Dan Savage. Photo: LaRae Lobdell.
American advice columnist Dan Savage certainly lived up to expectations with his talk last weekend at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas held at the Sydney Opera House.
Savage is somewhat the star in his home country but is still largely unknown here despite a dedicated fan base amongst the gay community and more politically liberal types.
His attraction (at least for me) is he's impossible to shock, has a massive heart (he founded the It Get's Better Project) and he'll take almost any consenting sexual act or kink at face value and try to understand what's going on from the other person's perspective.
He's famous for giving readers in sexless marriages "permission" to cheat and has told so many people to dump partners that his acronym "DTMFA" (dump the mother f---er, already) has entered the lexicon is some circles.
He also gives solid moral advice, such as his "campsite rule" for relationships with younger partners: "Leave them emotionally and physically at least as healthy as when you started seeing them. Do not risk giving them diseases, getting them pregnant, or emotionally abusing them".
There's also his famous GGG rule for relationships, that one must be "Good, Giving, and Game" in that you strive to "be good in bed, giving equal time and equal pleasure to your partner, and be game for anything - within reason".
Having read Savage since 1992 or '93, when I first came across him in the now-defunct New York Press, it's impossible to single out a favourite from the thousands of hilarious, bizarre and mouth-dropping letters he seems to receive - but he gives a good summation here if you're interested (graphic content).
However, I do recommend you Google his Savage Love column - it makes you feel so much more normal and for those of us who aren't so normal, it makes you feel a little less weird.
Aaaanyhow, Savage made headlines in the lead up to his Saturday talk because of his thoughts on monogamy, which are well covered in Neil McMahon's article here. He certainly didn't disappoint on that subject, arguing persuasively we could save many long-term relationships and marriages if people stopped viewing the odd sexual slip-up as disastrous and divorce-worthy.
Nevertheless, it was Savage's musings on the very beginnings of a sexual relationship I found really refreshing. He argues the reason gay men tend to be so open about sex is most of them have already climbed the cringe-worthy mountain of telling their parents they're gay.
Savage said when he spoke those words to his mother, he's pretty sure all she heard was "Mum, I suck cock". He argues once you've admitted to your mother you suck penis, pretty much any other sexual conversation is a piece of cake and gave the example: "It's easy to then say piss on me" to a partner.
He says when two men get into bed with each other, there's a lot of questions to be answered, as in who's the top or bottom, is it just going to be oral sex, or will they just roll around like choir boys in their underpants.
Gay couples just can't go at it like hetero couples, who have vaginal intercourse as their default option, so a negotiation begins between men as to what's going to happen next, along the lines of "what are you into?"
The curse of most heterosexual couples is as soon as the majority of us get into bed for the first time, the conversation stops. And because your average heterosexual has never had to die of embarrassment admitting they suck penis to their mum, we've also not had the chance to experience the catharsis of talking about what we love done to us in bed.
This is why so many kinks and peccadilloes are repressed in straight relationships, whereas when two gay guys start up, someone asks those four magic words ... "what are you into?"
As Savage explains in this video here (profanity warning), aside from brunch and push-ups, asking "what are you into" is one of the major things straight couples can learn from gays to vastly improve their sexual relationships.
If in any doubt, watch this quick, safe for work video of Savage on Bill Maher's show and ask yourself which of the panellists is enjoying the better sex life?
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