Savage Advice: Pop Up Dangerouse Ideas Festival (Melbourne)
‘I would just like to take a photo of you all in the audiance and send it to my teen age son. So he knows that some people do indeed listen to his father.’
It is Sunday morning. I am sitting in a comfortable chair with like minded people. I am laughing fit to burst and it unlike any Sunday morning previously. Of course this is coming from a woman who spent practically every sunday of her first 18 years on earth, sitting in an uncomfortable church pew being bored and passively guilted into thinking and acting a certain way. So Dan Savage had little competition.
When I was offered the ticket to see him speak as a part of the pop up Dangerous Ideas festival, Melbourne. I jumped at the opportunity. He is a figure that gets reactions on both ends of the spectrum from love to hate. I had read a few articals claiming some pretty negative ideas. Ideas such as he was anti love and against gay and transgender relationships. I took all the reading and ruminated on it, deciding not to make a decision untill I saw him speak in person. I am glad that i did that. Because now that I have seen him speak, I am quite determined to read some of his literature.
Dan Savage is not against monogamy. He does not expect people who are truly happy in monogamous relationships to change how they live. He is not championing the abusive or damaging relationship, where a person feels disrespected and used and emotionally manipulated into doing or putting up with things that cause pain or mental anguish. Dan Savage is not asking you to do anything that you are not comfortable with. Which is why he gets so upset when people in monogomouse relationships feel the need to contact him and tell him that he does not love his husband, with whom he has been with for over ‘Twenty fucking years.’ He gets upset when ‘ self ritiouse douch bags,’ claim that his relationship with his long term partner is not significant because of the 5% of the time that they may spend sleeping with other people.
He speaks of people who tell him they have been with someone for 50 years and during that time there was three instances of infidelity. Dan Savage believes that that is a pretty good stint of loyalty. You can spent a great deal of your life standing on one leg and if every now and again you need to put both feel firmly on the ground, in order to regain your balance, who is to say that means you are a rubbish one legged stander? ‘We do not hold a gun to a dolphin’s head and say, ‘swim motherfucker, swim!’ Dan explains which of course, means that sex is something that matters and does come very naturally to us as biological human beings. That is not to say that some couples may be is sexless relationships and be happy. You may be in a passionate, monogomouse relationship where sex is not important to both of you. But is sex becomes unimportant to just one of you, what is the other person supposed to do?
The human male penis is built with the head and ring of skin around it, for a purpose. That purpose is so when it is inside a woman’s vagina is can suck and consum any left over sperm from that woman’s vagina, that may have been left by a previous lover. ‘It is not her fault that coming makes men fall asleep.’ Dan explains. ‘ You fall asleep and she can fuck someone else as you snore quietly. This is not evil it is human.’ This why I found Dan Savage more of a comfort than a man with a dangerouse idea. He was not out to crucify anyone. I felt like he was giving me a big hug, opatting my head and telling me, ‘Jess, you are not a whore just because your boyfriend does not provide every single tiny emotional, intellectual need. You are not horrible for getting easily bored. You are human and as long as you are open and honest with the people who love you. Then, you are doing your best.’
For the first three years of his relationship with Terry, Dan and Terry were monogomous. He discussed it in his book entitled The Kid, a novel exploring the complexities of adopting their son. The discussion of becoming non monogomouse was not something that Dan pushed but something Terry broached of his own accord. ‘I really am glad Terry is not with me in Australia. He would kill me for sharing this. Do not tweet any of this stuff.’ Dan then goes on to give the audience his husband’s instagram account. ‘Do not look it up now, otherwise you will need to find the nearest bathroom, lock the door and masturbate.’ It is obvious to me that he loves his husband. You can tell this every time you hear Dan say his husbands name. It is like when anyone who loves you says your name. It is with the silent promise that your name is safe in their mouth.
It when Dan explains the meaning of monogomish that I realize how amazing this concept truly is. Monogamish is the term used for people in a relationship who are open to the idea that throughout a long term relatioship, things are not going to be all butterflies and shooting stars forever. That they may slip from the best foot forward kind of impression that is given at the beginning of any relationship. That this ‘slipping from the bandwagon of fidelity,’ does not mean you cannot get back up, dust yourself off and climb back on the bandwagon. The bandwagon is not going to speed off into the distance and leave you behind. Some people may come to this mutual understanding with thier partner and never have sex with another person. BUT by being honest and understanding that it could happen is accepting our humanity and the humanity of the person we love.
It really makes me consider my Mormon upbringing. The family values inherent in the ormon churches ideology would not stand for this idea of monogamish. They believe that marriage is forever even after death. So not only do you need to be faithful for your human life but even after your dead. I was raised on this belief system and it never really sat well in my guts but because of my parents and those around me. I thought perhaps the problem was in me. I have only had two long term relationships. The rest of the time I dated quite extensively. It is fun to meet new people. When my first boyfriend wanted to marry me, I was filled with dread and the feeling of being cornered into a tight tight spot. But because I was young and so was he, we did not have the intellectual fortitude to successfully work that out. He saw my not wanting to commit as a sign of lovelessness. ‘When I was in high school, my boyfriend and I shagged other people and stayed together. It was the most level headed relationship, I ever had. It is harder now that I am a grown up.” So said my friend as we lined up outside the Princess Theatre.
My parents have been together for over 30 years and as far as I know they have been faithful to one another. The must be doing something right. This is not something I am trying devalue. My mother and father have only ever slept with each other. They met at a Mormon new years eve party and ten months later were married for all time and eternity. A concept that I think is beautiful but not the sole way a relationship can go. I am uncomfortable with the notion of being someones wife and I am uncomfortable with the notion of making someone my husband. But I still find the idea capable of working for some.
‘It is like the blow job on a buisness trip.’ Dan explains. ‘If that person is the person you have a house with and children with and years of happiness with and all that weighed against the importance you place on a one off blow job? then you may as well burn the house down with your kids inside. Because how can you think that that blow job is worth throwing all that long teerm good stuff away?’ He says that you should love someone for trying so hard for so long, instead of punishing them for such a misstep.
But what if it not the blow job alone that hurts so much but rather the trust abuse that the blow job represents? What then if it does seem like a weighty issue, worth throwing all the other stuff away, over? Dan explains that that is a different issue and is one that would occur had the couple had the open and honest discussion about the possability of such a thing happening, in the beginning of thier relationship. It is why monogomish is such a worthwhile concept to embrace. This is what I wish I had been able to discuss with my first boyfriend. The concept that I did not want to close the door on new experiences just so I could be with him forever. Had i known about monogomish, I probably would have broached the subject. It does not matter though as he was a stoner anyway and not all that interesting.
When it comes to the people you may date who happen to be significantly younger than you, Dan has the campsite rules to abide by which means when camping you want to leave the campsite you used in better condition or in the exact same condition as when you first arrived. Do not fuck with the kids. Do not blemish the nieve and innocent.
‘Straight couples don’t have to be monogamous to be married or married to be monogamous. Monogamy no more defines marriage than the presence of children does. Monogamy isn’t compulsory and it’s absence does not invalidate a marriage.’
As far as this humble narrator is considered Dan Savage has carved his way into my heart. It may be a heart with as many rooms as a whore house, to quote Love In The Time Of Cholera. But Dan Savage certainly has a place inside one of the larger bedrooms.