The Savage Truth

Posted: October 24, 2010 in Identity
Tags: ,

My obsession with the horror that is Dan Savage has taken me to reading some very boring and very stupid articles, and the comments that go with them, ‘under the line’.

To sum up Dan’s philosophy on sexuality: ‘Gay is good. Gay is natural. Straight is tolerable. Christians are evil. Homophobia comes from Christian Straight people. I have a big cock. Suck it.’

But the real bile and hatred in Dan’s heart is reserved for bisexual people. Somehow they just don’t fit in his  world at all. Throughout his columns he presents bisexual men in particular, as immoral, sluttish, corrupting of innocent monogamous gay men, fickle, and well perverted.

In his Savage Love advice column Dan takes an email from a reader:

‘I am a gay man, and my closest friend, who I have no strong romantic feelings for, is bisexual. He is engaged to this cool girl. She knows that he is bisexual, and that he gets “frustrated” if he is intimate with only one sex for a long period of time. She is not into threesomes apparently, and obviously doesn’t want him running around fucking whoever he wants—which is what he is used to. But she is willing to work something out, where he would be able to fuck guys on the side. So they asked me to be my male friend’s “release”, meaning someone he can go to for sex throughout their marriage.’

I can’t be sure but this scenario sounds very unlikely to me. A gay man who is best friends with a bisexual man and who is asked by his best mate to be his lifetime fuck buddy? Would you ask your best friend to do that?

Whether or not Savage made this up, he shows his lack of respect for bisexual people in his response:

‘Let me be clear: I’m not making any general generalizations about bisexuals generally here. I’m talking about this bi guy and this bi guy only.

If this bi guy—this one and only bi guy—is used to doing whoever he wants whenever he wants, HGF, I doubt he’ll be satisfied with just one guy on the side, even if that guy is someone as sexy and amazing as you. So this plan seems unworkable to me over the long run as he’s used to a certain amount of variety in his sex life. He’s unlikely to be satisfied with just you for many of the same reasons he’s unlikely to be satisfied with just her.’

Of course Dan is generalising about bisexual men, by saying this bisexual man will not be satisfied with ‘just one guy on the side’, and will not be satisfied with a monogamous marriage either, because he is bisexual.

He ends by saying:  ‘you’ll most likely be the first in a long string of fuckbuddies…’ suggesting this gay man’s best friend will be the one to end their sexual relationship if they have one, because being bisexual, he is fickle and sluttish.

This comment from one of the column’s readers, which went unchallenged by Dan or anyone else, sums up the Savage view on bisexuality:

‘The word for people for whom being gay is a choice is “bisexual”

You see? Gay is natural and good. Straight is natural and tolerable. ‘Bisexual’ is unnatural, and wrong. Wrong because it throws into question the whole idea that ‘gay’ is natural. If we are born a certain way, if our sexuality is down to genes and fate, why would people be bisexual? What genes would make us neither one thing nor the other? Certainly not good wholesome gay genes. And certainly not boring, but useful heterosexual genes.

Within this binary way of thinking, ‘bisexuality’ is just as much a problem as trans identity, and we know Dan has a problem with that too.

Dan Savage Is Annoying. He is also a bigot. I don’t like him one bit.

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Simpson, Elly . Elly said: The Savage Truth: Dan Savage hates bisexual people: […]

  2. Alex says:

    I’m not sure that is what he’s getting at though. He was very specifically talking about that guy, and his comment-monkey was talking about the old “homosexuality is a choice” thing, and how if you have the opportunity to decide which sex you’ll be attracted to, you’re bisexual (it’s nonsense but it’s not anti-bi nonsense).

    With the transexual thing, he’s actually exhorting a gay man to do bisexual cunnilingus on his girl-to-boyfriend. I can’t think of much that would be less bi- or transphobic. The rest is just him flogging the “fannies are cocks” horse to give a sense of cohesion to the column and avoid wasting a good joke by only using it once.

    Worried I might have missed something.

