Why we should let Dan Savage tell us how to have sex
by Rachel Hedlund, guest writer; illustrations by Eleanor Anderson, editor, and Teal Francis, guest artist
It wasn’t until I began listening to Dan Savage’s weekly sex advice podcast titled “Savage Love” that I discovered the world of centaur fetishists. Yes, there are people out there who fantasize about having sex with centaurs, those mythical, half-man, half-horse creatures straight out of Greek mythology. The idea of banging a centaur had not entered my sexual fantasies before, and my immediate response was, “What the hell is wrong with these people?” After listening to numerous podcasts and reading Savage’s column, I can’t say I understand the plight of centaur fetishists in society today, but I have discovered a newfound respect for their own acceptance of their sexual desires. Savage’s open approach to almost everything in the realm of sexuality allows people to explore their sexual comfort zones and learn to communicate openly about sex.
Throughout his podcasts, columns, and blogs, Savage discusses just about everything regarding sex and relationships, from issues with monogamy and open relationships to handling a spouse’s desire to shove a marshmallow up your ass. Savage dishes out advice in a fashion that allows a listener or reader to follow his guidance in an open-minded way, even if the query is completely foreign (like fucking centaurs). The first few times I listened to Savage’s podcast, I was shocked by almost every question he answered. Pegging? Post-sex loss of bowel control? Penetration by fruits and vegetables? Cum littering? Almost immediately, I was lost, confused, and a bit concerned about the sexual lives of people throughout the world. Why would someone ever want to piss in their partner’s mouth during foreplay?
Savage uses the term “vanilla sex” quite often, in reference to conventional sex behavior, typically involving the missionary position. This phrase pretty accurately sums up the image of sex I am most accustomed to. Yet the labeling of this type of sex as vanilla prompted me to reconsider the implications of the sex that makes me feel most comfortable. Socially acceptable, missionary style sex isn’t the only way to do it, but why is that the form of sex that I am the most comfortable with? Maybe I’m not turned on by the thought of shoving a marshmallow up my ass, but if someone else is, is that necessarily bad or wrong? How have others found comfort in their sexual niche (kinky or not), and what limitations does society place on sexual activity between partners?
Savage uses his podcast to emphasize that people needn’t—and shouldn’t—restrict themselves to vanilla sex. As an openly gay thirty-four-year-old man, he discusses many taboo sex topics in an open way. Savage moved to Seattle from Madison, Wisconsin, and teamed up with one of the founders of The Onion to create Seattle’s own weekly alternative paper. He writes a column for this paper each week, titled “Savage Love,” where people write in with sex and relationship questions. Savage is notorious for his somewhat abusive responses to questions, but his vicious rhetoric only emphasizes his points as he calls listeners “dumbfucks” or tells them to “DTMFA” (dump the motherfucker already). Savage’s colorful language demonstrates the intensity of his passionate beliefs and his frank responses make you wonder why you never thought to ask about the details of pegging in the first place. It does seem strange when someone calls in asking about a partner’s fetish for sneakers (yes, the shoe), but Savage believes that being candid and truthful about somewhat uncomfortable sexual questions will bring more pleasure to the bedroom.
One of the main reasons I’ve been so inspired by Savage’s advice is that it promotes the idea that the best kind of sex includes consent and communication. From there, it’s up to you to decide where you want to take it. For some, the best sex may be “vanilla sex.” For others, it may include a partner’s sexual appetite for “sounding” (placing metal rods in the urethra to stimulate greater sexual pleasure). Either way, the important part is that individuals in a sexual relationship should be open and receptive to each other in order to find the best kind of sex for their relationship. In one of Savage’s columns from January of this year, he says, “I encourage people to be good, giving, and game (GGG), which only requires us, as I’ve explained, to consider our partner’s reasonable sexual requests.” Savage believes in the importance of sharing our reasonable sexual desires openly with our partners. (He places necrophilia, scat, pedophilia and bestiality in the non-reasonable category.) Sex is a give-and-take process and it requires open communication to be successful. The popularity of Savage’s podcast and column illustrates the impact he’s having on people around the country. He’s facilitating a new, open dialogue about sex by prompting us to get over our embarrassment and figure out what it is that gets our sex drives going.
Savage’s use of the phrase GGG sums up his philosophy regarding sex. In a “Savage Love” column from March 2007, Savage says, “Think ‘good in bed,’ ‘giving equal time and equal pleasure,’ and ‘game for anything—within reason.’” If we can all begin to think about sex from a GGG perspective, we’re practically guaranteed better sex. The idea of being GGG emphasizes communication—you can’t be “game for anything” unless you’re talking about it. Being GGG doesn’t necessarily mean you need to incorporate kinks and fetishes, but it does mean you need to be honest about your sexual desires and actions. The centaur and sneaker fetishists may seem like freaks, but as Savage stresses time and time again, being a freak is not abnormal in the sexual world. In fact, these fetishists have embraced the idea of being GGG, which is something that most of us struggle to do. Savage believes that creating sincere communication among sexual partners will help to create sincere communication about sex on a societal level. As long as it’s consensual, pleasurable, and reasonable, it’s likely to be quite enjoyable.
After overcoming my initial shock and awe at Savage’s show, I began to realize that this guy from Seattle has some pretty interesting perspectives. As Savage continues to rave about discrimination against centaur fetishists, I’m starting to understand where he’s coming from. This doesn’t mean I have suddenly developed a fetish for fucking Greek mythological characters, but I certainly admire the self-acceptance it would take to come to terms with that proclivity. As young adults who explore our sexualities on a daily basis, we should keep Savage’s philosophy close to our hearts, minds, and genitals. Even if you don’t find you have a fetish for sneakers or cum littering, you’ll hopefully be enjoying yourself with a GGG philosophy. And maybe we can end the discrimination against centaur fetishists worldwide. ∼