It’s been almost three years since Tucker Max announced he was retiring from his reign as the king of “fratire.” Max, who got famous (and rich) chronicling his drunken travails and sexual conquests in four different books, has kept busy since he hung up his proverbial typewriter. He’s launched two editorial services companies (and sold one), become an angel investor (with funds in some 80 startups), and started a family (he’s married with a son). But his latest project, a new book called Mate that he coauthored with Geoffrey Miller, may be putting him in the most unexpected role of all: relationship guru.
Subtitled Become the Man Women Want, the book is being released on September 15 by Little, Brown, which is going to press for an announced printing of 100,000 copies. The authors feel that the book covers new ground. While dating guides for men do exist—those written by self-styled pick-up artists being the most popular recent strain—Mate blazes a new path by using science to teach men how to get into healthy relationships. Or, as Max explained, it offers men advice on how to “get better with women in a way that isn’t scammy or manipulative.”
John Parsley edited the book at LB and said he was immediately drawn to its “blend of science and voice.” To that end, it melds research from Miller, an academic and author (Spent: Sex, Evolution, and Consumer Behavior) who teaches evolutionary psychology at the University of New Mexico, with Max’s voice. This means that notions such as the “five principles of mating success,” which include directives to be honest and to “own your attractiveness,” are delivered in blunt, Maxian ways. (The book opens with this statement: “You have no fucking idea what you’re doing.”)
Max certainly has reach with the book’s target demographic: men ages 15-25. There are more than two million copies of his first book, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, in print, and his social media footprint is significant: he has more than 350,000 followers on Twitter and 400,000 “likes” on Facebook. But he also has detractors. Max has been slurred by the media many times—he even inspired one person to create a blog called Tucker Max Is a Douchebag. Nonetheless, the term he seems to bristle at most is misogynist. When asked if he worries that his reputation may prevent him from being taken seriously as a virtuous peddler of relationship advice, his response is unequivocal: no.
Max insisted that only people who haven’t read his books think he hates women. And he doesn’t waste much energy on them. “I don’t spend time thinking about critics—especially anonymous ones, criticizing a book they don’t want to read,” he said.
As it happens, LB already has some proof that quite a few people want to read Mate. Before launching the book, the concept was tested in a podcast (with an accompanying website) called the Mating Grounds. The site, which went live in June 2014, draws 800,000 unique visitors per month, and the podcast has been downloaded more than 2.5 million times, according to LB. The show features Max and Miller tackling questions from their audience; it was modeled on Love Line, the radio call-in show popular in the 1990s in which a doctor (Drew Pinsky) and a comedian (Adam Carolla) fielded questions about sex, posed largely by teenagers. The Mating Grounds podcast has also been established as a feeder for the book; the publication date of Mate was revealed on-air, and a cover reveal was sent to the podcast’s roughly 10,000-subscriber email list.
The fact that Mate is coming out amid a small wave of books about relationships by men and marketed to men is, its authors believe, a coincidence. There’s Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari’s recently released dive into the customs and rituals of coupling, which he cowrote with NYU sociology professor Eric Klinenberg; and in October, HarperCollins will release Neil Strauss’s memoir, The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships. In The Truth, Strauss chronicles the unexpected emotional crisis he had after he researched and mastered the art of picking up women while writing his 2005 nonfiction bestseller The Game.
For Miller and Max, Mate is intended to solve a more serious problem—one that goes beyond helping a few teenagers land dates. “Masculinity is clearly in crisis and young men know it,” Miller said. Noting that this idea has been taking hold in popular culture, Miller referred to a May 30 Economist article titled “Men Adrift,” which noted that men earn fewer college degrees than women and are more likely to commit suicide or be estranged from their children. And, amid the ongoing college rape crisis, Miller thinks many his male students are given the impression, when they arrive on campus, that “they are a bunch of misogynists and date rapists.” Therefore, he hopes the book will counteract any “sexual shame” felt by its young male readers.
Max would also like to see Mate emerge as an antidote to books like The Mystery Method: How to Get Beautiful Women into Bed, a 2007 title by one of the pick-up artists Strauss profiled in The Game. The “pick-up artist books,” as Max called them, are “destructive” in so far as they teach men to “treat women as objects.” For Max, Mate is “the anti-pick-up artist book.” For Miller, Mate will, ideally, help young men “understand why they’re facing such frustrations and challenges.” He wants to the book to teach them that women’s preferences are “not arbitrary” but are instead rooted in a “deep evolutionary logic.”