Dan Savage: Love him or hate him?

I’ve been listening to a lot of the Savage Love Podcast lately.
I don’t read a lot of Dan Savage’s blogging, and some things he said around Prop 8 and race really got me angry.
That being said, it’s been nice to listen to something that isn’t about the state of the world, or the economy, or other depressing topics. I always say when the world is getting me down we can always talk about sex.
So that’s where Savage Love comes in. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a sex advice podcast where people call in with questions (about all sorts of things) and he responds. Sort of like our Ask Professor Foxy Series, but definitely less feminist and a lot more vulgar. If only Professor Foxy had her own podcast! Maybe one day.
I’ve probably listened to ten of his old shows by now (lots of long distance driving lately) and I’m undecided about him. Sometimes I love what he says and think he gives good advice, other times he’s a total jerk and gives terrible advice.
What do you all think about Savage Love?

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  • Citizen Lane

    Hit or miss on the advice. He tends to be pretty offensive to everyone, but deliberately so for humor value, I think. I read the column every now and then, but the comments afterward are always more entertaining. And sometimes, more informative.

  • zp27

    Dan Savage is entertaining, and that’s all he’s ever claimed to be. I think that he had a bad, knee-jerk, (oh, those homophobic black folks! Because we know there are no gay black people, and all those black people in California hate the gays!) reaction to the Prop 8 situation (those wacky polls…is there anything they can’t be made to look like?), yes. I think he totally bought into the hateful and inflammatory racist rhetoric flying around the internets and the medias at the time. I think he was wrong.
    Do I like him? Yes, I find him funny most of the time. He takes a certain position on sex and sex-related matters, and pretty much sticks to it. I like sex positivity and the idea that consenting adults can do whatever they want in the bedroom. And yes, he can be sort of callous about certain things. I think that’s pretty much his persona. Very much tongue in cheek and purposefully rude at times. That’s why people write into him.

  • whaler

    I really enjoy it more for entertainment value than anything. The podcast has turned into him sarcastically apologizing to his hate mail half the time.
    I found it pretty funny when someone wrote in and basically said “I dislike you and oppose gay marriage, how can I convince my wife to let me give her money shots” and he said pretty much “lol I’m not telling you. If anyone who supports gay marriage wants to know they can e-mail me”
    I do think his “dump the mother fucker” line is great though. So often people stay in shitty relationships for no reason. When you hear him asking “do you have kids with this person?” you know the next line is going to be “DUMP THE MOTHER FUCKER” if the person says no.
    He says a lot of things off the cuff, and I don’t think they should be taken too seriously. For instance he made the generalization that it’s easier to get a man off then a woman or it’s easier to “deal with penises” than vaginas. I know a lot of people got mad, but welp there is a grain of truth.
    So yeah don’t take him too seriously he’s not a doctor or anything. However I think I’d take his biases over someone like Dr. Drew’s.

  • impression

    I LOVE Dan Savage. I don’t think he gets it right all the time, but what advice columnist does?
    I think his is an important, pro-sexuality voice to have out there. He encourages people to be understanding and open-minded about sex, as well as to honestly communicate their needs. That’s definitely a positive message for people generally, but especially women, to hear.


    He’s okay, but I tend to avoid reading his sex columns because it just depresses me. I prefer Professer Foxy, that’s for sure.

  • kizelle

    I’ve been reading the Savage Love column for many years. I don’t think all of his advice is perfect, but it’s usually pretty good. Having a gay person openly talking about sex with no apologies for how he lives his life definitely helped me when I was coming out.
    The language is often vulgar, but sometimes that’s what you get when you have open, adult conversations about sex.

  • Meredith

    I think my opinion is going to be the same as most. I enjoy Dan Savage for entertainment value and do not think his comments should be taken seriously. However, I do wonder if some of his “advice” is given just to create more talk. I do agree with Impression that he does have a strong point to keep people aware and open minded about sexual issues of any kind.

  • Rachel_in_WY

    I generally like him a lot, but agree that at times he misses the mark and says things that are insensitive. In his defense, he’s usually willing to listen to an explanation of why it was insensitive, and often apologizes if he finds the explanation compelling. And I don’t think you can expect an advice columnist to be right 100% of the time, and I dislike the trend of writing people off and dismissing all the good things they’ve said or done once they say one insensitive thing. Everyone’s human.

