October 30, 2009

IU Students Get Some Savage Love

Sex advice columnist Dan Savage offered words of wit in a campus appearance at IU

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Regular readers of Seattle-based sex columnist Dan Savage appreciate his unique blend of tough talk, compassion, and common sense as he takes on reader questions in his column and podcast, Savage Love.  This week, he brought it live to Indiana University in an appearance during Sexploration Week at IU.

Savage spoke for almost two hours answering questions from the audience that led him through a discussion of men’s tendency to cheat, the redefinition of marriage over the last century, whether it’s ethical to use a casual sex partner to “exorcise” the ex, and his preferred after-sex snack.  (Cheerios, if you must know.)

No topic from the crowd was off-limits, and Savage treated questions mundane and outlandish alike with his trademark  blend of off-hand humor and sincere attention to the issue, returning often to the fundamental issues of responsibility, respect, and sexual pleasure.

Out of an evening of highly entertaining and often illuminating answers, I’d like to share two topics that particularly struck me in their timeliness and usefulness.

Skipping the Marriage Boycott

Savage is a vocal proponent of gay marriage, a topic which surfaced several times in the audience questions. In response to a student, Savage advised concerned heterosexual couples not to postpone or cancel their own marriages as an act of solidarity for same-sex couples who are denied the right to marry.

Instead, he suggested ways that straight couples could use their own weddings as opportunities to educate about the issue: by including a statement on their wedding invitations, or including same-sex couples visibly in the ceremony, or even simply by bringing together heterosexual and homosexual friends and family to share in one celebration.

What Are You Into?

When asked what one piece of sexual advice he had for students, Savage was quick to answer, “communication.” Gays and lesbians are better at sex than heterosexuals, he quipped, because they are forced to talk about what sex is going to be between them in a way that heterosexual couples rarely do.

Once a heterosexual couple agrees they are going to ‘have sex,’ their conversation stops, because everyone involved assumes they know what that means – and the end result is often an unsatisfying, and even distressing sexual experience for one or both partners.

Savage’s remedy?  “Four little words: What are you into?”  Such a simple question, he pointed out, is extremely powerful because it lets each person decide what sexual acts are included and what aren’t – beforehand. It’s the start of the conversation, not the end. And so much more interesting.

If you’d like to see more of the questions asked by IU students, Dan Savage has posted some on his blog.