Over at Broadsheet, the marvelous Sady writes about the Tucker Max phenomenon. Tucker Max is an asshole who makes money from writing books about his (supposed) drunken sexual conquests — and by “drunken sexual conquests,” I mean, “the encounters as he describes them often include coercion, cajoling, heavy intoxication or some element of non-consent and therefore fit the moral definition of sexual assault and, according to some organizations, the legal definition in many places.” (Feel free to go read his website for evidence; I did, but I’m not linking it.) Max makes money from his books, some film he has out, repeatedly calling women by misogynistic names, and also — the subject of particular interest right now — by giving lectures. On college campuses.
These lectures have, quite logically, spawned protests. In her post, Sady argues that the protests are misguided — not because Tucker Max isn’t a piece of shit, but because he thrives off of the attention, and protesting him is giving him what he wants.
Max is a showman. Being hated is a part of his act. He’s a self-described asshole who succeeds by getting people to agree with him. His fans think he’s saying what they can’t; his critics think he’s saying what no one should. But if you’re offended, you’ve noticed him. And for his fans, knowing that he’s picketed by feminists — feminists! Dreaded nemeses of parties and good time! — isn’t cause for concern, but a ringing endorsement.
Giving Max his very own protest makes him seem far important than he actually is. It gives him the enemies he needs. And although Max is getting testier about the protesters, his most telling statement is in his blog post about the OSU incident.
“This was one of the coolest things that has ever happened to me,” he wrote. “This is the type of shit that only happens to famous people.”
Now, I said up above that Sady is marvelous, and I agree with her something like 95% of the time. This is one of those times when I’m going to have to very strongly disagree, at least partially. First of all, I’ve never been a huge fan of the “ignore him and he’ll go away” approach. Secondly, it may indeed be true that Tucker Max doesn’t warrant a protest, but his lectures on the other hand, absolutely do. Because while Max personally thrives off of the attention, he is not the one that these protests should be trying to reach. Nor, actually, is the student body who will attend his shows anyway.
These protests should be trying to reach the schools who are letting this piece of scum onto their campuses*. The ones who need to hear the outrage are those two whom students are paying tuition, only to be slapped in the face as a thank you. The ones who need to hear the anger, the ones who I am absolutely, so incredibly and outrageously furious with that I can hardly see straight are the colleges and universities paying him to speak to their students. Who let him speak in spite of pretty unsubtly threatening female students (saying, “I’m trying to get you drunk so you can’t consent to sex, anymore”). The colleges and universities who are indeed willing to acknowledge that, as some sort of “compromise,” a Tucker Max show really does require the offer of post-lecture counseling and information on recovering from rape. They’re willing, indeed, to acknowledge that there is some sort of connection between rape and Tucker Max! That needs counteracting! And yet, they’re also still opening up their doors to him.
Tucker Max is not the direct source of my anger in this situation — he just makes me terribly, crushingly sad for humanity. He is clearly a pathetic excuse for a human being, a raging misogynist, and someone who at least claims to have engaged in non-consensual sexual acts (though reacts to naming such claimed actions what they are with threats of lawsuits). But you may have noticed that, these days, it’s those who help rape culture to thrive and prosper, particularly with some sort of authority, who ensure that survivors don’t have any support, and tell would-be-rapists that rape is okay, that really, truly infuriate me. Tucker Max won’t stop doing what he’s doing because of some protests. Not in the least. And it is indeed entirely arguable, and quite possibly correct, that those organizing the protests need a change of tactics, and to stop thinking that the actual lectures are a prime place for a visibility event.
The schools, however, should stop. And they need to stop. And they need to hear, loudly and immediately, that this is not okay. Schools have a responsibility to protect students on their campuses, to provide security and create the least hostile environment possible. By inviting Tucker Max to their campuses for some kind of sorry profit is directly making their campuses unsafe, misogynistic, violence-promoting environments. And yes, yes, yes. That is worth a protest.
*UPDATE: The comments have brought to my attention that it was unclear in the post that when I refer to “colleges and universities” or “schools,” I did in fact mean “and all affiliated organizations.” And yes, I think that student organizations can and should be held accountable in a similar if necessarily different manner from the “official” institution itself. It is my fault for not making that clear from the outset.