Sleeping with the Enemy?: An Interview with Tucker Max

BlogHer Original Post

Last week, Laurie challenged me to write about Tucker Max for Blog Day, which is tomorrow. I thought that was a brilliant idea, once I realized that she didn't mean Tucker Carlson. (It took me a few hours.) Word on the street was that Max was a misogynist pig who wrote about his sexploits and treated women as objects, so of course I disliked him, although I never read a word of his. However, as part of my research, I felt I should check out his website and probably also read his book, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

When I read the first story, something unexpected happened: I couldn't help but like the asshole. Is he a drunkard? Totally, and I am not too keen on slobbering drunks. Is he a shithead? For sure. Would he probably rate me on his vile "Tucker Max Female Rating System" as "a common stock pig?" Likely, although on a good day, I might make "Respectable pig," neither of which I particularly appreciate being called. Is he a good writer? Now that I am learning about what makes good writing, I also think he is an excellent story teller, but a terrible writer. When I guiltily confessed my appreciation for Max on my blog, my friend Sara, a self-respecting feminist, commented that she used to read him and laugh her head off, too.

It was the details that won me over. Max wonders why more women don't demand to be treated with respect, or even believe they deserve to be. I often ponder this mystery myself. Max also astutely observes that the least self-confident women are often the ones wearing the most make-up and fewest articles of clothing. Interesting. Plus, Max mocks himself as much as anyone else, and often his stories end with fitting and hilarious bouts of poetic justice. In the end, I find his stories contain a lot of attention-getting bluster, but also serve as morality tales for these times. Plus, I love gross humor.

Anyway, after I requested a book for review, Max emailed me and offered to sit for an e-interview. Here's the fascinating result:

SR:You boast that 30-40% of your fans are female. How do you react to compults (compliments that are also insults) from women like The Chase is On who writes:

Believe it or not, I actually like Tucker Max. I really like him. Sure, he’s an asshole, but he’s the first to admit it. Yeah, he behaves like a frat boy, but at least he’s an educated, analytical frat boy. True, he’s malicious and evil, but only when he’s completely wasted and egged-on. And whether he likes it or not, his book is the perfect manual for ladies who want to understand manipulative douchebags like himself. Hey, it wasn’t just dudes that got him on the NY Times Best Seller List.

TM: I am usually a fan of a good portmanteau, but "compults" is not making the cut.

To answer the question: I like it anytime anyone writes anything about me. The only thing I ask is that if they are stating facts, they be accurate. I am definitely from the PT Barnum School of PR: I don't care what you say about me, just say something.

SR: You are a self-described "raging dickhead" and "asshole" who doesn't deal with the consequences of your actions, and yet you also repeatedly suffer from poetic justice and karma. Do you think your writing is misunderstood by many of your fans?

TM:Of course it is. My writing appeals to many different people, so it is to be expected that some will only get certain parts of it. I can't count how many emails I have gotten that say things like, "I have never finished an entire book before I read yours." Those types of people aren't necessarily stupid, but I am guessing they don't get the Pericles or the Finneaus Gage references, instead focusing on the most obvious level of humor: the fart and poop jokes, the gratuitous sex stories, the witty one-liners. I don't write my stuff geared towards any single group; I just write what I do, and put my personality in it, and because I am a multi-faceted person, my stuff has layered meanings. I think even a casual reading of my stuff reflects that. Of course you can just take the sex and poop jokes from it and nothing else, but to do that is to miss a large part of the meaning.

SR: There's a lot of debate these days about whether the Harry Potter books will turn kids into lifelong readers, or if they'll just read the series and never touch a book again. What are the odds that your book, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell -which is on The New York Times Best Seller List – is going to turn your readers (true or not, generally not regarded as literature lovers) on to other books?

