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Chad Kultgen, author of The Average American Marriage, talks porn, squirrels and civil rights

Chad Kultgen, author of The Average American Marriage, talks porn, squirrels and civil rights

Chad Kultgen is the epitome of everything that is lewd in this world. His work is dirty, offensive and polarizing (see: The Average American Male). He makes a living transcribing explicit sexual fantasies with the women who frequent your local fitness center, and could give a rat's ass about how marginalized he makes you feel -- you average American person, you! On Thursday, February 21, Kultgen will be appearing at the Tattered Cover in LoDo to promote his new book, The Average American Marriage. Prior to his arrival in Denver, Westword caught up with the controversial author to talk about America's ever-growing addiction to porn and how there's no possible way online dating sites could have been created by a higher power.

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Westword:Can you briefly describe what The Average American Marriageis about and its relationship, if there is one, to The Average American Male?

Kultgen: The Average American Male was my first book. It came out in 2007 and was loosely about a guy who was in his mid- to late- twenties and was involved in a relationship with his girlfriend who he eventually realizes he doesn't like so much. So he finds another girl he thinks he likes more, winds up with here, only to realize she is kind of the same as the first girl; but in the end he throws in the towel and proposes marriage to her anyways.

The Average American Marriage is my fourth book and it's a sequel to that first book. The two books in between are unrelated. In The Average American Marriage, the character is now married to the girl he wound up with in the first book. It's about five or six years later, they have cute kids and it's just about him dealing with being a guy in his early-to-mid-thirties realizing the things he thought he was going to do when he was twenty are probably never going to happen, and not only realizing that but kind of being okay with it -- losing the fire of life, if you will.

Are you married?

No, I'm not married. Nor do I have children.

Do you think if you were married there would be some parallels between what you wrote in your book and your own marriage?

Jesus, I hope not. Kind of the whole point of writing these books was to make it a series and check back in with this character every five years or so and have that guy serve as a story that can be told about the average man living in America during the same years that I'm living. In doing that, I'm also hoping my life never really mirrors his own, because it's not a fun life. It's not a bad life. The guy makes enough money to comfortably support his family. They live in a decent place. There's no real worries. But he also has no real joy in his life. It's kind of a mundane, drone-like existence. Just keep walking until you die, basically. So yeah, I hope my life never parallels his.

Your writing can be pretty vulgar at times, to say the least. Do you curse like a sailor in real life or are you really reserved and instead rely on your writing to cathartically exercise an alter ego?

No, I'm pretty vulgar in real life. [Laughs]

Porn plays a large role in your writing. Have you ever considered being in a porno?

Being in a porno? No. I shot a sex tape with one of my ex-girlfriends but that was about as close as I've ever come to being in a porno. Yeah, I don't think I'd ever be in a porno but I do think porn is an interesting piece of culture that nobody really talks about honestly. Guys watch porn every day -- at least, my friends do. Porn is such an integral part of pretty much a lot of guys' lives. Its something that, if not daily at least every other day or weekly, guys are watching on the Internet. And it's just not really discussed; or, it's discussed in a kind of joking way with a wink and a nod. That's a strange thing to me, that we can't just openly say, yes, everyone watches porn -- clearly -- and it's a piece of who we are not only as a country but as a world. Sex is the only reason we exist. It's our only function. And it's just weird to me that it gets dismissed. So I always try and include it in pretty much all my books as something that's an activity for most of the main characters in my books.

Why do you think that is? As a society are we still not ready to talk as openly about porn as we may be twenty years down the road?

Yeah, I think specifically in American we've been so scared of sex and sexuality that we can't discuss it. You have a show on TV right now called The Bachelor which is supposed to represent this very traditional idea of what relationships, marriage and courtship are -- or were -- and it was just revealed in the tabloids that the guy who is the bachelor is a virgin. The guy is in his mid thirties and he's a virgin. That is so abnormal it's beyond belief and yet he's held up as the example of the perfect bachelor. Here's 25 ladies who are all gonna be fighting it out to get his proposal and to me that's super weird.

