Elevate Difference

Nirvana of Pussy: A Conversation with Tucker Max

Interview with Tucker Max

All I wanted to know was if Tucker Max was for real. Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you, he is. Explaining that if he has learned anything over the past five years, it is that people are fucking stupid, clearly the infamous Tucker Max was extraordinarily candid when we talked about his new book Assholes Finish First. His candor was particularly astounding, as he knew I was a writer for Elevate Difference, a site with a mission to advance political and social justice, while Max is embodiment of all things politically incorrect. He is particularly known throughout the feminist community for his drunken antics with women, which I personally believe have been consistently misconstrued, and this was my chance to find out if I was right.

Perhaps it was the simple fact that I was dared to read Max’s first book I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell that so quickly brought me into his fold, or the fact that reading it made me feel like a subversive sex-positive feminist. More than anything, it was my curiosity about the man behind the controversial books that made this book reviewer seek out the infamous sex writer.

Speaking on the phone, before I even got through my introduction, Max jumped in to explain that his work is not a commentary on male sexuality, but simply writing about his real life. He is a man with some seemingly outrageous stories to tell and us aspiring sexologists should make no further assumptions. Fair enough.

Max believes that we are a society still “too prudish and buttoned-up” to teach sex education properly. He quickly conceded that the next generation of sex ed will largely center on porn and work like his own, and even Tucker Max finds this “shameful.” The fact that anyone is learning about sex from his books and not from school or their parents is truly shocking. Thankfully (or not), virgins across America are turning to Tucker Max for their intellectual and physical sexual education. The fact that thirty-year-olds with no sexual experience and barely-eighteen-year-olds all reach out to him as a sexual celebrity and a familiar person to take their virginity—literally—is surprising, even to Tucker.

Assholes Finish First is Max’s follow-up to the best-selling I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, and it takes so-called “fratire” to a new level. Dividing the book into his pre- and post-fame lives—a decision that emerged as he was writing and friends (the familiar Nils and Bunny to fans) noted a clearly different tenor between these stories—gives a new richness to his work. Because these are tales from only one man, the juxtaposition honestly showcases how fame can change one’s life, especially when compared with examples of other celebrity works.

The book’s bonus section contains stories from the women Max has slept with, written from their own perspectives. He knew this would appeal to his female audience—about half his readership. It also gives a different level of credence to his body of work, because as readers we finally get to hear someone else’s side of his stories—something I wondered a lot about and am sure others have as well. Oddly enough, the accounts from both sides line up more often than not.

What is most striking to me in his post-fame stories is Max’s cognizance about the state of his own life. Most people don’t spend their days writing about themselves; they don’t have that kind of time for self-reflection. Max takes this opportunity and really looks at himself as an outsider. He is in the midst of the common transition from playboy to family man but often documents it as an outside observer. Perhaps most interesting, it is not his own words that encapsulate his feelings about the state of his life but those of his friend (which he does include in the book).

We talked about this quite a bit on the phone. Fame has brought him to this so-called “nirvana of pussy.” The ladies come to him, and they come in droves. What he emphasized was how his life is in transition, from living out his teenage dreams of endless sexual conquests to his adult aspirations for a relationship. He stated outright that, “I don’t know how to live a committed, monogamous relationship, but I want to. Living the life every nineteen-year-old guy wants,” he told me he is now “moving out of it...not fully in either phase.”

More striking was the confession that this “nirvana of pussy” was the “complete opposite” of what he expected. Max’s lesson is an obvious but universal one, even in a book about gratuitous sex: Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. He qualified this, saying that it would be “totally disingenuous” to whine about it now. This is what he wanted. The fact that the lived reality was not the same as the dream is a fact of life that needs to be swallowed hard.

After I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell sold over 1.5 million copies, he had unique creative freedom with editors and publishers on the second book, Assholes Finish First. This was why he felt he could include abortion so explicitly, even using the phrase “baby killer.” Though he did not appreciate my take that his story about unintended pregnancy is a PSA for condom use, he did agree he was more actively spelling out advice in his vignette than he usually does. “[I’m] so tired of idiots taking the wrong thing out of what I write,” he said. Lots of sex does not mean lots of unsafe sex. It just means lots of sex.

