When even Maxim magazine deems you a douchelord, there’s a chance maybe you have made some erroneous moves in your past. For Tucker Max, a man who has made millions in book deals detailing his ritual humiliation of women through sexual degradation and manipulation, (even erring into the realm of criminal in stories of sodomising and filming women without consent), it can hardly come as a surprise.
Max harnessed a rabid following of misogynistic dudebros during his prime, making sweeping generalisations about the psyche of women to capitalise upon their guilt-free humiliation. However, with the release of a chapter from his coming book on Thoughtcatalogue that has received great public support, Max’s entire tone has seemingly shifted.
Framed as a pickup artistry manual, Max actively eschews the conventional tropes of trickery and game-playing that so many of its ilk promote, instead chastising the (presumably male) reader for not empathising with the lived experience of women who are frequently objectified in romantic and sexual exchanges from too young an age for men to even comprehend. Whilst much of its contention is liked guided by his writing peer, Evolutionary Psychology professor Dr Geoff Miller, it bears a stark contrast of Max’s previous perceptions of women and womenkind.
And Max is not alone. After rising to fame with his book “The Game”, detailing the seamy subculture of pickup artists of whom he eventually became king, Neil Strauss has similarly taken a pivot towards progressivism from his previously misogynistic stance. Now saddled with a wife and baby who pose for his feature in The Guardian like awkward props against a backdrop of luxury mansions and sports cars that pickup artistry bought, Strauss has reneged upon seemingly all of it: he expresses shame for the trickery that he formerly peddled for profit to desperate and lonely men around the world. He attributes his turnaround of perspective to a “Come to Jesus” revelation, in which diagnoses of various emotional and mood disorders were, to his perspective, directly correlated with his lifestyle of self-sabotage.
The question is, if we are entering an Age of Enlightenment in which men who have made their names and fortunes on the back of advocacy of misogyny turn their back on their former belief systems, is it to be trusted?
Strauss and Max – both well past their respective eras of relevance in regards to public awareness – are peddling new books. Their contentions are geared towards the same audiences of insecure, sexually unsatisfied heterosexual men, but are tempered with a pervasive undercurrent of chastisement: “I know I used to hawk them, but you want tricks to bed women? Haven’t you outgrown that yet, you schmuck?”. Whilst Max continues to make sweeping generalisations about women that remain problematic, the basis of his overarching contentions are sound. It is a complex social dance to be a woman in the dating world, and when we are stripped of autonomy and humanity to become a prospective conquest and not an equal sexual partner, fear and resentment are present barriers to obstruct the acquisition of sex. So when a man whose fame was made on instructing men how to play upon these vulnerabilities to bed women turns towards progressivism in his writings for that very same audience, should it be considered a net victory, or a Trojan horse?
Whilst this author maintains a (possibly naïve) optimism that even the most backwards public figure should be permitted to redeem themselves upon abandoment on their previous stances, it’s difficult to reconcile “Don’t disrespect women!” from a man like Max, who drummed up interest in his last book by posing as an outraged student to incite campus feminist groups to protest his book readings. With such a comprehensive capacity for pervasive social manipulation, can a holistic turnaround ever be sincere? With seemingly no difference in lifestyle for both Strauss and Max other than the acquisition of wife and child, one can only wonder how deeply these new principles run.
Moreover, there is the question of mere bandwagon hopping; financial considerations must not be overlooked. Feminism has become the 21st century equality buzzword, and with good reason. The fratboy antics of a decade or two ago – in which women were both game, prize, and punchline should her male partner deem it appropriate to humiliate her for entrusting him with her physical or emotional vulnerability – is no longer considered “all in good fun”. Such cruelty in the name of masculine entertainment is on its way to being branded with the weighty contempt it deserves. This reflects in the substantial dip of interest in mainstream markets compared to its heyday. In this era, interpersonal kindness sells, and sells well. Belligerent femininity-bashing is regarded with a greater degree of criticism.
When anti-women groups describe these new stances from their previous posterboys as “traitorous”, rendering these large fanbases effectively burned, one wonders if there is an obligation of feminists to forgive (though not forget) in order to expedite a more unified future of progressivism. It’s pleasant enough to imagine, but when sincerity can only ever be discerned by subjective public opinion, it is a borderline impossible ask of many feminist thinkers.
Can this caliber of scumbag ever truly be redeemed, even if they now enthusiastically snap at the hands that escalated them to initial infamy? Such a conclusion is one that cannot come easily, and may never. But if redemption is what these entertainers pursue, it may be hard won. With pickup artists jilted and feminists being permitted to passively exist in their space (provided they’re not “too feminist” - Max), it’s difficult to discern how many will line up to buy what these men are selling… and make no mistake, they’re always selling.
Scarlett Hawkins writes novels... But in her spare time, she writes rants.