Dan Savage on his HUMP! Tour, Sex in DC, and the GOP

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 13.24.15Earlier today, FishbowlDC had the opportunity to speak with love and sex advice columnist Dan Savage, in advance of the DC stop of his amateur adult film festival, HUMP!. The show premiers tonight and runs through Saturday at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

HUMP! films take a nuanced approach to amateur adult films by using parody, documentary themes, animation, and more to give viewers an artistic look at the genre. The festival was created in 2005 by the “Savage Love” author as a sex-positive and creative outlet for amateur pornographers.

Eight screenings are planned for its visit to DC, including Thursday, March 20 and Friday, March 21 at 8 and 10 pm and at 4, 6, 8, and 10 pm Saturday, March 22. Tickets may be purchased at http://humptour.strangertickets.com. The festival’s DC stop is presented by the Washington City Paper, which runs “Savage Love” weekly and online.

Read on for our Q&A with Savage on the origins of the tour, what we can expect, and naturally, his answers to Push/F@#k/Marry with Fox News’ Bret Baier, CNN’s Jake Tapper, and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.


FishbowlDC: What led you to create the HUMP! Tour?
Dan Savage: “Years ago we created the HUMP! Festival in Seattle as a joke and a dare. A coworker of mine, at The Stranger…we joked that, ‘We’re gonna have an amateur porn festival and advertise it in our paper,’ and see what we got in the mail…We weren’t even sure when we made the annoucenemt that we’d get enough submissions or any submissions enough to have a festival. We got plenty, and it was a big hit, and all the screenings sold out. It was actually kind of magic – the whole event – in the way the audience received it and the way people reacted to it and how old school it was. People don’t watch porn in movie theaters together anymore. You watch porn with your computer or maybe with one other person. There’s no communal aspect to porn anymore…and there probably shouldn’t be. I don’t think watching porn together in a movie theatre was the ideal format. It quickly became clear that it had legs, that this porn festival idea and people sharing their own vision of porn that they made with friends and lovers was going to take off and keep going. The festival just grew, year after year…people in other cities would say, ‘Oh my God, I want to see HUMP!, put it online, sell DVDs.’ And one of the reasons HUMP! has been so successful is that there are no DVDs and nothing gets online. So people were able to participate in HUMP! who might not otherwise make porn or share the porn they were making, because the idea behind HUMP! is that you can be a porn star for the weekend and not for the rest of your life…After the calls to tour got so loud, we decided to ask film makers what they wanted to do…We asked if they wanted to resubmit their film for the tour and they said ‘Yes.’ ”


FBDC: What can we expect for those planning to visit the HUMP! Tour?
DS: “The films we did for HUMP! run the gamut from humor shorts, animation, erotica, hard core, it’s everything from vanilla, very sweet short films made by people who are clearly into each other to hardcore S&M. You’re going to see different types of gender expressions…it’s really all over the place. The one thing I think that all the films share is this sense that the people in them, the people who are making them, are having a really good time, that they know each other, that there’s an intimacy in a lot of the HUMP! films which can sometimes be missing from porn – even amateur porn – you see online…One of the things I enjoy most about HUMP! is the audience and the audience’s reactions.”

“The overused term, sex positive – really beaten to death over the last 20 year with that term – that’s kinda the only term that really applies to HUMP! HUMP! is really sex-positive and porn-positive. There are folks out there who come to HUMP! who don’t like porn, they’re not anti-porn activists, but people who porn isn’t their thing…So much of the porn that’s out there is dehumanizing…they come to HUMP! and the porn is deeply humanizing.”


FBDC: Do you think the sex-positive movement perpetuates society straying away from monogamy?
DS: (Laughs) “I don’t think you have to be non-monogamous to be sex-positive. In fact, I know that’s not the case. I have friends that are monogamous – gay and straight friends – who are absolutely, 100% sex-positive people.”

“Sex-positivity is a concept or dialogue that allows for non-monogamy to be discussed and acknowledged as legitimate and healthy and right for many people. And sometimes non-monogamy is right for people who are currently in monogamous relationships that are not making them happy.”

“In the sex-positive culture, it’s not that non-monogamy is good, and awesome, and wonderful – although it can be – and that monogamy is terrible, it’s that monogamy is one sort of relationship model, non-monogamy is another. There are upsides and risks to both that are built in and some people prefer one to another. I think sex-positivity creates a culture where non-monogamy can be a part of the dialogue – can be acknowledged, can be affirmed – but that doesn’t mean that monogamy isn’t also acknowledged, part of the culture, and affirmed as well. It’s about the choices people make and what’s right for individuals.”


FBDC: How differently have DC audiences reacted to you column compared to other cities?
DS: “Years ago when the letters came in the snail mail, I would get a sense of letters from a particular city…’Ohh look, another letter from Boston that’s about S&M’ (laughs). That used to be really common. Now that it’s email, unless someone mentions where they are, I don’t know where they are. So it’s harder for me to get a read on different cities’ sex culture.”

Savage added that letters he has received from people living in DC often ask, ‘How do I have a sex life, have an erratic life, and work 20 hours a day for a Congressman?’ and that DC is “a city full of young people with tons of queers here and people are striving, and this is where sort of for a lack of better term ‘career-obsessed strivers’ land and a lot of those people are allergic to commitment because they view it as somehow getting in the way of clawing their way to the top.”


FBDC: What’s one story out of Washington you wish would get more attention?
DS: “I wish there was more attention paid to the obstructionism of the GOP and its willingness to hurt everyday, average, ordinary Americans in its effort to discredit the President. I wish the media wasn’t so cowed that they couldn’t connect the dots and couldn’t call them out in a way that it should. Reality has a liberal bias, as Stephen Colbert observed in front of George W. Bush, and that prevents, I think, media from reporting accurately on the monkeywrenching and obstructionism of the right…so I wish that got more attention (laughs).”


FBDC: And for what’s getting too much attention?
DS: “John McCain. Period. The end. He just had his big op-ed in The New York Times about Crimea, and I think folks like McCain and me who were 100% wrong about Iraq have a responsibility to keep our mouths shut in public about war for the rest of our lives.”


FBDC: And most importantly (and the hardest for Savage to answer) Push/F@#k/Marry, Fox News’ Bret Baier, CNN’s Jake Tapper, and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews?
DS: I’m definitely going to push the Fox News person. I don’t even know who that Fox News person is. I’m just going to assume that if I watched five minutes of him running his mouth on Fox I would want to push. Marry Chris Matthews because he seems so stable and steady and fuck Jake Tapper.”