‘Savage Love’fest

I discovered Dan Savage when I was 12 or 13 and coming to terms with my sexuality. He was tucked away in the back of the local “alternative paper” that was given away on top of the magazine stand at my local library

Hidden among ads for “erotic massage” and “tranny escorts” on the page next to “Free Will Astrology” was an advice columnist who was talking to me. He was a gay man who spoke about gay relationships, strange fetishes and other things Ann Landers wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.

Sometimes his column would make me laugh. Sometimes I found myself in the predicament of his advice-seeker. And sometimes I was disgusted by what I read. But it served to open me to the wide-spectrum of human sexuality. Reading Dan I came to understand that kinks were an acceptable form of sexual expression and that my “gayness” was also an acceptable form of sexual expression.  (Dan is now widely known for starting the “It Gets Better” Campaign.)

When I got to college, I stopped reading Savage Love– not because of Dan, but because I quit working at the library where I got Scene Magazine. 

However, during my 6-week road trip, I exhausted my remaining back catalogue of Keith and the Girl episodes. I was left with a hole in my podcast playlist. Bouncing around the iTunes store, I came across the Savage Lovecast, the once-a-week ‘out loud’ version of Dan’s sex advice column. As it turns out, I couldn’t have begun listening to the podcast at a better time.

My fiancé fetishizes particular objects.  (Along with a sizable portion of the population.)   However, when we were first dating, he was reluctant to tell me about it because the fetish was one of the reasons his previous girlfriend broke up with him.  When he finally told me about his desires, I was a little turned off.  But I loved him and tried to give him what he wanted.  Unfortunately, I had trouble overcoming my inhibitions.

On the road trip, I was forced to encounter his fetish on a daily basis. (Being with somebody 24/7 for 6 weeks, existing in such a confined space together, you become acutely aware of everything your partner is thinking.) I got better at dealing with the fetish, but I still wasn’t where I wanted to be. The Savage Lovecast changed all that.

In Episode 49 of the podcast, “a cheerful pregnant lady” called in wanting advice on how to indulge her husband’s pie-in-the-face fetish.

That’s right.

A man gets *excited* by being hit (and hitting others) in the face with pies. Apparently, there’s an entire community of people who are into this fetish. Once I heard this, it opened my eyes– at least I wasn’t in a relationship with Curly from the 3 Stooges.

Since discovering the podcast, I have listened to all of the 299 available episodes. The show runs half an hour to 45-minutes and is more interactive than the column (sometimes Dan calls to ask a follow-up question or dispense his advice in person.) And yet all the trademark “Savage” qualities are there– bitchiness, anti-bigot rants, sex positivity and (yes!) good, old-fashioned ‘family’ values.

Dan and his husband Terry, married since 2005, have been together for 17 years. They even have a son, whom they adopted as an infant. In fact, Dan espouses the virtues of monogamy– strange for a guy who so frequently tells people to break up that he created the acronym, DTMFA (Dump The Mother Fucker Already.)

His views on monogamy don’t fit within the one + one + no exceptions = forever view that is prevalent in mainstream American society. Dan’s advice is littered with references to swinging, three ways, polyamorous relationships, open marriages…the list goes on.

Unlike conservatives who believe the aforementioned are the death of monogamy, Dan views these as ways to save the primary monogamous relationship.  He says that our current view of monogamy is limited and almost impossible to uphold for a 50-60 year commitment (and cites historical and scientific studies to prove the point.)  Instead, to maintain a lifelong commitment, we need an open definition of the meaning of monogamy.

For example, if somebody strays, does that signal the destruction of the relationship? In our current culture, many people would say yes. But what if deciding to break up ends a loving 20-year marriage? Can it be worked through instead?

Dan’s advice is engaging, funny and smart– he quotes the likes of Shakespeare and Yeats. It’s also both no nonsense and commonsense. He gets hate mail by the truckload for his straight shooting demeanor. (He is constantly reminding listeners that it’s just advice, not binding arbitration.) But, when it’s all boiled down, Dan’s most frequent– and important– suggestion is: TALK TO YOUR PARTNER. TELL THEM WHAT YOU NEED. AND DON’T BEAT AROUND THE BUSH.

(Except in cases where the truth would do more harm than good.)

If you’re looking for some sexual relationship advice or fun, out-of-the-box entertainment, check out the podcast and everything else Savage by visiting:

http://thestranger.com/seattle/savagelovepodcast/page/

-Benjamin Rexroad
Managing Artistic Director

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