The Agony Antagonist

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

"Savage Disenchantment," more like

I generally love Dan Savage, author of “Savage Love.” Generally. I mean, he gives great advice, isn’t afraid to ask an expert when a question touches on a subject that’s outside his comfort level, and is usually sympathetic to the people who deserve it and horrified by the ones who are clearly horrifying. But something’s happened these last few weeks, and by “something,” I think I mean that Dan’s losing it. And by “it,” I mean whatever used to make his column good.

So, on March 15 some guy writes in and wants to talk about differing libidos, as discussed in a new book that posits that women naturally have lower sex drives. Dan’s response is to quote a review of the book (he admits that he hasn’t read the book itself) and make a bunch of erroneous claims while keeping his own ass out of the fire by attributing said claims to said reviewer. Thus we have such gems as “I'm saddened to report that, according to Sewell [author] and Loh [reviewer], there's no such thing as a woman who wants sex constantly,” and “So if straight women don't want sex—or as much sex—what do they want? Chocolate, says Sewell, or a good book. Massive amounts of carbs, says Loh.” In the following week’s column, responding to letters from angry, sex-crazed women, Savage explains that he knew that Sewell and Loh were wrong but he only accepted their hypotheses in order to rankle his female readers into sending in letters saying how horny they were, which he would then print, having the dual effect of proving this females-hate-sex theory wrong and saving Savage a buncha work. Phew! Writing a column every week must be pretty hard, eh, Dan?

None of this would have been terrible—everyone deserves a week or two off every now and then, or an off-week, whatever—if the writer of the original March 15 query had only been writing in to tell Savage about the book and see what he had to say about it. Actually, Not Giving Up says that he wants sex daily but only gets some 5-20 times per year. To be fair, Savage does address this issue (briefly): After eight paragraphs devoted to the cockamamie idea that all women prefer deep-fried pizza tacos to sex, he writes three paragraphs suggesting that women who don’t like sex but wish to remain in monogamous relationships should offer up regular blowjobs and handjobs, and that their men would be wise to accept these *jobs graciously. Well put, Savage, but how about this? Women’s libidos typically fire up in response to sex, meaning that the more we have it the more we want it; or, to put it the other way, if a woman hasn’t had sex for, oh say, three months, as is the likely case for Not Giving Up’s wife, she is going to have a harder time wanting to set aside the laundry in order to even give that handjob. And when you’re out of shape and body conscious—as someone who’s given up sex for chocolate might be—it makes it even harder to think about having sex. And there are, of course, many many more underlying factors. It’s a huge topic, and one that’s clearly not going to be solved in the few hundred words “Savage Love” occupies. On the other hand: I dunno, man. Can’t you at least try?

In last week’s column (March 29), Savage answers that question with a definitive no; he will not try, and you can’t make him. Deep Dickin’ Dude returns Savage to form—at least nominally—with a problem that seems to be what “Savage Love” should be all about. DDD is married with a baby on the way, but is hesitant to give up his weekly blowjob sessions with a man who, he says, is the best blowjob-giver ever. Is he endangering his marriage and new family, he wonders? Savage says yes, which, mind you, is probably the right answer, at least in the long run, but check out his reasoning: DDD could catch an STD from his gay (possibly promiscuous) blowjob-giver.

Could DDD catch an STD? Oh sure he could. But he could also wear a condom, if syphilis were the only concern. No, I’m thinking that this is just another lazy answer on Savage’s part. It’s kind of a morally gray area, actually. Marriage is supposed to be monogamous, of course, but it so often is not that that particular argument seems a bit stupid to drag out at this late date. The way that DDD has described the situation, it doesn’t seem as though anyone is in danger of being hurt in any way other than the wife. Why might she be hurt? Well, she’s been lied to, for one. And if the relationship is cut off, DDD will be “hurt” by the not-getting-of-blowjobs, so that’s also something to consider. One thing I’m wondering is, would the wife be willing to learn how to give a better blowjob, if DDD suggested it in the right way? If not, why not? Other considerations are: How likely is it that these secret blowjob-meetings will be discovered by the wife? What lengths is DDD willing to go to to prevent her from finding out his secret? And how much stress is DDD willing to put up with in trying to keep his secret a secret? The point is too simple to make, really, but I’ll make it, since Savage didn’t: Secrets are hard to keep. Chances are, either DDD wife will find out that her husband’s been getting BJs from a gay man (and she’ll either be cool with it or dump him—and the fact that DDD hasn’t told her already kind of makes me suspect it’s the latter) or DDD will live a life of mini meltdowns, trying to keep his stories straight and his dual lives separate (and he’ll either thrive off the excitement or it’ll drive him crazy). So, either DDD should stop seeing BJ man and address the BJ issues his wife seems to have, or he should tell his wife about BJ man and accept the consequences. Or, of course, there’s always trying to keep the secret a secret—and using condoms—but then, I suppose Savage knew all this and thought that DDD would rather listen to an angry crowd of letter-writing blowjob kings than the columnist whose advice he sought.

The good news is that Savage appears to be more or less back to his normal, helpful-advice-giving self this week —the “less” part of that statement being the first letter, which centers on Constantly Being Evaluated’s relationship with his girlfriend, which involves a smattering of dirty talk and light bondage in the bedroom, and accusations of infidelity everywhere else (along with some talk of disrespect that, frankly, to me, sounds like a deflection). To be clear, CBE does link these three items in his letter: (1) my girlfriend and I engage in dirty talk, (2) and she accuses me of being disrespectful to her, even though outside of the dirty talk and bondage—which I do totally for her benefit!—I am nothing but respectful, (3) and she “constantly” accuses me of being unfaithful. So when Savage responds by saying that the girlfriend sounds like the typical immature girl who feels guilty about indulging her few kinks, it’s not completely out of left field. But seriously. She’s accusing CBE of being unfaithful because she’s insecure, not because she’s feeling guilty about her kinks. And she’s bringing up the “disrespect” issue because she’s searching for validation in her firmly held belief that CBE doesn’t love her, could never love her, she’s not worthy, whatever. And the kinks—I dunno. Maybe they also stem from some deeper psychological issue such as low self-esteem, but maybe not. After all, if I’ve learned anything from reading “Savage Love,” it’s that a lot of people have kinks and a lot of people are fucked up, but the two are best seen as entirely separate issues.

A lot of things, after all, have been learned through the reading of “Savage Love” over the years. Just not lately.



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