    • I am not going to try and convince you, Alex. Read more of his stuff it’s up to you how you interpret it. I think he made that letter up. I don’t think anyone would even contemplate asking their best friend to be a life-time fuck buddy. It’s ridiculous. It suggests gay and bisexual men don’t have platonic friendships for a start.

      and if he did make it up, why? what message did he want to put across?

  3. Alex says:

    His other stuff might be worse, but I don’t think either of your examples illustrate what you’re using them for. Are you sure you’re not confusing bi and transphobia with “being a smug, self-consciously quirky, condescending Yankee helmet”?

  4. well he is that too! I think they do illustrate my point. If he wasn’t being anti-bi why would he have that big disclaimer at the beginning claiming he is not generalising?

  5. Alex says:

    Probably because they guy in the story fitted the stereotype so neatly. Obviously that would be an issue if he’d made it up, but if it is a complete fabrication, it’s just as likely to have been made up by the bloke who sent it in.

    There was an odd, exceptionalist view there though. What if you had a man who was bisexual in that he liked both skinny blondes and skinny redheads? And he agreed with his skinny blonde wife he’d need a redhead on the side, and this redhead friend wrote in. Any statement like “he’s used to having both” would be ludicrous, but the idea that bisexuality is an ‘and’ rather than an ‘or’ and so incompatible with monogamy – it’s being treated as a license rather than a condemnation.

  6. hmm says:

    What if Dan is just a symptom of american polarization?

    The lack of sensuality in american life (whether repressive monoidentity in daily life or strictly categorized and monotonously stereotyped divisions between fetishes and between saleable attractions), that lack defines american loyalties and tolerance levels.

    So if you want to make homosexuality respectable or acceptable, you have to ally it with someone, in america the majority of voters being binary, sexually straight jacketed.

    So you pick on bisexuals, who are unpredictable and hence difficult to lure, motivate, bribe and threaten, because you don’t know what they like or want or fear at any given moment.

    So Dan just plays politics. I wonder how powerful the neurotic/neural basis for his homosexuality really is. He may adopt a rigid identity and make explicit overtures to conventional ideas on what is sexually “moral” just because he’s a soulless politician, not because that’s how he experiences homoerotics. For all his vociferations about gay-ness (and his success in providing the obama admin a little liberal PC crowd pleaser opportunity with the president’s “it gets better” video last week), savage seems rather sexually tame, really Asexual.

    Asexual and asensual, which is exactly the american style now, possibly intensified by fretting over a poor economy and philosophical meaninglesness.
    It’s not just gays who want to pretend to be crock and lacoste wearing impotent nerds to appeal to the american right wing. Every public persona is “shamed” when “caught” having not only a slightly weird time, but even a good time with their wife. When was the last time you saw a hollywood couple who were caught in a powerful embrace or leering amusement? They mostly just stand still, frigid and fixed, for paparazzi shots so dull that the nastiest old school mistress would approve.

  7. I agree Dan seems sexually tame and asexual, and yes I bet that is part of his ‘political’ identity (btw do you think he might run for office one day?) but I think his anti-bisexual stance is deeper rooted than that. Most arguments about ‘natural’ identities of sex and gender rely on binary oppositions: gay v straight, male v female. Bisexuality and transgender identities threaten the binary and so are a ‘threat’ to those who rely on the innate nature of sex and gender identity. His words are those of someone who feels genuinely scared of the ‘other’ I think.

  8. hmm says:

    I hate all the talk of sexual ‘release’ that leaves no place for fantasy or adventure or crime or humanity. To have an actor in your petty little wedded world, a virtual threesome, who acts as a valve control for pipe pressure. The bawdy bathhouse replaced by the iconic chinese woman’s offer of a “happy ending” at the massage parlour.
    It’s all so “brave new worldy”: go release tension like a headache. Well, masturbation achieves that.
    But the respectability of gayness, adopted from straight-jackets rather than invented to calm their phobias, makes actual gay acts and mere bisexual thoughts as horrifying and immoral and impossible as risque flirtation has become among straight-jackets.

