Savage Hate

“A man must be something of a moralist if he is to preach, even if he is to preach immorality,” wrote G.K. Chesterton. 
The words evoke Rick Santorum-nemesis Dan Savage. The popular sex-advice columnist’s campaign to transform the former Pennsylvania senator’s last name into a reference to the mess left after a particular sex act popular among gay men requires a degree of spite generally found only among those whose self-righteousness can rationalize any wrong.

The worst bullies are those who imagine they’re always being bullied. That’s professional homosexual Dan Savage.

On an intellectual level at least, Savage understands that what he associates Santorum’s name with is gross. Herbert Marcuse, a preachy libertine of an earlier generation, advanced a conflicting philosophy regarding obscenity. “The verbalization of the genital and anal sphere, which has become a ritual in left-radical speech (the ‘obligatory’ use of ‘f—,’ ‘s—’) is a debasement of sexuality,” Marcuse cautioned leftists in 1972. “If a radical says ‘F— Nixon,’ he associates the word for highest genital gratification with the highest representative of the oppressive Establishment, and ‘s—’ for the products of the Enemy takes over the bourgeois rejection of anal eroticism.” Forty years later, leftists still have their minds in the toilet.

Savage is that unique scribbler known more for bodily fluids than words.

If you’re not a reader of any of the free urban papers that carry Savage’s column, you may be familiar with him from Campaign 2000, when he boasted of spreading germs to a Christian conservative presidential candidate. “I go around the room licking doorknobs,” he wrote of his quest to infect Gary Bauer with the flu. “If for some reason I don’t manage to get a pen from my mouth to Gary’s hands at the conference, I want to seed his [Iowa] office with germs, get as many of his people sick as I can, and hopefully one of them will infect the candidate. I lick office doorknobs, bathroom doorknobs. When that’s done, I start on the staplers, phones, and computer keyboards. Then I stand in the kitchen and lick the rims of all the clean coffee cups drying in the rack.”

Savage’s flu wasn’t his true illness.

Naturally Savage’s germy exploits sparked Bill Maher and Keith Olbermann to come calling. The New York Times Magazine even commissioned a puff-profile of him this summer extolling his ideas on “monogamish” marriages. Notorious is the new famous.

When we regard political dissenters as beneath contempt, we soon find our conduct sinking beneath contempt. Savage sees opponents to be ridiculed or infected but not debated. A rebuttal of spittle mixed with words is bad enough. But when your argument relies on saliva alone, you may not have an argument—just a guttural emotion. Don’t get between a man and his orgasm, or your name may become mud, too. 

There is something presumptuous about writing an advice column in the same way that there is in becoming a politician. Both professions attract know-it-alls and busy-bodies seeking to order strangers’ lives even as their own lives may be anarchic. It’s Santorum’s sanctimony that the sanctimonious Savage detests. If he couldn’t recognize attaching a sexual practice he is ostensibly proud of to an enemy’s name as self-hatred, then it’s unlikely he will recognize this as self-hatred, either.

If it’s any consolation to the besieged presidential candidate, bad people have to live with themselves. But good people look to this misguided man for guidance. Bad people unsurprisingly give bad advice.

When a “young heteroflexible guy who has been a ‘sugar baby’ for a handful of wealthy older guys” asks about his new HIV+ admirer, Savage advises him to allow his diseased friend to perform a number of sex acts upon him without protection. He writes that “if the risks were any closer to nonexistent, they’d be sitting on nonexistent’s lap.” Easy for him to say.

To a man who confesses to a year of unprotected sex with his girlfriend, Savage responds: “Withdrawal is a much more effective birth-control method than most sex advisers are comfortable acknowledging.” A lesbian skittish about her partner’s “dungeon needle play” prompts this reassurance: “All the public needle-play scenes I’ve witnessed were ostentatiously sterile affairs.” Phew.

All this foolishness comes from just one column. Savage’s internet campaign to reorient search engines to display “Santorum” as an ugly word is mean-spirited. But the counsel he dishes out to his fans causes more pain.   

Dan Savage makes Michael Moore look like a paragon of civility in comparison. He’s barbarous, cruel, brutish, and rude, and I announce here my online movement to make his last name synonymous with such ignominious terms. Google “Savage” and you’ll be astonished at the effectiveness of my campaign.