Dan Savage: Awesome or Assh*le?
Dr. Drew reboot and Santorum joke pioneer Dan Savage arouses all manner of opinions on the love-hate continuum. As Savage brings his amateur porn roadshow back to San Francisco and Berkeley for the next three weeks, we asked a cross-section of sex-positive Bay Area authors, podcasters, and relationship coaches whether they find Dan Savage fucking fabulous or problematically privileged. (Note: Dan Savage himself did not return comment for this “Dan Savage: Awesome or Asshole?” blog post.)
“I love Dan Savage. I started reading his Hey Faggot column when I lived in Atlanta a million years ago [NOTE: This was 18-26 years ago.] it was probably this Southerner’s introduction to real sex education. I loved that he was so strongly opinionated. I love people with strongly held convictions, even if I don’t always agree with them. He encourages people to communicate their desires, and to feel no shame for wanting what they want.”
“I was on stage for a sold-out  Bawdy Storytelling anniversary show, and he tweeted that he was going to come over after he was done at Hump to see my show… There wasn’t any money in appearing in my show, and Dan Savage makes a lot of money for his personal appearances. He does it for his love of theater and storytelling. And in my experience he’s a genuinely generous person.”
“I think Dan Savage has been useful… For straight people, maybe. He’s certainly been awful to trans, asexual, and bisexual people (among others) in his column and lectures. As a consent educator I’ve certainly seen his ‘good, giving, and game’ phrase used, often by men, to coerce women into sleeping with them or indulging their kinks. If you’re going to introduce ideas like that into the world, you need to be somewhat accountable for how people interpret and use them.”
‘Warm Bloody and Tender’ by Rachel Lark, featuring several Dan Savage cameos. Dan Savage, Rachel Lark, Maria Bamford and more will appear at Audible Presents Hot Mic with Dan Savage on Sun. Jan. 21 at Sketchfest, advance tickets sold out but tickets may be available at the door night-of.
Rachel Lark, singer/songwriter
Dan Savage is amazing! He’s normalized communication around sex, kink and relationships and done so much to cure our society of its deadly sex negativity. He’s a tireless advocate for women, the LGBTQI community, youth, and healthcare for all. Yes, sure, fine, Dan has misstepped and gotten some things wrong over the almost 30 years he’s been writing about sex, but he has shown a willingness to listen, evolve, and educate himself and his readers and listeners as the world changes. The fact that he plays the calls of people who disagree with him at the end of his podcast shows that. He’s a valuable champion of sexual freedom who’s changing our culture for the better.
“Like a lot of queer and trans non-monogamists and relationship coaches, I both love and hate Dan Savage. He’s done so much to increase kink acceptance in the sex and relationship advice world, has long been a public and an instrumental behind the scenes supporter of sex workers’ rights, and has used his platform to normalize the idea that sexual compatibility matters in a relationship. At the same time, he’s often exhibited biphobic viewpoints, and has ranged from transphobic to out of date on transgender issues over the years. That reflects a generational trend in our communities more generally, but as someone with a platform and mainstream access, he does have the responsibility to stay current.”
“Dan Savage has done the Lord’s work at helping our puritannical society overcome its shame and embarrassment over how good sex feels… Savage’s love of pushing boundaries extends even to veteran kinksters. So you’re a queer-identified agender individual who’s into piss and singletails? Great! Now watch some vanilla porn between two people, in a theater full of total strangers, and gauge your reactions.”
“Dan Savage has undoubtedly made a positive impact in the lives of so many with his It Gets Better Campaign, it’s obvious that he cares. And yet, I wish he would extend that level of care to our trans and bisexual communities, and consider how his transphobic and biphobic comments can be deeply harmful.”
“I’ve always liked him for the most part. I imagine a lot of people can’t remember a time when he was unique in terms of his reach and the sex-positivity of his message, and I know he’s taken a lot of flack for fat-shaming and has apologized for that. But I still think he’s a good guy.”
Christina A. DiEdoardo, attorney and author
“Given Savage’s long and well-documented history of transphobic comments, I’m past tired of het media using him as their favorite go-to queer when quotes are needed. In 2018, can we try centering queer voices which don’t belong to white privileged cis men for a change?”
Broke-Ass Stuart, BrokeAssStuart.com
“I personally really like Dan Savage. He’s done such a great job of demystifying sex and talking about it in a straight forward, honest, and approachable way. People forget that as a culture we may not have the same openness about talking about non-mainstream sex stuff without his tireless decades of writing.”
“Hate is a harsh word, but I can’t get myself to sit through a whole podcast without my skin crawling. It’s his style, as a female bodied, non-binary person, I don’t connect to his language and stylistic approach. The information he talks about is very relevant to the movement, but presented in a very white male privileged light. I found him years ago when I was looking for content around rape and was frustrated about the lack of good content so I decided to create my own.”
Magnus Sullivan, BetterThanTheHand.com
“Much like Donald Trump, who is an entertainer who’s been mistaken for a seasoned politician, Dan Savage is an entertainer who is mistaken for a qualified sexuality and relationship advice therapist. Isadora Alman created the space that he then occupied — the space for serious discussion about relationships, communication, and sexuality by highly qualified people. Dan Savage wasn’t a highly qualified person. He was an entertaining, witty, polarizing and provocative personality. The space that he occupied was actually occupied by people who took these matters very seriously and had a great deal of experience working with people on these issues of sexuality and relationship dynamics. He turned it into an area of shock-jock entertainment rather than a serious, tempered discussion. He basically eliminated the opportunity for serious therapists to talk about sexuality, advice, and relationships without being as provocative as he is. Kids growing up under Dan Savage don’t realize what they lost.”