  • annajcook

    I read Dan Savage first through his memoirs “The Kid” and “The Commitment,” which I really enjoyed. Even though he was coming from a more conservative (oddly enough) background on the family/marriage thing, sometimes, than I am, I enjoyed reading his thoughts on the subject.
    I find his sex advice is a little too invested in being hip and outrageous for my taste. I get that the style is purposefully that way for the humor, etc., but it’s not necessarily where I’m at. And while I hesitate to say that because he’s a guy he can’t give good advice to women, I *do* feel like he often buys into gender stereotypes fairly carelessly — especially when it comes to things like sex drive and relationship needs and desires.

  • rumble

    He’s fairly entertaining and usually gives decent advice. I definitely prefer him to Professor Foxy.

  • Whit

    I think he’s an asshole who happens to be sex-positive and open to a continuum idea of sexuality. Other than that, he’s just a racist, fatphobic, and I wouldn’t doubt ablist jerk. He takes the hipsterism Liberalism-Lite (when it suits me) approach, and that turns me off. Plus what anna said about buying into gender stereotypes.

  • annajcook

    I’m curious why? I’ve found Professor Foxy’s advice to be really solid so far!

  • Gnatalby

    I like Dan Savage a lot, but that’s mainly on the basis of his books The Kid and The Commitment, both of which were incredibly touching.
    He says a lot of things that I find offensive, but they are offensive in a way that I prefer to other offensive radio personalities although I can see where others don’t agree.

  • jesster

    Well, I do like his podcast sometimes, but it’s invariably… difficult. He can give fantastic advice, and terrible advice. On top of the racism and sizism issues, there’s his erm… ‘interesting’ views on bisexuality…
    I recommend going back and seeing if you can find the show he did with a woman he used to co-host with on a radio show. I can’t remember her name, but it was some time last year. It was… instructive how different the show was, and I liked the dynamic of it a lot more. Partly because she challenged him, meaning he was no longer the lone voice of authority (as even when he has guests on, they often defer to him a *lot*) :-)

  • DisposableNickname

    I think he, like anyone who starts out the path, has followed Righteous Anger into Bitter and Destructive Anger.

  • Helen

    I love me some Dan Savage. I listen to his podcast religiously and read his column every week. I love his humour and his crazy rants and I generally thinks he gives very good advice. Sure, he can be an asshole sometimes but I think the good by far outweight the bad. Nobody’s perfect and Dan actually has that rare gift of being able to look back and admit that he was wrong and behaved like a total dick.

  • lefthandedpenguin

    the guy is kind of a fuck sometimes, but fuck, i love the fuck. he’s funny, and he knows his shit.

  • Pantheon

    I haven’t listened to the podcast at all (maybe I will now), but I loved his books The Kid and The Commitment. I read his column every week, and sometimes I agree and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes he has good advice and sometimes its rather offensive, but he’s really only claiming to be entertaining. Sometimes he starts his column with something like “I’m drunk right now while I’m writing this.” Its not meant to be sensitive or anything. I also like his DTMFA acronym, and so many people who write in to him need that advice.
    Its hard to compare him and Professor Foxy since she’s only had a few columns, and his have varied a lot over the years. But so far I haven’t found hers to be as interesting or informative as his, on average. However, the comment threads here tend to have a lot more useful information; the comment threads on Savage Love sometimes do but are a lot harder to read, partly because they don’t have nested comments. And there are a lot more pointless posts over there saying things like “first!!”, heh.

  • idiolect

    I’d actually like to have a discussion, if anyone’s up for it, of specifically which of his opinions are offensive and why — I know I’ve found some things he’s written offensive (I just read the weekly column), but more often than not, I can come up with some kind of explanation as to why his view might not be quite as offensive as I thought it was, or at least how it arises from legitimately conflicting priorities.
    For example, I remember reading a column not terribly long ago where there was some kind of question as to how to deal with a lover who had gained weight and thus become less sexually stimulating to the person writing in, and Dan Savage responded by saying that they should lose weight or risk being dumped over it. This really rubbed me the wrong way at first (for obvious reasons), but I think at the very least that problems like this do come up when you start to take sexual fulfillment very seriously as an essential part of life, and as a legitimate dealbreaker for a relationship (which, in all honesty, I do think it should be).

  • GeekGirlsRule

    I agree with you completely. And don’t forget biphobic. Oh, wait, he apologized and that’s supposed to make it all better. Screw that.
    I can’t stand him. Being a dick on purpose doesn’t make you any less of a dick.