  9. hmm says:

    As to whether he’ll run for office, he might.
    But I think that in his own mind, he believes he already is.
    Activists who can’t be bothered to research or explore beyond their decided interest, believe that they are like a hand of god or some t-shirt clad angel, invisibly running society by influencing it.
    I suppose all writers suffer from that delusion, but it’s hard to write without believing you’ll affect someone.

  10. hmm says:

    If he loses his audience, he’ll probably run. But he’d make a terrible candidate, invariably being strident on any issue. It fits in with his clean cut, one note, exercise tight persona. He can’t waffle like a true politician ducking an issue. Maybe that’s his fear of the other, he’s paranoid he’ll lose himself if he lets go and floats awhile. Which makes for maximum unreadability.

  11. Horrifyingly, hmm, I find Mr Savage remarkably easy to read. It is almost as if I am inside his head. And at the moment his head is focussing on ‘gay marriage at all costs’.

  12. hmm says:

    Truly scary. But necessary. Lately, I can only know what dan is up to thanks to your gracious coverage. He was on tv the other day and I couldn’t stomach more than two phrases about how he’s pleased with obama’s support for “it gets better” but he wants REAL ACTIoN, not just words.

    This coming from a talking ugly-dick-head (the neck DOES look like a shaft, such rippled, rigid cartilage supporting a weirdly undersized, shrunken head). It was a genuinely disturbing “naked lunch”/cronenberg type of penis head scene.

  13. Kim says:

    Wow, I’ve been away from the internet for too long – I’d forgotten how interesting this blog is.

    Anyway, back to point, Mr Savage (in my humble opinion as a bisexual female) is a twazzock and falls head first into that horribly binary way of thinking over bisexual people. I mean, heaven forbid that one can be sexually attracted to both genders and not go around shagging everything homo-sapien that moves! Unfortunately, his attitude is very much that of the majority on either side of the fence (gay-straight fence that is) and it doesn’t surprise me that he’s dished out this sort of advice. In my experience, those who do generally don’t know any bisexual people on a personal level and are generally slightly pissy about the fact that a bisexual person could just as easily get laid in a gay bar as a straight one if they wanted to.

    Roll on the day when the world realises how many shades of grey there are in this forced binary existence!

  14. ‘In my experience, those who do generally don’t know any bisexual people on a personal level and are generally slightly pissy about the fact that a bisexual person could just as easily get laid in a gay bar as a straight one if they wanted to.’

    yes Kim I think there is an element of jealousy in people’s attitudes to bi people. Not just at the amount of choice they have in terms of individuals to meet/fancy/hit on, but like you allude to in terms of ‘spaces’ they feel able to occupy.

    The irony of course being that in the nebulous, unphysical space of ‘discourse’, bisexual people actually are not really permitted to exist at all.


  15. SG says:

    Yes Savage is still biphobic and transphobic and there’s a discussion about it here.

    There are gay men on that blog who are in full denial about how Savage is transphobic and biphobic.

    Dan Savage should know. All it really takes is redirecting the bigotry you receive onto new targets:

    ‘It gets better’ is the stock response to every kid, ever, of any sexual and gender orientation, who is the target of bullies. In elementary school, it’s “In two years, you’ll be going to a much bigger school and there will be all sorts of people to make friends with. You probably won’t even see [bullies] anymore.” Then when that doesn’t work, in middle school it’s “Just one more year until high school. It’s a new environment, you’ll be able to do more activities with people who share your interests / people are more mature.” Then when high school is worse, it’s “Just hang on three years, then you can leave this town behind for good.”

    Furthermore, it’s exactly what [most] bullied kids don’t need or want to hear. You want to know how to stop being called names and shoved into lockers, you want to know how to make the bullies hurt as much as they’ve hurt you, you need it to stop NOW. Not to be told, “Patience is a virtue.”

  16. Totally agree SG.

    The only way I know how to deal with Savage’s Savagery, is by a) critiquing it and calling it out, and b) calling him Donna. As I know he is a misogynist and he’d hate it! Childish but it’s all I got.

