Dear Abby Channels Dan Savage

Jim Burroway

March 9th, 2011

Seattle Stranger advice columnist Dan Savage has been getting a lot of press lately as the 21st century uncensored version of Ann Landers. His frank advice pivots around three important rules: Full disclosure of any and all information of relevance to a sexual partner, autonomy and reciprocity. Toward those ends, he has given tacit and explicit approval to all sorts of marital and sexual arrangements — but only as long as all three of those principles remain intact. As an example (and the most talked about one), he has endorsed non-monogamous relatinships for those who want it (autonomy), whose partner is okay with it (reciprocity), and after full communication of ground rules, concerns, worries, fears, and anything else that comes to mind (full disclusure).

This is the kind of advice you don’t see among mainstream advice columnists, until today that is.

tim

March 9th, 2011

The problem with Savage is that he moves beyond his role as advice columnist into interviews on tv in which he comes across as an arrogant ass and sophomoric and unethical stunts like trying to give someone the flu.

MarcusT

March 9th, 2011

I find his columns overrated as well (I stopped reading them a long time ago, but from what I’ve heard he’s not getting any better.) He’s always subscribed to the “bigotry is edgy” philosophy – in the name of blunt honesty, he’s spewed venom and/or propagated hurtful stereotypes about bisexuals, asexuals, celibates, the overweight, women, African-Americans, rape victims…well, pretty much every group he isn’t part of.

By the way, Judith Martin a.k.a. Miss Manners, whose advice column tends to be conservative but gay- and trans- friendly, has dealt nonjudgmentally with questions about poly families.

R

March 9th, 2011

Yeah, I liked Dan Savage, until he told a rape victim, that she just needs to get over it and start putting out for her husband again. As a survivor, that’s the worst possible advice.

L. Junius Brutus

March 10th, 2011

And this is somehow praiseworthy? It’s disgusting.

Ben in Atlanta

March 11th, 2011

Wasn’t this about Dear Abby? Slog would be the more appropriate place to attack Dan. Some of the other writers at The Stranger don’t seem to think sex is dirty either.

MarcusT

March 11th, 2011

And where (in these comments) has anyone “attacked” Savage for anything to do with sex?

L. Junius Brutus

March 11th, 2011

“Wasn’t this about Dear Abby? Slog would be the more appropriate place to attack Dan. Some of the other writers at The Stranger don’t seem to think sex is dirty either.”

That wasn’t the issue. The issue was whether one should go out and have sex with everyone and everything while you’re in a ‘relationship’ – and all this while demanding one’s right to marry that person. “This person is my life. I want to marry him and commit myself to him. I just want to have sex with everyone else, too.”

Jim Burroway

March 11th, 2011

Brutus,

You are completely misrepresenting again, as you often do.

It is not about “have[ing] sex with everyone and everything while you’re in a ‘relationship’.”

If you had an ounce of inkling of what Savage has suggested, you’d know that he does not advocate your caricature.

Deciding to have a negotiated non-monogamous relationship with full disclosure, reciprocity and autonomy — meaning that both partners need to be in full communication, full agreement, and fully in tune with each others concerns and comfort levels, is not tantamount with having sex with everyone and everything. Not even close. Except for those who live in a purely black-and-white world.

L. Junius Brutus

March 14th, 2011

Jim: “You are completely misrepresenting again, as you often do.”

Not at all. I just have a different opinion. I don’t think that open so called relationships are benign, which you apparently count as “misrepresentation”.

“a negotiated non-monogamous relationship ”

Also known as: “friends with benefits”.

“Deciding to have a negotiated non-monogamous relationship with full disclosure, reciprocity and autonomy — meaning that both partners need to be in full communication, full agreement, and fully in tune with each others concerns and comfort levels, is not tantamount with having sex with everyone and everything.”

Is “full disclosure, reciprocity and autonomy” somehow mutually exclusive with “having sex with everyone and everything”? No. It just means that one has to inform one’s partner of having had an orgy with 70 people. “That’s lovely, hun. Love you!” If you truly love someone, then you’ll not only agree to giving up having sex with anyone else, but you’ll insist.

