Dan Savage On Sex, Politics And Santorum

Posted: 04/ 2/2012 12:27 pm Updated: 04/ 2/2012 12:27 pm

The Google bomb played on Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has served as a check on other right-wing politicians tempted to make outrageously homophobic remarks, says the man who led the campaign to discredit the former senator after he made vicious remarks about gay people.

Sex columnist and gay rights activist Dan Savage makes no apologies for the anti-Santorum drive in which he linked the presidential hopeful's name to a definition of a sexual neologism involving anal sex. "He said vile things about us, we said something vile about him," Savage told HuffPost TV. "I think that what it's done is upped the price of engaging in that kind of homophobic rhetoric in public ... We're moving past a free-fire attitude about saying insanely homophobic things in public."

Savage, author of the uber-popular sex and relationship advice column Savage Love, has been one of the loudest voices for gay youth, leading the It Gets Better movement to raise awareness of the bullying epidemic plaguing schools across the nation. Now MTV is giving him another outlet: his own sex and relationship advice show, "Savage U," which is set to premiere on April 3. The show features Savage going to several American colleges and speaking to students about sex and relationships.

HuffPost TV spoke with Savage about his show, but also talked about the current state of things in the United States. In this volatile time right before an election, issues involving sex (birth control, abortion, same-sex marriage) are front and center at debates, but more importantly, are being argued about at dinner tables across the country. Savage weighed in on the current political clime in the only way he knows how -- bluntly and candidly -- and explained why the US so easily mixes sex and politics.

Sometimes when writers or columnists try to catapult into TV, it ruins their careers; fans abandon them, people say they "sold out." Did this concern you at all going in?

I have thought about it, but the reality is I'm not hosting a game show on MTV, I'm not Chuck Woolery. This will be an extension of what I do, what I have done for a long time. I think if anyone wants to declare me dead because of this isn't paying attention and has an axe to grind.

I've been offered TV shows in the past, and I've turned them down. That's really made some people's heads explode. People in LA who do TV, they fly you in, offer you money, and no one turns them down. I've turned down reality shows, game shows ... those wouldn't be who I am, what I do. One of the reality shows was offering me a lot of money, too; they offered [my husband] Terry and I north of a million dollars to destroy our family on television. We wouldn't, we couldn't. We really couldn't do it to [our son] DJ. There was no hesitation.

Speaking of treatment of children, you've really taken charge with this bullying epidemic and It Gets Better. Some people argue that we're making a big deal out of bullying, that it has always happened. Any thoughts on that?

The goal isn't to stamp out bullying. It'll never stop. It has seemingly gotten more toxic and more intense because of the internet and cyber-bullying. This makes it, especially for gay kids, 24 hours around the clock. The bullying is now following the kid into the home -- it's no longer a sanctuary. Well, to most LGBT kids, home has never been a sanctuary.

I read something your brother told you a while ago, which was that he was bullied at school, but he could always go home and be safe. The same wasn't true for you.

He did say that. He had Mom and Dad at the end of the day, and I didn't. That was the difference between what he was going through and what I was going through. A lot of vicious kids have been empowered by a lot of anti-gay rhetoric that's been swapped around for the last 30 years. These kids have been told that gay people are attacking them, that gay people are a threat to the family, a threat to the survival of the species, that we're trying to destroy the family. Mom and Dad, who believe that bullshit, can only attack gay people from afar with their ballots and chequebooks. But their kids go to school after marinating in that hatred, and there's that gay kid in the hallway who can be attacked physically with fists. And those vicious kids do that.

And then, when you turn around and tell that gay kid that it's his fault that he's being attacked, because he somehow chose to be gay, because God hates him and he's going to Hell, and to be LGBT when you grow up is to be forever unloved and unlovable and worthless and despised ... that does severe damage. Because kids have always been bullied doesn't mean we should shrug, walk away, and let kids die.

The internet is such a major factor.

It is. I've said to parents whose kids are being cyberbullied: Rip the computers out of your house. You don't have to have that USB cable in the back of your kid's head for 24 hours a day.

Right-winger DL Foster says that it doesn't get better, that to say it gets better is a "false promise," and he calls for your arrest.

