Savage Politics

Our sex-columnist-turned-political-trash-talker is coming here from Seattle to make sure Santorum gets whipped but good.

By Liz Spikol
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Oct. 4, 2006

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It's not hard to guess what Dan Savage, writer of the syndicated Savage Love column that runs each week in this paper (see p. 83), thinks of Rick Santorum. But when pressed to articulate what really pisses him off, he thinks of the children.

After he waged a successful campaign to associate Santorum's name with a sex act (more on that later), readers contacted Savage with concerns about Santorum's young children.

Had Savage Love doomed the senator's kids to a life of ridicule and misery? Savage was furious.

"My response generally is I have children. There are millions of gays and lesbians in this country who have children, and our children have to listen to the Rick Santorums and the Rev. Sheldons of the world compare us to dog-fuckers and suggest that gay marriage is akin to terrorism. And what about our children? Why am I required to be civil to a man who compares my relationship to incest and bestiality and terrorism? And where's the concern for children when gays and lesbians are the children?"

Savage says the people worried about Santorum's children are "left-leaning trolls" who worry about civility, something Santorum and the right doesn't. "It's attack, attack, attack," he says. "Attack immigrants, attack gays, attack women's rights, attack the patriotism of anyone who doubts George Bush, attack triple-amputee senators, question their patriotism and service. The only people who come at me wringing their hands about Santorum's children are idiot lefties who don't get how serious the right is about destroying us."

Oh come on, Dan. Stop beating around the bush. Say what you mean.

Savage has never been one to mince words.

It was the 2005 awards banquet of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) in San Diego, and the organization's almost exclusively white journalists filed into the hotel's large banquet room, prepared for the obligatory rubber chicken and weak coffee.

But the draw wasn't the food, or even the awards. It was featured speaker and MC Dan Savage, who at the 2002 awards infamously began removing items of clothing after having a, um, wee bit to drink. His antics that year were the hit of the conference, and gave journalists a salacious story to take home to their editorial meetings.

In San Diego last year Savage was comparatively subdued, but not cowed. The advice columnist for about 80 papers in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Beijing has long been a champion of people who feel marginalized by what they perceive as forbidden desire. Savage's mission has been to show their secret longings aren't only normal but also welcome--at least in a society with putatively progressive ideas about sexual identity and practice.

His embrace of all kinks--aside from, as he often stresses, bestiality, pedophilia, necrophilia and corprofagia--has made him something of a hero to people who, raised in a condemnatory Judeo-Christian tradition, think their sexual cravings make them bad people.

Given his open mind, there's no taboo Savage hasn't addressed at one time or another, which adds a thrilling frisson to his appearances.

Savage is also editor of The Stranger, Seattle's snarky youth-oriented weekly newspaper that's considered either fearlessly renegade or stubbornly childish, depending on the critic.

In 2005 the talk of the AAN conference was the problematic politics of the host paper the San Diego Reader. The paper's editor Jim Holman, a conservative Catholic, enjoys protesting abortion clinics in his off-hours and has openly denigrated gay and lesbian causes.

The Reader refuses ads from LGBT groups trying to advertise their events, and takes no gay personals ads. This makes the Reader conspicuous in alternative weekly circles.

Most of the conference attendees were aware of the Reader's exclusionary leanings, so it came as a pleasant surprise that Savage, who's gay and a longtime lefty, agreed to host an event sponsored and organized by the Reader.

After a few jokes about Craigslist, the community bulletin board that has newspaper classifieds departments shaking in their boots, Savage lit into the Reader, reminding his audience how objectionable their editorial and advertising policies were, which made most everyone feel both guilty and giddy at the same time.

Some did wonder if Savage's harsh words were undiplomatic, but no one thought he'd gone too far until he made a comment about gargling with cum across the border in Mexico. The young AAN interns--innocent, aspiring alt-weekly writers--looked aghast. Others put their forks down and laughed uncomfortably.

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