  17. Matthew says:

    I can’t help to comment on all your bisexual blogs so here is a synopsis of the bi-guys I know that Dan Savage would never know:
    1) my old therapist bisexual married monogomously since 1975 – when asked if he is gay he responds “that’s a part of me.
    2)yet another psychologist Straight identified and only straight sex til age 35. Then comes out as gay lives a gay life gets a gay partner. I ran into him and he said “Well I am really bisexual I am still very attracted to women but live a gay life now.”
    3) a gay identified actor has sex with his female teacher and dates her for 3 years. Then dates only women then gets married monogomously.
    4) A “straight” statistician comes out to his fiancée, breaks the engagement. Goes have sex with men then realizes he is not gay. He now has a girlfriend and he on occasion has a poly encounter with a man but is dedicated to his girl.
    5) A British performance artist 5 year relationship with a man. Moves to America and erases his gay past by putting in his press releases “straight performance artist”. He is married now with children.
    6) another Brit in America into the punk group the Swans, a big homo. Meets his wife and moves to America and maintains invisibility. But actually struggles with monogomy and his gay feelings. IMO he needs a wife and a boyfriend.
    7) Me – switched genders for 20 years and now have two bisexual girlfriends – who needs the – though a penis would be nice every once in a while.
    8) A bisexual performance art rock star well known in the USA. He says he is gay now because gay culture will not tolerate anything else – but he and his boyfriend continue to have sex with girls.

    The point is being out as bisexual has given me a window into the hidden reality that no one really wants to acknowledge. Because everyone “gay” and “straight” will come out to you.

    • haha very true! some great case studies there.

      I have found a few people have either ‘come out’ to me or have failed to stay in, with me, because in part my longest relationship was with a man who didnt really identify as anything. But was /is bisexual. and it gives a whole new perspective…

  18. paul says:

    Thanks for those great examples Matthew. I could include an equally long list of my own. This whole subject has struck me for a long time as the single biggest blindspot of our culture. Keep testifying!

    Kim, thanks for introducing me to the word “twazzock,” which I’d never heard before and which is wonderfully strange.

    QRG, you say: “The irony of course being that in the nebulous, unphysical space of ‘discourse’, bisexual people actually are not really permitted to exist at all.” Indeed. But going further, I don’t feel able to exist physically either. Maybe I am living in the wrong town–though it is one of the most “progressive” in the US. But it’s all terribly, terribly, most depressingly segregated here.

    • Matthew says:

      I can list about 24 others. Ever since I was 19 I kept an eye out trying to figure out what was to become of me. Now at 40 I still wonder. There are great traditional Mythologies about bisexual and transgendered gods and characters like the Native American Coyote, the Norse Loki, the vodoo god Baron Samadi, and the Greek Tirisius most of whom are Trickster Gods. So I am beginning to sense that in my own life I unconsciously played out the trickster a person that can not be catagorized, that continually transgresses boundaries, and that confuses everyone. This can be a stressful place personally. Even with “bisexual” as a newly minted “sexual orientation” I think it very well may maintain the role of the “trickster orientation” because it upsets the status quo and can not be easily quantified or even understood even by “science”. It may forever be hated publically and also secretely revered, just as Loki and Coyote were.

      • paul says:

        Yes, I have a similar view. You’ve probably seen this also, but in case not: He uses the term “gay” but clearly this is more to be speaking the West’s language, as such a term doesn’t exist in that culture (note his reference to the gatekeepers also having wives and children). But a really interesting interview I think.

        • Matthew says:

          “Now, gay people have children. Because they’re fertile, just like normal people.”

          Awesome link. Although I don’t mind at times being thought of as “gay” in Western culture “gay” means you no longer have the right to marry and make love to women. And I still want to love men. I insist on the bisexual identity to date and love women. Some of my bisexual female friends will say they are gay but have no problem being hit on by men and having sex with them and wearing the gay label. But men have it differently. Biphobia really is another form of Homophobia. It is a way of segregating “gay” people from straight people. No wonder many gay men resent bisexuals, it is like they are saying “We have been ghettoized for being homos why shouldn’t you be ghettoized.” Of course bisexuals are often in the margins of the margins. I think this “no bisexuals” bullshit started around 1950 in early Gay Liberation. And the bullshit has stuck around for 60 years. Gay Liberation should be thought of as the freedom to love whomever you want to love.

