Dan Savage Offers Straight Talk at Art Explosion Finale
For 20 years, gay sex advice columnist Dan Savage has offered straight talk in “Savage Love,” which is syndicated internationally and now can be heard on podcasts. This Saturday, Savage will be dishing out his frank commentary at the Broward Center as the concluding headliner of the 2011 ArtsUnited ArtExplosion festival.
What can audiences expect? Savage can’t definitively answer that question.
“You know, I don’t know quite yet,” he replies with a chuckle. “We can do anything, maybe everything when it’s live. It’s really like my column and podcast, where we go where (readers and listeners) take it.”
While some appearances can be very serious, like a recent discussion in Chicago about sexually transmitted diseases and an appearance in Rhode Island that focused on bullying, he points out, “I always reserve a lot of time for Q-and-A. It’s my format, what I’m most comfortable doing.”
With two decades under his belt, Savage’s job has definitely evolved.
“I always put it in terms of the ‘pre-Internet and Google’ Savage Love and the ‘post-Internet Savage Love,” he explains. “Early on, I used to get questions like. What is a cock ring? Or, Is there a BDSM group in my area? I don’t have to answer those questions anymore.”
He said his readers now present questions that involve situational ethics problems. They are more likely to present a set of circumstances and ask, “What do I do?” Savage finds that those questions are much more subjective, more difficult to respond to and definitely draw more fire. And, with the ease of e-mail, he continues to draw plenty of fire.
“I’d rather provoke a response than not. I have a thick skin,” he responds.
On the issue of bullying LGBT youth, Savage provoked a huge response with his “It Gets Better” campaign. What started as an appeal to his readers before the rash of gay suicides last fall, picked up momentum as thousands were moved to respond to the deaths of Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Cody Barker and many other youth who were subject to hateful bullying.
Savage admited suffering bullying, but it was the experience of his husband that broke his heart: “He was brutally bullied in middle school and high school and it’s amazing that he survived. Teachers and administrators didn’t lift a finger to stop it. We were so blown away to find it was still happening today.”
As the father of a 12-year-old adopted son, he finds himself thinking more about his work in different ways.
“I don’t pull any punches in my column,” he says. “Now, my son doesn’t read my column, but I know that other kids not much older than him read me. I don’t think they should. We don’t think of our own parents as being sexual.”
For the time being, Savage is content churning out his columns and addressing the problems of others.
“Think about how long Ann Landers did her column. It’s a very sweet gig and not something you walk away from. Everybody likes to talk about sex and everybody likes to get e-mails,” he explains. “That’s what I do.”
Featuring Dan Savage
Saturday, Feb. 26, 8 p.m.
Amaturo Theatre, Broward Center
Tickets $25, $35 at BrowardCenter.org