Dan Savage: All-American
Longtime sex columnist on fatherhood, ethics, politics and freedom
Published: November 28, 2012
Dan Savage would be the first to admit that, when he started his column 20-plus years ago, he had no idea he'd be where he is today. Roving the country doing speaking tours, maintaining a weekly schedule with his podcast, author of several books, writer of opinion columns for such newspapers as The New York Times, Savage has slipped the sultry bonds of sex advice to become something more, a sort of ethicist for the growing progressive wing of American culture. Few writers enjoy such wide readership, or have created so many recent coinages, such as "DTMFA," "GGG" and, perhaps most notably, "Santorum."
Similarly, how could Savage have known two brief decades ago what the world would be like today? With marriage equality gaining increasing acceptance (according to Marriage Equality USA, 48 percent of Americans live in states, counties or cities that recognize legal relationships beyond one-man-one-woman), and the gays and lesbians entering the mainstream of American life to a greater extent than ever before, the LGBT community has made remarkable strides since the early 1990s. And even straight culture has become less priggish during that time, with a young generation that's better educated about sexuality, more sex-positive in outlook, and largely viewing sexual expression as a human right.
And that's largely thanks to, well, folks like Dan Savage, who've bypassed our hysterical national puritanism and addressed sex with a candor that has leveled the playing field for all of us — gay and straight — in the name of freedom. Frankly, what could be more all-American than that?
With Savage poised to come to town this week, we relished the opportunity to interview the man whose sex column we've printed for the last 10 years or so. We dialed him up just a week after the recent national elections quite early in the morning, at 8:30 a.m. Pacific Time. Though he admitted he had suffered from insomnia and hadn't slept a wink all night, Savage was, to his word, good, giving and game, and quickly got up to speed for an enjoyable half-hour of chatting and a lot of hearty laughter.
mt: Well, if there's any reason to feel good this morning, you must be feeling vindicated by the recent elections.
Savage: Absolutely, elated still, every once in a while I go on the interwebs and I read newspapers from Nov. 7. Just go back in the archives and pretend it's Wednesday morning again.
mt: We have marriage equality in, what, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, an openly gay senator in Wisconsin?
Savage: Yeah, we didn't get marriage equality in Minnesota, we just defeated the amendment on the state constitution there to ban it. Marriage between same-sex couples was illegal in Minnesota and still is, it's just not "double illegal," which is what the bigots are trying to do.
mt: Right, my mistake. And on another issue that you've written about: marijuana prohibition. You know, you have Colorado and Washington state ... have voted to end state-level prohibition.
Savage: Yeah, we have a new state motto in Washington, "Welcome to Washington, where you can get married and get high, and if somebody doesn't like it, they can get fucked."
mt: [laughs] It seems like it's an especially good time to be Dan Savage.
Savage: Yeah, except I might have to find a new line of work 'cause there's less and less to fight for. It's a good time to be someone who believes that people should have equal rights and control of their own bodies, and, you know, the freedom to marry who they want and to smoke what they want and do what they want. I just think that everything about the election was awesome, except for what happened in Kansas, which I think you can say after every election. A couple of city LGBT civil rights laws were rescinded at the ballot box.
mt: And speaking of vindication, you also have David Petraeus resigning from the CIA for adultery.
Savage: [laughs] Yeah, what's funny about the Petraeus thing is if Petraeus were gay, the extrapolation would be: "Look, see, gay people can't be trusted and DADT should never have been repealed!" When something happens, a sex scandal or some inappropriate behavior involving a gay person, right-wingers and anti-gay haters blame all gay people everywhere for that, and that's everything you need to know about gay people: that individual's actions. But we're allowed to extrapolate nothing, and we shouldn't, about the way all straight people are based on the actions of one straight person. It seems insanely silly though. David Petraeus has a dick. [laughter] And he's in a long-term relationship and I don't believe that competence and fidelity necessarily correlate very strongly. FDR had a mistress and he was a pretty good president. If we make dishonoring a monogamous commitment over decades of a marriage a disqualifying test for office, we're not going to have many decent public servants in the long run. Bill Clinton, now beloved, I believe he had an infidelity or an adulterous relationship at some point? Vaguely recall some impeachment or other?
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