  • Adrian

    Idiolect, I am offended by his bigotry against bisexuals and fat people. I think there are a lot of people who are so desperate to hear anybody talking about gay or kinky sex in a positive way that they don’t care about being insulted. That doesn’t make Savage’s behavior ok. He is really consistent about regarding fat as a character flaw for which people deserve to get dumped.

  • Dulcinea

    I read Savage Love fairly often, and I like a lot of things about it, but I do find a lot of his views on women and their sexuality pretty lazy and dismissive. The standard porn-in-relationships advice he gives women – ‘every man you ever meet is going to masturbate over images of women you find degrading, so get over it and join in’ – just seems like a pointless thing to say to anyone who is genuinely upset about or politically adverse to certain types of pornography. I would like a bit more acknowledgment that ‘ideological differences’ are a legitimate reason to break up with someone, and porn use is not insulated from every other facet of someone’s life. I wouldn’t want to spend my life with someone who liked to decorate their house with racist images, so why I am suddenly supposed to choke back that anger when they start masturbating over them?

  • idiolect

    You’re right, I do think he is really unfair to bisexuals, which is not ok. He speaks really harshly about fat people sometimes, but this is especially what I’m interested in hearing other people’s take on — those moments are what most fall into the “when I think about it I can usually come up with some kind of narrative where it makes a certain amount of sense” category for me (and I’m saying this as a “fat girl,” for whatever that’s worth). As far as I can recall, he’s never said anything that amounted to something like “fat people are inherently unsexy” or some such, he’s mostly just responded to people who write in who say things that amount to “My lover has become unsexy to me and might not care enough to change, what should I do?” and I think the right answer there might *sometimes* actually be to dump them and find someone who does care about your sexual fulfillment. It’s not a judgement on their character or anything, it’s just that people should be with people who care about their fulfillment (and just sitting their being unhappy and letting resentment grow does no one any good).
    Or I could totally have just missed the column where he was an unequivocal raging jackass, I definitely don’t get around to reading it every week so it’s certainly possible.


    exactly, he’s an asshole, which kind of depresses me and reaffirms my hatred for society. Professor Foxy is more positive and makes me feel that not all people are jerks.

  • Pantheon

    Regarding fat people, I think he does speak pretty harshly about them. But his overall point is that when you marry someone, you commit to making an effort to fulfill them sexually (and they do for you), and part of that is trying to maintain the same type of body that they were attracted to in the first place (except for temporary conditions like pregnancy). There was a letter recently where a woman wrote in saying that she was fat and had started dating a man who apparently fell for her while she was fat. Then after awhile he started saying she should lose weight. Dan came down on the side that this man fell for her while she was fat and had no right to ask her to change.
    So, while I think its clear that Dan himself is not attracted to fat people, he is generally just making the point that it isn’t fair to your lover for you to drastically change your appearance and expect them to still be attracted to you. Its just much more common for people to gain a lot of weight as they get older than it is for them to lose it, so he rarely hears from anyone complaining that their lover lost too much weight.
    Regarding bisexuality, most of the comments I’ve read by him about it have referred to a specific person and included a disclaimer that this doesn’t apply to all bisexuals. He probably has said other offensive things, but I just haven’t seen them recently so its hard for me to know what to say about them.

  • AnitaWagner

    Dan definitely irritates me more than he entertains me. I’m not a big fan of snark, though, and I realize there are others who enjoy that style. I consider it destructive, not constructive, but I guess that’s just me.
    As to Dan’s advice-giving, he is often needlessly cruel to people who are clearly struggling with issues around relationship conflicts. One person he responded to fairly recently was struggling with her partner’s raising the subject of opening their relationship some years after the partner initially raised the issue when they married. Dan slapped her around verbally because she was struggling with her partner’s renewed interest in an open relationship and blamed her for being surprised and reluctant to agree. In my many years of experience teaching classes on polyamory relationship skills, and specifically on opening a monogamous relationship, I’ve learned that this is definitely NOT the way to help a reluctant partner find the strength to make the leap when their fear of losing their partner is strong.
    Bottom line: Pretty much hate him.

  • Jessica Girdle

    This fat bisexual woman loves Dan Savage.

