begun to carve out their own avenues in the space — creating a “Black manosphere.” Kevin Samuels, the late controversial relationship coach, made a lane for himself within the space with his videos.
But according to Sedrick Miles, Charles Tyler is the “godfather” of the Passport Bros movement.
“He’s the blueprint for all of this,” said Miles, a Ph.D. candidate at the Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies at Tulane University who currently lives in Salvador, Bahia.
Tyler, a technician, was born in Philadelphia but gained a following on YouTube for his videos encouraging men to move abroad, offering tips on how to do it and how to get women. His earliest video, “Black Brazilian Women for Afro American who Travel,” was created in 2012.
Tyler gained notoriety during an era when independent travel was still kind of niche, Miles explained. “For me, it was a time when a lot of information about independent travel was on blog sites. There was this sort of movement for folks to be travelers, create an identity outside of white people who dominated travel,” Miles, who is working on a mini-documentary about the Passport Bros, said.
Miles says Tyler helped provide insight into traveling abroad for the “regular” man and represented them with his videos. “He did something that was really amazing for a lot of Black people — he got his passport, he got visas,” Miles said. “He just kind of unlocked this mystery, this new place [Brazil], which has only been like a place that was talked about.”
Tyler built not just an audience on YouTube but an engaged community of men who hung on to his every word. Some of his followers credit him for inspiring them to move out of the United States. He was the “north star” for the Passport Bros movement and for Black men seeking to follow in his footsteps, Miles said, predating today’s influencers on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram.
“At that time, it was really like watching TV and going to church,” Miles said. “He was educating his YouTube community of regular working-class men on how to get a passport, how they can travel and grow."
Tyler died at a hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2017. He was 44.
Miles believes that since Tyler, many Passport Bros have become more sophisticated in their conduct, which may lead to the exploitation of women. “A lot of what is revealed through these guys who really talk too much is that they're just basically using conservative talk to create a space for Black men,” he said.
Activists speak out
Activists are finding ways to fight back against male influencers seeking to exploit women.
Human rights activists have been calling out alleged sex tourism for years. “The protection of the rights of women and girls through the fight against sexual tourism is urgent,” said Amarilis Costa, a lawyer and human rights activist in Brazil. “The behavior of harassment and exposure of Brazilian women encourages the occurrence of cases of sexual exploitation and human trafficking.”
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Black feminist activists are also actively working to combat the stereotypical portrayals that lead to sex tourism in the first place, says Erica Williams, associate professor at Spelman College and author of “Sex Tourism in Bahia: Ambiguous Entanglements.”
“My current work in progress focuses on Black feminist activism in Bahia,” Williams said. “Black feminist writers, bloggers, journalists, and others have been calling out these portrayals, especially when they are in the media.”
And there has been some progress. In Holleman’s case specifically, spokespersons for the dating apps Tinder and Bumble said that his account had been removed from both platforms. His videos, along with several other creators, were listed in a complaint to Brazil’s justice secretary made on behalf of activist and TV host Stephanie Ribeiro (You can read the complaint here).
“Sex tourism is not a crime in Brazil. There is no law against it. But there are image use and harassment laws,” Ribeiro explained. “Filming without consent and in a way that violates the morals of [the women Holleman recorded]. In Brazil, it can be considered harassment according to our law.”
“This case can be charged as a crime against honor if there was exploitation in such a way as to make the person look ridiculous or if an image was exposed that makes the victim feel embarrassed in their honor. It would be, then, a case of insult or even defamation,” criminal lawyer Rodrigo Faucz explained to O GLOBO.
No Excuse said he’s seen “a few cases” of Passport Bros finding themselves in trouble for not knowing the laws in Brazil, one being a pair of YouTubers in the country filming people in the mall. “Security came up to them and said, ‘Hey if you film, the camera has to be on you, not other people,’” he said. “Some people don’t know what’s cool to film or not to film.” That’s a different standard than in America, where there’s no expectation of privacy if you are in a public space.
The status of the Public Ministry of Bahia’s investigation into Holleman is ongoing. The president of the Brazilian Tourist Board, Embratur, called on authorities to investigate not only Holleman, but other influencers as well.
Holleman renounced any association with the Passport Bros movement but also said his “content is NOT going to change.” Other Passport Bros have decided to shift their focus to other ventures. Another YouTuber with several Passport Bros-related videos on his channel now primarily uploads his incendiary interactions with police, citing “everything that’s going on right now” as his reason for the shift.
Auston Holleman has left Brazil and currently lives in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. His YouTube channel still mentions the Passport Bros and dating, but somewhat less so, opting instead for more general lifestyle videos.
In one of his more recent videos, Holleman compares his experiences dating in Brazil and Tanzania. “I know I’ve already been in trouble for talking about women, but I’m not saying nothing negative. I’m just telling it like it is,” he said.
“Dudes want to hear about women and there’s nothing wrong with that.”