I Hope They Serve Pussy in Hell: Tucker Max & Misogyny

I got into an argument with my friend C last night about whether Tucker Max’s I Hope They Sever Beer in Hell, source material of the forthcoming movie, is misogynist.

I read Max’s book last year on the recommendation of my friend P who had gotten his copy from an ex-girlfriend. I was excited to read it, expecting an irreverent screed against social norms and gender confinement. I hoped it would be a vulgar trash heap of slimy anecdotes, aimed at detonating the society that defined those things as outrageous.

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The book is none of those things, and, in hindsight, I’m not sure why I was expecting them. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is a repetitive and not so outrageous collection of stories about drinking a lot of alcohol and having lots of sex with comparative strangers. It’s the same basic story, told again and again with only slight variations.

I like binge drinking and having sex, but reading Max’s account of those activities I get the same pale-faced nausea I’d get from seeing myself have sex during some sloppy and ridiculous one-night stand.

If there’s a redeeming element in Max’s collection, it’s this rendering of the contemporary American Dream (sex, booze, and a white collar career) in such harsh and unflattering tones. To his credit, Max is always aware that he is guided by the impulses of a thoughtless monster. He’s a smart enough man who willingly lowers himself to the bestial traditions of the vomitorioum as a kind of compensation for the boredom with which he describes his civilized life.

In the opening chapter he describes taking a breathalyzer to a bar and competing against another drinker to see who can get their BAC highest. He winds up vomiting, pulling his pants off, and blacking out. The next morning he wakes up in his car to the smell of his own toxified flesh burning the heat of the Miami sun. This is self-criticism with no apology or excuse.

Later, there’s a story about being drunk at a strip club; having sex at a horse race; sleeping with a boss; having a few steady booty calls. Have you heard any of these stories before? Does it matter whether Max drank 18 beers beforehand? These aren’t tales of eccentricity, they’re about conformity taken to the extreme. Drinking, puking, and having indiscriminate sex are commonplace, and his extremes don’t really add much to the canon.

Max is from an unhappy middleclass home, and has accepted a life’s work as an attorney in an effort to emulate the lifestyle of his parents and, hopefully, surpass it. As compensation for giving this bit of due diligence to the totems who molded him, he allows himself to get ape-fucking drunk on a regular basis and grasp at the perpetually retreating straws of orgasmic relief.

So where does misogyny enter the text? My best guess is his description of sex as something base and meaningless. Tucker Max does not make love, he takes shits with his penis, cleansing his body of the stored up crap while enjoying the tingle of his nerve endings as he evacuates. He cannot be misogynist by definition. He is indifferent to the women he sleeps with, beyond their immediate function as sex partners.

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Indifference is not hatred or mistrust. Using people for their bodies is not derogation. The idea that Max is a woman-hater implies that he is defiling a woman by having sex without offering alms to the act’s more intimate qualities. It follows that there should be something inherently more valuable in the woman’s participation in the sex act than that of the man’s share.

Of his philandering, Max’s chief defense is that he finds sluts and gives them an opportunity to act out their sluttish instincts. Translate from the douche vernacular and this basically means he’s finding women who want to have athletic sex for the same literal reason he does. There is some slapstick, some horrified escape stories in the morning after, but this is less about derogating femininity than it is lacerating himself for having done something he wouldn’t have naturally wanted to do in any other state of mind than drunkenness on the verge of total loss of conscious.

What’s missing from Max’s book is the truth about who he is, a nod of recognition to his own pained experiences. There is a yin to all of his bacchanalian yang, but he won’t reckon with it. And the book is white noise because of it. It has no frame. The only perceptible hatred I can find in it is directed at its narrator.

While I was reading the book last year, I went over the apartment of the woman I had been seeing at the time. She was sick, wrapped in a sweatshirt and blankets on her couch watching television. After her show ended, she put her head in my lap and I read a few pages of the book to her.

I was incredulous, I couldn’t believe anyone could have bothered to spend so much effort to assemble a record of their own infantilism. It made my mind race, like watching a fight. She seemed weary as I read. The story of a man acting out in ridiculous ways, to go to numb to some irreconcilable history of pain or disappointment; this was not unfamiliar territory.

This man is at every bar and every party in the world.  His story is always the same, reckless oblivion and surprise that he has survived.  I stopped reading and asked her if she wanted to hear another chapter She shook her head. “I don’t care. It’s okay if you want to,” she said.

Here eyes were glassy, and her voice was tired. I felt like I was making her listen to a metal pole banging on the bars of a cage, a loud clattering of noise just for the sake of distraction.

I loved her. It felt so totally improbable that I had come to be there, in her house, running my hand along her face, looking into her tired, mistrustful eyes. I felt lucky.

We shut off the lights in the living room and went to bed. After we were settled, her head lying on my outstretched arm, I listened to her congested breathing, sober and sexless beside me. And I tried to stay awake for as long as I could.

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2 thoughts on “I Hope They Serve Pussy in Hell: Tucker Max & Misogyny

  1. “Tucker Max does not make love, he takes shits with his penis”

    Perceptive. And it’s very true that he isn’t technically a misogynist, but in that case… what is he?
    I can’t help but see such an attitude toward his activities as being very hollow. What kind of a life is that?

    Why on earth did he write the book? From what you’ve said their is no thesis or “frame” as you put it.

    Is it supposed to be a warning to others who might fall to that level? Is it supposed to be a celebration of it?(And by what you’ve said there are at least hints at self-hatred, so I doubt it is this.) Or is it some sort of way to cash in on a clever title that loosely applies to the content?

    I have no clue, but the title feels sarcastic to me. Perhaps it is just a way to air dirty laundry. An autobiographical way to hang the underwear out the window.
    *shrug*

  2. It’s always dangerous to guess at someone’s motivation for having done something, but I’m sure blogging about women one’s slept with is a lot more fun than being a lawyer..

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