  • Brian

    He certainly believes that everyone has an inherent right to be attracted to whomever they like, and that if you present yourself with one appearance to a sexual partner, then change it, they are entitled to be unhappy about it.
    This is often discussed in the context of spouses or other long term partners gaining weight, and the other partner being unhappy about it, which Dan certainly argues is a legitimate way to feel. As a fat guy, this does not particular bother me, but I am presenting myself as a fat guy from the get go, and (I suspect) Dan would argue it is total bullshit if a someone started a relationship with me, then was unhappy with the way I look (since it did not change).
    But I may well have missed something.

  • katemoore

    He’s actually a lot better than I expected. Of course, my expectations were a bit nil. But I think he’s, if this makes any sense, a gateway. Accessible enough to Cosmo-reading types yet a whole lot more on point.

  • idiolect

    Right — In the column I’m thinking of, he explicitly said that it was about the change, not about weight itself; that is, if you start dating someone while they’re a certain size and then that size changes drastically, you have a certain right to complain, but if you start dating someone fat (or skinny!) and then start trying to get them to change, you’re just being an asshat.

  • idiolect

    I should probably also add that in the column I’m thinking of, I think this was all going on under the presumption that it wasn’t a very long term relationship that was being asked about, and natural aging wasn’t really in play (I think anyone is being a jerk who expects their partner to somehow magically defy age for them).

  • idiolect

    I feel like sometimes his harshness is justified, though, insofar as it really isn’t always the case that “a reluctant partner” *should* be “find[ing] the strength to make the leap” in these cases — sometimes they should just recognize unequivocally that They Are Monogamous and that this is okay, and that the polyamory is and should be a dealbreaker for them. It’s rough, because it’s really hard to tell in some of these situations whether the fear is an indicator of that or just an anxiety one should get over (which is why relatively low-stakes experimentation can be a really good thing), but I think I remember the specific column you’re referring to, and I remember thinking it fell pretty solidly in the latter category…?

  • socbaker

    I think Prof. Foxy offers good advice in a compassionate and respectful way. But Savage is WAY more fun to read. I usually lose interest in the Foxy columns, but I look forward to reading Savage every week. That said, if I ever wanted advice for myself, I’d choose Foxy over Savage.

  • ladylicious

    I love Dan Savage! I don’t always agree with all his advice, but he usually gets it right. I grew up in a repressed, religious environment, so I find his brutal honesty refreshing and empowering. His column is hilarious and informative, and sometimes even touching or moving. I love his sarcastic, satirical style. And yes, when the world sucks, it’s still fun to talk about sex. I look forward to reading his column every week.

  • waltzing_tilly

    I used to really like Dan Savage. As many commenters have said, I appreciate a sex positive columnist and he’s often entertaining to read. However, I read one of his columns a few months ago where he told a teenage girl who was raped to confront her rapist and talk to him. Her boyfriend was blaming her for being raped and she was upset about it (obviously). His solution to dealing with her rape was to confront the guy that raped her with no mention of emotional or physcial safety. Certainly, for some people, that may be cathartic, but a lot of healing and safety planning needs to happen before that is presented as an option (I’m an anti-domestic/sexual violence advocate. I can’t imagine telling someone a few weeks or even a few months after they were raped to go and talk to their rapist about it. Seriously, wtf?). I wrote him a very angry, pissed off email about how much danger he put her in, emotionally and physically, by giving that advice. Especially since the advice placed much of the onus on her and not on her rapist or those around her who were victim blaming. I haven’t read his column since.

  • spiderwomann

    This fat bisexual woman loves Dan Savage as well….yes, I do not agree with him all of the time, but I am a big fan of his blunt, sarcastic style, and it is great to read something that is light and sex-positive, kink-positive, queer-positive. I really enjoy reading heavier stuff as well, but I find his column and podcast fascinating. As for the sizeism, I do think dan focuses *most of the time* on the subjectivity of attraction–he is *usually* not anti-fat in general, but anti people in relationships dramatically changing their appearance such that their partners no longer feel sexually attracted to them.

  • Cory

    The only thing I don’t really agree with on account of Savage is bisexuality… He has a tendency of treating sexuality like you’re either gay or straight.
    But otherwise, I love the guy. I find I usually agree with him, and he has a sense of humor that appeals to me.

  • MiriamCT

    Another fat bisexual woman who loves Dan Savage here. I can definitely see how he rubs some people the wrong way, and I don’t think he’s always right. He’s tons of fun to read and I love his total raging anger against the religious right wing.
    I was really touched by his books “The Kid” and “The Commitment.” “The Kid” in particular said a lot to me before I had my own child.