So because some people lead lives that aren't terribly rewarding, then we should be telling people that everyone is doomed. It doesn't make any fucking sense. Life, for all of us, is ultimately ... age, infirmity, disease and death. That's how it ends for everybody, and it's still better than fucking high school. The phrase is "It Gets Better." Not "It Gets Perfect," "It Gets Utopian," "It Gets Golden." It gets better. Even someone who's struggling through a tough period in their adult life still has more control, more agency and more power than a high school or middle school student ever did.

There's just too many people out there for whom it has gotten better. You can't argue that it doesn't get better. It breaks my heart that there are some people out there who are still struggling or in such a down place that they can't see it, or they don't think it's true, or that it can't be true for them. The message for them is what, then? "Yeah, it fucking sucks. Blow your fucking brains out." I think the message to them should be: "Let's see what changes you can make to your life to make it better for yourself."

It is ultimately better to instil hope than despair, that's for sure.

The problem with the internet is there's just too much hope sloshing around on it. Too much hope, too much double-penetration porn. There. That's what's wrong with the internet.

Why is America so hung up on seemingly passé issues like abortion, birth control, gay marriage and the like?

Because Australia got the convicts, Canada got the French and we got the Puritans. That's it. The United States was a dumping ground for religious extremists in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The Puritans who pulled down the Globe Theatre had a little Taliban-style religious regime in England after they cut off the head of Charles I. Those were the people who got dumped in Virginia, and we're still dealing with the aftermath.

So that's why there's this inseparable combination of sex and politics in the United States?

Puritanism. It's the very definition of Puritanism. It's the fear that someone somewhere is enjoying themselves. It's a desire to control others; that's why so many world religions focused on sex, because it was a way to control people. If every sexual impulse you had was defined as a sin, then you had to go through a church or a priest to be absolved of that sin, so religious institutions were given a lot of power. And that's something -- despite 5000 years of human civilization -- we just haven't gotten past yet.

We may never get past it, either. It's more fun to talk about who's boning who with their dick than to talk about who's getting screwed by a political system or an economy. It's a huge distraction: "Oh my God! Sluts are having sex!" Isn't that more fun to talk about than the foreclosure crisis? We can't control the banks, but maybe we can control Sandra Fluke.

Do you think your Google bomb of Rick Santorum actually changed anyone's mind about the issues?

I think the Google bomb was amusing for people who'd been insulted by Santorum. He said vile things about us, we said something vile about him. I think that what it's done is upped the price of engaging in that kind of homophobic rhetoric in public. I think there's a reason why you see politicians like Joe the Plumber and Michelle Bachmann ... they were asked about their past statements about gay people, but neither wanted to reiterate them. We're moving past a free-fire attitude about saying insanely homophobic things in public, and it's helping us because they know we're going to respond in kind.

Do you think Obama will make it to a second term?

I hope and pray. I'm too Catholic, I can't say that he's going to win, because then if he loses I'll think it's my fault. I'm going to work like hell and I'm going to give him money. We elected George W. Bush once in 2004 -- he stole the election in 2000, but he was elected in 2004 -- so I wouldn't put anything past the American electorate. We can make really insanely stupid choices.

Anything to say to Stephen Harper?

I'm going to propose [marriage] to him the next time I'm up. He's been proroguing the fuck out of your parliament and I can't figure out for the life of me how he keeps getting re-elected.

Would you ever personally consider entering politics?

[Laughs] I would be a terrible politician. I have a kind of facial Tourette's, where I can't control the look on my face. I roll my eyes, I grimace, I couldn't sit through the kinds of meetings or interactions that politicians have to do. I couldn't sit at a hearing without making appalling faces. I don't have that skill set. I'm a president of my house. And of Savage Love Industries. [Laughs]

Loading Slideshow...
  • On Contraception

    "It's not okay. It's a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be." <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/health/2011/10/19/348007/rick-santorum-pledges-to-defund-contraception-its-not-okay-its-a-license-to-do-things/" target="_hplink">Think Progress, 2011</a>

