“It’s illegal to own more than three dildos in Texas…”
…and more little known facts about American sex, courtesy of Dan Savage
Dan Savage is best known for his nationally syndicated, politically charged and totally irreverent sex advice column Savage Love. But on Wednesday night at 7 pm, Savage arrives at Western’s Performing Arts Center Concert Hall to speak on …well, whatever he feels like, really, before answering questions from the audience on whatever they want to talk about. And that means that whether you’re looking for guidance on a thorny relationship issue, dispatches from the gay rights movement or just some tips on how to get those pesky santorum stains out of the sheets, Wednesday’s performance has something to offer everyone.
In addition to his weekly column detailing the exploits and travails of readers sex lives, Savage has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, producing a weekly Savage Love podcast that’s available for free at the iTunes Music Store or on The Stranger’s website. A self-described “luddite,” Savage attributes the impetus behind getting his voice online for the masses to “some tech savvy at-risk youth who told me I needed to join the 21st century.”
And though it may have taken some doing to get the podcast started, Savage, who hosted a radio call-in version of Savage Love in the ‘90s, has found a lot to enjoy in the freedom of podcasting. Like swearing, for example. It’s like having a radio show again, and it’s like a radio show where you can say any fucking thing you want to,” says Savage.
While Savage Love is primarily a forum for people to looking to query Savage on various sex acts and get guidance on maintaining healthy relationships, Savage is never too far from getting involved in politics in his weekly missive. “… I’ll get letters from people saying ‘You’re a sex column, why are you writing about politics?’…and my retort is always ‘I will stick to sex once politicians start sticking to politics.’”
For Savage, the two issues are inextricably tied to one another, especially in America. “Sex is politicized in the United States, and I think it always will be, and so if you’re going to be a sex writer, you’re going to have to engage and deal with the facts on the ground.” The facts on the ground as Savage sees them are that most every aspect of sexuality in America today is being spun into political capital. ”Gays are politicized, reproductive rights are politicized, sodomy – straight and gay – is politicized, pornography is a political issue. How can you possibly write about sex and avoid politics? I don’t think it can be done.”
Beyond the detriment done to our own citizens when politicians try to make national headlines of activities best left in the bedroom, Savage points out that the blurring of the line between public and private affairs isn’t doing our reputation abroad any good either. “In a place like Switzerland or the Netherlands or even the U.K., these issues aren’t as contentious,” claims Savage, who goes on to point out that “We have states that ban the sale of sex toys (see the headline, for example). We look like ridiculous, fucking infantile fundamentalist religious retards to the rest of the world. They only write about sex and politics over there when they write about how ridiculous we are!”
After fifteen years of penning weekly advice columns about the sex lives of others, is there ever any time that Savage gets tired of fielding people’s appeals for advice in the boudoir and beyond? “The column is about sex, and it’s a topic that people never get tired of,” Savage says, citing the never ending permutations that keep sex (and his column) interesting. And no, I’m not talking about pages from the Kama Sutra. “If you’re paying attention, and you write about sex… there’s always new and different shit going on. We lived in a world without Bill and Monica, and then one day we did. And we lived in a world without Viagra, and then one day we did. And we lived in a world without teledildonics (translated: computer mediated sex between two people’s virtual reality presences), and then one day we did.”
But while some things, like our capacity to enjoyably screw in cyber space, evolve with mind warping rapidity, others take a lot more time. Such is the case with gay marriage, an issue Savage has long advocated for. When asked for his take on the rather limited domestic partnerships bill passed earlier this month by the Washington State Senate, Savage is guardedly optimistic, characterizing the bill as a small step compared to the much more comprehensive civil unions bill working its way through the Oregon state legislature, but a step in the right direction nonetheless. “Politics is the art of what’s possible, and if that’s what Ed Murray (WA State Senator for Seattle’s 43rd Congressional District) thinks is possible right now, I trust his judgment… it’s better than nothing.”
Dan Savage will speak at WWU’s Performing Arts Center Concert Hall at 7 pm on Wednesday, April 25th, with a Q&A session and book signing to follow. Tickets are free for WWU students with ID and $5 for the general public, and are available at the Performing Arts Center Box Office.