  • Joe

    I read Savage Love in print form in The Onion when I lived in Milwaukee and in The Stranger while in Seattle. Since I first started reading his columns in 1994 I have found his advice to be brutally honest. His advice to straight men on how to sexually please women is awesome.
    Dan Savage is awesome, Dr. Foxxy comes across as a watered down form of Dan Savage.

  • livinginthefridge

    I love Dan Savage, sometimes he does post without thinking (or, by his own admission, while drunk!) but he listens to people who tell him he’s wrong, and more than once he’s owned up to making a mistake in the column.
    I like him because he’s brutally honest. He doesn’t sugarcoat, and he doesn’t worry about offending people. He’s opinionated but not pigheaded, or stupid.

  • Pantheon

    “(I suspect) Dan would argue it is total bullshit if a someone started a relationship with me, then was unhappy with the way I look (since it did not change).”
    He would, because he said exactly that when a woman wrote in with that complaint (see my post below with more detail).
    He doesn’t use the most polite language, but he’s always clear that its about falling for someone and then having them drastically change, not about fat in itself. Its just a very common way for people to change. I think he has also said that there’s a difference between someone suddenly gaining a lot of weight after only a couple years together, and a slow process of aging and weight gain over a few decades.

  • Alex404

    I love Dan Savage- I might not agree with everything he writes, but he’s always entertaining, and generally pretty awesome.


    I can see the logic in that. I am attracted to my boyfriend and his body, but if he gains a LOT of weight or becomes really skeletal skinny, I don’t think I’ll find him attractive anymore. just being honest.

  • ggg_girl

    I love love love Dan Savage and completely agree.
    One quarter I went back and read every column of Savage Love he’s ever written

  • alice-paul

    I really WANT to love him, but I do find him biphobic, fatphobic, and at times misogynistic. For instance, he really has a “eeww gay guys think vaginas are gross” thing going on. My response to that is A) maybe HE finds them gross, but don’t generalize to all other gay men and B) if he isn’t being silly and really means it, well I don’t want sex advice from a guy who feels that way.
    I find his comments like “you better look the exact same way as you did when you met your partner or he/she has every right to leave you” harsh and cruel. My example: I was 100 lbs when I met my ex because of an eating disorder. Within about a year, I got up to a healthy 117 due to treatment, and I did look a bit different. Well, my partner didn’t like that I wasn’t “tiny” anymore and my appearance had “changed.” What would Dan Savage say?

  • ggg_girl

    Love Dan. Professor Foxxy is too boring and wishy-washy for my taste. She seems to purposely give “safe” but vague and less constructive advice. She’s only had a few columns though, and I do enjoy them, so hopefully they’ll get more interesting. If I were going to write in I’d still pick Savage.

  • M0xieHart

    Sometimes, on Feministing, it seems like the default position is that you must hate Dan Savage if you don’t want your Feminist card revoked. Uhm, I’m bi and a size 12 and I’ve never felt hated by Dan. People have a right to be attracted to who they’re attracted to. I’ve never heard him say “Fat people are gross and shouldn’t be allowed sexual pleasure,” unlike much of the media.
    Honestly, the sexual advice columnist I can’t stand is Betty Dodson in Bust magazine. All her advice seems to boil down to “buy my book &/or masturbate.”

  • Violachic25

    I love Dan Savage. He has the funniest, most realistic and down-to-earth sex column I’ve ever read. Also, I think it’s wonderful that he truly values positive sex experiences. I remember him really lecturing this one jerk who complained because his girlfriend couldn’t orgasm without clitoral stimulation. Dan told him to get over it and make his girlfriend happy, or she’d dump his sorry dick-centered ass. Love it!! He’s generally a huge advocate of communication, honesty, and mutual enjoyment during sex, which is important for everyone.

  • Honeybee

    I love Dan Savage. His column is always very interesting and I love how he doesn’t sugar coat his responses. Some people really need to hear some of his advice, I think he is doing them a favour.

  • agreenballoon

    Thirdsies to this. I pretty much stopped reading him after his comments on the Prop 8 decision, which I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by.
    I think that a majority of what he writes is intended to “entertain” his audience rather than offer advice to them, which makes me question whether I should be entertained by opinions that are often pretty incendiary in the ways that you described: biphobic, racist, fatphobic, etc.
    Also, Dan usually injects these strong personal opinions into what is billed as an “advice column;” I think that’s dangerous territory when some people must certainly be reading his column for real advice about sexuality.