December 31, 2010

Dan Savage Interview, Part 4: I Used To Hate Straight People

Dan Savage talks about how his ideas on sexuality and relationships have evolved over the past 20 years of writing the Savage Love column.

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Question: How have your ideas on sexuality and relationships evolved over the past 20 years of writing Savage Love? And, why does it suck to be a straight guy?

The Evolution Of Ideas

Annie Corrigan: So you’ve been writing this column for about 20 years, doing the podcast 5 years. How have your views changed? For instance, did you come to writing and doing the podcast with these views on monogamy or have they developed?

Dan Savage: They’ve developed through observation, particularly how passionate I am about monogamy being a problem. And again I say, if a monogamous commitment is what you want, you should have it. You should go find it. I believe that people should honor the commitments that they make. I’m not saying everyone has to live like I live. I just think you need to be realistic. If you’re with someone for 50 years and they only cheated on you once or twice, they were good at monogamy. Not bad at it, they were good at it. If we can only think that way, we could save a lot of marriages and prevent a lot of suffering for kids.

But my views have changed a lot. I used to hate straight people.

AC: (laughs)

DS: Now I feel bad for them. That was the joke when the column started. I was 26 and I was going to write about straight people and straight sex with the same contempt that heterosexual advice columnists had always employed writing about gay people and gay sex when it would come up in their columns. So it was mostly me sneering at straight people.

When I started writing the column, I was 26 years old, all my friends were dying of AIDS, Ronald Reagan ruined the world in my opinion, and George H. W. Bush was President and he was an extension of Ronald Reagan. I was still really angry about the bullying I had endured, about my friends dying, about the indifference that the culture and the society had displayed when gay people started dying of AIDS. I was mad, and I took it out on straight people. It was sort of like a joke, but not a joke.

Then I started getting all these letters from straight people about their problems, and one day, like the Grinch, my heart grew three sizes and I started to feel bad for them, particularly straight guys. I had never really had straight guy friends and then I went to The Stranger and most everyone there was a straight guy, and I was the gay guy who answered questions from straight people. I started hanging out and drinking with straight guys. I had been in theater and all my friends were fags and I had never really hung out with straight guys.

Not A Woman And Not A Fag

I realized after getting their letters and hanging out with them, it sucks to be a straight guy. They run the world, but that includes, like, running the 7-Eleven. It’s not all glamor. Heterosexual males are really fenced in, because being a straight guy is defined as not being a girl and not being a fag. So anything that is remotely girlie or faggy is suspect. Straight guys are policed, not just by each other, but by women and by fags.

The latitude that women enjoy – to like, go to college and be a lesbian for 18 months and have a girlfriend and then be straight identified – nobody goes, “You must be a lesbian.” No one doubts that. Or, to have just one same sex experience or a three-way, a girl-girl-boy three-way, and have some same sex contact in that context. Nobody looks at a woman who has done all that and says she’s really a dyke. She couldn’t have possibly done that if she weren’t, but they look at straight guys and say that.

That’s just like the threesome, same sex contact example. Just like the straight guy who likes to cook, anything that takes them the slightest bit off this Jim Belushi idea of what it means to be a straight guy can bring their world crashing down. It really undermines their identity and makes them feel insecure.

Once I realized that, I started to feel bad for them. I’m getting all these letters from straight guys who like to have a finger in their butt, who like to cross-dress, who had met the one guy. And, they are so freaked out because they met the one guy who blipped onto their dick radar, who went into their reptile brain and their reptile brain wanted to make that guy pregnant.

I’ve met that girl – the lesbian fire fighter who I just think is so foxy. And I go, “Aaahhh, oh my god, she’s so foxy, but she’s a woman, but she’s so foxy. She looks like Rolfe from Sound of Music with muscles.” I enjoy that feeling of being sort of dragged outside my normal sexual response-athon. It doesn’t make me feel like I’m not gay or that I’m having a crisis, but the straight guy who meets the one guy who is feminine enough or in drag looks girly enough or whatever, can have a crisis meltdown that leaves them impotent. How sad for those straight guys!

So, if anything has changed in 20 years, I feel really sad for straight guys. I feel sorry for them on the monogamy issue, on the porn issue, on the one-off same sex attraction issue. I feel bad for them. Women are crazy, and there are not a lot of advice columnists that will say that to a woman.

AC: (scoff?)

DS: The women who write me, the skewed sample that I get, the letters pouring in from women who think that it is cheating when he looks at porn. You just want to say, “No, looking at porn allows him to have some variety without cheating. You should be happy he looks at porn, as long as it’s not all consuming. As long as he doesn’t have a problem with it, it’s not compulsive. As long as he’s not neglecting your needs and porn is eating his life.” With those caveats.

Firsthand Sex Advice

AC: The cool thing about the podcast is the format. All these people will call in with questions. You’ll do a little snippet at the beginning that is sort of a current events, news type issues, and then the podcast will start with real people calling in. These are voicemail messages that they’ve left. Then you’ll give a response, and sometimes you’ll even call them up and air the conversation with the person you called. It’s awesome! When did you decide to do that format?

DS: It wasn’t like we picked the format. We had certain limitations that imposed that format. We don’t have a radio studio. It’s just me and some cables in a room and a couple of Tech Savvy At-Risk Youth, and my schedule is insane. I’m always traveling and speaking and running around the country. So, I can’t say I taped this from 10-noon on Thursdays every week, call me, because I don’t know where I’m going to be on any given Thursday. We record the podcasts at all different hours and all different days, and then we put it out on Tuesday.

People would leave their questions and then we started asking them to leave their phone number in case we had a follow up question, and we would call people back. If we can get them on the phone on the fly, we talk. What you don’t hear, what’s often edited out, is I will call somebody and they’re sitting in the room with the person that they’re having the issue with or they’re at work or they’re with their mother or they’re with their kids. We’ll get them on the phone for a second and they’ll go, “Uuuhhh…” And I’ll say, “Can you get someplace?” So, we’ll sit there for 10 minutes for them to get someplace and then we’ll call them back and have a conversation. It’s really ambush what we do.

AC: It’s so great, because you’re right. It sets them off guard a little bit, but they’re talking with you really openly. It’s really like two buddies having a conversation about relationship problems. It’s a great dynamic that you have with these callers.

DS: Thanks. I wish we had more technical capabilities. We need to invest in a sound – into this. We should come here and record it!

  • allubarbosa

    I feel really sad for the guy right. I am sorry for them in the issues of monogamy

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