  • On The Definition Of Marriage

    "Marriage is what marriage is. Marriage was around before government said what it was. It's like going out and saying, 'That tree is a car.' Well, the tree's not a car. A tree's a tree. Marriage is marriage." "It's like handing up this and saying this glass of water is a glass of beer. Well you can call it a glass of beer, it's not a glass of beer, it's a glass of water. And water is what water is. Marriage is what marriage is." "I can call this napkin a paper towel, but it is a napkin. Why? Because it is, what it is." <a href="http://iowaindependent.com/60602/santorum-qa-marriage-for-gays-threatens-religious-freedom" target="_hplink">Iowa Independant, 2011</a> <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=fLbAFNbVSEE http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2011/08/09/292121/santorum-marriage-is-like-water-not-beer/" target="_hplink">Think Progress, 2011</a> <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U394HKpak1s" target="_hplink">MSNBC, 2011</a>

  • On Sex In The Military

    "I -- I would say, any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. And the fact that they're making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to -- to -- and removing 'don't ask, don't tell' I think tries to inject social policy into the military. And the military's job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country." <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/09/22/fox-news-google-gop-2012-presidential-debate/" target="_hplink">Fox News, 2011</a>

  • On Gays In The Military

    "The problem is that sexual activity with people who you are in close quarters with who happen to be of the same sex is different than being open about your sexuality ... They're in close quarters, they live with people, they obviously shower with people." <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/09/rick-santorum-gay-soldiers-shower-dadt_n_1002244.html" target="_hplink">HuffPost, 2011</a>

  • On Polygamy, Bigamy, Adultery ...

    "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything." <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2003-04-22/politics/santorum.gays_1_statement-on-individual-lifestyles-senator-santorum-bigamy-and-adultery?_s=PM:ALLPOLITICS" target="_hplink">Associated Press, 2003</a>

  • On The Difference Between Being Black And Being Gay

    "You are black by the color of your skin. You are not homosexual, necessarily -- obviously, by the color of your skin. [...] The idea that being black and being gay is the same is simply not true." <a href="http://politics.foxnews.mobi/quickPage.html?page=23681&content=58208053&pageNum=-1" target="_hplink">Fox News, 2011</a>

  • On Candidates' Sex Lives

    "When you look at someone to determine whether they'd be the right person for public office, look at who they lay down with at night and what they believe in." <a href="http://2012.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/10/rick-santorum-when-selecting-candidate-look-at-who-they-lay-down-with-at-night.php" target="_hplink">Talking Points Memo, 2011</a>

  • On 'Man On Dog'

    "In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing." <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2003-04-23-santorum-excerpt_x.htm" target="_hplink">Associated Press, 2003</a>

  • On Sodomy, etc..

    "Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, whether it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family." <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2003-04-23-santorum-excerpt_x.htm" target="_hplink">Associated Press, 2003</a>

  • On The Government Getting Up In Your Sex Life

    "The idea is that the state doesn't have rights to limit individuals' wants and passions -- I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we're seeing it in our society." <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2003-04-23-santorum-excerpt_x.htm" target="_hplink">Associated Press, 2003</a>

  • On Gay Marriage

    "This is an issue just like 9/11 ... We didn't decide we wanted to fight the war on terrorism because we wanted to. It was brought to us. And if not now, when?" "The battle we're engaged in right now on same-sex marriage, ultimately that is the very foundation of our country, the family, what the family structure is going to look like. I'll die on that hill fighting." <a href="http://articles.mcall.com/2004-02-25/news/3521981_1_gay-marriage-defense-of-marriage-act-amendment-process" target="_hplink">The Morning Call, 2004</a> <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2011/10/19/348059/rick-santorum-pledges-to-die-on-the-hill-fighting-against-same-sex-marriage/" target="_hplink">Think Progress, 2011 </a>

  • On Being A Hater

    "You can say I'm a hater. But I would argue I'm a lover. I'm a lover of traditional families and of the right of children to have a mother and father. ... Isn't that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?" <a href="http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/04197/346633-84.stm" target="_hplink">Pittsburg Post Gazette, 2011</a>

  • On The Gay Jihad

    "So the gay community said, 'He's comparing gay sex to incest and polygamy, how dare he do this,' and they have gone out on a, I would argue, jihad against Rick Santorum since then." <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/178543-santorum-gay-community-on-jihad-against-me-for-stance-on-marriage?utm_campaign=briefingroom&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitterfeed" target="_hplink">The Hill, 2011</a>

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