The Blade caught up with Dan Savage last week — he’s plugging his new MTV show “Savage U” (Tuesdays at 11 p.m.) and took a few minutes out of a dizzying schedule of writing advice columns, editing newspapers, hosting the new show and being an anti-bullying advocate — in addition to being a family man — to riff on this and that.
BLADE: There’ve been so many cable sex advice shows over the years — the old MSNBC shows, Sue Johanson and even MTV’s own “Loveline” with Dr. Drew and Adam for those of us old enough to remember it. What can yours add that hasn’t been done before or does every generation need its own sex advice show?
SAVAGE: Hopefully what I bring to it is what I bring to “Savage Love” (his syndicated advice columnist which runs locally in City Paper) — a sex-positive, kink-positive take and one that embraces pleasure as a legitimate goal that celebrates people’s desire. A lot of what I’ve seen is really kind of sex negative that starts first with no, then with maybe. “Savage Love” works its way from maybe to yes to yes, definitely … there’s a school of thinking that says, “Oh my God, you can’t have sex if there’s any risk,” but there’s risk in all kinds of things. What needs to be discussed is how to mitigate the risk as much as possible but then at a certain point yes, you have a right to go for it. You also have to be able to shoulder the consequences. … There’s always a risk but you don’t hear people advocating against sky diving or snowboarding. There’s a whole bunch of people who will drop dead today from eating chicken salad and yeah, you’d be an idiot to leave it out in the sun for three days and then eat it, so we can apply that same brainy shit to sex.
BLADE: How do you get these college students to go on the air and say, “I have herpes” or “I’m a virgin.” Are you involved in finding them or do producers do that?
SAVAGE: There are producers who do that ahead of time. I need to be hearing about their stories for the first time when we film, so there are layers of producers who vet them ahead of time. There are a lot of old farts like me who think YouTube and Facebook and Twitter and all that is something new and always will be, but for somebody who’s 19 and basically grew up with this stuff, they have different attitudes about privacy … we’ve started some taping and then stopped ….
BLADE: Why? What would be an example of someone whose story shouldn’t be aired?
SAVAGE: This was someone who obviously had a deeper-seated medical issue that became evident on camera and we felt talking about the issue would have unfairly outed the person and would have been kind of dishonest so we unplugged the mics … we try to be honest and honor the kids without exploiting anyone.
BLADE: You seem so much nicer on the show than in your column where you often seem very exasperated and caustic. Why?
SAVAGE: Well I told someone in the premiere episode they were an idiot so I’m a little caustic here and there on the show but I think in the column, some of it is having to boil so much down to fit the space that it can make me seem more caustic and sarcastic than I am. I’ve had people say for the podcast I seem so much nicer but that’s the benefit of being able to run my mouth. It’s a different venue … also on the show, I’m a lot more willing to cut these kids some slack because they’re 18. I’m a lot more patient with an 18-year-old fuck up than I am with a 38-year-old fuck up. It’s like of course you’re fucked up when you’re 18 because 18 is fucked up anyway.
BLADE: Are you of the school of thought that a Santorum nomination would have been better for Obama than a Romney nomination or does any Santorum success cause you to shudder?
SAVAGE: I agree with Bill Maher on that — I don’t trust the American people enough to have (had) Santorum be the nominee. This is a country that elected Bush, at least once, he stole it the first time, but I would take Romney over Santorum though they’re two bars set so low they’re basically on the floor.
BLADE: What is the most pressing sex question you see from gay men?
SAVAGE: Male fear of intimacy is real and so it’s doubled with gay men. That comes up a lot. I also hear from young gay guys, like 15, 16, 17, 18 who say there’s no one for them to date. Their straight peers have been dating since the middle school dances but they’ve been alone or they say there are only older gay guys to date and I tell them dating starts later a lot of times for us so they don’t have a lot of options. Also monogamy comes up a lot. Gay guys are also guys so often it becomes an issue of non-monogamous relationships that are grounded in trust and disclosure rather than lying and cheating and running around.
BLADE: How do you have time to add a show to your busy schedule?
SAVAGE: Terry is a stay-at-home dad — that hetero-normative model of having a stay-at-home wife, that shit is awesome if you can afford it. We’re lucky in that regard.