TM: Just to be clear--and because I have a huge ego and an unquenchable need to self-promote--my book is currently in its 17th week on the best seller list. Even more impressive, it was only on for two weeks when it came out in January of 2006. It climbed back on the list in April of 2007, and has stayed on since--based SOLELY from word of
mouth. Not one single press piece; no TV, no magazine article, nothing. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

To answer the question: People have proven over and over that they will read if they are given something they like. The problem with reading is not reading, its that almost everything out there sucks. For almost a century, publishing has been run by a cartel of snobby pseudo-intellectual failed writers, and the resulting output has reflected not what the market wants, but what they think people are supposed to read. When I took my material out to publishers in 2001, I was rejected by EVERY SINGLE ONE. The people who are supposed to know what is good and what isn't, didn't see a runaway best seller right in front of their faces (same with Harry Potter, and any number of other great books). I think that my readers will continue to read if the market gives them what they want. If not, they'll go to other forms of entertainment.

SR: In "Pass the Beer: In Defense of 'Fratire,'", a piece you wrote for the Huffington Post last year, you lay out a very interesting examination of the effects of feminism on culture. Are women really sexually equal to men if they are stigmatized and called "whores" and "sluts" by you for doing the same things that you do, or would you argue that those terms are being reclaimed, like the word "cunt?"

TM: Your question has all sorts of faulty assumptions. Who said women are sexually equal to men, or vice versa? Last time I checked, men and women were very different in some very important ways, especially sexually. It doesn't matter how much angsty poetry and angry screeds you write, the facts of biology aren't going anywhere.

Beyond that, I don't call all women "whores" or "sluts." I call INDIVIDUALS those terms (actually, sometimes I do write things like "All women are whores, except our mothers," but that is a joke, the humor deriving from the exaggeration, and if you don't read it as that, just don't bother reading any of my work, you have a crappy sense of humor and we'll never agree on anything). There are plenty of awesome, amazing women on this planet, and I am lucky enough to be friends with some of them, but there are also plenty of disgusting whores out there. For me to call a woman a whore has nothing to do
with her biology; it is about her behavior and value choices.

SR: Why is your humor different from that of other manly comedians, like Andrew Dice Clay?

TM: Who said it was different? Or for that matter, who said it was the same? Actually, how the fuck did ADC come up? When was the last time you heard him tell a joke in public? I can't even recall any of his jokes, save his dirty nursery rhymes, which are nothing like anything I do.

SR: What do you think of the claim that circumcised men experience little or no sexual pleasure and the movement to ban the procedure?

TM: This is really a question? I have been circumcised my whole life, so I can't speak to any other experience. I will say this: If circumcision significantly reduces sexual pleasure, I can't imagine how great sex must be for an uncircumcised guy. If sex got substantially better my fucking head would explode.

SR: How can women make condoms sexy to guys who don't want to use them? [In his writing, Max often refers to using condoms.]

TM: What? Why is it your job to make condoms sexy? Who are you fucking that complains about avoiding pregnancy and STD's? In 2007, are there still guys out there who refuse to wear them? I'll tell you a very easy and 100% effective way to solve this problem: Refuse to have sex with a guy who won't wear one.

SR: Are there any female bloggers that you recommend?

TM: Why do they have to be female? Isn't the definition of sexism "discrimination or devaluation based on a person's sex." What do I know, but your question seems to fit right under that definition. How do you expect to stop sexism...by being sexist? Seriously though, I don't subscribe to the notion that writers should be defined by their gender. To me, a writer is good or not; whether they are a man or a woman is irrelevant to the quality of their work. These are the five best bloggers on the internet in my opinion. If you feel the need to only publish the female ones, that is on you:

Mark Cuban
Bill Simmons
The Bunny
Overcoming Bias (a collection of bloggers, some of whom are female)
Robert Greene

I'd like to thank Tucker for taking the time to answer my questions. I appreciate his honesty and interesting take on the world. While I may not agree with everything he said, he is certainly a person who elicits reactions, which brings me to my own struggles with things that I like even though I probably shouldn't. Many times I have paused after writing something potentially offensive. "I hope too many people don't hate me for this," I think before hitting the submit (or publish or send) button. Max's outrageousness reminds me of what I personally like best about feminism: that it encourages people to be themselves and embrace what they like, be it knitting cute pastel pink sweaters or laughing at crass sex stories or both. Contradictory impulses are what make us human.

For other women bloggers' thoughts on Tucker Max check out:
Pro Max

Anti-Max

Suzanne also blogs at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants and laughs at the movie Varsity Blues despite herself

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