So yeah, it's strange that we can't talk about it in America now. But the good thing about the Internet is that it has opened the floodgates for information exchange. By the time kids who are five to ten years old now are running things it's just not gonna be that way. Because kids now, instead of finding their dad's Playboy stash or reading Cosmo to learn about sex, they just Google whatever they want. They watch the most hardcore porn imaginable and that's their sexual education. As a result they're far more open about it.

That's a little bit scary, don't you think?

I don't see it that way. Not at all. I'm a big fan of change and I like to get to the end result as soon as possible. For me it's completely fruitless to try and stop social or technological change and it seems like in this country we try and do it at every turn. Take gay marriage for example. That's not right! It's just ridiculous that gay marriage is even something we're discussing right now. In a hundred years people will look back and say, we were ridiculous, we were so stupid for even having the debate. This is obviously the civil rights movement of this generation. It's just the nature of people not wanting change. It's simply not correct. It never has been and it never will be.

Switching gears, do you think you'd be where you're at right now if you hadn't launched those marketing videos on YouTube?

I don't know man. Those videos are an interesting thing and I think they worked. My first book is still my best-selling book. I think it sold over 100,000 copies or something, which in terms of publishing is successful, I think. But it's hard to say. I remember when those videos came out they got a million views pretty quickly. In certain ways I think they got enough attention that it spurred somebody to check out the book, which is always good. But I really don't know how much of the success of my first book those videos played a direct role in.

How would you describe your fan base?

I'm not really sure. It's varied. It's varied between gender. It's varied with age. I get a fair amount of Facebook messages that are surface-level comments about how much they like the crass nature of my humor and my unabashedly male point of view. And then I get a fair amount of people that are getting things from the book that are much more than that. They get the metaphors and the bigger idea of what I'm trying to say about society in some of these books. Then some of them say they never read books but read all my books, which is kind of cool. It's pretty varied, I'd say.

Do you receive a lot of backlash from women?

I certainly get my fair share of Facebook messages that tell me to never write a book again or wish I'd burn in hell -- things of that nature, which I'm happy to receive, by the way. I like getting those almost as much as I like getting the complimentary messages. But to each their own. If you are exposed to some piece of media or event and you have a strong reaction to it and feel the need to voice that opinion to the person who created it, I'd say go for it. That's all part of expression. It's all part of art existing in the world and evoking reactions. So I have no problem with anyone wanting me dead or wishing me to burn in Hell.

Has the vitriol you've received from women in the past had an effect on the way you're currently approaching your writing?

No, and I wouldn't say I'm criticized only by women, either. It's equal. I get a decent amount of Facebook messages from guys saying, "You think this is what the average guy is like?!? Well I'm nothing like this! I like to drink white wine and read on the beach!" But to answer the bigger question -- does criticism affect the way I write things? -- absolutely not. At least not in books, at any rate.

In a New York Times interview you suggested your college experience was "abnormal." What did you mean by that?

Well, I had a long-distance girlfriend. I went to college at USC and had a long-distance girlfriend back in Dallas for all four years. My parents would fly her out to see me or I'd go back to visit her every three or four weeks. I'd spend a long weekend with her. It would just be sex, basically. It was a strange thing. For those other three weeks I could really focus on whatever I was doing in college or hang out with my friends, but I never chased chicks, which I think is a super weird college experience. I don't know if I regret it, necessarily, but the way I had it was just a very weird experience. For three weeks I would be horny as hell and then for four days it would be nonstop sex. It was interesting in terms of that, but the rest of my college experience was as normal as going to film school can be. I just got drunk and made stupid movies with my friends.

In general, what was your life like growing up?

About as normal as you can get for American suburbia. I grew up in a really small town in the middle of Kansas, then when I was in about sixth grade I moved to a suburb of Dallas which is where I spent junior high and high school. So it was that suburban sprawl with strip malls everywhere and all the buildings were very new. That was kind of the impression I got of what the whole world was like. But I played baseball and football. I made good grades. I had a girlfriend. All the normal things that normal suburban kids do, I think. Nothing crazy ever happened to me. I never went to jail. I never did drugs. None of that kind of stuff.