Isn’t it ironic that people like Dan Savage want the right to get married, while rejecting the monogamous ethos of marriage?

Jim Burroway

March 14th, 2011

I know you have a different opinion. I get that.

But you are factually wrong in the way you mischaracterize Savage’s position. Objectively, factual wrong.

Is “full disclosure, reciprocity and autonomy” somehow mutually exclusive with “having sex with everyone and everything”? No. It just means that one has to inform one’s partner of having had an orgy with 70 people. “That’s lovely, hun. Love you!” If you truly love someone, then you’ll not only agree to giving up having sex with anyone else, but you’ll insist.

Well, that’s a good way of discribing it ONLY if Savage had said that full disclosure was all that’s needed. But he didn’t. And there, your mischaracterization of his position turns into a caricature.

You left out two other equally important conditions: Whatever the arrangement may be, it has to be mutually beneficial in some way(reciprocity), and it has to be mutually agreeable (autonomy). If the second party doesn’t find a valuable benefit (i.e., is harmed physically, spiritually, or emotionally) or doesn’t agree to the terms, then the second party still has a grievance. The first party doesn’t get to impose his will on the second party just because he “discloses.”

And Savage has many times rejected your if-you-truly-love-someone red herring. You can truly love someone and STILL not go along whith whatever your partner is demanding — whether it’s a new car, a new house, or a new lover.

If they can’t come to terms on all three — if the second party really doesn’t agree on a non-monogamous arragement, then there is not agreement and no “license,” as it were.

Isn’t it ironic that people like Dan Savage want the right to get married, while rejecting the monogamous ethos of marriage?

What Savage rejects is the Newt Gingrich ethos of marriage. If a couple both want a monogamous arrangement, Savage’s resoponse is to say well, it will be difficult, but he doesnt’ reject it. He does however point out that if it does break down into a Newt Gingrich version of monogamy, there are options, which range all the way from disolving the relationship if the two partners are at an impasse, to preserving it if they can come to a meeting of the minds and hearts.

And if they can do that, whose business is it of ANYONE to criticize their marriage?

L. Junius Brutus

March 15th, 2011

“The first party doesn’t get to impose his will on the second party just because he “discloses.” ”

In my example, the second party obviously had no problems with it. My point was to show how bizarre this sort of thing is.

“And Savage has many times rejected your if-you-truly-love-someone red herring. ”

You cite him like he’s some sort of authority. It’s not a red herring. Someone’s inability to give up getting sex from people other than his partner obviously raises questions about whether that person actually loves his partner.

“What Savage rejects is the Newt Gingrich ethos of marriage. If a couple both want a monogamous arrangement, Savage’s resoponse is to say well, it will be difficult, but he doesnt’ reject it. He does however point out that if it does break down into a Newt Gingrich version of monogamy, there are options, which range all the way from disolving the relationship if the two partners are at an impasse, to preserving it if they can come to a meeting of the minds and hearts.

And if they can do that, whose business is it of ANYONE to criticize their marriage?”

It’s everyone’s business to criticize their “marriage”. Marriage has essential qualities on the basis of which we can say that two friends getting married for health insurance are not in a real marriage. The same applies to these open so called relationships. It really has nothing to do with Newt Gingrich. Ironically, Dan Savage is a lot more like Gingrich than he’d like, it’s just that he has the standard that his partner has to agree to his cheating, while Gingrich commits adultery without asking permission. Why get married at all, if you’re going to live like that?

Jim Burroway

March 15th, 2011

Someone’s inability to give up getting sex from people other than his partner obviously raises questions about whether that person actually loves his partner.

Are you in a better position to define whether that person loves his partner than that person himself? Are you in a better position to discern whether that person loves his partner better than that person’s partner?

And please explain to me this:

It’s everyone’s business to criticize their “marriage”.

Really? That level of busi-bodyness into a marriage in which the principals themselves are satisfied, I think, is way beyond appalling. There’s no way in hell I or my partner would ever allow anyone else to be in charge of our marriage with that level of scritiny, to the point of others criticizing not what doesn’t work, but what does work for that couple. That, to me, is beyond comprehension.

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