In the spirit of the Supreme Court’s historic decision regarding DOMA this past month, let me tell you about a man I love. Ever since I stumbled upon his syndicated advice column on The Onion’s website many, many years ago, I have been a devoteé of one Dan Savage. Anyone who’s been unfortunate enough to ask for my counsel has usually heard me start with “Well, Dan Savage always says…” And indeed, his responses to the romantically and sexually confused have poured down like a refreshing rain of pure reason, wit and truth from the heavens above. His ideas, stories and personal experience have helped me navigate some dark times in my own love life, whether it was making me face harsh truths about my own character or supporting me during the times I’d been treated poorly.
As a gay man giving advice to heteros and homos alike (and every stitch in between), Savage occupies a unique position in American culture: sex positive, progressive and unashamedly liberal, without being touchy-feely, condescending or politically correct to an antiseptic degree. Male, female, trans, straight, queer, young, old, kinky, vanilla and even asexual, Dan has attended to problems of all sizes, shapes and smells and given them an empathetic, honest and hopeful answer, while still calling bullshit on anyone slacking in their sexual and social awareness. Who else could be adamantly anti-rape culture yet pro-rape fantasy— and be so eloquent and thoughtful (and funny!) about it in the process? Dan freaking Savage, that’s who. He describes his column as “a conversation I’m having about sex with friends in a bar after we’ve all had a drink. A few drinks.”
And that’s exactly how it feels, especially when he’s quoting the Royal College of Psychiatrists in one breath and telling failed Republican presidential nominee Herman Cain to suck his dick in the next. It’s one reason I identify with him so much, or as he puts it in his disclaimer to critics: “sorry to disappoint, right-wingers, but the true sex radicals see me as hopelessly conservative and dangerously ‘heteronormative.’” I would love to live in a world where Dan Savage defines the “conservative” part of the political spectrum. I’ll be a reactionary asshole right up there with him.
So it was with great enthusiasm and gratitude for my dear partner Adrienne when she gave me Savage’s latest collection of essays, American Savage*, for my birthday last month. It’s a great book to receive as a gift and should practically be required reading for all couples (and human beings in general) who have an interest in the science of love and relationships. American Savage is a wild ride for the hardcore follower like myself, as well as a good introduction for the uninitiated. On the topic of monogamy, for example, Savage wonders “Can it even be considered cheating if you’re cheating at one end of a guy while your husband cheats at the other end of the same guy?” (and if you think that’s salacious, let me point out that’s a footnote). But American Savage is hardly all shock and porn: one moment we are cruising the halls of a leather fetish convention and the next, sharing the trials and frustrations of raising Savage and huzzzband Terry’s adopted son: “By the time D.J. was in the fifth grade, Terry and I realized that we were essentially raising the kid who beat us up in middle school.” American Savage also treats us to his thoughts on everything from Catholicism, gun control and growing up gay in the ‘70s to Obamacare (note to New Orleanians and Drew Brees especially: Jimmy John’s is no friend to the working stiff). In the book’s quietest, heaviest and most heart- breaking moment, we’re practically next to him at his mother’s bedside when she takes her last breath. Another area where I see eye-to-eye with Savage: we are both unabashed momma’s boys.
I’d like to say that American Savage is its own sexual revolution or a massive aspirin tablet for the Puritan hangover we’re still experiencing in this country, but Dan Savage has been out there a long time and his views are only a click away (you can find him on every media outlet from MTV to NPR these days). But if he’s still eluded your attention or remains a big mystery to you, it’s time to get a copy of this book, check out the podcast, read the column and get to know the person who is doing more to free us from sexual ignorance than anyone else. Never forget that gay rights are straight rights, and being in a healthy, happy relationship is something you can never stop learning how to be good at. —Dan Fox