    • This reply meant to Paul’s first comment!

      well these days I don’t really ‘exist’ sexually in ‘RL’ but that is very much my choice. and in not having or seeking sex itself, I actually have found some liberation. Because I am more free to choose or reject sexual identities as I please! Not ideal I know but still, interesting.

  19. paul says:

    Not sure about early Gay Lib. Have read some of those late 60s manifestos where they seemed to be fundamentally about pure liberation of sexuality from shame. One of them I remember spoke about the universality of same-sex feeling and moving towards a world where *everyone* felt able to express it. My sense of that time, though I could well be wrong, is that “Identity” had yet to rear its head–people were talking more about **human** sexuality in all its endless highly individual variations.

    And of course that is much more of a “rainbow flag” approach than we have today. Every time I see one of those I think: hmm, shouldn’t it really be some kind of extremely simple schema in black and white? Because that’s how everything is always talked about. Such a joke that that “B” is sitting there in LGBT when the very nature of the discourse has to erase it in every reference to “sexuality.” Of course, the bigger joke is that within that framework it’s the largest category of all…

    • Matthew says:

      Paul, even people like Harry Hay, who had a wife as well as his partner who had a wife, denied the legitimacy of bisexuals and opted for a pure “gay” identity. There were very few men of influence who advocated for a bisexual perspective, Alan Ginsberg was one but was very gay, but sucked off so many bisexual men of course he would advocate with gratitude and write poetry of the beat free sexuality. Paul Goodman who was a strange mix of responsible family man, sexually free spirit, and social revolutionary was another advocate. Bisexuality is complex and also highly individualistic in it’s execution. The luxury of riches and options. It is a difficult thing to politicize because of it’s individualistic character. I personally don’t perpetually persue same sex relationships when in an opposite sex relationship nor do most bisexual men in opposite sex relationships no matter how open minded their girlfriends or wives are. While gay men make their same sex relationships a lifestyle and identity that is easily known and represented by society even if not always accepted. Bisexuality whether performed by men or women seems to remain an abstraction because it is something realized through time rather than manifested perpetually and concretely. Western cultures erasure and dismissal of bisexuality is more a product of our cultures lack of imagination and inability to conceive of sexual nuance. Bisexuality is ambiguous. The other day I had sex with a trans man mainly attracted to women, he still had a vagina but was a man. Both the trans and bisexual realities will fail to digested by society because they are ” transcendental genders” and “transcendental orientations”. And as any transcendental phenomenon as Susan Sontag wrote ” Many things in the world have not been named; and many things, even if they have been named, have never been described.” notes on camp – SHE SHOULD KNOW!!! But back then “gay” was inarticulate unnamable and obtuse and even those “gays” who we’re actually “bisexual” were even more so not to be known, not to be named, nor were their actions and gestures. And still today this ambiguity persists, even in the almost realization of “gay liberation”. What “gay liberation” succeeds at is broader acceptance but at once it destroys the unnamable.

  20. yes I think it wasn’t until post-stonewall Gay politics that the gay ‘identity’ really took hold. Though there were glimpses of it in earlier movements, and even in some of Foucault’s more sentimental work.

    as for the B in LGBT it is the elephant in the room!

  21. Matthew says:

    As my previous post a while ago demonstrated most of the bi guys I know are as wholesome as granola and bean sprouts. They usually end up in monogomous opposite sex relationships. But then of course is the bisexual slut like myself who is into polyamory, and free expressions of sexuality which Dan Savage is obviously repulsed by unless performed by a gay man. Beneath biphobia is a huge heap of sexism and hetero sexism which gay men participate in usually by segregating themselves completely from the opposite sex. This way they may remain the “pure” innocent mysoginst without ever having to confront the opposite sex on any real terms. Gay men all too often only relate to the opposite gender in fear and disgust. Of course bisexual men are horrid people after all they stuck their dick into “that”. The sexism is a bit to obvious, but once removed.

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