week, I pick up a copy of The Stranger (a free
Seattle weekly paper) and read Dan Savage's sex advice
column out loud to my friends as we sip our coffee
and offend eavesdroppers with naughty words like "twat"
and "ass-fucking." For nine years, "Savage Love" has
been one of The Stranger's staples, entertaining
readers with spare-no-detail sex talk and occasionally
dispensing some good advice.
I started writing the column, people thought The
Stranger was crazy for running it. They thought
it would destroy the paper," Savage tells me. But
the same scandalous language that initially made his
column so controversial has now made him one of the
most popular advice columnists in the nation--each
week he's read by four million people in the United
States and Canada. And his political writing is no
less outrageous. Savage's article in Salon chronicling
his hilarious attempts to give former Presidential
candidate Gary Bauer the flu generated more hate mail
than the online magazine has seen in years. According
to Savage, there's one thing that makes him an expert
on sex: he's gay. "To some extent, everybody who's
gay is an expert on sex," he says. "It's the mystery
of our existence." And I can see his point. In the
process of figuring ourselves out, queers usually
do a lot of reading about and experimenting with sex,
involving ourselves in communities that tend to be
more sex-positive than the larger het world.
new book, The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend
and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant: An Adoption Story
(E.P. Dutton, September 1999) is not about sex. It's
about parenthood. Two years ago, Savage and his boyfriend,
Terry, adopted a baby boy, and The Kid tells
the story of their unconventional road to fatherhood.
Already Savage has pissed people off with his sarcastic
attitude toward parenting and pseudopedophilic comments
about his son (meant to make fun of homophobic stereotypes
about gay men, but still shocking to hear). More important,
his saga of two men and a baby challenges gender clichZs
about raising kids and other so-called women's work.
So who is Dan Savage? He's a smart guy with good intentions.
He's also a self-righteous know-it-all who could stand
to be taken down a notch or two at times. But he always
manages to do what he set out to do--entertain his
readers--and teach some of us (some of the time) a
thing or two in the process.
I'm constantly telling women to be more assertive
about the things that turn them on, about demanding
sexual satisfaction from men. Whatever it is a guy
needs to get off, he will insist on. Livestock and
uniforms, whatever else--he's gonna arrange for it
in his sex life, and a woman should make those same
demands and arrange for them. I get letters from guys
who are having sex with women and don't know where
the clitoris is and don't seem very curious about
it! You gotta wonder about the guys, first of all,
and then you gotta wonder about the women. Why they're
putting up with this and what has conditioned them
to accept so little in exchange for so much.
also constantly insisting guys not expect anything
from girls that they're not willing to do themselves.
Chiefly, oral sex. Any straight guy who won't eat
pussy is no straight guy any woman should be having
sex with, period. End of discussion.
think one of the reasons straight guys are so violent
and crazy is that sex is hard to find when you're
a straight guy. It really is. Women are less willing
to have chance, random encounters with men, because
sex is riskier--physically and emotionally--for women.
Letting someone into your body is always going to
be more taxing than sticking it into someone's body.
And so long as straight people regard sex as just
vaginal intercourse, women are going to be less likely
to engage in casual sex.
two men consent to go to bed together, that's the
beginning of the negotiations about what's going to
happen. When a man and a woman consent to going to
bed together, that's--in almost every case--the end
of the negotiation. What's gonna happen is, he's gonna
fuck her. Women know that, and so women are less likely
to consent. My boyfriend and I don't fuck each other
in the ass every time we have sex, my god! We wouldn't
want to! So long as straight people have such an idiotic
and narrow definition of sex, straight guys are gonna
have a hard time finding it. And it's their own fault,
to a great extent. Because they assume that sex means
vaginal intercourse, and when they don't get it, they
don't think it's sex, and they're mad. That's crazy.
know I've said this before; I'll keep saying it until
I die: the religious right is opposed to gay sex,
they don't think we should have sex, they think we
need to be celibate if we're gay. They're also opposed
to gay adoption. But if they really want to stop the
gay sex, they should get behind gay adoption, because
nothing put a stop to the sex in my house faster than
adopting. Really and truly.
friend of mine called me up and said 'So how's the
hetero-normative lifestyle treating you?' I go to
work; my boyfriend stays home; he's the primary parent.
We do sort of have a relationship that breaks along
gender roles. But are they really gender roles if
two men are doing it? There are people who have a
domestic flair and enjoy it. He is one of those people
and I'm lucky to be with him. He's happy not having
to kill the rat in the basement, and I'm happy not
having to wash my own clothing. It's lucky. The problem
with gender roles--I think we should call them 'gender
clichZs' rather than 'gender roles'--is when they're
shoved down people's throats against their will. That's
the problem. That's something that feminism has had
to wrestle with, this belittling of women who are
comfortable with and would rather play the traditional
female role. Feminism should be about women doing
what they want.
think the availability of open adoption helped us
get a child. A lot of the women who place their children
through an agency would have aborted if they didn't
have the option of open adoption. Closed adoption
is very hard on most birth mothers, because what you're
told is to pretend you never had the baby. It's all
about lying. It's bad for kids; it's bad for birth
mothers; it's bad for adoptive couples. It's bad for
everybody. In my book, I got in a little trouble around
issues of adoption, choice, and abortion, because
it was hard to imagine a birth mother who would get
inconveniently pregnant and choose to give her baby
to gay men, instead of choosing to have an abortion.
So we were sort of rooting for the woman who would
'choose life.' And choose fags. We thought she would
never come along, and then she did. I think parenting
should be about leaving a person or a couple of people
behind when you're gone who aren't assholes. I think
children are basically monsters, and empathy and compassion
have to be taught. We will do all we can to fill this
child with empathy and compassion. People might think
that's hilarious, because the last thing you might
ever perceive from my column is that I am someone
who has any empathy or compassion, or could teach
it. But I am and I do. That's basically our guiding
principle, just to raise someone who's not a jerk.
Lamm is currently working on a new rock opera called
"The Transfused." Photograph by Mark Van S.