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Dan Savage eschews labels and infected dick pics, enjoys pot gummies at Pantages

Roman Robinson

Roman Robinson

The Door Guy is a veteran of countless clubs around town. People say they've seen it all, but he's seen more, and he's got all the advice your life can handle.

Dear City Pages Editors:

Wouldn’t it be awesome if your homegrown advice columnist reviewed your not-homegrown, infinitely more talented and knowledgeable syndicated advice columnist when he does Savage Love Live at Pantages? Come on, that would be amazing! Please please pretty please?

Also, could I get a little extra money? I’m going to have to take the night off work.
--The Door Guy

Dear Door Guy:
Sounds great, let’s do it. No extra money.
--City Pages Editors

As a very young Door Guy, I cut my teeth on Savage Love. During slow moments at whatever door I was working, I could dependably entertain myself reading his sex advice column.

Early pre-Google Savage Love, as Dan Savage told City Pages last week, was a pretty wild romp through all sorts of crazy stuff that vanilla-ass straight folks and lonely Door Guys hadn’t thought much about before, at least out loud. It was eye (and other body part) opening. And while Dan (can I call him Dan? Why yes, I will) and his column have changed over the years, really what’s changed—and what has been profoundly influential on me, as you can see here, is that the subtext of those early pervy butt-plugging mess making three-way columns has become the text: sex is best when you put in the effort to think about it, and talk about it.

Friday night, at Savage Love Live, Dan and a crowded house fucking talked about it.

“This is going to be all Q&A, because after 27 years, I can’t function in any other format,” he said. And that’s what we got: Dan Savage working off handwritten questions that people ran to the front of the stage, completely unrehearsed, off-the-cuff, and functioning completely without a net. Unless, of course, you count the pot gummy he ate as soon as got onstage.

“As a gay man and a pothead, I never eat Pringles in public. So once I open this can,” he said, pointing to chips sitting on a stool next to him, “I’m not legally accountable for any advice I give you."

Dan Savage is amazingly charismatic and quick-witted, and for close to two hours he kept the crowd wrapped up as he dished—pardon the pun—straight talk about sex, relationships, his past, and the current state of politics in a session that got increasingly hilarious, empathetic, and insightful—and increasingly random—as the pot gummy kicked in. Breaking down each question would be next to impossible here, but here’s some key truths we all learned from him:

1) He’s not qualified to diagnose your genital or anus sores, so stop sending him photos, unless you want them published in a flip book when he’s old.

2) Straight people think they don’t have to talk about sex because they’re “Tab A slot B,” while gay people know they have to talk about sex because they’re “tab tab slot slot.”

3) Straight people would get laid a lot more if they had as broad a definition of sex as gay people.

4) “Violent, testosterone-soaked dick monsters” are ruining society, but there’s hope for the rest of us (even us clueless Door Guys).

5) In a rare moment of cynicism that makes this cranky Door Guy/advice columnist proud, Dan riffed for a while on how some problems just weren’t going to be solvable in a world that’s populated far past sustainability.

The performance—which vibed like a super casual hangout—touched on everything from #metoo to Donald Trump (see “testosterone soaked dick monster,” above) to personal stories about Dan’s husband and his upbringing.

But as an advice columnist, I’m always looking for things that I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, and a couple things stuck out. Dan spent a chunk of time talking about recent legislation holding websites like Craigslist accountable for sex trafficking, but as he pointed out, good things have unintended consequences. As someone who’s pro-sex worker (ditto, Dan!), he noted that the law was making things more dangerous for sex workers and other people looking to hook up by taking away the ability to communicate online rather than in person. Plus dating sites -- from the “tawdry” Grindr to the wholesome ChristianMingle -- could easily be shut down as a result of this legislation.

The other moment that stuck out to me was a lengthy discussion of the term “fag hag.” This was the one question where someone pursued a follow-up question (written on what appeared to be a scroll, but was probably paper towel from the bathroom). In essence, the (female) questioner found gay men having sex to be a turn-on, and wanted to know if that made her a “fag hag.” When Dan said no, she wanted to know what the term was. Savage’s response? “I don’t know. Straight guys like watching women have sex, so I guess straight?”

In my day, which is dangerously close to Dan Savage’s day, we didn’t live or die in the pursuit of labels. We just wanted to be accepted. Maybe that’s a distinctly Gen-X perspective—but maybe one still worth listening to. It was striking that this questioner wanted to find a label for herself, which seemed to bemuse Dan as well. 

Perhaps the most powerful response of the night was on the topic of coming out to your family. Dan’s advice seemed to hold a universal truth for anyone who’s struggled because they're defined as abnormal, weird, sinful, or unacceptable: “Make them fear your rejection, don’t fear theirs,” he said.

I think that goes for all of us in any situation.

If you’ve got a question, email Dan, he’s smarter than me. But I’ll probably get to it quicker. [email protected]