Broach the most difficult topics in the world with sex columnist and author Dan Savage –we’re talking every kind of sex imaginable including the kinds that involve animals, children and feces (seriously, this exists) — and he has no problem talking about any of it.
Just so long as he’s behind a computer screen or telephone receiver. “I’m very brave behind my computer,” he says.
But ask if any of the tens of thousands of questions he has received over the years have ever given him an idea in bed and suddenly he’s…shy? And seriously turning various shades of crimson. “I get all freaked out,” he says of people confronting him in person on personal matters. “I’m shy.”
He politely apologizes and explains that his husband, Terry Miller, a hot underwear and swim model, once told him he could write about sex all he wants. Just not about sex with him. Savage wouldn’t answer the question specifically, but said that yes, some questions have made him sexually curious.
Savage showed up to the roof of the W Hotel in downtown Washington Sunday night for an event organized by BrandlinkDC. For three hours he faced a packed room of raging Dan Savage fans to sign copies of his new book, American Savage: Insights, Slights and Flights on Faith, Sex, Love and Politics. “I love low-rise cities,” he says when asked what he thinks of Washington. “I have more friends here than I do in Seattle, Washington,” where he lives.
He says strangers often consult him about sex and he’s faced with pointed questions wherever he goes. “People have asked me questions in urinals,” he explains.
Before we met him, we were told he was “down-to-earth” and “super chill.” All that, in fact, was true. But one thing he isn’t so super calm about, even now, was the time…
seven years ago that a stranger at Midway Airport in Chicago approached him while he was with his adopted son and proceeded, in a very loud voice, to ask about rim jobs. As he explained earlier, behind the computer screen? No problem. In person? Big problem. His face reddens again as he’s explaining what happened that day. “I’m still scarred,” he says, reciting the incident in explicit detail.
But largely he enjoys his expansive fan club. How could he not? “Nothing undoes homophobia more than having someone they know,” he says, explaining the joys of his job. “I have a think skin,” he adds, explaining that if someone calls him “fag” he doesn’t get all broken up about it.
What’s his most overused word or expression?
“Fuck,” he says quickly. “I use it all the time. In every column.” He flips on the NPR station in his head, he explains, when he’s with his adolescent son.
As far as the column goes, apart from never sharing about his own sex life, there are no boundaries. Asked if he laughs at the stuff he writes, he says, “I laugh while I’m reading my emails.”
Take a field trip back in time with Savage. No, he has no regrets about licking doorknobs on Gary Bauer‘s presidential campaign, where he volunteered purposely to give Bauer his flu. Incensed by Bauer’s anti-gay beliefs, Savage did what he could to make the presidential hopeful sick, including licking a pen and giving it to him. Savage says in this post-911 age there’s no way he could get away with that. But regrets? Nope. None.
Then there’s former Senator and GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum. What’s Savage’s thinking about him these days? As many know, the sex writer created a a raw definition for Santorum that isn’t acceptable in most media outlets or nursery schools. Shy or not, he reels it off, no problem, explaining that he can’t wait for the day when Santorum is no longer known as an ex-Senator but for being, he says, “the frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex.”
At this point, one picks up on slices of anger in Savage’s tone. “Oh, Santorum is running for President in 2016,” Savage says, more as a warning as anything else. Like, oh, that bastard will be back.
“I think he’s horrible,” Savage continues. “I think he’s obsessed with sex.” (Coming from a sex advice columnist? That’s something.) “The role of women? He thinks they ought to be barefoot and pregnant with no access to abortion. It’s all an affront. He’s opposed to non-procreative sex. He doesn’t want anyone having orgasms.”
Savage assures he’s not a psychologist, but truly thinks there’s something to Santorum’s external way of being and thinking and his internal feelings.
Speaking of other politicians he loathes, there’s newly reelected South Carolina GOP Rep. Mark Sanford. He doesn’t just hate Sanford, though. He detests the voters who elected him back into office. “What about the voters?” he asks. “They are the family values nut jobs. It just goes to show you that straight people can do everything as long as they ask Jesus for forgiveness.”
One politician who can bank on Savage’s support in 2016 is former Sen. and Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. “I have to support her given that my husband wanted her to win in 2008,” he says.
Suddenly the music on the W rooftop starts thumping and that’s Savage’s cue that he needs to head to the book signing table. “I hate music,” he says in protest. Within moments our interview must end because we can no longer hear each other as a swarm of partygoers, mostly twentysomethings, but also a smattering of older fans, begins forming a snake of a line around the room just to meet him.
Top two photo credits: Joy Asico, W Hotel, Washington, D.C.