So it was pretty average, so to speak?

Yeah, it was pretty average. I did read a lot and I think that has contributed more than anything to my general view of the world and what ultimately drives me to write all these books. It's a disdain for the status quo. It ties into what I was saying earlier about people trying to stop progress, social or technological, and I hate that. I want to stop that from happening. When something is clearly beneficial to the populace, like legalizing gay marriage for example, why would we want to stop that? It's just some ridiculous, outdated, ideological view that comes from religion.

Yeah, I'm with you on that one. Especially right now with all the gun control debates and protection of the Second Amendment. Last time I checked the Constitution was written how many hundreds of years ago? I think it's safe to say our founding fathers would have included some kind of footnote-caveat to that amendment if they saw what was happening today, don't you?

Yeah, the real beauty of the gun control debate is that the original Second Amendment was written so that we'd never be run over by the government. It was written in an era when the Internet didn't exist -- obviously -- and when the flow of information isn't near what it is now. So these days the government can say, yeah we'll never take away your guns but what we will take away is every other right: we can look at your e-mails, we can drag you out of the house and arrest you instantaneously for no reason, we can do whatever we want. So the actual freedom has been completely removed but the government allows us this idea of freedom through the Second Amendment.

You were recently up in Portland signing books at Powell's. Did you go to the really big one that takes up a whole city block?

Yeah, I did. I love going to Powell's and Tattered Cover in Denver. Those are like my two favorite bookstores to go to when I do book tours. But yeah, it was great. Twenty to thirty people showed up. There was a lady who brought her baby and said she started reading The Average American Male during her pregnancy and this was the baby's first outing into the world, its first experience beyond the hospital and its home. She brought it to this book signing where I was reading all kinds of vulgar stuff and weird stuff I'd written in college. I also made a prank call to a prayer line and offended them. So that was super interesting.

Then at the very end a kid came up to me who was in his twenties. He didn't bring anything to sign. He waited in line till the very end. Then he came up to me and said, "Hey I don't have anything to sign I just wanted to tell you your books were very important to me. I came across The Average American Male at a tough time in my life where I wanted to be a writer but was kind of disenchanted with the whole idea of it. So I stopped writing, then I read your book and it also helped me through a sort of identity crisis in my life." I write my books for a lot of reasons, but I honestly never would have thought that anything I had written would have that kind of an impact on somebody. It was a bizarrely moving experience for me to have this conversation with this kid.

In closing, what the hell is up with that video on YouTube of you feeding squirrels then filming your own TV?

[Laughs] So, here's the whole back story on all the squirrels and shit: The area that I live in has a bunch of shrubs and vines growing all over my upstairs kitchen window. There's a bunch of squirrels that chill out there. I don't have any pets because I'm not a fan of having to walk a pet or pick up a pet's turds with your hands or have a box of their turds in my house. So I started getting some nuts and leaving them out on the window of my kitchen and watching these squirrels come around and eat them and play with each other. And they kind of became my surrogate pets, so much so that some of them have allowed me to pet them like cats for extended periods of time. Some of them will wait for me if I leave in my car. Some of them will greet me as I get out of my car; they will be sitting on or near my shoes. So it's kind of become known among my friends that I have this weird obsession with squirrels... which I guess I kind of do.

Damn. That's kinda weird. What was that commercial that was on the TV? I remember laughing at it.

I think it was BlackPeopleMeet.com. I'm very interested in those weird dating websites. ChristianMingle.com is my favorite. If you believe in a god, the idea that that god has a perfect match for you but that he needs you to sign on to this website first, is insane. It's just insane! How anybody can believe in a god and still sign up for that website blows my mind! And I'm sure they still get millions of dollars for that stupid website. I mean, what did God do before the Internet? Didn't he just put that person in your life? Can't he still do that or is he too busy? It's just absurd. It's beyond absurd. It's just another example of why I hate religion.

Chad Kultgen will be at the Tattered Cover in LoDo at &;30 p.m. on Thursday, February 21. Find more information here.



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