Dan Savage’s not-so-secret weapon in the war on sex

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Dan Savage (left, in more ways than one) knows how to deal with people like Ann Coulter (far right; ditto): Laugh at them.

No one takes the time to send letters anymore.

The other day a friend got the real thing, a hard copy piece of mail. Its sender meant to deliver a most earnest message about the “importance of integrity,” urging Twin Cities businesses to stop supporting the people advertising a deviant lifestyle to youth.

The scoundrels in question? Those perverts at City Pages.

Ann Redding, president of the Christian Action League of Minnesota, wants to run us out of business. She says we’re “vulgar and misogynistic,” and claims “many businesses have pledged not to carry (or advertise in) City Pages” after she’d informed them of the stuff inside.

“Not only does City Pages carry ads for porn stores, strip clubs, and ‘phone sex’ but they promote and condone all kinds of sexual perversions,” wrote Redding. 

I’m insulted. Ann’s belittling quote marks around “phone sex” suggest the relationship Brandi and I have isn’t real.

The rest of that stuff? Pretty much true. The only thing shocking about Redding’s letter was its July 2016 date. This sort of squeamishness is straight out of the 1950s. Or the 1880s.

In an absurd twist, Ann went on to target someone people actually seek out on matters of sex: Dan Savage, the widely syndicated sex columnist whose advice appears in these pages and many others across America. Savage Love is “filled with explicit descriptions of homosexual, adulterous, and promiscuous sex,” wrote Ann.

Here again, the defendant pleads guilty. But not ashamed.

Savage has seen these sort of campaigns before. But it’s been a while. A couple decades ago, the appearance of Savage Love in a new city was sure to lead to a proliferation of “concerned” letters and fainting couches. 

Things have changed since then. Or rather one very big thing changed everything.

“There’s a new kid on the block, that maybe this lady hasn’t heard of, called the internet,” Savage says. “The idea that kids out there are looking to the newspaper to find their smut is quaint.”

That cat’s out of the bag, and has been vigorously licking itself in public for quite some time now. Yet Ann is far from alone here. The conservative movement continues to wage new fights in a war lost long ago. It just hasn’t noticed yet.

There was plenty of circus on stage at last week’s Republican National Convention, but the real shit show’s in the fine print. The official party platform adopted in Cleveland is the most heavy-handed doctrine since Moses got off that mountain.

Pornography is described as a “public health crisis that is destroying the lives of millions.” In the same paragraph, the GOP says it supports keeping sex offenders off social media sites, and opposes both child porn and sex trafficking. Here, heinous crimes are conflated with what consenting adults do behind closed doors. Or sometimes out by the pool.

It comes as no surprise. From gay marriage (also condemned in the GOP platform) to transgender people using public restrooms (yep, that too), there’s still a subset of people who know very little about human sexuality except that it makes them feel weird. 

Just last week, Marcus Bachmann, husband to Michele and therapist to unwilling kids whose parents don’t like their sexuality, told a Christian radio station that he thinks gay behavior is related to some sort of sexual trauma.

And if they say nope, Mark, I’m just a guy who likes guys?

“I think then the question even in that case, well, what would I do as a believer, if I still was without any explanation that I can come up with, even if I’m looking at what could have happened and nothing comes up in my understanding, I think that’s a really good question to answer.”

Well said, Doc.

Bachmann’s main complaint was that his whole “therapy” industry has been picked on. His clinic’s critics, many of them proud practitioners of the homosexual lifestyle, said the clinic was trying to “pray away the gay.” The opposition boiled down a bitter industry to a potent word cocktail, and guys like Marcus lost. Wit won.

There’s a lesson here. Savage says I shouldn’t hate Ann or the Christian Action-but-not-that-kind-of action League, even if they want me out of a job. Nor should I feel bad for them. Mockery is in order.

“You should make fun of her,” he says. “They’re ridiculous, and that ridicule can help people. When people ask, how did LGBT rights take such huge strides so quickly, I always say it’s because we have a sense of humor. If you look at gay rights marches, even going back to the ’60s, you had people wearing buttons, and holding signs and flags that had snark and humor and jokes.”

As usual, Dan’s got good advice. The fight against prudes and bigots shouldn’t be waged only through slogans screamed into megaphones or gooey speeches about love.

Don’t hate your enemies. Laugh at them. The only way to win the war on fun is to make sure you’re having it.

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