A big secret: He can quote Betty Freidan. Under her definition, Max is a self-declared feminist. So why the incessant anger from the feminist community? He believes he is often labeled a misogynist because he doesn’t worship all things female. He also thinks “extremeophiles,” those who see all porn as rape, had a large role in much of this labeling. Max estimates that twenty-five percent of his readership is comprised of self-identified feminists, with women as half of his overall readership.

To him, the reality is that that he “makes fun of people,” at-large. Not women, not men, just people that he thinks suck. “Sometimes a woman can be a bitch or a guy can be a shithead, [and they] need [to be called out],” he told me. According to Max, calling someone a slut has nothing to do with his or her sexual experience. It is the power of the label itself. When he’s using such a label, he doesn’t know the reality of that individual’s life. He’s doing it just to get a rise out of someone, because he can.

His most vehement reaction to my series of questions on feminism was around what I see as a common thread in his books, the Madonna-whore dichotomy. Max sees the entire dichotomy as “bullshit” and says it just doesn’t apply to his work.

As our conversation wound down, we talked about his wide readership. Ranging from sixteen-year-olds, who view him as a demigod, to fifty-year-olds reliving their glory days, what makes Tucker Max so appealing? In his eyes, he is simply “objectively funny [and] painfully, authentically raw,” something we don’t see much in media, if at all. He “exists outside the machine.” It shows.

The book launch I attended was at a West Village dive bar, up the stairs in the back, and totally public. Max has no sanctioned book reviews on the jacket of a follow-up to a New York Times bestseller. His Cinderella tale of success—of having his manuscript rejected by every publisher, to building an audience through his blog, and gaining the leverage to write the exact book he wanted—was one of the first, though in the blog-to-book world, has become commonplace. Central to his wide readership, he claims, is his balance between self-indulgence and corporate appeal. He is attempting to create the best art that he can while resonating with his wide audience. Yes, Assholes Finish First is art.

Written by: Nicole Levitz, November 16th 2010

I'm surprised that your review is overwhelmingly positive from every angle given that Max is, at the end of the day, someone who makes money from having sex while treating women like his personal play-things. Do you think he "hoodwinked" you with specially prepared statements for feminists?

I think it is possible as he did mention that he has "done" this interview before, but that was at the very beginning and I felt like he opened up very quickly. In addition, the feminist talk was actually at the very end after we had digressed quite a bit, so I actually do believe it was quite genuine.

And I honestly found it to be a fascinating read. Do I agree with all his actions? Certainly not, but I don't find that essential for such an endorsement.

I have to tell you, having read his blog a few years ago to see what it was all about, I just about gagged. If he isn't a misogynist, he's sure good at playing one.

I haven't read his blog or books, nor have I seen his movie. However, I would really like to see eyeballs drawn on his chin, then have him talk upside down! He has the perfect chin for that. That's all I've got to contribute to this discussion.

Nicole, I think you entered the conversation with an open mind and it shows in your review! I've read a few of Tucker's blog posts and skimmed his first book - he's definitely a self-assured character, but that's not a reason to hate him. His stories are interpreted by his readers through the lens of their own experience. Tucker Max will never be anything but an asshole to those who are out to crucify him; but to less impassioned readers like myself, he's just a savvy business dude who built a following by being an outsized version of himself. That said, he might very well be a jerk who shoves old ladies while crossing the street, but I really don't think so. Lastly, if you say that the women's stories more often than not align with his, then who are we to say they were mistreated?

Thank you for some other fantastic post. Where else may just anybody get that type of info in such a perfect approach of writing? I've a presentation next week, and I'm at the search for such info.

Hey just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren't loading properly. I'm not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I've tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.

Useful information. Lucky me I found your site by chance, and I am stunned why this coincidence did not came about earlier!

I bookmarked it.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.