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Dan and Bill Savage discuss sex ed, perversity—and funnel cake
CHICAGO HUMANITIES FESTIVAL
by Helen Adamopoulos
2010-11-17

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Bill and Dan Savage at the Chicago Humanities Festival. Photo by Helen Adamopoulos


Microwave a melon. Perverse is normal. The full extent of clitoral tissue in a woman resembles a massive funnel cake with a nose. And anal sex is not a first-date activity. These are all bits of wisdom sex advice columnist Dan Savage offered to a packed auditorium at the Francis W. Parker School in Lincoln Park Nov. 12. Savage—who's made a name for himself across the nation with his column, "Savage Love"—bantered with his brother, Bill Savage, and advised his audience at the Chicago Humanities Festival event.

Bill Savage, a senior lecturer in English at Northwestern University, served as the moderator by asking his brother questions. The first query: How would Dan Savage teach sex education in America? Savage responded that he would emphasize consent and communicating your desires to your partners.

"I actually don't think we'll ever have decent sex ed in America," Dan Savage said. "That will never be taught."

He also talked about the Internet as an educational tool when it comes to sex. He said the Web helps people discover their kinks and find others who like the same things. However, he acknowledged that Internet porn can create unrealistic expectations. His brother agreed.

"Learning about sex through pornography is like learning how to run a cigar factory by watching Carmen," Bill Savage said.

In addition to sex ed, Dan Savage discussed same-sex marriage. He said the issue is reaching the same tipping point that racial integration once did, in that it's becoming less acceptable to openly express bigotry and argue against it.

"We have to learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about homosexuality—the same way we learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about slavery, about shrimp, about polyester," he said.

In addition to answering his brother's questions, Dan Savage also responded to inquiries from the audience. Several questions involved the columnist's It Gets Better Project, a collection of videos he solicited encouraging bullied LGBT teens not to give up on life. He said the best part of it is hearing from parents whose children were able to come out to them through watching the videos.

"That has been tremendously rewarding to hear those stories," he said.

Many of the questions had to do with personal problems. He assured one woman that it was normal for her to enjoy masturbating. He suggested that a man who was interested in getting pegged by his wife shouldn't jump into full-on anal sex right away. One running theme in his advice was telling people to state their desires and concerns directly to their partners.

"People should feel comfortable communicating their turn-ons and kinks," he said.

After the event, Maggie Malam—who traveled from Minneapolis to see Dan Savage—said she was going to pass his advice on to the men in her life.

"Everything I know, I learned from Dan Savage," Malam said.

Chicago Humanities Festival Associate Artistic Director Matti Bunzl said the festival staff members were very fortunate to get the Savages to take part in the event.

"I'm a huge fan of Dan Savage," Bunzl said. "It's a dream to have Dan in the festival."

To read Savage's column and find out more about the Chicago Humanities Festival, visit www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove and www.chicagohumanities.org .


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